Seven to Eternity vol. 2: Ballad of Betrayal

November 19, 2017



Looking back on my review of the first volume of this series I was surprised to see how negative I was towards it.  There’s no denying that much of it fell in line with the depressing grind I’ve come to expect from Rick Remender’s creator-owned works.  Yet, when vol. 2 came up on the weekly shipping lists I ordered it without a second thought.  Either my memory is starting to slip, or this series wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.  (Not like Remender and Tocchini’s “Low” -- that first volume was still far too much of a downer to consider giving a second chance.)  I’m glad I picked up this second volume as it shows more promise than the first.  Whenever its focus is on the title’s big bad, that is.

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Jean Grey vol. 1: Nightmare Fuel

November 19, 2017

I’ve mentioned before that writer Dennis Hopeless’ run on “All-New X-Men” was the most pleasant surprise of the previous round of “X-Men” relaunches.  It’s why I decided to pick up his latest series the “Jean Grey” solo title.  Now, I don’t think the comics-reading world was really clamoring for a solo series about the time-displaced teenage Jean Grey.  Particularly one where she deals with the return of the Phoenix.  Again.  So it’s a credit to Hopeless that he makes the six issues collected here a lot more fun than that setup would suggest.


While these six issues are primarily concerned with Jean’s reaction to the Phoenix’s return, they also double as reasonably self-contained superhero stories where she teams up with a number of other heroes.  Expect to see the likes of Hope Summers, Namor, the Odinson, Psylocke, and Doctor Strange as Jean tries to get some insight into this impending threat… as well as the mysterious voice that’s knocking around in her head.  The stories are fun little tales with enough twists to keep boredom at bay.  Better still is Hopeless’ zippy dialogue which is both entertaining to read and captures the voice of each character quite well.


Though this volume also boasts four different artists tackling the six issues collected here, it’s not as much a cause for concern as you may think.  Victor Ibanez handles the first three and he turns in some well-rendered versatile work.  He’s makes illustrating a fight in Kyoto, fiery brain damage, and an undersea battle look credible and interesting to behold.  Harvey Tolibao gives us the Odinson’s story with an impressive level of detail attached to it.  Anthony Piper’s adventure with Psylocke doesn’t have that detail, but still delivers on characterization and storytelling.  Paul Davidson rounds things out and shows that he’s at his best when he’s given some really crazy stuff to draw while also taking us on a nostalgia-infused trip through Jean’s history.  That appears to be the series’ other aim as the reveal on the last page makes clear.  It’ll be a trip worth taking if Hopeless and company can maintain this level of quality.

Mr. Higgins Comes Home

November 17, 2017

While Mike Mignola is best known for the supernatural action and strangeness he has delivered to great effect in his many Mignolaverse titles and other projects, he’s not a stranger to humor.  Hellboy has been known to punctuate just about all of his fights with a good deadpan quip and some of the short stories he’s been involved in have basically just been jokes with weird punchlines at the end.  “Mr. Higgins Comes Home” is the first side project of his that I’ve read where humor has been the driving point of the narrative.  It involves two fearless vampire hunters, Professor J.T. Meinhardt and his associate Mister Knox, who aim to employ the title character in their attempt to take down the evil Count Golga and all the other vampires he has invited to take part in the satanic orgy he has set up to celebrate Walpurgis.  You see, Mr. Higgins and his wife once had an encounter with Golga that left him and his wife… changed.  Now he only wishes for the sweet release of death that the professor has promised in return for his help.  However, Golga is a crafty vampire and has his own plans for dealing with Prof. Meinhardt by inviting him to the celebration.


I honestly don’t know why the professor would accept such an invitation.  Unless it’s because of his Very British nature and he just didn’t want to come off as rude towards the evil vampire lord who has pledged his loyalty to Satan Himself.  “Very British” is how most of the humor comes off here with the incongruity between the polite upper-crust vampires and their base nature.  It’s more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome.  More to my liking is the art from Warwick Johnson-Caldwell whose exaggerated style does a good job of splitting the difference between comedy and horror.  I don’t think his work will be to everyone’s liking, but I enjoyed it enough to hope that he’ll work with Mignola again on another project.  Maybe on something that draws more than a few bemused chuckles from me.

Comic Picks #250: Rachel Rising

November 15, 2017

Between this and "Echo," Terry Moore really needs to work on his endings.


A Bride’s Story vol. 9

November 13, 2017

It’s taken a few volumes but we’re finally back to this title’s expected level of quality.  The focus is, however, still almost exclusively on Pariya and her rocky road to engagement with Umar.  Pariya’s all for it, except that she finds herself at a loss when it comes to talking casually with the boy.  What’s the most socially awkward girl in the village to do?  Well, she can try to communicate her feelings through the bread she bakes, hang around her father’s shop to see if she can learn more about Umar, or better yet, have him take her to a neighbor’s house several miles away and hope that true love blossoms along the way.  Even if that’s what does wind up happening, Pariya will still have to face down her greatest nemesis:  Embroidery.


One of my concerns with the last volume was that mangaka Kaoru Mori was playing up Pariya’s social anxiety for laughs.  That feeling hasn’t gone away, but it’s less of an issue now.  It’s because the focus on her anxiety feels more like good-natured teasing here.  For all the trouble Pariya’s lack of social skills causes her, she’s not only able to communicate her feelings in the end (after much struggle) but everything usually works out for the best in the end.  This would be tiresome if it weren’t for the facts that it feels good to see the girl’s struggles rewarded and the situations she overcomes are quite varied.


By the end, when Umar is telling Pariya of his plans for the future, it brings a nice amount of closure to this stage of their relationship.  Which means that Mori’s plans to shift the focus to Amir’s wayward brother Azel and his friends is coming at just the right time.  The mangaka has created a wonderful world full of (mostly) interesting characters and it’ll be great to see more of what another group is up to now.

The Walking Dead vol. 28: A Certain Doom

November 12, 2017

Even if the previous volume was called “The Whisperer War” it was basically the first half of a two-volume story.  Where that volume focused on the actual threat presented by the Whisperers themselves, this one addresses the “Zombie A-Bomb” they left behind.  Oh, and the impending threat of whatever the Saviors have planned for Alexandrea.  You can feel the wheels of the plot grinding a bit more than usual as these events play out.  That’s an annoyance, but far from a deal-breaking issue as vol. 28 also has plenty of surprises and sequences of genuinely affecting sentiment to draw you in from beginning to end.

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Hadrian’s Wall

November 12, 2017

Simon Moore spends his days as a detective in the Seattle of 2085 dwelling on the failure of his marriage and taking pills to combat the pain of getting shot four times by his ex-wife’s new husband.  So when an old friend tells Simon that said husband, Edward, is now dead and that his company will pay him a hundred thousand credits to effectively rubber-stamp said death as “accidental” he agrees to head out to the spaceship Hadrian’s Wall to investigate.  While his ex-wife Annabelle would rather see Simon gone as soon as possible, it’s soon revealed that her husband’s death wasn’t accidental.  Having one of the crew be a killer is bad.  What’s worse is the fact that Edward’s death is also tied to a rogue separatist faction from the Theta colony and that knowledge just might get everyone killed.


A whodunit aboard a spaceship?  “Sign me up!” was my initial thought upon first reading about this miniseries from co-writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel.  Though the series starts off solidly enough with its introduction of Simon and the rest of the cast of suspects it never really kicks into high gear.  That’s mainly because the whodunit angle is eventually pushed to the backburner by the halfway point and the series puts interstellar intrigue and Simon’s personal growth in the forefront.  This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except Higgins and Siegel don’t really do enough worldbuilding or offer enough compelling details about Simon to alleviate the overwhelming familiarity of these elements.


The art from Rod Reis, with Eduardo Ferigato pitching in at points in the back half, is quite nice and I can see why he was snatched up to work for Marvel.  Reis gives the series an otherworldly look to it which mixes well with its space setting and he delivers solid work with the varied cast as well.  It’s not enough to elevate “Hadrian’s Wall” to “must-read” status, but I’d say the overall product is worth a look.  Either at a deep discount or from a half-off bin.

Extremity vol. 1: Artist

November 10, 2017

This was a series that grabbed my attention because of its cover for the first issue (which was a full wraparound that I only saw the right half of on solicitation).  It was indicative of violence and loss against the backdrop of an unfamiliar world and I wanted to know more about it.  Creator Daniel Warren Johnson certainly delivered on the visual part of that promise with this first volume.  He gives us a vivid world of islands in the sky filled with machines that can fly through the sky alongside buildings with a medieval design aesthetic.  It’s also a world torn apart by conflict as Jerome, leader of the Roto tribe, seeks vengeance against the Paznina for the death of his wife and the loss of his daughter Thea’s right hand.  Said conflict is impressively rendered with machine-driven assaults on enemy battlements, the giant monsters of the land used as weapons of war, and all-out clashes between the two tribes.  Mike Spicer’s sharp colors help the visual spectacle stand out even more, and the art is unmistakably the best part of this volume.


So if you think that means the story doesn’t measure up, well, you’re not wrong.  The thing is that it’s not bad.  Johnson has a solid grasp of narrative and character development and both feel well-constructed here.  It’s easy to relate to and understand the motivations of the main cast, particularly Thea’s.  She’s the artist of the title and her skills were crippled with the loss of her hand.  Now she tries to find meaning in following her father’s bloody quest for revenge.  Yet can she reconcile her new violent life with the peaceful girl she used to be?


The volume’s biggest failing is that it’s easy to see where that struggle is going to go.  Ditto for her father’s all-consuming vengeance and her brother’s rejection of this path.  “Artist” is actually just one more in a long line of stories about how nothing good ever comes from revenge and the only way to break the cycle is by seeking a higher path.  It’s a very familiar kind of story at this point and “Extremity’s” execution of it adds nothing new or interesting.  What we’re left with then is a visually stunning work with a very familiar yet competently executed story.  As story has always had a greater pull on my opinion than art, I can say that while I’m not compelled to pick up the next volume I’m not entirely against it either.

Hey, it’s another one of those Image rundown things!

November 8, 2017

They just keep piling up around my place.  New volumes from all of the Image titles I read.  Being several, and in one case seven, volumes deep into them I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect from them at this point.  So even if there’s not as much to talk about these latest volumes of East of West, Sex Criminals, Manifest Destiny, Outcast, and I Hate Fairyland that doesn’t mean they’re not still good.  Or still not living up to their potential.  Find out which of these series falls under those classifications after the break.

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Stop the Presses: Bendis Now Exclusive to DC!

November 7, 2017

Talk about things that I never expected to see happen anytime soon.  After well over a decade of working exclusively at Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis has signed an exclusive deal to write comics for DC.  This is shocking not just because of how long the writer has spent working for Marvel but because whenever he’s been asked about going to work for another company like DC Bendis has always professed loyalty to the company that gave him his shot at the big time.  While he hasn’t said exactly what prompted this move it would appear that the thought of contributing something to the DC Universe trumped that loyalty.


Still, this development strikes me as more of a psychological blow to Marvel rather than a creative one.  There’s no denying that Bendis has written some fantastic comics at the company with great runs on “Daredevil,” “Avengers/New Avengers,” and his stewardship of Peter Parker and Miles Morales over the many versions of “Ultimate Spider-Man.”  In recent years, however, his output has become much more uneven with runs on “Uncanny X-Men,” “All-New X-Men,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” that had lots of interesting ideas but never really came together.  Then there’s the fact that he’s let his creator-owned titles wither and die on the vine while he’s been busy with superhero titles.  What I’m getting at is that four or five years ago I would’ve viewed this as a genuine loss.  Today, I feel like DC offered him an exclusive deal more to get under Marvel’s skin than because of what Bendis can bring to the table.


So what can we expect from the writer at DC?  Given his affinity to street-level heroes the obvious choice would be a “Batman” title.  Except that would likely put him at odds with what Tom King is doing on the main title and I doubt DC would want that.  Bendis has also expressed interest in writing Zatanna in the past and Scott Snyder made a cryptic tweet saying “snalp era ereht” a week ago.  Also, his “Powers” collaborator Michael Avon Oeming has been working on “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” at DC for the past year so maybe they’ll deliver the (what is it now…) sixth relaunch of their signature title for Vertigo?  Whatever Bendis winds up doing, I just hope it plays to his strengths with characterization and dialogue and away from team books and big events.  I’d like to see this move as a rebirth *rimshot* for the writer, but I know to not get my hopes up for it just yet.