It’s Thursday night. We purchased comics. We’ve read comics. We’ve thought about said comics.
It’s the Pure Mood Pull List! Here’s what I picked up at the shop this week…
…and here’s my preordained and spiritual 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 THANOS RISING #1 and ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #25.So check it out! Also, I already talked about THE LAST OF US last night at this very site, so scroll on down to read that once you’re done here. And away we go!
I’m beginning to think Dan Slott is a bit of a sadistic fella. Not only did he have a delightful time teasing us with Peter’s return by having him float around in a spectral form since the launch of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, he sprung it on us an issue after we were promised the guy would be dead and gone forever. The newest issue not only props up the forgotten ’90s anti-hero carcass of hospital worker/vigilante Cardiac, it taunts us gleefully with the possible return of Peter Parker. It’s the kind of comic where, if you’re in on the joke, it’s a blast to read.
Slott surprised the heck out of me, and I’m sure everybody else, with SUPERIOR – I love the guy for his sense of humour, but Doc Ock as Spider-man seemed to promise more grim things on the horizon. But the world’s biggest Spidey fan played things in his style, and really milked the laughs out of the concept of evil scientist pretending to be Spider-man. All that evil cackling and villainous monologue has caught up to Otto, not to mention the whole murdering badguys deal, and the Avengers are going to sit down webhead and see what’s up. The tension Slott and Ramos get from playing off of our excitement in seeing Otto found out is fantastic – Earth’s mightiest heroes move in closer and closer in a circle around Octavius, with little panels focusing on Black Widow’s distrusting eyes or Wolverine’s ready-to-snikt claws.
There continues to be a lot of fun with having Peter witness someone do his job better than him. I mean, the title of the comic is SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, and that doesn’t just mean Otto. This is a book about Peter learning about his own shortcomings, while also learning why only he can be Spider-man. Doc Ock uses technology, the police force and his Avengers connections to fight crime in the most productive way possible. But obviously he never got to learn about the responsibility that comes with great power, and he uses his new-found strength to act out all his regressed nerd power fantasies. I love Peter’s emotional failings and crippling neuroses, but it’s interesting to see him in a position where he seems to be learning just how urgently he needs to get over them, and achieve all of his potential.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN continues to roll along and be a complete blast to read. This book could easily have been what so many predicted it would be – a glitzy and shallow headline grabber – but that’s the weird dualism of Marvel as a company and Marvel as the House of Ideas. Slott and Ramos make this story work, they make it entertaining and they make it an illuminating story about Peter Parker. This comic keeps surprising me, and I love it.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with the first (!) of Marvel’s big events this year, but as the case often is, the novelty is beginning to wear off. Dropping us right into a world of robot dystopia was a great way to begin the series, but one month and four issues in and we haven’t moved much past that. That’s the really tricky thing about a story where, by definition of genre, the characters are all stuck in one place. Dystopia can’t feel dystopian unless it is crushing and overbearing, unless our heroes are trapped in a situation they can’t undo and can never get out of. But if we’re just opening up with loss, there’s no conflict, and with then there’s no story. Of course, you create the story when the characters fight to create a new kind of life, and the heroes of the Marvel Universe are finally getting around to doing just that.
It turns out that hope lay in the Savage Land, where are heroes jettison off towards thanks to Invisible Woman’s cloaking powers, where they find not only Kazar, but Black Widow’s team of Moon Knight and Red Hulk introduced last issue. They propose the only way to defeat Ultron is to destroy the idea of Ultron, to go back in time and…well, we’re not sure what exactly. Kill Hank Pym? Bendis ends things on a cliffhanger, with lots of questions up in the air.
I’m glad AGE OF ULTRON is getting somewhere, and I honestly think going back in time to stop Ultron from ever happening is a really fun idea. But as the folks at HOUSE TO ASTONISH mentioned, these first four issues have been little more than looking at drawings of rubble. And, yes, Hitch draws some great rubble, and some great robot/superhero showdowns in this issue. But it’s not enough to warrant four dollars, especially not four times over. Had this book not quadruple shipped, the effect would have been felt even more. Still, the end of this issue shows promise.
Mark Waid has been dealt an insane amount of pressure in being given the reigns of Marvel’s Green Goliath – not only was he the breakout star of a billion dollar grossing film, Waid had just recently completely reinvented and rejuvenated another classic Marvel character, and all eyes were on him to make HULK feel just as fresh. “They said ‘make it DAREDEVIL’.” Waid said of Marvel’s advice in writing the NOW! relaunch, and after winning multiple Eisner’s and becoming the favourite of countless superhero fans, you can imagine the pressure.
It may not have any Eisner’s in it’s future, but INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK is pretty good comics. Waid suceeds in taking almost all of his cues from Whedon’s AVENGERS film, portraying Banner as a man no longer struggling with bottling in his rage, but instead a guy with an almost zen-like acceptance of the way his world works. And just like his Loki-bashing adventures on the big screen, Waid sacrifices plenty of screen time to giving the audience what they want, which is to see Hulk smash.
So Banner and his team of scientists are trying to figure out the scientific secret behind Uru metal, and they head to the mythical land of Jotuhiem, home of the Frost Giants, to do just that. It isn’t long before a very absent minded and retro-outfitted Thor shows up, proclaiming he has no knowledge of who Bruce Banner or the Hulk is, and that he visits Midgard rarely. Walt Simonson brings his legendary talents to this issue, and the majority of the issue is dedicated to let the guy do his stuff. Frost Giants are soon attacking, the Hulk soon picks up Thor’s hammer, an we’re off to a day at the races. INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK is quite a bit of fun, and certainly essential if you’re a fan of Simonson’s at all.
VENOM #33 written by Cullen Bunn, art by Declan Shalvey, colour art by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Joe Caramagna
I’m in the minority here, but I’ve been enjoying VENOM more and more since Bunn took over. Not only does he bring his trademark love of shlocky monster-movie horror, he’s steering Flash Thompson’s story in a pretty tragic and moving direction. Remender may have told the story of a broken war-vet, looking for his Father’s love at the bottom of a bottle, but Bunn is telling the story of what happens when a man picks up those pieces and tries to become a hero through, shall we say, artificial means.
That’s the really fascinating thing going on in VENOM – Thompson not only has no powers, he has no legs, and it’s only through the use of an alien space monster that he can even be a superhero. Bunn portrays Flash as just moving from one addiction to another – at an AA meeting, Flash nervously pulls up his sweater, covering the needle marks left behind by his injections of the symbiote. Flash may think he’s covering them up so the other members don’t get the wrong idea, but his shame is real. He knows he feels that constant hunger for the symbiote, that constant screaming voice he can’t silence until he suits up.
Bunn also handles continuity in a completely delightful way for long-time readers such as myself – continuity is the constant subject of modern superhero comics, because we’re struggling as hard as we can to get out of the overbearing and impenetrable tomes of sixty+ years of history. However, veer away from it too much, and we lose the addictive quality of these long-form soap operas – if none of the stories really ‘matter’, if all of it will be wiped away a year after being told, certain fans feel less of an impulse to continue reading. Of course, it’s also a simple fact that our brains love making connections. In stand-up comedy, a comedian has to do little more than call-back to a previous joke for us to think he’s brilliant, and a similair thing happens with serialized stories. If we recognize a moment, if those signals flash up in our brain and we think ‘hey! I know what he’s talking about!’ we feel good.
Which is to say that Bunn does that in VENOM. A short Skype chat with Beast wonderfully sums up their relationship in SECRET AVENGERS, while also showcasing Flash’s personal problems. He refuses to wear the prosthetic legs McCoy has created for him, for little reason other than that their ‘uncomfortable’. Of course, we know his addiction to the symbiote is the real mental block stopping him from getting out of his wheelchair. VENOM is a great comic book – Toxin finally makes his appearance in this issue, along with a creepy Frankenstein style creature, who both provide plenty of action and excitement. Shalvey’s artwork is incredible and perfectly suited to the series. I think this book is flying under a lot of people’s radars, which is a shame, so check it out!
THE PURE MOOD PICK OF THE WEEK
Okay, in the future, RED SHE-HULK is going to be the thing comics bloggers are writing about the way plenty of guys love to go on about silver age Superman stories or Steve Gerber’s THE DEFENDERS. Ladies and gentlemen, this comic is insane. Highlights include the disfigured bastard son of the Mole Man, a collected ball of energy and ideas guarded by the ghost of Nicola Tesla who eats swords, and a re imagined Mount Rushmore adorned by the faces of none other than Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, Ultron and Loki. This comic couldn’t be written by any one else but Jeff Parker – it’s full of madcap, insanely brilliant ideas, hilariously lowbrow humour and of course, plenty of interesting ideas about what exactly superheroes in our culture symbolize.
After the young Mole Monster decrees Machine Man and Red She-Hulk to be positively not human and therefore not deserving of death, he brings them to the Consumption Cave, where our two heroes try to learn more about the mysterious secret history of S.H.I.E.L.D., first introduced in Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s series from several years ago, recently discovered by none other than Betty Ross. Meanwhile, Echelon, a new attempt at perfecting the super-soldier that Shrulkie believes will result in a superhuman/human civil war, is being attacked by the original Jade Giantess, Jen Walters.
Parker throws together countless elements and ideas to blend together in Red She-Hulk’s quest to discover what it means to be a hero. Betty must face off against subterranean monsters, science, the governement and even other heroes to learn what exactly she believes the right thing to do is. Meanwhile, she’s hulking out to an uncontrollable savage stage when she gets very angry, which serves as a sort of constant reminder as to why superheroes can be dangerous and terrifying things.
The best thing about RED SHE-HULK is just how relentlessly adventurous it is. To go from so many different concepts and set pieces, while still balancing Parker’s trademark humour and also injecting plenty of great characterizations and interesting ideas is no easy task. It’s why he’s one of my favourite superhero comic writers – not only does he understand what makes them fun and what makes them smart, he understands them on a pure level of craft. Parker knows how to give you a full meal – nothing ever feels like one slim chapter in a larger story. You’re hungry to read more, desperate to, but also satisfied by the issue you did read. Exciting, action-packed, hilarious and just shockingly unique.
Heavens rejoice, Abe Sapien finally has an ongoing series! Fishface has had plenty of miniseries over the years at Darkhorse, but it’s great to see we’ll be able to enjoy his adventures on a more consistent basis, because like a lot of Mignolaverse fans, I’m completely obsessed with Abe. This first issue doesn’t give us much of the title character, but contrary to many other fans, I don’t think it’s hurt because of that. B.P.R.D. has always been about horror and horror is always about mood, and Allie and Fiumara do a wonderful job creating tension and mystery as the Bureau wonders where exactly Abe has gone, in this desolate and dsytopic world.
Allie showcases his fantastic ironic wit in plenty of scenes, including an unforgetable opening contrasting devil worship with Bieber fandom, as well as an agent standing in front of a sign proclaiming ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED – OR REGRET IT FOREVER, as the agent declares ‘No monsters here, sir.” into his walkie-talkie. Abe may not show up for some time, but when he does, it’s pretty unforgettable. A group of traveling homeless men talk in bemused fear of the monsters they’ve witnessed in this new and strange world, before discovering one of their passengers hardly looks human himself. ABE SAPIEN promises plenty of interesting revelations into Sapien’s mysterious past, while also telling the kind of expertly crafted story I always expect from Dark Horse. Wonderful!
I was pretty in love with the first part of the Archie/Glee crossover, but this issue isn’t quite as memorable. Most of the issue is dedicated to different members of the Glee cast auditioning for a spot on the Archies, while the rest is Dilton trying to stop people from kissing. The one delight comes from Coach Slyvester coming face to face with Jughead Jones. The two bizarre personalities bounce off each other in a hilarious way, and Aguirre-Sacasa has Elizabeth Banks’ trademark snappy cadence down pat. I still think this crossover will be a lot of fun in the end, but this issue spins its wheels a bit.
Well, that’s it for this week! If you’d like to discuss the end of Bedlam’s first arc, the mysterious new member of Cyclops’ revolutionary X-men, or any other titles you enjoyed and think I should be reading, leave a comment below!