It’s Thursday night. The lights are low. Your comics are read. And you’re just waiting for somebody dumber and less entertaining than yourself to talk about them.
It’s the Pure Mood Pull List! Here’s what I picked up at the shop this week…
…and here’s my wild and wacky thoughts on them! As always, if you’re looking for the very best in Marvel reviews, head on over to http://www.marveldisassembled.com. I’m over there talking about X-MEN LEGACY #8 and WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #27. So check it out! And away we go!
Marvel’s constantly trying to attract readers to the cosmic corner of the Might Marvel U. The fan favourite books (which, as Wacker mentions in the letters column, unfortunately is synonmous with ‘low-selling’) are going through some big changes in Marvel NOW! – NOVA features a completely new guy under the helmet. GotG seemed like a great experiment, to me – Bendis on a space opera was something I actually had a hard time imagining, but he pulls it off well, by morphing the book to fit his skills rather than adding new moves to his playbook. I don’t mean that as criticism, because I think the book is stronger for it – by making it a character focused series, a soap opera story about a rebellious young space explorer with Daddy issues, Bendis keeps the series out of the realm of hard sci-fi that DnA occasionally veered it into.
Unfortunately, by pinning the entire book on Quill, we don’t get much of a sense of the rest of team, which is something I often find in Bendis’ team books. Of course, this is only the first issue, and I’m not trying to judge it too quickly. Anyway, Quill’s father, basically the king of all space (fantastic), has put Earth out of bounds for aliens and space explorers to visit. Basically, Earth is your friend that can’t get off drugs or get a steady job, and the universe is cold-shouldering our planet until we get it together. In the brief moments we see them, Bendis has a lot of fun introducing the varied members of the GotG – somewhere online I saw the new Groot being described as ‘space-Hulk’, and as he smashes into a ship yelling ‘I AM GROOT!’ it’s a description that fits. Of course, Iron Man is the member gaining the ire of most fans, but after the events of Fraction’s run and his epiphanies in Gillen’s run, it’s a great choice, to me. Even the mission statement of Hickman’s AVENGERS – that the superheroes of Earth need to start looking at the bigger picture – it all ties into this decision. Of course, it also gives the team a headlining name, but that’s no reason to revert to cynicism.
The highlight of the book is McNiven, who in all honesty, completely blew me away in this issue. A lot of the early to mid-2000’s fan favourite artists are now the source of scorn with many comics critics, (which I’m fascinated by. Just like the extreme stylization of the ’90s became a big joke when compared to the realism of Hitch, Reis and McNiven, that style is now looked down upon in favour of the retro vibe of the Samnee’s and Martin’s) and I have to admit, I’ve never been the biggest McNiven fan, but that’s more explained by my tastes in superhero art. I like things to be larger than life, whereas McNiven brought these guys closer to our level. That’s why I thought GUARDIANS wasn’t the right choice for him, but I was completely wrong. It’s an epic, beautiful looking book – from Peter’s hair-flipping stare-down with his father, the team’s attack on a spacecraft, he even handles Rocket and Groot, two very cartoon designs, incredibly. Ponsor’s colours also look beautiful.
Overall, the first issue of GOTG is solid. I’m excited to see where it goes, and I definitely think Bendis has a much better grasp on this story than I thought he would. It’s probably going to take a while to get a big picture of all these different characters though, especially if you’re not familiar with any of them. Still, it looks great, and it’s pretty entertaining and promising!
I’m very happy Marvel that not only are Marvel publishing these tie-in comics for the AGE OF ULTRON event, but also that they’re numbering them as ‘AU’. This way, obsessive compulsive fans don’t have to worry about ‘breaking their run’ (not that I think that problem comes up much in today’s relaunch happy market), but it also makes it clear what you’re getting. I’ve seen a lot of reviews call these books ‘unneccesary’, but for those of us who were curious as to how the continuity of AoU works, they’re a lot of fun. Anyhow, F4 #5AU is a touching look at the world’s first family, and also a horrifying look at the techno-dystopia of Marvel’s summer event.
With the family traveling through space on a mission to entertain and educate their children, Franklin and Val wake up one morning to discover their superhero family to have left them behind. Each one has left a holographic video will behind, and each of their comments are painful and loving, and for the first time in the series, you get a sense of how deeply Fraction understands these characters. I’ve said before how I find Fraction has done a wonderful job with Reed and Sue in the NOW! volume of this series, but that the other characters often feel under developed. Seeing how Johnny’s death and ressurection has affected him, seeing Sue’s refusal to admit she’ll ever die and promising to return home, Reed’s struggle with expressing his deepest emotions…it’s wonderful stuff.
Over at DISASSEMBLED, I mentioned the great work of Andre Aruajo’s artwork on X-TREME X-MEN. It’s great to see him doing more Marvel work, especially on a title that suits him so well. The dystopia of AoU NY is perfectly suited to his magna/eastern influenced style, but his characterizations of the kids are just as wonderful. It’s also a shocking comic – you get to see the death of the Fantastic Four, Reed being torn apart by Ultron Robots, the Thing valiantly fighting until his last breath. As she promised, Sue is the only one who makes it out alive. Honestly, FANTASTIC FOUR #5AU is a great comic – tie-in books may often be looked down upon, and it certainly isn’t ‘essential’ to enjoying Bendis’ story in the main book, but it further reminds us that the world of Age of Ultron is certainly a real one, not some alternative reality story, and it gives us some of Fraction’s best character work on the title yet.
After three months of a break-neck pace, UA slows things down once again. It’s nice to get our bearings, and we get a chance to see the world reacting to an X-men/Avenger integrated team. We also get three new members added to the roster – Wonder Man, last seen attacking the Avengers and blaming them for the world’s problems, the Wasp, last seen returning from the Microverse after a couple years thought dead, and Sunspot, now a self-hating alcoholic after become a Horseman of Apocalypse to earn back his legs. It’s great to see Remender adding unique choices like this, but I still think the team weighs much heavier on the Avengers scale. Then again, I’ll always think of Scarlet Witch more of an Avenger than an X-man, despite being a mutant.
Most of this book is dedicated to getting us to further understand Alex Summers’ new role as face of mutant/human alliance. The way he sees it, the entire idea of labeling some people as ‘mutants’ is part of the problem, which he says may as well be the ‘M’ word. It’s an interesting scene, and there’s certainly been some rabble rousing about it around the internet, but it really works for me. Alex is pretty desperate, not only to distance himself from his brother, but also to not look like the lapdog of Captain America, and he needs to find some sort of identity for the media to attach to him. Giving a speech like this at a press conference gives him that, while also igniting an idea that he believes in and is the entire heart of the UNCANNY AVENGERS concept.
Coipel and Morales artwork is, as expected, absolutely beautiful. The way he makes characters interact is so smooth and graceful – Alex and Rogue step around each other like dancers. He gets a chance at action as well, when Grim Reaper shows up at the media event, cursing his fate of immortality and wanting to kill Scarlet Witch so he and his brother’s life can finally end. UA is a really intriguing book, but Remender’s style of playing the long game and the slow shipping schedule kind of hurts the books momentum.
This comic is really stupid, but gloriously so. How much you enjoy it will entirely depend on your own aesthetic and sense of humour, but if you’re open to it, this is like some lost and in-continuity version of WHAT THE!? As somebody who spends half of his day thinking about Bob Clampett, the manic energy and relentless insanity of this book were a delight to me, even if Fraction’s abuse of cute meme’s may irk me. A wonderful scene in which Scott Lang has a near-nervous break down at the fear of getting any kids in danger is interrupted with Lang’s “I had ONE JOB.”, and it took me immediately out of the scene. Again, this isn’t a dig at Fraction’s writing, really – it’s been his calling card for so long that I certainly know what I’m getting into when I read his books, and so much of his fanbase responds positively to it that I’m not attacking it. But these sort of nods and references are just too cute to me, and joggles weirdly with Fraction’s wonderful ability to examine the fragility of male masculinity. What I’m trying to say is, I prefer it when he plays it straight.
All of this embarrassing nit-picking aside, FF is a lot of fun. The Allred’s are producing one of the best looking comics on the stands, and obviously having a blast doing it. I think I’ve said this about YOUNG AVENGERS, but if I discovered this comic when I was a teenager, it would be my favourite comic ever. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s stylish, hip, energetic and fun, and it’s an absolute blast to read. If you end up feeling a bit empty afterwards, maybe that’s just a sign that you’re looking for a bit more substance to your meal. But FF is good, empty calorie fun, even if it feels a bit too into itself.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6AU written by Christos Gage, art by Dexter Soy, lettered by Joe Caramagna, cover by Marco Checchetto
Here’s another AoU tie-in comic that I really enjoyed, and that also tickles my fanboy itch to see confusing continuity cleaned up a little bit. Basically, we learn that the Spider-man in AGE OF ULTRON is indeed our Doctor Octopus version. As mentioned in Bendis’ second issue, Spidey slept through the entire Ultron takeover, and when he sees what the world has come to, he decides he’d better put his Parker performance into overdrive, so that he can spend time figuring out how to defeat Ultron on his own. Gage comes up with a really cool idea – after all, Doctor Octopus has been controlling a machine with his mind for years, and with his genius intellect and his newfound body and powers, taking over Ultron should be a breeze. Of course, it doesn’t work out that way, but it’s a fun ride along the way. Dexter Soy, whose work I found ill-suited to DeConnick’s CAPTAIN MARVEL series, is perfectly matched here. The gritty and destroyed world of AoU New York, the tattered and defeated yet driven Superior Spider-man…it’s wonderful stuff. I’ve praised Gage plenty of times on the podcast; he honestly is one of the most underutilized Marvel writers. He does a great job with Otto’s voice, specifically his contempt for Tony’s ‘alcohol soaked brain’ is a great touch. Again, far from essential, but a lot of fun for us die-hard fans!
UNCANNY X-FORCE #3 written by Sam Humprhies, art by Ron Garney and Danny Miki, colour art by Marte Gracia, cover by Kris Anka
After earning the coveted and returnable title of PICK OF THE WEEK last month, this issue takes a bit of a dip in quality. Maybe it’s just because it’s an all-action issue, but it feels very thin and light. We get some expository moments describing Pyslocke and Spiral’s past, and the team spends a lot of the time talking in circles and deciding who gets to be leader. There’s some great moments with Fantomex and Cluster, who’s journey I’m devoted to following to the end of the world, but beyond that…not much to recommend. Bishop continues to roar, Gracia’s unique colour work continues to be beautiful and idiosyncratic, Humprhies’ gives Puck more and more great lines. And the glorious Danny Miki contributes the final pages, Betsy’s journey into Bishop’s mine, and it further illustates the all-weird style this book is going for. I didn’t necessarily dislike this issue, it just felt like not a lot happened, but I still trumpet this series as one of Marvel’s very best.
THE PURE MOOD PICK OF THE WEEK
Really, my pick couldn’t have been anything else, and I’m heartbroken that the brilliant David Brothers already wrote about this better than I ever could. Of course, I’m still going to ramble on about this, but that’s because I’ve got my own scary issues to work out. Gabriel Ba is probably one of my all-time favourite comics artists, and the romantic and sensitive linework of Fabio Moon isn’t too shabby either. Their work on UMBRELLA ACADEMY, DAYTRIPPER and CASANOVA is the stuff of comics legend, but their stints on B.P.R.D. were like all of my dreams coming true at once. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think if I’m being honest with myself, the Mignolaverse franchise of titles is my favourite on-going story in comics.
VAMPIRE doesn’t give us much – glimpses of blood in the snow, eyes hidden in shadows, corpses floating down river. It’s like an opening and ominous shot to a gothic horror movie. The only way to describe how Moon illustrates this scenes is to say ‘mood’. It’s an evasive, creepy mood, and it’s a great opening to the issue. There’s also the introduction of a man with one mission in life – to end all vampires. The way Ba handles the scene, though, we get the feeling that he hates himself a lot more than the threat he’s chasing after. Circles under his eyes, splashing water on his tired face…it’s sombre and chilling.
And of course, Dave Stewart. Probably the greatest colour artist in the industry, he continues to live up to his name in this issue. The pale hopelessness of the opening winter scene, contrasted by Stewart’s trademark stark and vibrant red of blood, it’s like a crack of thunder announcing the ominous and frightening mood of the story you’re about to read. B.P.R.D. VAMPIRE is a must read comic for anybody interested in horror, but anyone with a passing leaning toward beautiful and life-affirming masterful artwork…well, you wouldn’t be wrong to check it out either.
Just a quick note on this one. Long-time listerners of the now deceased podcast version of this column may remember that this was pretty well my favourite comic book of last year. IDW has now collected both issues in this 7.99 version, complete with new notes and sketches and an afterword by the master of pop-psychedelia himself. Even if you already have the original issues, it’s worth picking up for McCarthy obsessives like myself, and if you missed it the first time around, you MUST read it now. Head on over to TOO BUSY’s wonderful and definitive write-up to see just what you’re missing out on in life.
Well, that’s it for this week! If you’d like to discuss Squire’s triumphant evolution into Knight, the YA gang chatting at the club, the beginning of Marvel’s rather lacklustre X-crossover, or any other titles you enjoyed and think I should be reading, leave a comment below!