Checking in with Al Ewing’s “Avengers” titles.

August 16, 2017

As far as I’m concerned the third volume of Ewing’s “New Avengers” is still the best Marvel superhero title I’ve read this year.  For all intents and purposes “U.S.Avengers vol. 1:  American Intelligence Mechanics” is the follow-on to that and it retains much of what made that previous run great.  An eclectic group of heroes fighting some truly despicable bad guys?  Check.  Lots of intricate planning from A.I.M. head Roberto DaCosta to stay one step ahead of everyone?  Check.  Genuinely clever writing and character development?  Check.  An ability to utilize crossover storylines to further the main plot of the title?  Check to the extreme, because the final issue here is a tie-in to “Secret Empire.”  Honestly, I would’ve been fine if they had left that issue off to start the next volume because the volume comes to a full stop just as it’s ramping up for the next big thing.  That issue aside, “U.S.Avengers” is a very satisfying continuation of everything that Ewing was doing on its predecessor down to the enjoyably slick art from Paco Medina (with Paco Diaz and Carlo Barberi ably assisting as well).

 

Yes, I’m counting “Ultimates 2 vol. 1:  Troubleshooters” as an “Avengers” title because it basically is.  Its characters just tackle threats on a much larger scale.  The problem here is that their biggest threat is something they can’t fight:  The disruption of the title’s momentum after the “Civil War II” tie-in from the previous volume.  If you were expecting the team break-up that came at the end of that volume to last longer than the first issue here, then you’d be wrong.  Still, once Ewing gets the team back into place things start ramping up quite well as the Ultimates face off against the N.S.A.’s team of super-powered Troubleshooters and the revelation of the universe-level threat behind the chaining of Eternity and the corruption of Lords Order and Chaos here.  New artist Travel Foreman is a bit too gritty to deliver the same grandeur that Kenneth Rocafort did, but he’s very willing to go as weird as Ewing needs for this story.  Which is very.

 

I am a bit concerned that the scope of the story has become too large here to be wrapped up in the next volume (no further issues have been solicited after the anniversary issue #100).  After everything he’s done here at Marvel Ewing has shown himself to be a very clever writer and he might deliver a satisfying end to this flawed-but-entertaining run of “Ultimates.”

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Berserk vol. 38

August 15, 2017

I checked the publication date for vol. 37 and found something surprising.  It hasn’t been the four or five years that I thought had passed since the publication of the previous volume of “Berserk” on these shores.  It’s only been three years and eight months.  Does this knowledge make me feel any better about the future of this title?  Not really, but the fact that vol. 39 is already out in Japan does.  If mangaka Kentaro Miura can keep up this pace then we may even see the completion of this title… sometime around 2030.  So no, I don’t think that anyone thinking about picking up this series should do so until the end is in sight and it looks like Miura might actually make it over the finish line.  Those of you like me, who are on this train until whatever kind of end it reaches, can at least take comfort in the fact that despite the length of time between volumes “Berserk’s” storytelling remains as sharp as ever.

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Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye vol. 1: Going Underground

August 13, 2017

This series hails from Gerard Way’s “Young Animal” imprint and features what is easily the best title for an ongoing comic in the current market.  Ostensibly, “Cave Carson” is following in the same path as “Doom Patrol” and “Shade the Changing Girl” in freshening up old DC characters for modern sensibilities.  The catch here is that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the most hardcore of DC fanboys who actually remembers the title character in the first place.  So when Way and co-writer/scripter Jon Rivera start the series with an older, retired Cave in mourning over the death of his wife Eileen -- who was also the princess of the underground Kingdom of Muldroog -- I’m willing to accept it and see where they’re going.

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Avengers: Unleashed vol. 1 — Kang War One

August 13, 2017

I’m not saying that Mark Waid should stop writing stories involving time travel, but it’d be nice if he could try to write one that didn’t thrive on creating as many paradoxes as possible.  Between that one volume of “Hulk” he did and now this first volume of “Avengers:  Unleashed” it doesn’t seem to be a viable approach for him as this approach usually results in narrative chaos than a good story.  At least this story is following up on the plot thread set up towards the end of Waid’s first run of “Avengers” where Vision kidnapped Kang as a baby and hid him somewhere in the timestream.  Instead of wiping the time-traveling conqueror from existence, this just pissed him off and led to multiple versions of him hunting down this current team of Avengers -- with Spider-Man, the new Wasp, and Hercules joining holdovers Captain America, Thor, and Vision -- for revenge.

 

If you’re looking for a good Kang story that doesn’t get tripped up in paradoxes, check out Rick Remender’s “Avenge the Earth” saga from vols. 2-4 of his run on “Uncanny Avengers.”  “Kang War One” spends its first half churning up as much chaos as it can with the multiple Kangs and the team having to deal with the problems that arise when they were murdered in their cribs as children.  Artist Mike Del Mundo is more than willing to play into all this craziness, with his unique painted style proving to be well-suited to it all.

 

Things do calm down in the back half with a single issue made up of full-page scenes recounting Kang’s origin and eventual downfall, with the two issues that follow showing us how the various teams of Avengers in different eras make it happen.  These are more conventionally well-crafted superhero stories that have their moments -- to be fair, even the front half has some fun bits strewn throughout -- but they’re not enough to overcome my antipathy towards the first half.  I’d say that this would be a good jumping-off point for people who have followed Waid’s “Avengers” run so far… if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ll be teaming up with “The Infamous Iron Man (A.K.A. the newly-reformed Doctor Doom) in the next volume.  Having Waid deal with the character drama that will result from it seems like a much better use of his skillset than what we got with this volume.

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

 

Ether vol. 1: Death of the Last Golden Blaze

August 11, 2017

It was bound to happen eventually, but I’ve finally encountered a first volume of a new series from Matt Kindt that I’ve enjoyed without reservation.  “Ether” is the story of Boone Dias, a scientist who has dedicated his life to exploring the titular magical realm in order to understand how it works.  See, Boone doesn’t believe in magic or the supernatural.  He’s of the opinion that there are rules and explanations for everything and it’s his job as a scientist to figure out what they are.  This approach has led him to solve numerous mysteries in Ether and seen him recruited to solve its latest:  The death of the realm’s greatest protector the Golden Blaze.  Together with his partner Glum, a giant purple ape who can kick your ass through dimensions and never gets tired of letting our protagonist know he’s an ass, Boone is determined to get to the bottom of this murder.  Doing so, however, will involve finding out the origins of magic bullets, mixing it up with a copper golem, visiting the land of faeries, and most challenging of all, confronting his own personal failings back in our world.

 

Effectively, Kindt has made a series entirely out of addressing the biggest problem with magic in fiction.  In order for magic to actually work in a story it needs a clearly defined set of rules and Boone’s whole agenda in this series is about sussing them out.  He makes for an endearingly insufferable protagonist in the way he believes himself to be the smartest person in the room at any given time, which is usually true, and isn’t afraid to let anyone know it.  Yet Kindt is perfectly willing to puncture that insufferability to both comedic and tragic effect.  This works because the writer has been paired with a fantastic artist in David Rubin who perfectly captures the magical whimsy of Ether as well as the ground-down reality of our world.  It’s easy to understand why Boone is addicted to this world after seeing it in action, and why he’d neglect his own family life to fathom its secrets.  I do wonder how he wound up in his current situation in our world, as well as what his daughters think of him now, but I’m sure Kindt and Rubin have answers that will be revealed in subsequent miniseries.

 

Which should be announced any day now.  Right Dark Horse?

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Comic Picks #243: Wolfsmund

August 9, 2017

Can something good happen when a six-volume series runs for eight volumes?

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Tokyo Tarareba Girls vol. 1

August 7, 2017

Mangaka Akiko Higashimura has successfully mined the follies of female otaku for comedy and drama over in “Princess Jellyfish.”  Now she tries to do the same for Japanese career women of a certain age (read:  over 30) who have finally started to realize that their chance to get married has passed them by.  Rinko is a writer of scripts for web series and her world comes crashing down one day when the assistant director she works with, and whose advances she rejected a decade ago, asks her for advice on an important topic.  While Rinko thinks that this guy, who has become a more confident and refined gentleman over the years, is gearing up for another shot at her that turns out not to be the case.  When she commiserates with her friends over this matter, they all realize that their status as marriageable women has just about expired.  It’s an opinion that the classy, younger, and attractively blonde man who frequents their bar is only happy to rub in their faces.

 

You can mine just about any situation for comedic gold, even the aging fears of thirty-something women.  The problem with this first volume of “Tokyo Tarareba Girls” is that it fails to strike the right tone in order to do so.  It’s torn between wanting us to laugh at Rinko and her friends’ desire to settle down and find the right guy, and finding them sympathetic, even pitiable for the same reason.  Higashimura talks about in the after-comic that this series was born out of the constant complaints she heard from her friends about how they were getting old and would likely never find husbands for themselves.  While Higashimura also writes that she’s not the kind of person who believes that a woman needs to be married in order to be happy… she did just deliver a manga which says exactly all that, coming at the expense of her friends too.  I’ll admit that this first volume ends in an unexpected way that made me curious to see where that sexual development leads.  It’ll require me to get past the decidedly cynical tone this series currently has, as I’m not entirely sure it wants things to get better for Rinko and her friends.

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Empowered vol. 10

August 6, 2017

I have to admit that this volume was a hard one to get through.  That’s because it starts off with the title character in such a good place:  She’s finally become a full-time member of the SuperHomeys and her relationship with Thugboy is downright shagadelic.  Yeah, her self-confidence and body-image issues are still a thing, but Emp is in a better place than she’s been in this series since ever.

 

The problem with all this goodness is that it creates a lot of unwelcome tension as you fully expect the other shoe to drop before the end of the volume.  Which it will because that’s always the way it is when things go great for a superhero protagonist (and it basically says as much on the back cover).  Even though creator Adam Warren does his best to throw the reader off with more good news about Emp’s CTS issues, Ninjette working out her own issues with the Caged Demonlord, and an (eventual) gratifying triump over a chauvanistic White Knight, you’re still left feeling that it’s all going to go away in an instant.

 

Does it happen?  Of course it does.  But to Warren’s credit it happens in a completely different manner than I was expecting.  Given the way the back cover text set things up, I was prepared for Emp to find out about Thugboy’s capekilling past.  That’s still a deep dark secret of his, but the threat that Warren replaces it with is arguably worse.  No, it’s not Willy Pete.  You’ll just have to read vol. 10 to find out and then brace for the shock at the end when the final double-page spread sets up something this series has never done before now.  Granted, there’s a really good reason for that.  I just hope that what Emp says about the progress of vol. 11 turns out to be true.

 

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Jessica Jones vol. 1: Uncaged

August 6, 2017

Bendis’ first series with Michael Gaydos featuring self-destructive former-superhero-turned-P.I. Jessica Jones, known back then as just plain “Alias,” is easily one of the high points of the writer’s tenure at Marvel.  It provided a mature, grounded look at the underbelly of the Marvel Universe that not only still reads well today, but paved the way for one of the better Marvel Netflix shows.  It’s because of that show’s success that we’re getting this new series from the original creators which finds Jessica’s life in shambles once again.

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Image Previews Picks: October 2017

August 4, 2017

With there being no major title announcements coming out of Comic-Con, I guess all I have to talk about here is Image’s variant theme for October.  This time around, it’s tribute covers for “The Walking Dead.”  As one of the longest-running and most successful Image titles, I think a stronger argument can be made for this being something the series has earned as opposed to navel-gazing on the part of one of its partners.  Smartly, on the part of whoever handles the images associated with these solicitations, none of the announced variants have been revealed yet.  So if you want to see what these variants will look like, you’ll have to ask your local comic shop to order them.  Or, just wait until Image actually reveals them closer to their release dates, I guess.

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