Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol. 4

September 25, 2017

A quick look through the archives tells me that I skipped reviewing vol. 3 of this series for some reason.  Let me tell you now that it continued the title’s upward trajectory with its focus on the Io Fleming-piloted Gundam versus Darryl Lorenz-piloted Psycho Zaku battle.  It was a thrilling fight that fittingly ended in a pyrrhic victory for Lorenz with Fleming and the rest of his shipmates captured by the Zeon forces.  While Fleming is beaten by his captors, he still manages to unsettle Lorenz by correctly pointing out that they both felt truly alive during their battle and that this rivalry won’t end until one of them has killed the other.


How do you top that?  Well, mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki spends most of the first half of this volume winding down this stage of the story and getting all of the characters in place for the next.  While we get plenty of exciting mecha battles as the Zeon fortress A Baoa Qu is breached, you can also see the gears of the plot grinding away.  Some of this is predictable, with Fleming’s heroic escape, and others are intriguingly quirky.  Witness the rescue of the infamous J.J. Sexton and how it proves crucial to the next stage of the story, along with the return of another character I would’ve thought to be better off dead but am willing to see where Ohtagaki is going with this.


The problem with the transition between arcs here is that it takes a while for the next one to get up to speed.  A lot of time is spent catching up with the main cast on both sides of the One-Year War now that the Federation and Zeon have reached an uneasy peace.  The fact that these two sides are nominally at peace gives the thrust of the next arc some real drama as they each plan their own operations to infiltrate a religious order in Asia in order to secure some top-secret tech.  This does lead to Ohtagaki having to display some impressively ridiculous narrative hoop-jumping in order to get Fleming back on the Federation side of things.  That distraction aside, this next arc looks to be pretty thrilling once the Federation and Zeon’s plans for this infiltration inevitably fall apart and the fighting begins.

Marvel Previews Picks: December 2017

September 24, 2017

This month’s round of solicitations contains a couple of “Classified” advance-solicits for January.  Apparently Marvel thinks that “Avengers” #675 and “Guardians of the Galaxy” #150 are going to be so big that the company not only has to get the word out about their existence a month in advance, but price them at $5 each.  Assumedly for an extra-sized reading experience.  While the anniversary issue of “Guardians” comes to us courtesy of regular writer Gerry Duggan and artist Marcus To, no information has been revealed about the creative team for “Avengers” #675.  Speculation is that it’s going to be the debut of the rumored new creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic.  That would be a smart move on Marvel’s part since Aaron is the biggest writer at the company who has yet to be given the keys to its overall direction while Ribic is a phenomenal artist who delivered some awesome “Thor” stories working with Aaron.  As to what this new run is going to be about, no one can really say.  But it may have something to do with the big return Marvel has in store for December…

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DC Previews Picks: December 2017

September 23, 2017

Every so often Marvel and DC will go through a period where they give a push to adding brand new superheroes to their respective universes.  What this usually amounts to is an enormous amount of crap being thrown at the wall with one or two characters sticking around to achieve some measure of cult/mainstream success.  (Hi there “Hitman” and “Ms. Marvel!”)  As you might have guessed, I’m bringing this up now because DC is giving this approach another shot in December.  It’s good timing for such a thing as the company is riding high off of the success of “Metal” and the fact that they’re stacking the creative teams for these titles with some of their best talent also bodes well for this push.  As for the actual concepts they’re pushing, well…

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Superman vol. 3: Multiplicity

September 22, 2017

This volume is a little closer to what I want to see in a “Superman” story as co-writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason attempt something few writers do these days:  Follow up on a concept laid down by Grant Morrison.  In this case, that would be his epic “Multiversity” series as Superman teams up with the Justice League Incarnate to take down a threat that is specifically targeting Supermen from across the multiverse.  Tomasi and Gleason manage to craft a serviceable mini-epic out of this three-issue arc that makes decent use of Morrison’s concepts and nails the title character’s ability to inspire when everything seems at its worst.  Working against the story is it’s antagonist Prophecy, who is every bit as generic as his name implies, and the fact that five(!) different artists were required to deliver these three issues.  Even though I liked how the previous volume focused on short two-part arcs, “Multiplicity” is one that probably should’ve been given another issue to properly set up its villain.


The title arc is also bookended by two one-offs that only required one artist each to deliver.  Jorge Jimenez illustrates “Tangled up in Green” where Superman encounters Swamp Thing during a drought in Smallville.  While it’s usually interesting to see these two vastly different superheroes interact, this story comes off as more of an excuse to see them throw down over complications from Superman’s other-dimensional status.  Jimenez makes the fighting lively, but the end result is just more handwaving to validate this Superman as the proper one in this universe.  If you’re like me and have already accepted this Superman, then this is largely going to feel pointless.


“Dark Harvest” is the final story in this collection and it spotlights Jon Kent and his friend Kathy as they go out into the swamp one night to look for her missing cow.  The art is from Sebastian Fiumara and he gives it a great horror-infused edge even at its most surrealistic moments.  Said surrealistic moments -- including parts where it looks like the two kids are shrinking and later swimming in a sea of milk in a haunted house -- do make the story feel somewhat nonsensical and by the end I was wondering what the point of it all was.  There’s nothing wrong with Tomasi and Gleason taking a spooky little diversion like this, except that it’s likely only going to be memorably scary to readers of Jon and Kathy’s age.

Comic Picks #246: Goodnight Punpun

September 20, 2017

There is tremendous skill and craft underpinning this incredibly, but not completely, depressing work.


Drifters vol. 4

September 18, 2017

It’s been three years and five months since we last saw a volume of “Drifters” on these shores.  The only reason we’re getting a new volume now is because the series had a popular anime adaptation last year.  I just want to let that sink in for a bit.  The reason the “Drifters” manga -- and by extension “Blood Blockade Battlefront’s” return in December -- is coming out again is all down to its successful anime adaptation.  Not because of any extraordinary effort on Dark Horse’s part, but because of the anime.  So while I’ll continue to ask along with everyone else about the status of titles like “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” and “Eden:  It’s An Endless World!” it helps to remember that there’s really only one thing that moves the needle when it comes to getting Dark Horse to bring a series back from hiatus.


...well, unless you manage to convince three thousand of your closest friends to pick up a copy of the above-mentioned titles’ most recent volumes.  I don’t have that many, but do any of you?


Anyway, the good news is that “Drifters” returns in good form with the members of the title group working to stage a swift takeover of Worlina, Capitol of the Orte Empire.  While this would appear to be an impossible task in the best of circumstances, there’s just enough crazy between its leaders -- samurai Shimazu Toyohisa and military genius Oda Nobunaga -- to pull it off.  The battle that follows is a genuine struggle between the good guys (Drifters) and the bad guys (Ends) that actually had me anxious as to how it was all going to turn out.  Even if the civilization-building aspect of the series that I like best about it was mostly sidelined here, the drama of that struggle and the balls-out action on show from mangaka Kohta Hirano still make this volume a thrilling read.  If you liked the anime and still haven’t picked up a copy of the manga do yourself a favor and start reading this now.

Wonder Woman vol. 3: The Truth

September 17, 2017

This wraps up the main story for Greg Rucka’s run on the title and he does bring the narrative into much sharper focus here.  Even though Diana of Themyscira is struggling with a mental breakdown for the first half, she overcomes it through her own strength and with a little help from some of her friends.  We also get an explanation in regards to the first volume’s most confusing assertion that the title character has never been back to her home island.  This is in spite of the fact that she did this multiple times during the great Azzarello/Chiang run.


On that note, the explanation we get winds up confirming my biggest fear for this series.  Rucka effectively wipes out the entire “New 52” run of the series in telling us the real reason why Diana has been deceived.  You could argue that these events still technically happened to the title character, but only in the sense that it was a mass delusion shared by everyone around her.  It also means that Diana’s “Pre-52” origin is canonical again, just in time to be ignored by the movie.


Clearly Rucka had issues with how Wonder Woman was handled in her previous run and wanted to set them right.  The problem here is that he had to effectively kick out a run that I really liked in order to do that.  If you did have a problem with the Azzarello/Chiang run, or the Meredith Finch-written run that followed, or both then you’re probably going to appreciate what Rucka does here.  To be entirely fair, the actual storytelling here is very solid.  Diana gets plenty of changes to show off her strength (both physical and character), the actual way in which she was deceived is quite interesting along with the consequences should she ever find out, there are some clever callbacks to the “Year One” arc, and Liam Sharp’s art is quite good when he’s not rushing up against a deadline.  It’s the kind of quality work I’ve come to expect from Rucka, except that it’s all in pursuit of trashing something I liked.

Paper Girls vol. 3

September 16, 2017

When I opened up this volume to its first story page and saw one of its protagonists being smacked in the head by some rotten fruit, my first thought was, “Which one is she again?”  Reading further in I was reminded that she was KJ, the paper girl who was sent to a different time than her friends were in the previous volume.  She’s further differentiated as the volume goes on as the girl who gets the jump boots and has visions of the future after touching a tentacled-pyramid-thing.  You’ll notice I didn’t include any description of her personality traits as I’m still trying to suss out any distinguishing ones on her part, as well as Erin and Tiffany.  Not in MacKenzie’s case; however, at this point “bitchy redhead” is kind of its own trope.


Even if the main characters are lacking in interesting personality traits at this point, they’re still able to drive the plot forward.  This leads to vol. 3 being a decently interesting women-vs-nature story as they meet up with a girl their age (and her kid) to survive the dangers of this period and the three men who want her baby back for their own unknown purposes.  It’s fine for what it is, but does it make the time-travel driven overall narrative of “Paper Girls” any more interesting?  Not really, and that’s even with the addition of another time-traveler to the mix in this volume.


If vol. 3 achieves anything it’s in giving me a firm belief that we’re going to have to wait to the end of the series to find out if all of this is going to be worth it.  I can’t say that’s a good place for any series to be in, but I have more faith that Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang will at least make it to the finish line than the “Morning Glories” team of Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma will at this point.  I’m not about to drop “Paper Girls” yet, though everyone else who hasn’t jumped on yet should just continue to wait and see if it delivers in the end.

Mother Panic vol. 1: A Work in Progress

September 15, 2017

“Mother Panic” co-creator Gerard Way says in his afterword that the idea for this series was basically what would Bruce Wayne, and by extension Batman, be like if he grew up in today’s celebrity-obsessed environment.  Way also states that the series started as a creator-owned title before he got the chance to bring its protagonist, damaged and violent debutante Violet Page, and her titular alter ego to Gotham.  I don’t think basing the series out of DC’s most infamous Bat-infested cesspool adds as much as Way thinks it does, but there’s a lot of stuff in this first volume that justifies its subtitle.

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Kill or be Killed vol. 2

September 13, 2017

This second volume of Brubaker and Phillips’ vigilante contains two more issues than the first one.  More does not always mean better, but in this case it does as it means we see more of its protagonist’s, Dylan’s, struggles as killing starts to get a lot more complicated for him.  It starts when some cops walk in on him in a diner bathroom after he’s shotgunned a financier to death.  While Dylan is able to extract himself from that situation with an appropriate show of force it’s on the beginning of his troubles.

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