Good evening, fellow comics devotees and zealots! The Pure Mood has returned from a well-deserved vacation, rested, re-dyed, and ready for action. The Pull List podcast will be put on the backburner for a while now so that we can focus on THE PURE MOOD PODCAST, our weekly comics and pop culture show. But I just wouldn’t be satisfied to go each week without going on at length about the week’s best and brightest comics…so starting now, each Thursday, you’ll get the all-new non-audio Pure Mood Pull List! Since this is my list, it’ll be mostly Marvel books, but maybe I’ll be able to talk the Man Wit No Voice to say something about his favourite DC books every once in a while. Without further ado, it’s time I shake off my vacation cobwebs, get pumped and get going —Ooof. Those X-men comics. Sometimes they hit ya right where it hurts. Comics make the pain go away! And here’s the big heap of arrested development I brought home this week…
I love the Superior era of Spider-man, and that’s because I love when villains get their way, through incredibly over-the-top, unbelievable ways. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only way a supervillian should be able to succeed. Norman Osborn can’t become leader of the free world by some logical progression of events. I mean, this is Marvel Comics. He HAS to be a pill-popping, bug-eyed manic with a hard-on or Spider-man, leading a team of supervillians and saving the day by killing green space men. That’s the distinction between a supervillian and a villain. And we’re having the same amount of fun with Doc Ock as Spidey – Slott turned out an idea so comic-booky, a lot of people had a hard time accepting it was happening in an actual comic book. AVENGING has been a great cherry on top of the superior pie – funny, exciting stories that show us how different Spock is from Peter. Christopher Yost sends our mind-swapped hero to a babysitting gig for the kids at the Future Foundation, Reed Richard’s handpicked saviours of our tomorrow. Otto Octavius watching precious, hyperactive kids is an idea that sells itself – but Gage brings it to the next level by focusing on Spock’s connection to Bentley-23, a young genius crafted from supervillian DNA. There’s also an appearance by beloved ’90’s bounty hunter Death’s Head, and the Time Variance Authority, an office of faceless employees who monitor the trillions of trillions of different timelines to ensure that no one is messing with any timestreams. (by the way, it must be said, they’re not doing a very good job.)
It turns out that Bentley-23 must be held responsible for future crimes against time. Otto has his hands full with the TVA trying to apprehend Bentley, Dragon Man and the rest of the children taking down Death’s Head’s army of robots, and of course, the robotic bounty hunter from the future himself. The entire time, Octavius is diving deeper and deeper into his vast resource of Peter’s memories, desperately trying to come up with a way to save the day. In the end, and this is going to sound way cheesier than it reads on the page, Otto realizes that he can only solves things by being his ruthless, diabolical self. Doc Ock brings Bentley close, and whispers gently in his ear exactly what he’ll do to him if he does mess with the timelines at a future date. The agents at the Time Variance Authority check their documents, and sure enough, that did the trick. “Children.” Otto thinks, “They need to be handled firmly. They look at me now, not with love, but with a newfound respect. Respect and fear.” There’s also a greater narrative thread at play, as we learn Otto went to the FF for a specific reason – to appertain the remnants of his ex-partner the Sandman, apprehended after the events of ENDS OF THE EARTH. Fun, creative, action-packed and heartfelt done in one stories with a greater narrative arc at play? Holy cats, this Yost guy knows what he’s doing. Seriously, this comic is a ton of fun, and it’s a great insight into what makes Otto as Spidey so unique. It’s also gotta be said – Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco have grown exponentially since their days on Kyle and Yost’s NEW X-MEN – and as great as their work on that title was, this is on an entirely different level. This team will be the next Stuart Immonen any day now.
Speaking of Immonen’s, here’s futher proof that Canada is the source of all power in comics. The Sif-centric JIM has been one of my favourites of the new Marvel NOW! titles, and this issue just has so much that I love about it, a review of this book would be more of just a list of things I love. So, without further ado, here’s that very list!
- It opens with a brilliant, darkly-comic scene of a business man ready to jump from his office building before being interrupted by an Asgardian monster known as the king of the Spider-men
- It features Monica Rambeau, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, and Namor punching monsters
- One monster appears in the city streets of Tokyo, to which no one lifts their heads from their phones. Because monster attacks are pretty common there, y’know? The monster is emotionally wounded by this shunning. And Valerio Schiti draws this scene so well I laugh so hard.
- In the background of a bar in Broxton, the old Marvel Super Heroes Thor show is on the TV. The one that wasn’t animated, as much as it was Jack Kirby drawings with mouths that opened. And of which I can sing the theme song by heart.
Hopefully producing a sales bump, this issue also guest stars the Superior Spider-man. As much as unneccasary crossovers can drain the uniqueness out of lower-tier titles, Immonen handles the guest spot extremely well. Just as Yost delivered humour from Spock babysitting the FF by focusing on how different Peter would have handled the situation, here we get a twist on the regular Peter getting sheepish around strong women like Ms. Marvel, and instead see the strong warrior Sif impressed with Ock’s mercilessness. I never would have thought Sif could hold her own series, but Immonen really makes her an incredibly captivating and capable protagonist. Sif, self-implanted with the Berserker incantation, is an unstoppable warrior force, the Marvel version of Big Barda. Whether bartering with cabbies, flirting with Spock or arguing with the warriors from the Isle of Exile, Sif is just a blast to read about. As great as Immonen’s script is, Schiti and Bellaire are absolutely killing on the art. JiM isn’t quite fantasy, it isn’t quite humour, it isn’t quite superhero…it’s one of Marvel’s most unique books, and no one should miss it.
It’s no secret that I was a huge fan of Rucka’s run on THE PUNISHER. It was a complex, deep mediation on symbols, and how we define our identities through action. Reading WAR ZONE has been a bitter sweet experience – it’s amazing, epic, and has a million breathless moments…but that nagging knowledge also at the back of my mind, that Rucka had more, that this story was meant to be longer…makes it hard to get through. That being said, these final five issues took a logical next step from the story of Frank Castle and Rachel Cole-Alves, spinning a story about legacy. Frank has freed Rachel from her death sentence, but now faces one of his own. Facing up against Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Spider-man after using their own technology to end lives. In the end, the Punisher is captured, as the Punisher always is. But Rucka gets that Punisher can be captured time and time again, and it doesn’t matter, because by turning himself into a symbol the Punisher has more power than Thor or Wolverine or Iron Man put together. Frank’s immortal. And kids, no kidding, when I turned to the last page of this thing, I wept. It was an unavoidable conclusion, it was predestined, but it still hit me with the kind of emotional force I rarely feel in comics. Please, please, read Rucka’s run on THE PUNISHER. Even if you aren’t a fan of the character, this book was something special.
THE PURE MOOD PICK OF THE WEEK
written by Sam Humphries, pencils by Ron Garney, inks by Danny Miki with Scott Hanna, colour by Marte Gracia with Israel Gonzalez and Will Quintana, lettered by Cory Petit
Two issues in, and Humphries run on UXF is one of the craziest X-men comics I’ve ever read. And it isn’t crazy in that all-too-cute way that modern comics sometimes veer into – this isn’t about gorillas riding dinosaurs and time traveling to become the President of the United States, this is actual under-the-eyelid-of-an-addict craziness. The basic story is that Psylocke, after the events of Remender’s run on the previous volume of UNCANNY X-FORCE, has tried her hand at teaching at the Jean Grey School. That didn’t work out so well, so Betsy and Storm took a trip to LA to visit Logan’s one and only Saskatchewan Sweetie, Puck. A mysterious drug that zaps users of their free will has been making the rounds, as supplied by classic X-villain, Spiral. In this issue, Spiral teleports Puck away to a roof for a truly unforgettable brawl, in which an attempted arrest under the name of Hank Williams is refuted by Spiral for the simple fact, as she states, “I don’t listen to COUNTRY.” Meanwhile, Fantomex is dating himself. Namely, the manifestation of his most sensitive and caring emotions, conveniently exhibited as a foxy femme by the name of Cluster. Fantomex tickles her romantic sweet spot by stealing the tooth brushes of Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama, to show that he can, and to show that he cares. For himself. Or herself. This comic is weird. Meanwhile, Pyslocke is being attacked by junkies at a club, and has to use her telepathy to take these rowdy partiers down. How does she do this, you may ask? As Betsy puts it, by speaking their language.
Psylocke uses the juvenile desire to prove ones masculinity is greater than another’s by punching the other one harder to take down a threat. Only by thinking by the ridiculous terms of most male superheroes can Braddock defeat a local ignoramus at the bar. And she does it using PUNCH OUT!! references. I mean, that’s just incredible. Meanwhile, the gang gets all together just in time for Bishop to show up. Stranded at the end of time after turning rogue, he’s back, doing little more than growling and, apparently, manifesting giant fire bears. As complex, mature, and incredibly surreal the plot is, the highlight really is Humphries unique ear for dialogue. A lot of modern comics go for charming, likeable dialogue over anything resembling a real human being, and Humphries seems intent on showing these mutants as flawed, complex multi-faceted people with real, confusing emotions. Puck’s crude, coarse teasing of the different ladies in the team (“So..what’d she DO to you, ANYWAY?” he asks Pyslocke about her hatred of Spiral, “Nude pix on the INTERNET? Piss in your hair dye? Steal your THIRD ARM?”) is pitch-perfect for his rough and tumble Canadian persona.
Ron Garney’s artwork is a great match for this old, weird story. My two favourite highlights are a Frank Miller style fight-scene on the roof that illustrates most clearly Humphries’ pitch of the story as a ninja noir, and the small date scene between Fantomex and Cluster, where Garney manages to sell a really emotionally (albeit freaky) scene between two characters in full ski-masks. As much as Humphries has described the series as being the Lynchian side of the Marvel Universe, that doesn’t seem quite right to me. This is the obscene, raunchy corner of the MU – bar room brawls, loud, dumb men who understand the world through boxing video games, six-armed drug dealers and cringe-inducing superhero masturbation. It’s the X-book you fall into after a night of self-destruction and regret. It’s not about revealing the weird we cover up with false constructs, as it is about reveling in a world where weird is all there is. Humphries UNCANNY X-FORCE is a weird book, and I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if it turned them off. But if you’re not ashamed of your own dark, disturbing thoughts, if you’ve ever lived in a lewd, loud world, or if you like your mutants scarred and damaged, this book is one of the most unique and expertly done coming from any publisher.
Si Spurrier has spent the last six issues turning Legion into one of the most fascinating, complex and intriguing characters of the MU, and I never thought I’d ever be as captivated by David Haller as I am. Listeners of the podcast may know that Zane is a long time fan of Xavier’s eraser-headed offspring, but he’s never really intrigued me until now. Spurrier writes him as a man who, like so many others in the X-books, believes he’s the only one to understand Xavier’s dream. Legion believes that the only way to create human/mutant co-habitance is by accepting that Xavier’s dream is just that, a dream. To make it a reality, we can’t just throw on spandex and “wait for the #@%& to hit the FAN then try to DO SOMETHING about it.” We have to act, as opposed to react, and not in the friendly PR style of chic-revolutionist Scott Summers. But Legion has a major handicap ahead of him, mainly the fact that he is running a prison of his multiple personalities inside of his head. On top of that, David’s found his life wrapped up with that of Ruth Aldine, AKA Blindfold.
Last month’s issue was magnum-opus, one of the most beautiful origin stories of any of the younger mutants, a hyper-modern revisioning of Claremont’s many stories of bigotry and religious oppression. There’s no way I’ll be able to do that issue justice in a recap, but if you have any passing interest in the X-men or good comics, track it down. In this issue, Ruth’s hate-filled brother Luca’s eyeballs have set themselves in the body of one-half of a set of powerful Japanese mutant twins living at the JGS. Luca uses the powers to predict, which means he can touch a wall, and then Toad will drop his coffee, which will over-heat the A/C unit, which will blow one of Doop’s lost candy bars out of the vent, which will cause a Bamf to appear to eat in mid-air, and then that Bamf will eat someone’s face…etc. This is the big climax of Spurrier’s first arc, Legion getting some form of control over his personas, Blindfold putting aside her many insecurities and taking care of business, and in the end, Haller coming face to face with the biggest issue rattling around inside his complex head, Daddy Xavier. X-MEN LEGACY really is the most unique, complicated and moving book Marvel is releasing. Molina’s pencils are fantastic in this issue, and he does a great job bringing to life the complex ideas that Spurrier throws at him, such as one of Legion’s powers/personalities known as the Orgamist, who folds space-time at will. The character work is great, too – a final conversation between Ruth and David is captured wonderfully. The two real art-stars of the book however, are Rachelle Rosenberg and Cory Petit. Legion fighting his way out of a pile of books, shouting LUCAAAAA in bold, red font and coming at Blindfold’s brother trailed by an opus of fire, proclaiming boldy ‘STAY. STILL.‘ Beautiful and subtle variances in lettering and colour. In short, it’s as gorgeous looking a book as it is intellectually written.
BATMAN INCORPORATED #8 written by Grant Morrison, art by Chris Burnham and Jason Marsters, coloured by Nathan Fairbarn, lettered by Taylor Esposito, cover by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbarn
An essential, exciting and moving entry in the greatest Batman saga of all time. If for, whatever reason, you haven’t been on board with this, go back several years and read every Morrison bat-title and wonder what you’ve been doing with your life. There isn’t much more to say. This is why I read comics. A beautiful comic from everyone involved.
I’ve loved BONGO’s series of one-shots focusing on the many beloved side-characters of THE SIMPSONS universe, and this just may be the best one yet, or at least my favourite since the Milhouse issue. It not only features a story by Ian Boothby, a hilarious Vancouver comedian, in which every resident of Springfield becomes Frank Sinatra, the last story is an extended riff/tribute to Steve Ditko’s run on DOCTOR STRANGE. As much fun as it is to see John Delaney’s beautiful approximations of Ditko’s unforgettable surrealist backgrounds, it’s actually a surprisingly moving little character piece on John Frink. Nathan Kane writes Frink as a representation of the downfalls of being too steadfast in your own beliefs. Frink refuses to believe in the magical realm he finds himself in, because there’s no such thing as magic. But as our Stephen Strange stand-in, Plasmo the Mystic, teaches Frink after being saved by the Professor’s science, “It seems your science succeeded where my magic could not.” “Don’t feel bad, Plasmo”, our Clea-clone replies, “After all…science is magic we just don’t understand yet.” It’s a fun little series of stories, with lots of laughs and fun, geeky references for us Simpsons die-hards, and Sinatra and Ditko fans alike. And sometimes it has surprisingly mature characterizations, to boot!
I’ve only read through this the one time, and LOEG always requires multiple read-throughs (from me, anyway) until I get the big picture. That being said, this is an amazing comic, and further proof that Kevin O’Neill is the greatest living cartoonist will no longer be needed, sir, so, why not give it a rest, and stop showing us how AMAZING YOU ARE. Honestly, LOEG is one of my favourite comic series of all time, and after last years volume, I didn’t think there would be anyway to top it. But NEMO is brilliant story about literature’s lasting legacy.
Well, that’s it for this week! If you’d like to discuss J.Bone’s beautiful drawings of Betty in IDW’s newest Rocketeer series, the story of Ultimate Storm’s Mohawk, Illyana’s ‘Boy, I will BREAK you’ letting me know that Magick is in good hands, Remender’s remix of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, Jen’s touching date with Wyan Wingfoot, the ‘lost’ TEEN TITANS story, or wether or not HAWKEYE and YOUNG AVENGERS are too cool for their own good (for the record, I really do enjoy both those comics. But they’re a little too much for me to swallow, at times) leave a comment below!