BRIEF COMIC REVIEWS
A + X #13
The first of a six-part A+X story starts in this issue. The skrulls, the universe’s punching bag since Secret Invasion, have a secret group of superpowered zealot skrulls who are posing a potential threat to Earth’s metahumans. The skrull leader is either unaware of recent events (or just the only ones paying attention to the ‘this isn’t all in continuity’ warning at the start of the issue) so he decides that Cyclops and Captain America would be the best help in hunting undercover the skrull zealots. At the moment in Marvel continuity, Cyclops is a wanted man and Captain America is the leader of the most popular heroes on the planet. The mass of exposition is given to us and the abducted enemy team leaders, but they don’t bother to listen and instead attack each other, wrecking their hope of detecting the skrulls. It’s entertaining to see Cyclops hitting Captain America with a trying pan, but as they ignore the main plot, it feels like we’re fine to do so. I had to read back to remember what the deal with the skrulls was. This is part one of six, so it’ll be interesting to see how long the hate propels the pair through the story.
Then the second story is… well, it feels like bits of an Adam Warren story, but made clumsier. Howard Chaykin writes and draws a story of Black Widow helping out Emma Frost in finding a sex tape. Chaykin makes a good seedy story work in Satellite Sam, but at the same time his work here feels a quite unnecessary. While not entirely out of character, it still feels distant enough from who both Emma and Natasha are, and comes off as a jarring story for it.
AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1
I like the idea of Archie, but the execution’s not often all that good. I have the Archie app on my iPad and have even bought a couple of digests. It’s a world I’d like to experience a little of, but there’s so much and it’s a little too flavourless. And that’s where Afterlife With Archie comes into play. When I first heard about the comic on War Rocket Ajax, I knew I had to check it out.
Hot Dog, Jughead’s faithful pet, is hit by a car, so he takes the body to Sabrina the Teenage Witch to try and resurrect him. Necronomicon in hand, she attempts to raise the mutt, is punished by her aunts who look way more demonic than they did in the old Nickelodeon show of my youth. The dog returns as a zombie, and his master is bitten just in time for the Halloween dance. The story is fairly simple, even for zombie horror, but the execution is perfect. The art is slightly more realistic than the normal series, but the tone is pitch-perfect for the normal Archie series. Zombies and evil witches and Necronomicon aside. The horror isn’t made silly or unnecessarily gory, it slots into the story perfectly. With the zombie zeitgeist played out for at least three years and so many bad attempts at zombie mashup fiction, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the always fantastic Francesco Francavilla have dome an amazing job.
AVENGERS #21 (INFINITY)
This issue is a direct continuation from Infinity #4, starting with the repercussions of Thor murdering a Builder. The Accusers recognise that Thor’s a fellow lover of hammers and pretty awesome, so they ignore the pessimism of the Supreme Intelligence and go forth to smash in the Builders. Maybe he’s just upset that his fish tank got smashed in. The victory cry of the Accusers is met with several Pyhrric victories and a failed attempt to use their big last resort. Captain Universe wakes up and having been a pivotal part of the recent cosmic concepts, it’s interesting seeing things at her level. We find out a few fun facts like that this is a multiversal threat, and after Captain Universe kills several builders, they decide to destroy everything, instead of conquering it. This isn’t going to go well…
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7
We’ve had two issues of Angela fighting Gamora on the moon, and now we get a few explanations, so fairly standard superhero meet-up protocol. The majority of the issue is Angela in a prison while the Guardians interrogate her, but this is Brian Michael Bendis so he manages to make it engaging. In fact, now the action’s slowed a bit and the characters are all together, we get to see some growth in the interactions of the cast. Peter Quill and Tony Stark have some great banter, as chatty Earth heroes who no one else gets the jokes of. Angela is almost Klingon in her weird sense of honour, and as it turns out they’re not going to refer to/gloss over her coming from the Image Universe, they’ll just make their own thing. Whichever universe Angela comes from, she’s from an alien world called Heven, who have angel-like creatures and treat Earth as a myth. Sara Pichelli brings out the acting in all the cast in this mostly-static issue. The only negative that I can see from it is the use of the overdone, “There’s literally nothing in our universe like this new character, not until the next time we need to state that this is a big new thing and then that’ll be the only unique thing in the universe”. Great art, great banter and it feels like as Bendis is getting more comfortable with the cast, they’re becoming much more fun to read.
Ahh… I was waiting for this issue. I’m so pleased I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t mind the delay, really, and would almost rather have delayed comics than the double-shipping which makes some stories whizz by so quickly that you can’t digest (or store) them easily.
Hawkeye’s tenant, Grills, was murdered a few issues ago, but Fraction’s been playing fast and loose with the order of events. We’ve still only really seen these events through the eyes of Pizza Dog during his issue, so now we have the funeral for Grills, the wake and Kate Bishop leaving. Hawkeye’s at his lowest point, and his deadbeat former Dark Avenger brother has turned up just to make things worse. Kaziu, the deadly mime, is still stalking Hawkeye, waiting to make a move. This issue is all pathos and all build, with no action yet. We see a little of Hawkeye at his ‘day job’ with his ex-girlfriends and ex-wife at the Avengers, and then the personal horror he’s going through. He has no one to help him at this point, and the final page shows him alone on the roof of his apartment building, the darkness creeping in. For a book which can be really fun and light-hearted at times, it fits the mood of the show so far and I can’t wait to see how Clint grows from this point.
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK SPECIAL #1 (THE ARMS OF THE OCTOPUS PART 2)
The issue starts with a brilliant method of defusing The Hulk which I’m surprised SHIELD agreed to given how horrible it could have gone; showing him with puppies. The puppy solution luckily works and Bruce Banner is sent to Empire State University where part one left the Young X-Men and Spider-Man (still Otto Octavius in Peter’s mind). A radioactive retro version of Dr Octopus attacked the X-Men last issue, and in this issue The Abomination threatens the group. The art is different from the style the All-New X-Men had, but James Wyatt’s versions are still interesting. The colour scheme looks the same, with faux-ziptone added in for good measure. Maybe it’s having lived through the 90’s comics that has me impressed when Bruice Banner is skinny and Hank McCoy is shaped more like a barrel than a bodybuilder, but the variety in body shapes and postures works well to establish who is doing what. Bruce is flattered to be needed for being Bruce instead of the Hulk, but the Abomination puts a stop to it, and there’s a revelation which will bring the crossover to its endgame in Spectacular Spider-Man Special #1. As one of these multi-annual crossover events, normally it feels like a really long, insubstantial version of A+X, but the first two parts have been fun mixes of characters and while we won’t see long-term repercussions, the character work alone is fun enough.
NEW AVENGERS #11 (INFINITY)
The original glimpses of the Marvel Illuminati showed the secrets of what the Marvel brain trust were doing during the big events, and now we’re getting a quite interesting glimpse into that phenomenon as the event happens. Captain America would not entertain negotiations with the enemy mid-war like the Illuminati are doing. They sit down for a chat with the Builders, and one of their red versions of the strange antler-people pulls the mind control bug out of Dr Strange’s head. That means we know now that Thanos is definitely nothing to do with the Builder forces. The Cull Obsidian are smashing in Wakanda, using Namor’s dodgy intelligence, and the multiversal focus for the third act of Infinity pops up here much like in Avengers this week. The Illuminati have been blowing up realities for a while now, and it looks like we’ll finally get some payoff to that soon…
THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19
Carlie and Wraith are following the money over the world, looking for how Spider-Man gets his funding in case there are clues as to why Spider-Man’s acting weird. Meanwhile Spider-Mans of the present and future are still fighting all the chronal chaos. Science knowledge Peter Parker had would have helped, but as Otto’s ‘killed’ the Peter in his brain, he doesn’t have access to any memories he hadn’t already accessed. That and passing out trying to relive those memories shows that something bad’s going on in the mind of the Superior Spider-Man. Horizon Labs are wrecked and bought up by Max Modell, the villainous nerd. He ends up winning the day, taking over the Oscorp building and already looking to become the new Norman Osborn. Spider-Man 2099 has saved his future, but is stranded in the present, meaning that this is probably a backdoor pilot for a Spider-Man 2099 series, and more time-lost people are wandering the modern Marvel universe. If time’s broken, I wonder how long it can last with this many incursions.
UNCANNY X-MEN #13 (BATTLE OF THE ATOM CHAPTER 8)
Everything hits the fans for each side of the time-spanning conflict in this issue. Sure, Wolverine was gutted last issue without his healing factor to save him, but he’s not a focus of this issue at all. Cyclops’ team have approached the Jean Grey school having lost their only advantage thanks to Raze, Wolverine’s shapeshifting son. The evil Future X-Men’s boost doesn’t last too long as Cyclops’ team comes looking for blood. Present Magik and Future Colossus gut most of the evil X-Men on their way to rescue the Young X-Men. It’s a bit too late though, but as they’re looking like they are about to win, there’s a spanner in the works. With two issues left, some time travel horrors to work out and very few enemies left standing, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
There are some tidbits amongst the fracas, like apparently Magik killed herself in the future and Future Wiccan is the hooded sorcerer supreme.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
I love the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men, of course. It’s still a good issue and I love it when Cyclops manages to still be awesome despite being… well, Cyclops. My book for this week is Afterlife With Archie #1, managing to perfectly reflect an Archie comic but adding zombies in a way which doesn’t feel too camp or unnecessarily gory.