Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/22/2018 – 03/28/2018

The last week of new comics until who-knows-when owing to the Diamond shut-down — okay, owing to COVID-19 is probably a more accurate way of putting things — yielded a mixed bag of reading for yours truly, so let’s take a look at what was in said bag before this column goes on hiatus (to be temporarily replaced by a standard full-length review post of a small press or self-published comic, as is my usual wont around these parts), shall we? Indeed we shall —

While it’s nice to see Alan Davis back drawing the House of Xavier — and it’s kinda nice to see the House of Xavier itself, come to think of it, given that it’s been abandoned in favor of the mutant island nation of Krakoa — Jonathan Hickman’s script for Giant-Size X-Men : Nightcrawler #1 reads like precisely what it is : an 8-page backup strip extended out to 30-ish pages so Marvel could charge five bucks for it. In other words, this is a naked cash grab — but then, so is the whole extended X-line these days, consisting as it does of, what? A dozen titles, at least? And now a slew of one-shots are forthcoming as well, this being the first. Nightcrawler is pretty much relegated to the role of a supporting player in this book bearing his own name about a small band of mutants, under his nominal “leadership,” heading back to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters to see why the portal to Krakoa located there is fucking up. If this were a short yarn, it would probably be a fun one, but there’s nothing here to hang an “extra-length” issue on, even if Davis’ art is a fun mix of his usual signature style with a hint of Dave Cockrum homage around the edges. Buy it if you’re a completist, I guess, but otherwise give it a pass — and let’s hope that Marvel avails themselves of the opportunity to trim the glut of X-titles down by at least half during this economic downturn.

Sticking with Marvel, and with higher prices, The Immortal Hulk #33 carries a six dollar price tag and a couple dozen or so extra pages due to the fact that it apparently marks the 750th issue of any and all Hulk comics, provided you go by the so-called “legacy” numbering.  This has a suitably “epic” feel to it, and features the climax of the current (okay, now former) story arc pitting big, green, and mean against the false-memory-implanting alien monster known as Xemnu, and while Al Ewing brings things to a more than satisfactory close — while also setting the table for some intriguing shit to come — it’s the eye-candy art that steals the show here, with Joe Bennett serving up some of his very best double-page splashes and batshit-crazy character designs yet, while guest second-fiddle (or should that be co-star?) Nick Pitarra knocks it out of the park with his tripped-out “mindscape” pages.  Another absolutely essential issue of the best “Big Two” series of the past decade — and probably the next one, too.

At this point Red Sonja seems to be Dynamite’s X-Men, spawning any number of crossovers in recent months, and now it’s got its first spin-off miniseries. Killing Red Sonja #1 teams regular scribe Mark Russell with co-writer Bryce Ingman to tell the story of the entitled little shit son of the aloof and stupid emperor of Zamora recently killed off in the pages of the “flagship” RS series, with half-assed art provided by one Crair Rousseau, who’s clearly going for some kind of singular, idiosyncratic look, and just as clearly falling well short of the mark and simply producing work that looks sloppy and out of place for its genre. Fortunately, Russell and Ingman are penning an interesting tale about a complex and intricately-plotted revenge scheme from the point of view of the asshole doing the plotting, so it’s a fun and interesting read, and Christian Ward’s cover, as you can see above, is just plain — errmmm — killer. I’ll ride this one out even though the art blows.

And the last “capsule” review I’ll be writing until new books start getting shipped again is for Vault’s No One’s Rose #1, an “eco-thriller” that sees Zac Thompson paired not with his usual writing partner, Lonnie Nadler, but with newcomer to the scene Emily Horn, while the art chores are handled by one Alberto Jimenez-Albuquerque. The story here takes place within the confines of a “bio-dome” powered by renewable energy to protect its inhabitants from the post-apocalyptic shithole the rest of the planet has become, and focuses on a sibling rivalry between a genius young scientist determined to make Earth inhabitable again, and her douchebag brother who wants to make sure that never happens. The characterization is about as unsubtle as it gets, and the script is overly verbose, but it’s also pretty damn interesting and well-thought-through, and the art is slick, lush, and generally pretty gorgeous, so I’m interested to see where this goes — if, indeed, it goes anywhere at all. Or should that be — has anywhere to go to? The longer this crisis goes on, the greater the number of shops that simply won’t be there once it’s all over, so please — now is probably the most important time ever to support your local comics retailer of choice. Assuming you’re allowed to leave the house, and they’re allowed to open their doors.

And on that joyous note, we’ll adjourn the Weekly Reading Round-Up until there’s new stuff on LCS shelves. I’ll miss my Wednesday ritual of picking up my books, reading them (and taking some quick notes on them as I do so) at my favorite coffee shop, and then cranking this thing out on Saturday night, but it’s not like this blog is going anywhere, it just means that our one tether to the comics mainstream is temporarily severed. And, of course, also still very much a going concern is my Patreon, this column’s unofficial “sponsor,” where I will never cease to offer up thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the world of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my ongoing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to check it our by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/20/2019 – 10/26/2019

My reading selection of books released this past Wednesday offers no real thematic connection to stitch together — no preponderance of first issues, no mix of firsts and lasts, nothing like that — so we’re just gonna get totally random with this week’s “capsule review” selections, and the verdicts for each are, likewise, all over the map —

Forcing a “milestone” label onto a book that’s been around for, like, less than two years seems a bit of a reach, but Marvel is no doubt eager to capitalize on the runaway critical and commercial success of The Immortal Hulk, and so #25 has indeed been marketed as some sort of “landmark” issue, and saddled with the extra pages and $5.99 price tag that comes part and parcel with such a purported “occasion.” Fortunately, cash-grabs don’t come much better than this stand-alone “cosmic” story that bears distinct echoes to Alan Moore’s legendary “Swamp Thing in space” arc and features absolutely gorgeous art from German Garcia to accompany Al Ewing’s magnificent, evocative script. Series regulars Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose are back for the last few pages that deliver a kick-ass cliffhanger, and the future for this series looks every bit as bright as the present. If they want another six bucks out of me come #50, guess what? I’m not gonna complain in the least.

Also carrying a steeper-than-usual price tag ($4.99, to be precise) and also from Marvel is Marauders#1, the first of the “X-Books” since the relaunch not to be written by Jonathan Hickman, although stylistically it certainly feels of a piece with his efforts, and the text pages design carries right over from them. The raison d’etre behind this team’s formation feels a bit forced, though, I have to say, and premises in search of a story to support them never actually work out particularly well. In addition, the characters writer Gerry Duggan has found foisted upon him are strictly “C-listers” (at best) all the way, as we’ve got Kitty Pryde leading this makeshift “pirate mutant protectors” outfit with Iceman, Pyro, Storm, and Bishop  in tow, and Emma Frost hanging in the background as financier of the hastily-conceived enterprise. Matteo Lolli’s art is okay, but only that, and overall one gets the distinct impression that this is a book with a 12-issue lifespan if it’s lucky. I won’t be hanging around to find out how accurate that prediction is or not, however.

Then again, who knows? Maybe I should. After all, you never know when a title might pull everything together and make your sticking things out worth the while. Case in point : Tommy Gun Wizards #3 from Dark Horse finally sees Christian Ward breathe some real life and drama into his “occult take on The Untouchables” premise, just in time for the big finale next time around, and the art by Sami Kivela, which in all fairness to this mini-series grabbed me right away and kept me around to this point, just gets stronger and more confident with each issue. The Ward-illustrated backup strip is over and done with after this one, the events within it now cleverly tying into the main story, and I gotta say that if the ending’s as good as this installment was, then these guys will have achieved something pretty remarkable, namely : delivering a memorable story entirely on the back end, the first half having basically been a confused — and confusing — mess.

Lastly but in no way leastly, the “Cruel Summer” storyline currently running in Ed Brubkaer and Sean Phillips’ Image Comics-published Criminal reaches another creative high-water mark in issue #9, as our narrative bottle-spin stops on teenage sorta-hood Leo Patterson, who finds himself being led down a dangerous path by his best friend Ricky, son of longtime on-and-off series protagonist Teeg Lawless. I was cooling on Brubaker/Phillips in a pretty big way after their last couple of projects, but going back to the well and expanding its scope and reach has proven to be a genius move for the duo, as they’re back to producing grade-A work month after month with this new “floppy” iteration of their venerable neo-noir “franchise.” Long may it continue.

And that was the week that was, the only order of business left on the docket being my customary reminder that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. If you have even so much as a passing interest in my work you’re sure to get your money’s worth by joining up, so give it a try by heading on over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/17/2019 – 03/23/2019

One more week, four more first issues — there’s patterns, there’s trends, then there’s ways of fucking life. In any case, enjoy this one ‘cuz for the first and probably only time in the history and future of this column we’ve got two — Marvel books this week? I shit you not. But we’re gonna save ’em for the end. First up —

You know that feeling when you just know you’re getting in on the ground floor of something great? Doesn’t happen often enough — I’m thinking Saga #1 had it, certainly Sandman #1 if you wanna go way back, but you know it when you see it — a book that hits the scene fully-formed, with a clear vision of what it is , where it’s going, what it will become in the future, all that. A completely-realized world  from top to bottom, everything thought through, from small details to big picture.  Invisible Kingdom #1 has it, and is immediately and probably from this point forward the crown jewel in Dark Horse’s Berger Books line. G. Willow Wilson spins a bifurcated tale of interstellar corruption linking two female protagonists, a religious order, and an evil Amazon-esque corporation. Christian Ward kills it on the art, his watercolor-influenced (I say “influenced” because I assume it’s a digital approximation and not actual watercolor) futurist illustration just getting better and better from project to project. I’m hoping and praying and maybe even sacrificing a goat to the Comic Book Gods for this series to have a years-long run, and if you’re wondering if Karen Berger still “has it” as far as picking great projects goes, wonder no more. Between this, She Could Fly, and The Girl In The Bay, her label is finally starting to fire on all cylinders, and you know what? None of these feel like Vertigo books, do they? Nor should they. That was then — this is now.

Speaking of The Girl In The Bay, Corin Howell is eveywhere these days, and that’s a good thing. We took a look at Calamity Kate #1 last week, and this week she turns up at Aftershock, teaming up with writer Tim Seeley for Dark Red #1, a decidedly un-sexy and un-romantic look at a working-class vampire in middle America that reminded me more than just a bit of an updated version of George Romero’s Martin in redneck MAGA country. Which is to say, I loved it, and see some real opportunity here for biting (sorry, I couldn’t resist) socio-political commentary within a popular genre framework. Seeley did much the same with Revival and the criminally short-lived Effigy, and I’m catching that same vibe here, while Howell’s an amazingly versatile talent who can tailor her finely-honed illustration skills to suit the atmospheric and tonal needs of just about any project, this being no exception — hell, kids, what I’m saying is, buckle in and enjoy this ride because I think it promises to be a good one.

So yeah, the Marvel stuff, here we go : popular current Spider-scribe Chip Zdarsky and long-time favorite Spider-artist Mark Bagley bring us Spider-Man : Life Story #1, sub-titled “The ’60s,” and the conceit here is “what if Peter Parker aged in real time”? There’s a heavy Vietnam subtext running throughout this that I found interesting and that lent something of a  “real-world” imprimatur to what’s essentially an exercise in nostalgia, but while the art is pleasingly “old-school,” the story never seemed to progress beyond the “interesting gimmick” stage. Now, that might change as things move along here — after all, this Peter Parker is essentially the age we’re used to and it’ll be interesting, I suppose, to see what he’s like in his thirties, forties, etc. — but not five bucks an issue interesting, if you get my drift. The cliffhanger at the end was cool enough that I might give this five-parter one more chance to gets its hooks in me, but it was a cliffhanger centered on Captain America, not Spider-Man — so, like, what’s the point? I dunno, there’s an opening here story-wise to blow the lid off the damnable lie that Vietnam was still keeping all kinds of our POWs after the war (a slice of fiction cooked up by the government, with a huge assist from Hollywood, back when we didn’t want to pay the Vietnamese any reparations, didn’t want to normalize relations with them, and damn sure didn’t want to admit how many of our guys essentially ditched out on the war and/or went over to the other side), but I don’t see ’em going in that direction even though it’d be useful because tons of people still believe that bullshit. But I digress. Zdarsky and Bagley have one more month to win me over.

What won me over right away, though, was Meet The Skrulls #1, which I grabbed on a lark when I saw that #2 hit the stands — and that was good, too, but I’m only going to talk about the first one. Family of Skrulls living in disguise as humans trying to re-launch their empire with a nice, tidy conquest-from-within number on planet Earth. Except the younger daughter may not be willing to play along. Snappy and sparse prose from writer Robbie Thompson, cool and distinctive-for-a-Big-Two-book art from Niko Henrichon, not sure how long this one’s slated to go for but it feels like the start of a nice, self-contained story that might break a bit of new ground by means of an old premise a la Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s The Vision — which everyone is still talking about. Maybe this one’ll stand the test of time, too? The signs look good so far.

And so we come to the end of another week, which is my cue to remind you that this column is, as always, “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only allows me to keep it going, but also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take a moment to check it out and consider joining at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse