Infinity Warps: Soldier Supreme #1 (of 2) — Writer: Gerry Duggan; Art: Adam Kubert; Colors: Matthew Wilson
True Believers: Marvel Knights 20th Anniversary: Punisher: The First Appearance #1 (of 1) — Writer: Gerry Conway; Pencils: Ross Andru; Inks: Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt
True Believers: Marvel Knights 20th Anniversary: Iron Fist by Thomas and Kane #1 (of 1) — Writer: Roy Thomas; Pencils: Gil Kane; Inks: Dick Giordano; Colors: Glynnis Wein
Once again, a big week — 30 comics — but with Marvel leading the way this time. Return of Wolverine is just what it says it is; it begins with an amnesiac Logan in the middle of a destroyed lab, and goes from there. Soule/McNiven are an accomplished team, and the amnesia thing gets at least partially resolved quickly — but not so much that he can call in any friends to help — while there’s a big, shadowy organization and female villain to hunt down and a lot of detailed, well-drawn action; readers who care at all that the classic version of the character is back should be happy with this. Infinity Warps are a series of two-issue mini-series involving the latest (literal) wrinkle in Infinity Wars: Gamora, armed with the full Infinity Gauntlet, has “folded the universe in half.” That means that everyone’s doubled up, much like the Amalgam books of 20 years ago — except that instead of melding with DC characters, it’s all in-house. Thus, Soldier Supreme #1 imagines a combination of Steve Rogers and Stephen Strange applying for that WWII government experiment, which yields both athletic and mystical powers with which to fight the Axis, accompanied by a Bucky/Wong mashup and assisted by commandoes led by “Dum Dum Fury”; the big Nazi bad guy is a merger of Dormammu and the Red Skull. Readers’ tolerance for this sort of thing may vary, but the two-issue limit is smart: it gives time to play with the concepts without getting boring. Garry Duggan has a competent scripting and plotting style that’s made him one of Marvel’s current go-to guys, and Adam Kubert art is always worth a look, so this is an encouraging beginning. There are also a bunch of the $1 “True Believer” reprints, all of them of comics that are either hard to find or expensive or both; the Punisher’s first appearance, from Amazing Spider-Man #129, is $694 less than the sole original copy AABC sold just this week, and offers a time-capsule view of early-’70s top-tier Marvel work, while Punisher by Grant and Zeck has Frank Castle’s first solo book, from his 1986 mini-series. Iron Fist reprints that K’un-L’un Kid’s first appearance, from Marvel Premiere #15 in 1974 (now a $600 comic, in NM condition) and is a Roy Thomas/Gil Kane collaboration, while Power Man and Iron Fist, from Power Man #48, is the first meeting of those two characters from 1977; the creators, Chris Claremont and John Byrne, had begun their historic Uncanny X-Men run the month before it was released. Get these; spending $4 for four titles whose NM originals would cost about $2500 should be an easy choice.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (Legacy #43) — Writer: Saladin Ahmed; Art: Garry Brown; Colors: Lee Loughridge
Edge of Spider-Gedden #3 (of 4) — Writer: Jason Latour; Breakdowns: Tonci Zonjic; Finishes: Tonci Zonjic and Brahm Revel; Colors: Tonci Zonjic and Ian Herring
Avengers #8 (Legacy #698) — Writer: Jason Aaron; Art: David Marquez; Colors: Justin Ponsor
Thor #5 (Legacy #711) — Writer: Jason Aaron; Art/Colors: Christian Ward
Marvel’s annuals this year look like they’re going to be “flashback” issues — or. at least, the two out this week, Captain America and Amazing Spider-Man, go that route, with Cap and Bucky helping German concentration-camp escapees in 1944, and Spidey’s story set during his “black costume” period in the ’80s, right after Secret Wars, before he discovered that the costume was actually an alien symbiote. Captain America is written by Tini Howard (Assassinistas, Hack/Slash: Resurrection), with Chris Sprouse doing a good job on the requisite Nazi-punching (and shooting), while Amazing Spider-Man is by up-and-coming writer Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt, Quicksilver and the just-announced relaunch of Miles Morales: Spider-Man), and is told from the point of view of the costume/symbiote, as it takes over Peter Parker’s body while he’s asleep and goes out fighting crime; it’s a smart and sympathetic take on the alien, and particularly relevant now, with the Venom movie coming out in just a few weeks. Meanwhile, Edge of Spider-Gedden continues as a lead-in to that approaching Spider-verse mini-series, spotlighting various alternate-dimension versions of the wallcrawler; in this variation, Pete gave a blood transfusion to his Uncle Ben after he was shot, saving his life and leading to both of them having spider-powers. If you like What If?/Elseworlds stories, it’s a decent one, doing a good job of working out the ramifications of the timeline changes. Venom reaches the end of its first arc under Donny Cates, with Eddie and his symbiote fighting an angry galactic god; it’s been a big-screen production, and a very popular one, with Cates giving artist Ryan Stegman cool stuff to draw (a dragon symbiote; a winged Venom, etc.), and the ending does a good job of justifying its build-up. Cates’s focus on cosmic entities, continuity and larger-than-life, anything-goes plots is a lot like another Marvel writer, Jason Aaron; he’s got two books out this week, with Avengers being a, for him, quieter-than-usual book, as the heroes clean up after the previous story’s invasion of Dark Celestials, and the new team — Ghost Rider, She-Hulk, Black Panther and Captain Marvel to go with the founding triad of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor — get settled into their new headquarters, elect a new leader and try to get used to each other. Thor also takes a break from its “War of the Ten Realms” ongoing over-plot, as Aaron and guest artist Christian Ward focus on the far-future version of the God of Thunder (who looks a lot like Odin) and his three granddaughters; Aaron seems to be taking Cates’s future-casting in Thanos, which featured mashups like the Frank Castle Cosmic Ghost Rider, and upping it, adding a Wolverine possessed by the Phoenix Force and a crazed Ego the Living Planet to the mix — along with yet another amalgam who appears on the last page, and should bring everybody back for more next month.
The Immortal Hulk #6 (Legacy #723) — Writer: Al Ewing; Art: Lee Garbett; Colors: Paul Mounts
West Coast Avengers #2 (Legacy #104) — Writer: Kelly Thompson; Art: Stafano Caselli; Colors: Triona Farrell
Mr. and Mrs. X #3 — Writer: Kelly Thompson; Art: Oscar Bazaldua; Colors: Frank D’Armata
Doctor Strange ends its initial relaunch arc; it’s involved Strange in outer space, traveling the universe in search of his missing magical power. It’s led to power-ups both in his skill set and in his weaponry; that’s a good thing, especially under the skillful hands of Mark Waid, and it’s been suitably cosmic and entertaining. It ends with a mystery, too, one that will likely take the next five issues to play out — since that would bring us to a legacy-numbered anniversary issue, #400. Immortal Hulk continues threads from last issue, involving Walter Langowski and… something… that was possessing him, and ends with a nightfall confrontation between Banner and Captain Marvel — backed up by the newest incarnation of the Avengers; the guest artist, Lee Garbett, used to partner with current Hulk writer Al Ewing back on Loki, Agent of Asgard, so they work well together, especially with Ewing focusing this issue more on Marvel continuity and less on horror. West Coast Avengers continues to be pitched toward the younger junior/senior high set, with a mix of characters popular with that cohort, like Gwenpool, the Kate Bishop Hawkeye, and America Chavez; writer Kelly Thompson’s very good with that group of readers, and she mixes in enough regular Marvel continuity, striking imagery — like the attack of the 50-foot Tigra on the cover — and humor to make it a fun read. That’s also true for her other book this week, Mr. and Mrs. X, which follows newlyweds Rogue and Gambit into space as they try to safeguard a cosmic egg with a close connection to Professor X and his lover Lilandra; Deadpool’s along, too, and while this is aimed at a more regular Marvel audience than West Coast Avengers, it’s still got the inventiveness and the fun. Life of Captain Marvel continues to give readers interested in the upcoming movie (whose first trailer came out just this week!) background on Carol Danvers, her childhood and her family, while subjecting her home town to present-day peril, too, with one of those last-page plot twists that suggest that maybe the accident that gave her those Kree-based powers wasn’t the whole story; it’s more set-up than action, but Carlos Pacheco’s good at the smaller moments and family stuff, and if you miss the fighting and punching it looks like there should be plenty in next month’s issue.
Mr. Miracle #11 (of 12) — Writer: Tom King; Art/Colors: Mitch Gerads
Justice League #8 — Writer: James Tynion IV; Art: Mikel Janin; Colors: Jeromy Cox
The Wild Storm #17 (of 24) — Writer: Warren Ellis; Art: Jon Davis-Hunt; Colors: Brian Buccellato
Ooohh… big events in Batman, involving guest star Dick Grayson, who banters with his mentor to pull him out of his post-non-wedding funk, and kind of does, which is ironic because… well, spoilers, except to say that what happens will have major ramifications for Nightwing’s own title, and his place in the DC universe, and that it involves a guy with a hook on his left hand. Tom King’s really good at this stuff, and yet his other title this week, Mister Miracle, is even better; this 11th of 12 issues seems to end the story, except that it’s looking more and more like some version of the thing I said was going to happen after reading the first three pages of issue #1 will, in fact, happen (don’t remember? Hey, go look it up in the archives…). Doesn’t matter; this is still really good, right up to exclamation “Fuuug!” on the last page, and the character who says it. Since its relaunch, Justice League‘s regular writer, Scott Snyder, has been chronicling the JL vs. the Legion of Doom — not the sort-of-funny TV-cartoon versions, but the DC universe heavyweights, led by Lex Luthor, who are about to take over the entire multiverse and beyond. However, he’s left some issues in the schedule for fellow-writer James Tynion IV to focus on the Legion instead of the League, deepening their behind-the-scenes machinations and personalities; this week, it’s mostly a dialogue between Luthor and a potential ally, the Batman Who Laughs, while Black Manta and the Cheetah go about killing a god. The Wild Storm continues Warren Ellis rebooting various Wildstorm characters; this issue sees John Lynch visiting the last of his old experiments (who’s much more laid-back than the previous ones), and makes it clear that the real goal will be to gather their children: Gen13; meanwhile, Angie eavesdrops on Jacob Marlowe, meets a Daemon, and finds that things may not be as black-and-white as she’d thought. If you followed any of the Image/Wildstorm titles like Stormwatch, WildC.A.T.S., The Authority or Gen13 back in the day, you’ll probably appreciate this series. That leaves Pearl, the second of Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s new series about a San Francisco tattoo artist who’s also (a) an albino, (b) beholden through family to Asian mobsters, (c) being asked to act as an assassin for them, and (d) edging into a Romeo-and-Juliet romance with a local boy. This is from the team that created Jessica Jones, only now they have a couple of decades more experience under their belts, and it shows: the first issue seemed to have a lot of set-up. but most of it pays off handsomely here, with a multi-layered crime/suspense/romance plot and some beautiful fully-painted art from Gaydos.
Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1 (of 4) — Story/Script: Lee and Mike Allred; Pencils: Rich Tommaso; Inks: Mike Allred; Colors: Laura Allred
Chief Wiggum’s Felonious Funnies #1 (of 1) — (First Story): Writer: Ian Boothby; Art: Jacob Chabot; Colors: Art Villanueva; (Second Story): Writer: Tony Digerolamo; Art: Mike Kazaleh; Colors: Art Villanueva
Black Badge #2 — Writer: Matt Kindt; Art: Tyler Jenkins; Colors: Hillary Jenkins
Hit Girl #8 — Writer: Jeff Lemire; Art: Eduardo Risso; Colors: Patricia Mulvihill
Rick and Morty Presents takes characters from the TV cartoon and spotlights them; “Sleepy Gary” is, as Rick helpfully defines him, a “shape-shifting, memory-altering parasitic worm” who ends up rewriting Jerry’s brain to think that they’ve always been a couple — which is, really, about par for the series; it helps if you’ve seen the episode, but there’s enough info-dump (“unnecessary exposition,” as Rick says) to get new readers up to speed, and the comic, just like the show, is alternately fun, dark and surprisingly humanistic — and then undercuts it at the end. Dick Tracy is a new mini-series featuring the original tough cop, and it’s got a sterling creator line-up: co-written by Michael Allred and brother Lee (and colored by wife Laura), with pencils by Rich Tommaso (Dry County; Spy Seal; She-Wolf; Dark Corridor), and inks by Michael Allred again. Tommaso’s got a lot of experience with hard-boiled detective art, and Tracy and his rogue’s gallery of grotesqueries are perfect for him — it looks nothing like the original Chester Gould strip, but that’s a good thing, and it’s a colorful, fast-paced and eye-catching comic. Springfield’s, and The Simpsons‘, police chief gets the one-shot treatment in Chief Wiggum’s Felonious Funnies; one tale is a “Future Cop” parody, while the other buddy-pairs him with Springfield’s resident felon, Snake. Buy it because it’s the penultimate Bongo Simpsons book (Simpsons #245 comes out next month), and a last chance to celebrate 25 years of yellow-skinned slapstick parody. Black Badge is just starting out, but its high-concept notion of a globe-trotting, super-spy pack of Boy Scouts has already elbowed out some attention for it; this second issue involves a mission in Siberia and a run-in with another group of kids with similar motives. The shadowy dark-ops weirdness and clever editorial additions — like a page from the Black Badge handbook — make this a lot like Kindt’s previous Mind MGMT, so fans of that series should pick this up too. Hit Girl #8 concludes a four-issue tale set in Canada, from the team of Jeff Lemire and Eduardo Risso; Risso’s been excelling at hard-boiled comics art since at least 100 Bullets, and he makes the corrupt cops, gunplay, snowy backwoods chases and fights with bears here look much prettier than you might expect, without sacrificing any of the grit (next month, a new four-issue story and creative team, both named Rafael: Albuquerque and Scavone).
Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #6 (of 7) — Creator: Stan Sakai
Lumberjanes #54 — Writers: Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh; Art: Dozerdraws; Colors: Maarta Laiho
These last three books are all ones I’ve been recommending for years (decades, in the cases of the first two), so there’s not that much to add about them: Strangers in Paradise is a coda to Terry Moore’s world-spanning action/adventure/romance/humor saga, heavy on the action and adventure this time, with Katchoo reacting badly to a threat to her family. Meanwhile, Usagi Yojimbo‘s latest mini-series is only one issue away from concluding its tale involving banned Christians in late-16th-century Japan, and guest-starring the popular Inspector Ishida, all rendered in Stan Sakai’s universally-clear, clever and compelling style, while Lumberjanes is on the second of a multi-part story about Ripley being kidnapped by some kind of Greek goddess/energy parasite, whom she entertains with her magic kittens (I swear, this is a lot better than it sounds…) while her friends get together a rescue party. Don’t let the cartoony art fool you: this might look like it’s for the pre- or early-teen set, but there’s enough mystery, characterization and heartfelt-but-subtle themes to fascinate comics readers of any age.