Phil’s Reviews: Stuff I Bought #259

Yet another week with lots of first issues; comics fans certainly can’t complain about a lack of new options this year!  Let’s start with Marvel, who are offering three brand-new titles (even though they’re all revivals…):

She-Hulk #1She-Hulk #1 — Writer: Charles Soule;  Art: Javier Pulido

This is a well-done first issue: it takes the best ideas from the character’s previous run (especially that she’s a lawyer specializing in superhero legislation, meaning her stories can involve practically anyone in the Marvel universe), adds a new wrinkle (she quits her job at her current law firm, and has to decide what to do next), sets up a client/case (involving a woman whose husband, now dead, was a techno-badguy but had a legitimate patent-infringement case against Stark Enterprises), brings in a lot of sly humor (Stark’s building is run by sophisticated computer programs that go into automatic defense/go away mode when they hear words like “legal” or “lawsuit”), and then gives it all to Javier Pulido to draw (giving the comic a bright, attractive and modern style that sets it firmly on the same plain as Daredevil and Hawkeye) — oh, and Soule’s script is brainy and fun, and the cover, by Kevin Wada, is striking, cool-looking and makes the book stand out on the new-issue racks. Let’s hope everybody jumps on this book and makes it the hit it deserves to be.

Winter Soldier #1 — Writer: Rick Remender;  Art: Roland BoschiWinter Soldier #1

This one’s a more logical hit, at least in the short term, since it involves the used-to-be-Bucky character who’s the main subject of the Captain America movie coming out in just a few months. Remender makes the first arc a Hydra super-spy caper with Nick Fury set in 1966 (a good move, since that lets him begin with the brainwashed, Soviet-agent killer version of the Winter Soldier that will most resemble the movie version); the story and art are both OK — and true to the Brubaker-era pulpiness that originally launched the character — so that, while there isn’t really any new ground broken here, it’s all enough to keep readers entertained.

X-Force #1X-Force #1 — Writer: Simon Spurrier;  Art: Rock-He Kim

Here’s yet another relaunch of this title, this time with Cable leading a pro-active black-ops team including Fantomex, Psylocke and Marrow (weird ’90s characters apparently now having some sort of nostalgia value; I assume Maggott can’t be far behind…). Kim’s art is much in the shadowy, obsessively-rendered vein of Clayton Crain, whose run on this title a few years ago generated some unexpected attention and sales, so that may help its chances.  Spurrier, whose writing on the just-concluded X-Men: Legacy I liked a lot, doesn’t seem to have much to work with here yet; he’s using a first-person stream-of-consciousness narrative by Marrow that’s kind of annoying, the defend-the-mutants strike-team approach has been done before, and it’s hard to sum up any affection or reason to read about any of the principles. Still, the man got me to care about David Haller/Legion, so he’s capable of spinning silk out of burlap; I’m willing to give him a few issues to see what rabbits he pulls out of his hat here.

Thor #19.NOW — Writer: Jason Aaron;  Art: Esad RibicThor #19

This isn’t a first issue, but might as well be — it’s the start of a new arc, and so they have a big “#1” plastered on the cover. Aaron’s been doing some great work on this title (last issue’s one-shot story, about why it’s a bad idea to (a) befriend a dragon, and (b) get him drunk, managed to be funny, poignant and tragic all at once), and having Ribic (whose fog-enshrouded, mythic style contributed so much to the long “God Butcher” story that kicked off this volume of the comic) return makes him even better: we get Agent Coulson and Thor’s SHIELD-agent almost-girlfriend, evil polluters, blue ice (and an awesome full-page splash showing where the Thunder God gets it from that’s a great example of Ribic’s strengths), and the return of far-future Old Man Thor and his descendents. As the first part of a new story, it’s the perfect time to check in; it should be another fun ride from this creative team.

Superior Spider-Man #27Superior Spider-Man #27.NOW — Writer: Dan Slott;  Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli;  Inks: John Dell

This book isn’t starting, but (presumably) ending, since there’s an Amazing Spider-Man #1 coming in April, and Marvel has already said it’ll be the “classic,” non-octopoid-brained Peter Parker. Meanwhile, this book is rounding into a climax, as its hero runs up against the Norman Osborn Green Goblin, who knows that it’s Dr. Octopus’s brain in Parker’s body, and has outmaneuvered him at every turn… or has he? Kudos to the creative team, who’ve done more with this storyline than I’d ever have thought possible, and to editor Steve Wacker — who announces in this issue that he’s leaving the book (after over 180 issues) to go work for Marvel’s California-based animation branch (including the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, so he’ll still have a Spider-connection).

All-New X-Men #23 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis;  Pencils: Stuart Immonen;All-New X-Men #23  Inks: Wade von Grawbadger

This is part three of the five-part X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover (both books having Bendis as regular writer) involving the alien Shi’ar kidnapping the young Jean Grey, to put her on cosmic space-trial for deaths her older self caused when she was possessed by the Phoenix Force. It all moves along breezily and entertainingly, with its “what if you could kill Hitler as a child?” angle, and a last-page encounter that should bring readers back for the next installment. As always, Immonen handles the now-huge cast (in addition to the young X-Men and the Guardians, the Imperial Guard and the Starjammers show up) with grace and precision; this is a good-looking book, and while it’s not a world-shaker, it’s easy to like.

On to the indy titles; while there are a couple of Image books here, it’s encouraging to see other publishers stepping up too. Case in point: Oni, who publish our first subject:

The Bunker #1The Bunker #1 — Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov;  Art: Joe Infurnari

Fialkov, last seen writing DC’s New-52 I, Vampire, offers an sf tale about five college friends celebrating their graduation, who go to bury a time capsule and stumble upon the title bunker, which turns out to have messages from their future selves about how their various inventions and actions will end up destroying the world. It’s twisty and smart, and Infurnari has a pencils-only style that’s appealingly soft and sketchy, and expressive enough to enhance the already-good characterization even more. As a bonus, this first issue offers a full 40 color pages of story for $3.99, plenty of space to establish the book’s world and make sure readers come back for the next installment.

The Fuse #1 — Writer: Anthony Johnson;  Art: Justin GreenwoodThe Fuse #1

This is another sf book, but more hard/classical than The Bunker: the title refers to a huge orbiting space colony called Midway City, where the book’s main character arrives to start work as a police detective; of course, there’s a mysterious death right away, and he runs into his new partner, and they start to bicker, and we’re off,  in an interesting blend of police procedural and outer-space techno stuff (Johnston, in his editorial essay, cites influences ranging from Judge Dredd and Star Wars to Law and Order and The Wire). This is another very-well-put-together Image debut, and even after dozens of them in the last year or two, it’s definitely worth a look.

Mercenary Sea #1The Mercenary Sea #1 — Writer: Kel Symons;  Art: Matthew Reynolds

Somebody’s been reading a lot of Terry and the Pirates and Captain Easy, and good for them: this is a late-1930s-set book about mercenaries on the open sea (if the title didn’t make that obvious), mostly ex-pats who hopscotch around the South Pacific, frequent sleazy bars, and get entangled in various adventures with sophisticated island cannibals and the Japanese Navy (Nazis will show up soon, I’m sure); Reynolds offers no hint of Milton Caniff, but renders it all in a realistic, airbrushy style, with a lot of movie references, and Symons demonstrates a good handle on the time period and genre conventions. Straight-up old-style adventure fans could do worse.

City: The Mind in the Machine #1 (of 4) — Writer: Eric Garcia;  Art: Javier City #1Fernandez

Yet another sf book, although this one’s very near-future; it involves a San Francisco experiment to install 40,000 surveillance cameras throughout the city, and then use heuristic computer software to identify crimes in progress. That doesn’t work so well, since computers can’t make intelligent/intuitive decisions, but then the lead researcher gets blinded in a terrorist explosion. Will they decide to download the video feed into his brain, give him computerized eyes, and let him use the data to run the system and save a city “being torn apart by crime, terrorism and fear”? Hey, you’ve read comics before! Fernandez’s art is a good match for all of this: he can handle people, splash pages and elaborate computerish tech scenes equally well, making this yet another book this week that should tempt first-issue readers back for more.

Legendary #2Legenderry #2 (of 7) — Writer: Bill Williamson;  Art: Sergio Fernandez Davila

Not a first issue, but a second, continuing Willingham’s steampunk pastiche; since it’s a Dynamite book, he even gets to use late-Victorian versions of the Green Hornet and Kato, and since most of the issue’s a chase scene, with the bad guys trying to capture the mysterious woman introduced last issue, and our heroes using horse-drawn cabs, grappling cables and airships to evade them, it all zips along nicely; this won’t make anyone forget Fables, but it’s dependably entertaining enough, especially for fans of the genre (or of the Green Hornet).

Fatale #20 — Writer: Ed Brubaker;  Art: Sean Phillipsfatale_020_cvr

Everyone already knows about this film noir/Lovecraftian horror book after over two years of publication, right? If you don’t, this is the start of its final arc (Brubaker and Phillips just signed a five-year deal with Image to produce new books, so they aren’t going anywhere), and while it picks up on lots of plot threads from previous issues, it’s easy enough to follow (with three trades of earlier issues available if you want to start at the beginning). Check it out, and watch as its its cool combination of dames, demons and guys driven to insanity by the title character all hurtle toward a (presumably) explosive climax.

Finally, a couple of DC titles, starting with a new mini-series from their Vertigo imprint:

The Royals #1The Royals: Masters of War #1 (of 6) — Writer: Rob Williams;  Art: Simon Colby

Super-powered characters during an otherwise-realistic World War II invite comparisons to Kieron Gillen’s Uber, and there are echoes of that here, but this takes a slightly-different tack: the royal family of England are the ones with the super-genes, and in this alternate Earth they’ve always had them (rule by divine right, and all that); however, they seldom use them, and won’t intervene even as the Nazis blitz the British Isles. Then a headstrong young prince decides to take matters into his own hands, but doesn’t realize the treaties he’s breaking, or the consequences…. Fair enough, although not that much happens in this first issue — Colby’s art has a painterly, pseudo-realistic Alex Ross feel to it (look at that cover), though, and that keeps things interesting, although I suspect that as a mini-series this will sell better as a collected trade than in its individual issues.

Astro City #9 — Writer: Kurt Busiek;  Art: Brent Eric AndersonAstro City #9

Speaking of Alex Ross and covers… this is the third of a four-part arc involving Astro City’s Wonder Woman (um, I mean “Victory”), who’s being framed by old enemies, as Superman (“Samaritan”) and Batman (“The Confessor”) try to help her. The characters aren’t so much copies as avatars, so this is much more its own story than just a copy, and the Busiek/Anderson team has twenty years of storytelling partnership together, so this is a very smooth and well-crafted package; as always, I like the way Busiek always makes sure that it’s the “normal” people, not the super ones, whose reluctant heroism ends up the key to the good guys winning.

Batman #28Batman #28 — Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV;  Pencils: Dustin Nguyen;  Inks: Derek Fridolfs

Sort of a first issue, so a good way to end this list, as we get a kickoff/promo for Batman Eternal, DC’s weekly, year-long Bat-book beginning in April. Instead of starting the story, this offers action from the middle, so we’re in a near-future version of Gotham City where the Batman is even more of a vigilante than normal, and the head of crime is… well, a familiar figure, but no longer the Penguin. How did everything get to this point? What’s going on? Naturally, DC wants you to buy their weekly comic and see. It helps that Snyder, who’s proven a very good steward of the bat-mythos, is involved in the weekly book too, and that they end this issue with a new-character reveal that… well, saying anything else would be, literally, a spoiler (and to see why I’ll bet every single review of this book will make that same joke, and why it’s a joke, you’ll just have to pick up the comic…).

About Phil

With 40 years of experience in comic reading, collecting and reviewing, English Professor Phil Mateer has an encyclopedic mind for comics. Feel free to ask Phil about storylines, characters, artists or for that matter, any comic book trivia. He will post your questions and answers on the AABC blog. His knowledge is unparalleled! He is also our warehouse manager, so if you are looking for that hard to find comic book, ask Phil!
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