Astonishing X-Men #7

Fourteen weeks into the Legacy initiative, Marvel publishes the 53rd and last of its promoted title launches with Charles Soule and Phil Noto’s Astonishing X-Men #7. This book had been one of our favorites when it was launched at the tail-end of RessurXion because of the smart writing, slick art, and excellent team dynamic, and now, wrapping up the glut of Legacy releases, it serves as a good reminder that the future of Marvel Comics may be far more reliant on the marginalized mutant branch of the superhero tree than the company realized, or would care to admit.

There are a precious few of us longing for the return of Reed, Sue, and the Fantastic Four proper (although Zdarsky and Cheung’s new Marvel Two-in-One is keeping us pretty happy). And there are more than a few of us rolling our eyes every time another top-tier character dies or is otherwise melodramatically shown the door (stay dead, Mar-Vell). But there is likely a very large number of casual post-Claremont fans who have either grown up with the X-Men cartoon, discovered the characters in Bryan Singer’s movies, or have a fond remembrance of X-books of the 90’s who don’t understand why there are so many damn mutant books on the stands, with not a one of them featuring a certain bald telepath.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi – The Storms of Crait

As with media tie-ins for The Force Awakens, comics and novels dressed with “The Road to The Last Jedi” have been popping up in bookstores and comic shops over the last few weeks to set the stage and build anticipation for this season’s Star Wars blockbuster. This week’s one-shot The Storms of Crait, by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, and Mike Mayhew, shuttles us back to the original trilogy for some backstory on that visually arresting salt-coated planet from the latest movie.

The book picks up immediately following Episode IV, and the Battle of Yavin, with the Rebel forces in dire need of a new command headquarters. As we know from Empire Strikes Back, Hoth housed the Rebellion until the probe droids tracked them down. What we didn’t know, until now, was that other remote planets supposedly “devoid of human forms” were vetted as well. In this case, the dead world of Crait.

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X-Men: Grand Design

Funny that amidst the storytelling miscues and struggling sales numbers of Marvel’s latest initiative, one book slips under the radar that honestly attempts to honor the history of this beloved fictional universe, without even bothering with the Legacy trade dress. Ed Piskor, the award-winning cartoonist responsible for Hip-Hop Family Tree, now turns his attention to Marvel’s mutant family tree with X-Men: Grand Design. Piskor has taken over fifty years of X-Men comics and crafted a new thirty-year timeline of continuity, with this first issue covering the birth of Charles Xavier through the early formation of his first team.

The series is as much a harmonization of decades of storylines and origin tales as it is a fresh take on what has made this cast of characters so compelling. Obviously, much of the action in this first issue distills the early Stan Lee & Jack Kirby comics, but the chronology ties in work by other important X-scribes, including Chris Claremont and Grant Morrison. So along with classic recruitment stories of the original class, interactions with the likes of Amahl Farouk, Gabby Haller, and even Captain America are woven into the marvelous mutant tapestry.

Marvel Saga #1 (1985)

And the execution is brilliant. My first reaction while reading this book was a flashback to the wonderful Marvel Saga from the 1980’s. That series stitched together classic panels from Marvel’s early days with original narration by Peter Sanderson to bring a young, impressionable comic book fan like myself up to speed. That book represented some of my first exposure to the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Romita, and it was instrumental in creating the obsessed librarian of superhero history that I am today. Piskor’s book is a much more intensive labor, of course, as he is writing and illustrating the entire series himself. As a result, the book is as beautiful and engaging as it is educational.


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Marvel Legacy Week 11

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #27
Squirrel Girl has consistently been one of Marvel’s best books and this just keeps up the trend. Making a joke about jumping-on points in comics and evolving the story from there is a really good gag. North and Henderson crush it as always. Silver Surfer bros, planet of squirrels, heroes who can talk to cats, and so many other good jokes litter this comic. As long as they keep making this book, I will read it.

Weapon X #12
I’ve never really liked the X-Force concept that much. The Remender stuff is amazing but it hasn’t since reached that high for me. This was okay, just more of what I expected. A bunch of mutants stabbing other people who hate mutants. It’s been done a billion times. Wasn’t bad but nothing really stuck out for me. Going to pass on the next issue.

Amazing Spider-Man #792
This is the most I’ve enjoyed the Slott Spider-Man! Peter is financially crashing on couches, and public enemy #1 as both himself and Spidey. I am actually invested in the main Spider-Man book for the first time in eight years and that is a good feeling. I’ve always liked Stegman’s art and he delivers on that front. I like all the character moments, like Peter and Flash talking, but the number of symbiotes is a little too much for me. Not sure I understand Marvel’s newest obsession of having multiple versions of the same character out there. I’m not the biggest symbiote fan so while I didn’t hate the book, I don’t know if I am going to read more.

December 6 | New Release Highlights | December 20

Black Bolt #8

Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt series continues to be one of the best comic books Marvel has published in years. Which is pretty important, I think, considering ABC’s Inhumans was one of the worst things to ever air on television. And recent efforts to push the New Attilan contingent to the forefront of the comic book universe have stumbled mightily. Poor Jack Kirby. At least Taika Watiti’s Ragnarok pays appropriate homage to the King’s style and legacy. But the Inhumans were always one of my favorite concepts, both in character origin and design, and it has bothered me to see so much of that colorful cosmically charged energy go to waste, whether in half-ass crossovers or gawdawful televised mini-series. Ask anyone only casually familiar with the Marvel universe for an opinion on the Inhumans, and you’re likely to garner a reaction ranging from dismissal to outright mockery.

And if damaged popular opinion prevents even one person from checking out this brilliant series, that’s a real shame. Saladin Ahmed has turned a character who, for decades, had been an emotionless and austere pillar of Inhumanity into something, well, human. A self-examination that begins in classically Golden Age-style narration gives way to actual dialogue, after Black Bolt is depowered by the Jailer. He explores what it means to be a king and, more importantly, what it means to be part of a family, in the most unlikely of places. All the while, artist Christian Ward portrays the King of the Inhumans as someone suddenly vulnerable, soft-shouldered and somewhat undersized, but with a strength and dynamism that comes not from his mountain-shattering vocal cords, but from his character.

In this first issue under the Marvel Legacy banner, Black Bolt returns home. He has a promise to keep, and intends to visit the Absorbing Man’s widow. My first question, before picking up this book, was whether or not Ward’s art was going to be as intense and exciting here on planet earth as it was in the Jailer’s trippy space prison. That was answered quickly enough. Even without the rest of the royal family to play around with, seeing Ward take on the other Inhumans in New Attilan and the capes n’ tights world of NYC, has moved this title even higher up my monthly must-read list.


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Read Along With Ghostmann: Doomsday Clock #1

I was fourteen when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen first hit the stands. I was already a huge Moore fan from reading his Swamp Thing run. I picked up Watchmen on his name alone.

At fourteen I really wasn’t aware of the magnitude of what I was reading, but I knew it was good and that it meant something. With each subsequent reading I grew to love it and understand it more and more until my appreciation of the series grew to giant squid proportions!

Now, over thirty years later Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have brought us a sequel – a continuation of Moore and Gibbons story. Big shoes to fill.

For the next twelve months I’ll be analyzing each page and breaking things down.

In other words…

It’s time to read along with ghostmann! Doomsday Clock #1!


PAGE 1:

Ahh the 9 panel grid. A sight for sore eyes.

Panel 1, of course in true Watchmen tradition, echoes the cover of the comic.

Rorschach is setting the tone, much like he did in the original Watchmen #1. It’s 1992, seven years after Rorschach died. Wait, he DIED! How can he be narrating?

The “The End is Near” sign that Rorschach / Walter Kovacs carried around in the original series gets altered a bit here. It’s now “The End is HERE.”

“Undeplorables,” “Totalitarians,” “Moderates” – very timely political terms being thrown around by Geoff Johns here.

The angry crowd turns into a mob and rushes the Veidt tower.

The scene is set perfectly by page 1: The world of The Watchmen has turned ugly since last we visited it. Continue reading Read Along With Ghostmann: Doomsday Clock #1

Old Man Logan #31

I’ve been feeling kinda burnt out on all the Wolverines running around the Marvel U. We currently are at three and with the original Logan returning, I was wondering how Old Man Logan’s place would be affected. I didn’t really have too high of hopes for Old Man Logan #31 going in because I’m not the biggest fan or either the character or artist Mike Deodato; however, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by both.

Aside from a few scattered lines, the book doesn’t really deal with OML’s time issues. Instead it focuses on Japan. For some reason, I always find myself liking Logan in Japan stories. I don’t know what it is but the setting always makes people bring their A game.

Writer Ed Brisson chooses to focus on a war brewing between The Hand (led by Gorgon) and the Yashida Corporation (led by fun Jason Aaron creation Shima Harada). Of course, Logan gets caught up in the war by accident and thus the story begins. Mike Deodato seems very well suited for this story of bright lights, ninjas, Yakuza, and mechanized samurai suits. It’s honestly one of the times I’ve enjoyed his art the most.


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Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #25

This holiday season, we’ve got quite a bit to be thankful for. In theaters: a Thor movie that is fantastic, and a Justice League movie that isn’t completely terrible (I might have hated it more than most, but the general consensus in our little collective is that, apart from The Flash, Zach Snyder’s latest DCEU flick is at least somewhat enjoyable). On the couch: a wonderfully satisfying Stranger Things follow-up segues into a surprisingly good Punisher series. And on the stands: DC’s Doomsday Clock is garnering rave reviews, and Marvel, godbless’em, still doesn’t mind publishing comics that feature superheroes without a film or television deal, and who have been seemingly forgotten entirely.

Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #25, by Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos, continues to be one of the most charmingly entertaining books on the stands. It’s the kind of book I want to give to my little cousins to show them that superheroes and superstories can exist outside of movies and video games. In fact, this little gem of an issue, part of Marvel’s Legacy initiative, may just open up their young impressionable world to the fact that comics not only gave birth to the characters and wonderment that are so pervasive in pop culture today, but its pool is exponentially more deep and engaging. Case in point: who the hell are the Fantastic Four?

Or in the case of this storyline, the Fantastic Three. We got the teasers in Jason Aaron’s Legacy one-shot, but it’s nice to be reminded that Marvel’s first family is merely gone but not forgotten. Lunella, smartest human on the planet now that Reed Richards is out of the picture, may be sans one giant red dinosaur at the moment, but she will have no shortage of team-ups and sidekicks if this FF-inspired new story arc is any indication. I was one of the kids who thought H.E.R.B.I.E. was simultaneously stupid and awesome back in the day, and it made me smile to see that same kind of reaction elicited in this comic. Welcome back, guys. And pay attention kids — you might learn something.

Continue reading Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #25

The Punisher #218

The popularity of The Punisher seemed to have peaked during the gritty anti-hero 90’s, in a forgettable era of comic book vigilantes that lost the plot, turning Golden Age ideology on its head and forcing us to examine what heroism really means. The Punisher began his comic book career as a villain, plan and simple, a foil for Spider-Man intended to underscore the fact that revenge and justice are not the same thing. But the character took on a life of his own, and for good reason — it’s a helluva concept and a brilliantly iconic design — and this week’s issue, the first under the Legacy imprint, hits shelves a few days before The Punisher stars in his own thirteen-episode series on Netflix.

The Punisher #218, by Matthew Rosenberg, Guiu Vilanova, and Lee Loughridge, has lofty aims. On the one hand, there’s the appeal of a Garth Ennis run, more at home in this Call of Duty era among espionage or crime comics like Queen & Country or Criminal. On the other hand, there’s this notion of Legacy, and, in Week 7 of the initiative, we’d still like to think that Marvel’s storied legacy is populated with more light than shadow.

Rosenberg, an up-and-coming writer who has already tackled Marvel’s underworld with his Kingpin series, looks poised to make good on both goals. There are lots of gangsters’ heads getting blowed up, and several sadistic grins from a Frank Castle who, of course, looks a lot like Jon Bernthal. He’s the same ruthless badass that he’s always been, and we are never asked for a minute to consider the humanity of his victims. But there’s also the matter of a certain piece of ordinance that Frank steals in the opening to this arc, and a wider scope to the story than we’d come to expect.

We gave him the War Machine armor, but he’s not becoming War Machine. He could never. War Machine is James Rhodes, a hero, an Avenger, something to aspire to. Frank is simply The Punisher, nothing more and nothing less. These characters we all love aren’t their suits or their weapons, they are the people inside that we care about. Hopefully, by having Frank steal the iconic armor, we can shine a light on not just Frank’s legacy, but Rhodey’s as well. – Matthew Rosenberg

Continue reading The Punisher #218

Port of Earth

In the great tradition of thought-provoking first contact science-fiction like District 9 and Arrival, comes Zack Kaplan and Andrea Mutti’s Port of Earth, out this week from Image and Top Cow.

Kaplan, whose Eclipse is one of the better sci-fi comics to come out in recent years, sets up a near-future Earth that is visited by aliens not motivated by conquest or exploration, but by business. In exchange for permission to establish a galactic port fifty miles off the coast of San Francisco, a consortium of alien industrialists shares planet-saving technology with our world: the ability to transform water into power.

The series doesn’t seem to be about the ramifications of averting an energy crisis (which is a good thing, because there is no explanation as to how consuming a non-renewable energy source like water can be of “no consequence”), but rather the allegorical implications of setting up business in someone else’s backyard. Indeed, right off the bat, outbreaks of violence lead to the creation of an Earth Security Alliance, tasked with keeping the peace and protecting both humans, as well as the alien investment.

The premise is interesting enough, but what will really keep me reading is the mystery that unfolds with the latest incident. An ESA buddy cop duo report to a crime scene where an unemployed mechanic is found murdered, a softball-sized hole ventilating his torso. And the clues on the scene point to a red threat level alien. I dig on some cosmos building, and this first issue’s appendix features a fun sourcebook on some of the extra-terrestrials Kaplan and Mutti have cooked up for this series, separated into known consortium members and hostile species.

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