THE PURE MOOD PULL LIST – 2013/04/10 – IN WHICH OUR HERO FINALLY GIVES IN TO SAGA AND HAWKEYE

It’s Thursday night and it’s time for me to talk about comics! There’s a lot to get through, so lets get to it.

It’s the Pure Mood Pull List! Here’s what I picked up at the shop this week…

pmpl_7…and here’s my overwritten and flowery 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 WOLVERINE #2, THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #7 and X-TREME X-MEN #13. So check it out!

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covers7_07 UNCANNY X-MEN #4 written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled and coloured by Chris Bachalo, inked by Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey & Victor Olazaba, lettered by Joe Caramagna

UNCANNY is kind of half-way good and half-way bad. The first half of this issue is dedicated to Emma speaking with the Cuckoos, and it’s pretty rough going, because it’s mostly the four explaining their motivations to each other. Now, I get that their telepaths, but it just feels too undemanding of the audience. This will all sound ridiculous, and if I’m losing you, maybe skip this part, because I think I’m about to make a fool of myself.

But I like it when I feel like a movie or a comic or a book expects me to put at least some work in. UNCANNY X-MEN #4 reads kind of like ‘The Dummy’s Guide to Emma Frost in Marvel NOW!’, and I don’t like that. Not only is Emma too good of a character for that, we as readers deserve more than that. In fact, the Cuckoos give us a little guide to the Marvel Universe – “What about Jean Grey? What is she thinking? She is not the great psychic warrior princess we were told about. She hasn’t turned INTO the woman everyone remembers yet. Mostly she wonders how she could EVER fall in love with a man who would grow up to kill Charles Xavier.”

I mean, it’s wonderfully written, and I’m not claiming Bendis’ insight is incorrect. I just feel like, in ANXM, we’ve gotten the chance to learn these kind of things through the characters actions, as opposed to exposition literally spelling out for us what characters represent. This all being said, the Cuckoos have been pretty well ignored for the last year, and it was great to see the spotlight on them. Their resentment towards Emma was fantastic, and Emma’s growing fear of her lack of power was also wonderfully characterized. Again, Bendis is great at what he does, and this is a great comic. But I’m weird enough to get really bothered by little things like that, and I can’t really recommend the issue.

Most of the other half is dedicated to the new mutants of Scott’s school, and there’s a lot of fun to be had learning about these new personalities. It turns out Christopher Muse is a bit more rascally than we originally imagined, while Eva continues her fun tough girl persona. These moments really shine for me, but I think a lot of X-fans get as much delight reading about new students as the writers obviously do writing about them. Bachalo’s art continues to be as wonderful as it always is, even if I find it ill suited for Bendis’ very talky script. Irving is on board next issue, and readers my be aware that he’s basically one of my favourite comics artists of all time. I’m very excited for that!

pmpc7_02covers7_06UNCANNY AVENGERS #6 written by Rick Remender, art by Daniel Acuna, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, cover by John Cassady and Laura Martin

This issue really reminded me of how ever-evolving the style of superhero comics is, and what a unique style we’re in right now. This issue is a pretty well perfect example of that – we’ve moved away from the decompressed, politically charged style of the 2000’s, but contrary to what I believed, we haven’t quite moved to the opposite spectrum of that.As it often is, it’s more complicated.

I think both  Hickman and Remender best represent the most popular of the current style – incredible decompression, yet decompression made of an infinite number of small building blocks. Decompression used to represent Bendis’ long talking heads scenes, but it really is a different kind now. It takes a long time for stories to get started, but because ideas are thrown at us so constantly it tends to take several months (or even years) for things to become clear. UNCANNY AVENGERS has insane, imaginative ideas, but it’s also an incredible slow burn. That being said, it’s a ton of fun, and I think it makes the right choice to focus on Thor.

Thor has been the most underutilized character in UA – besides for a touching moment between him and Wolverine, we haven’t got to see Remender play with him too much. Taking a cue from Jason Aaron’s wonderful solo series, Remender tells a story about the young and rambunctious Thor. We also get to see an ancestor of Wolverine, which is handled knowingly enough that we all feel in on the joke. Of course, Acuna is absolutely brilliant on the book, and a welcome replacement to John Cassady. Acuna can handle the dark twisted abyss that is Rick Remender’s mind with absolute ease. A brilliant and beautiful book.

Oh, it’s also about Apocalypse and Kang, but honestly, just read it yourself. You won’t regret it!

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covers7_05ULTRON #1AU written by Kathryn Immonen, art by Almicar Pinna, lettered by Joe Caramagna, cover by Kalman Andrasofszky

I’m not sure why Marvel didn’t plaster THE RUNAWAYS all over this comic, because it really is a welcome return to the fan favourite franchise. People seem so hungry for the brand, but I guess the fact we’ve seen so little of them in the past years is proof enough that they’re not as popular as I think they are. Regardless, ULTRON is a lot of fun.

Victor is trying desperately to survive in the dystopia of the Age of Ultron universe, trying to not only find his place in the world, being the son of Ultron, but also saving children left alone in this scary new world. Immonen does a wonderful job with the parallels of Ultron’s daddy issues with Pym and Victor’s daddy issues with Ultron. It’s a character driven and sombre issue, peppered with Immonen’s abrasive wit throughout. Pinna handles the entire artwork, from pencils to inks to colour, and it’s all done expertly. Characters occasionally feel a little lifeless and dead-eyed, but for the most part, it’s wonderful work.

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 covers7_04HAWKEYE #9 written by Matt Fraction, art by David Aja, colour art by Matt Jollingsworth, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos

Without surprising anyone, this is my favourite issue of HAWKEYE in a long time. I’ve gone on about the way Fraction handles contemporary masculinity before, but this issue is right up there with THE DEFENDERS #4 or the first few years of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN in terms of being an unapologetic assault on self-involved sensitive white men.

Continuing from the Valentine story from two months ago (after a delay due to the Superstorm Sandy support issue), Clint finds himself desperately trying to get some sleep, while the five women in his life continue to create different sort of problems through the roles they represent for him. Bobbi is the ex, Jessica the girlfriend, Natasha the work friend…of course, there’s also Kate, who Clint clearly has very complicated feelings toward, and the redheaded bombshell with ties to the tracksuit mafia.

The reason why I love this issue is because it treats Clint so unsympathetically. What often turns me off of Fraction is his lack of control – his work has such gleeful reckless abandon in throwing internet memes and winking jokes into the script, and I always find myself wishing he’d find the resolve to remove that kind of pandering. But on the flipside, when he writes these very personal and stark stories, that same recklessness works to his advantage – honestly, Fraction goes all out into making us dislike the beloved Hawkguy here, and after eight issues of making us fall for the hapless ‘regular Avenger’ who always tries so hard, he makes it sting that much more. After eight issues of seeing ourselves in a superhero without powers, a superhero who makes mistakes and can’t handle women or pressure, Fraction shows us an ugly side. It’s fantastic.

Fans are often quick to say that Aja does a lot of the heavy lifting in this title, but as fantastic as his design sense and characterizations are, I think him and Fraction really are a complete team, and that they bring out the best in each other. Certainly the action scenes are some of the best of recent memory, but Clint’s hangdog expressions could easily come off as cheesy or overacted if we didn’t have Fraction’s script to compliment. HAWKEYE has been a very hit or miss series for me, but it’s issues like these that will keep me reading.

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THE PURE MOOD PICK OF THE WEEK

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SAGA #12 written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Fiona Staples, letters by Fonografiks

It’s taken over a year, but finally, we’ve joined the rest of the world of comics blogging to make SAGA our pick of the week. I’ve been on board this series since the first issue, but nothing about it has particularly stood out, until now. BKV seems intent on showing Jonathan Hickman just how long you can print a comic before getting to the point, but now that things are starting to take shape, I’m pretty intrigued.

The twelfth issue focuses on the mysterious Prince Robot IV, the visually striking royalty intent on tracking down Marko and Alana. He’s been led to the door of D. Oswald Heist, the novelist behind the paperback that defines Alana’s life, and possibly the inspiration for her and Marko’s radical decisions.

Vaughn begins by characterizing Heist as a stereotypical novelist shut-in, concerned only with his writing, with little time for matters of military import. However, it isn’t long before he lets his true feelings slip, and he and Robot find themselves in a tense showdown. This is where the issue begins to gather real traction – it’s a tense, gripping scene, exploring the correlation between art and war, and where the personal begins in matters of global conflict.

It seems Prince Robot IV, despite having a very pregnant wife, has regressive homosexual inclinations. In a flashback scene in his time serving as a soldier, we see his screen flash images (possible memories or fantasies) of gay sex, and when Heist mentions his thoughts about “people like you”, meaning royalty, Robot pauses defensively. “People like me?”

Like a lot of bad people in fictional and real worlds, Robot IV’s more malicious tendencies seem to come from a place of being dishonest with himself. In fact (and I may really sound like a crazy person, here) Heist proves himself to be a hero by sacrificing himself through honesty. Right before the Prince leaves, he can’t help but mention that his son, a soldier serving the Robot dynasty, didn’t die in the war – he hung himself. By being outspoken with his opinions, even if it causes himself harm, Heist is doing the bravest thing anybody can do. This is the very liberal  (if romantic and idealist) message at the heart of all of BKV’s work, from EX MACHINA (my personal favourite) to PRIDE OF BAGHDAD.

SAGA #12 is fantastic. It ends with the obligatory out of nowhere splash page twist, but the real treat is the pages beforehand. SAGA may be taking it’s time to take shape, but as it gets more political and moral, I find myself more and more gripped.

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covers7_03AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #19 written by Christopher Yost, art by Marco Checchecto, colour art by Rachelle Rosenberg, lettered by Joe Caramagna, cover art by Paolo Rivera

I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but Marvel, if you’re reading and you need a pull quote for a tradepaperback – AVENGING SPIDER-MAN IS ONE OF THE BEST TITLES BEING PUBLISHED TODAY!

Honestly, as much as Slott’s SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is clearly the main event, if you aren’t reading this title, you’re missing out on a deeper exploration of what it means to have Otto Octavius masquerading as Spider-man. Christopher Yost understands Doc Ock, my personal favourite Spidey villian, better than almost any writer in the history of the character.

Teaming Spider-man up with Sleepwalker is an inspired choice. Yost characterizes him as a bemused slacker, who bounces off wonderfully against Otto’s elitist drive. In fact, despite the long publication of MARVEL TEAM-UP, this issue had me thinking how Spider-man isn’t even the most fun character to see others with, because it almost always becomes a straight-man/fall-guy scenario. Having a Superior Spider-man team-up title has been a blast, because Otto is such a strong and belligerent type of person.

Since he took over the title, Yost has been deeply exploring Otto’s psyche, but in this issue he does so literally. Otto wakes to find himself trapped in the dreamscape, haunted images of himself as a young boy, memories of his father and his life of villian surrounding him everywhere. Otto working desperately to prove to Sleepwalker (and ultimately, natch, himself) that Doctor Octopus isn’t the man he is, both figuratively and literally, is intensely gripping.

Marco Checchecto, primary artist of Greg Rucka’s THE PUNISHER, handles the art this issue, proving he can handle Cronenbergian pyscho-drama just as well as gritty crime noir. Every issue I read by Checchecto is filled with anxiety, because I know soon enough he’ll be noticed by Kirkman or Vaughn and taken away from the world of Marvel forever. Honestly, he’s one of the greatest artists in the industry, and AVENGING SPIDER-MAN is a beautiful looking book.

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covers7_01ROCKETEER HOLLYWOOD HORROR #3 written by Roger Langridge, art by J. Bone, colour art by Jordie Bellaire, lettered by Tom B. Long

Trust me, this issue is the most fun you’re legally allowed to have for four dollars. Featuring cameos by several Golden Age Hollywood stars, including a lengthy pep-talk between the Rocketeer and Groucho Marx (no joke), HOLLYWOOD HORROR is a comic you need to be reading.

Featuring an unforgettable and hilarious scene of Cliff attempting to fly a clunky prototype jetpack, Betty cosplaying as slave Leia, and of course, Cthulhu, HOLLYWOOD HORROR is a glorious package of fun. And blissful, beautiful cartooning! J. Bone is a master, and the amazing Jordie Bellaire only makes everything look that much better. FANTASTIC! IT’S A HOOT! EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT ‘THE ROCKETEER’!

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covers7_08KEVIN KELLER #8 written by Dan Parent, pencils by Bill Galvan, inks by Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli, colour art by Digikore Studios

I’m not the world’s biggest Kevin Keller fan, and it’s hard to say something like that without being labelled as anti-this or that. Don’t worry, my dislike of Kevin doesn’t come from a place of ‘it’s fine that he’s gay, but why’s he got to be so in your face about it?’ or anything icky like that. His stories just aren’t that interesting.

However, the drama really picked up last issue, and things go absolutely overboard fantastic here. Kevin’s juggling the attention of several different guys – guys who aren’t ready to come out yet, guys who are insanely possessive, guys who are a little too meek. Parent does a great job with the difficulties of dating, particularly not being jealous of your partner having any interests outside of you.

When Kevin finds himself (involuntary) cast in Veronica’s play, his boyfriend is not only jealous of his part (which includes him embracing with another man), but also with the fact that Kevin do anything other than spend time with him for twelve seconds. It’s a great story of the juvenile attention seeking that’s a crucial part of relationships.

Of course, Veronica directing a play also provides a great excuse to go completely overboard camp. Scenes include Egyptian slaves watching a monster movie at a drive-in, space-traveling gay teens being attacked by planets, and plenty more examples of pure Lodge insanity. I absolutely love the way Veronica plays off of Kevin, too – not only is she shown time and again to like Kevin for purely selfish reasons. Hey, Veronica is a girl on top of fashion trends. She needs a gay best friend. Treating Kevin as little more than an accessory fills him with resentment, but his natural good nature sees him patiently try to deal with Veronica’s bossy and non-sensical directing.

Honestly, I’m always shocked how far the folks at Archie will go to make not only Veronica a horrible person, but the people dealing with her, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve continued reading for so long. I mean, there’s a key scene in this issue where she has a temper tantrum breakdown after not getting her way, so everybody just gives her what she wants. More often than not, that’s how things work with strong personalities like hers. It’s not worth the effort to argue, so you dejectedly give in. Anyway, KEVIN KELLER is dramatic, fun and wonderfully campy.

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Well, that’s it for this week! If you’d like to discuss Hippolyta’s Hercules head juggling (say that five times fast!), the bromance of Dr. Wily and Eggman, Reed’s continued desire to make really bad decisions, or any other titles you enjoyed and think I should be reading, leave a comment below!

One response to “THE PURE MOOD PULL LIST – 2013/04/10 – IN WHICH OUR HERO FINALLY GIVES IN TO SAGA AND HAWKEYE

  1. UXM was great. Bendis gave the Cuckoos more characterization here than they’ve had in years, and gave plenty to Emma, too. The new mutants are coming along nicely. My only complaint is Bachalo’s art. I hate Bachalo’s art.

    UA was pretty good. This might be the best issue yet. Kang’s machinations are really interesting to watch. Young Thor was great.

    Ultron was really good. Some nice insight into Victor. Makes sense, since he’s the “son” of Ultron, and will be appearing in the Avengers AI launching after AU.

    Hawkeye was great, as usual.

    Avenging Spider-Man was a lot of fun. It really is a great title. Fun, but also doing deep exploration of who Otto is.

    As an aside, I actually thought the gag of Hippolyta tearing off the head of the Hercules mannequin was really good. It just fit so perfectly, but was done so subtly. Also, her interactions with Val are great. I’m loving Fearless Defenders.

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