We have a lot of comics to review this week, including: Black Panther #523, Dollhouse #3, Hellraiser #5, Irredeemable #29, Journey Into Mystery #627, Mystery Men #5, Mystic #2, New Avengers #16, PIGS #1, PunisherMAX #17, Servants Of The Bones #2 and Severed #2!
Also, as an added bonus, in addition to the regular Bullet Reviews, check out the companion run of The New 52 Bullet Reviews by Jordamus Prime!
BLACK PANTHER #523 (Marvel):
Fear Itself Tie-In! This concluding storyline is a fine example of how a crossover – in this instance Fear Itself – can be used to draw attention to a non a-list book. Given that the Matt Fraction plot is concerned with something as amorphous as ‘fear’, David Liss has riffed on that by reintroducing Hate-Monger to Hells Kitchen, who capitalizes on the widespread destruction by playing to the communities base fears about ‘outsiders’ – foreigners, immigrants etc. T’Challa has finally grown tired of trying to live up to Matt Murdoch’s example since arriving in the burrough and resorts to tactics more familiar to fans of Christopher Priest’s run on the Black Panther title, allowing the villain to seemingly gain the upper-hand and then turn the tables. While this book would suffer by a direct comparison with Priest’s seminal storylines, it is a marked improvement on Reginald Hudlin’s sturm and drang approach to the King of Wakanda. Liss also puts paid to the controversial ‘American Panther’, whose appearance in previews was assumed to be a drastic revamp of T’Challa himself. Turns out he is just a bigot under the influence of Hate-Monger. There is something clever about the notion of a random nobody dressing up in duds that resemble ‘ceremonial Wakandan robes’, a hint perhaps at attempts in the past to homogenize the Panther. As the last pages make clear, it is the anonymity of the man behind the American Panther mask that is his most chilling aspect. Liss is doing interesting work here with one of Marvel’s most fascinating characters. I am on board for the long haul. -Emmet O’Cuana
DOLLHOUSE #3 (Dark Horse):
Spinning out of the episodes Epitaph One and Two from the Dollhouse television series, writers Andrew Chambliss, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharden continue to fill in some of the blanks behind the future dystopia the show jumped forward to. Alpha, originally played by Whedon stalwart Alan Tudyk on the show, has assembled a small crew to help evacuate survivors from LA and search for Echo, who is the key to defeating the evil Rossum Corporation. The streets are overrun by ‘Butchers’ brainwashed killers who attack anyone they see. Rossum it appears is organizing these murderous drones to hunt down Echo, so it is up to Alpha to find her first, following a cipher she has left behind to mark her passage (basically an updated version of the ‘hobo code’). Unfortunately for Alpha’s allies, the one-time serial killer with multiple personalities is going through a bit of a Gollum/Smeagol crisis and is randomly killing innocents himself. Chambliss’ script has plenty of call-backs to the show which should be enjoyable for fans, but he has also developed new characters like Trevor, the young boy programmed by Alpha to be a kung fu master. The subplot surrounding a single personality named Ivy inhabiting multiple bodies is also enjoyable – with the attendant problem of one of these host bodies discovering just how superficial ‘she’ is. “I get it. I’d much rather kiss me in a supermodel body too.” Artist Cliff Richards does a decent job in capturing the likenesses of Felicia Day and Alan Tudyk – although he missed the mark with Tahmoh Penikett, unless permission was denied? – with the scene of Alpha arguing with himself particularly striking. In short fans of Dollhouse should be happy, but those who missed the show will find plenty to enjoy as well. -Emmet O’Cuana
**For more on this series, check out Nick C’s reviews of issues one and two, as well as Nicole Sixx’s review of issue three!**
HELLRAISER #5 (BOOM!):
Five issues in and it’s moving along smoother than I expected. There’s a train wreck coming and it’s going to involve both Kirsty and Pinhead as they both try to use the other to achieve their goals. Kirsty wants Pinhead destroyed, while Pinhead wants to return to the flesh but needs Kirsty to replace him. Essentially they both want the same thing but the end results are where they differ. This issue also brings to light that Cenobites can have feelings for each other and also ends this sub-story about a guy whose been given The Box in order to offer souls to Hell.
The pacing on this series is in line with the first two movies. It moves a little slow but everything is deliberate. Things happen for a reason and this build up is something we rarely get in superhero comics these days. I’ve said it before and will say it again: Fans of the first two movies should check this out. It moves at the same pace as the first two, has the same feeling of them and is a better continuation that the third through 50th movies. Remember: This is Hellraiser written by Clive Barker, the series creator! I’m so glad I decided to get the monthly issues instead of waiting for the trades!! -Skott Jimenez
IRREDEEMABLE #29 (BOOM!):
Mark Waid’s latest issue of Irredeemable opens with a ragged group of superhumans turning on one another out of fear of the unstoppable Plutonian. His ongoing campaign of terror has left the heroes reduced to squabbling amongst themselves, or attempting to find the deepest hole they can hide in. The issue touches on the different responses of some of these survivors, while the Plutonian himself sadistically plays with his victims. One scene involving him asking a select group of allies what they wish for most in life seems out of character at first, until it is revealed that this is just the set-up for a cruel joke involving a very particular kind of ‘shooting star’.
Meanwhile a meeting of world leaders plans to enact a desperate plan of action to defeat Plutonian, at great cost to the world’s population. The ultimate fate of Bette, who had a chance to kill the superpowered maniac and has resigned herself to fatalism following her failure, is revealed and Kaidan continues her efforts to discover a way of defeating the one-time hero.
At times this book reads like a mix of Marvelman and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, in that it continues to extend the idea of a Superman-level demigod going on a rampage month after month. Eduardo and Diego Barreto on art also seem to be hearkening back to a style specific to the 1980′s, in keeping with Waid’s post-Marvelman premise. What is admirable about the series is that it avoids being some facile metacritique on the ‘Dark Age’ of comics, despite Grant Morrison’s argument in the introduction to the first trade. However, it continues to feel slightly out-of-time, the script almost Claremontian in keeping with the period when he was at his peak. There’s even a shock revelation on the last page that relates to an increasingly complex family tree – how X-Men is that? That being said I am curious as to where Waid hopes to take this story. And Kaidan continues to have one of the coolest powersets in comics (well, her and Simone’s Ghost Lion!) -Emmet O’Cuana
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #627 (Marvel):
I have really enjoyed this series since it’s return. The younger version of Loki has been a complete thrill to follow. So I was taken by surprise when I read this issue and it’s become by favorite one so far of this run. Why? Because Loki doesn’t appear in it at all and is only mentioned twice. This issue’s story is told by a completely different, yet familiar, character: Mephisto. The premise sounds like a worn out joke, “The Devil Walks Into a Bar…”- but that’s what happens. Mephisto tells a story to a bartender about Fear Itself, of the reaction to the return of Odin’s big brother by the higher god’s in Marvel’s pantheon. We see how the demons and the Fear Lords such as Nightmare are all reacting. It’s possibly one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read from Marvel this year in a series that continues to surprise me by how much I love it. To say what Mephisto talks about will give away to much of the story but when you have a self-professed ‘Prince of Lies’ telling you a story in a series that has focused on the God of Tricksters since it’s return, you have to wonder how much is false and how much is made up. Perhaps there is honest in these lies? Regardless, for a very entertaining read, I would highly recommend this issue of Journey Into Mystery.
According to series scribe Kieron Gillen: “While this doesn’t actually star Loki, it impacts his story pretty heavily. It also sets up the next two years of JIM stories.” I, for one, have just gotten a lot more excited about this series! -Skott Jimenez
MYSTERY MEN #5 of 5 (Marvel):
David Liss has been quietly assembling one of the better storylines you’re probably not reading amidst all the crossover/revamp kerfuffle. And now the miniseries is over, where can readers get their next Liss fix? The ‘Mystery Men’ are a group of masked vigilantes attempting to defeat the megalomaniacal figure known as the General from perpetrating a demonic plot involving the sacrifice of children, with the spectre of Nazism rising in the background. The heroes are a fairly rag-tag bunch, overly fond of the definite article (The Operative, The Revenant, The Aviatrix…) and in keeping with the pulp era being homaged, each related in their conception to aspects of The Spirit, or The Bat-Man. This series has been a delight, with occasional cameos from historical figures (Ayn Rand! The Lindbergh baby!) and characters from Marvel’s own ‘history’ (the demon Nox, Zemo). As this issue has to wrap everything up, it occasionally feels rushed, but still ends on a satisfying note. Of all the original creations introduced here by Liss though, the Surgeon is by far the most interesting. Sardonic, twisted and a bit too fond of medical puns, he is a fantastic addition to the Marvel canon. Hopefully we’ll get another miniseries out of this team of pulp avengers yet. -Emmet O’Cuana
MYSTIC #2 (Marvel):
This series is only two issues old and already it is a safe contender for best looking book on the shelves. Artists David and Alvaro Lopez are producing incredible work and special mention should be made of colourist Nathan Fairbairn as well, as the images pop with vibrant shades of colour. Combine with G. Willow Wilson’s story of two young girls struggling to survive in a society ruled by magic and Mystic becomes easily one of the most enchanting new books available. Following the events of the first issue, Giselle has been rescued from a life of poverty by being accepted into the guild of mages that rules the city she lives in. This oligarchy of magic is based on their control of a powerful substance called ‘Aether’ which Giselle had learned how to manipulate in secret and against strict caste rules – a fact her wealthy classmates go out of their way to remind her of. Tragically her friend Genevieve, who genuinely wanted to become a practitioner of magic, has been left behind and out of resentment is swept up in a revolutionary movement agitating to overthrow the aristocratic enclave that profits from the control of aether. Wilson ends this issue with yet another revelation and I cannot wait to see where the story will go next. Strongly recommended. -Emmet O’Cuana
NEW AVENGERS #16 (Marvel):
What does it mean to be an Avenger? What are the qualifications? What kind of hero do you need to be? These questions are at the heart of this issue, which would normally be nothing more than a filler story, if not for the significance of The Man Without Fear, Daredevil, finally joining Luke Cage’s ragtag team of New Avengers. This is a fairly huge event, given that the idea was introduced waaaaay back in New Avengers #1, Vol. 1 (2005). Back then, it seemed as though DD didn’t quite fit the bill for Captain America’s team. Things have changed since, now that there are multiple Avengers teams, all with their own purpose and cause. It seems Luke Cage’s more street-oriented group of Avengers is just right for ol’ hornhead, to which various Avengers give testimony to his character and reputation, as well as the diversity of their organization of superheroes. As for the Fear Itself tie-in story, this issue picks up where the last one left off, with Avengers Mansion being invaded by Red Skull’s Nazi mechs and supernanny Squirrel Girl protecting little infant Danielle, Luke and Jessica Cage’s daughter. It’s up to Daredevil to go in and rescue the baby and Squirrel Girl from the invading robot army. The thing I love most about Brian Michael Bendis’ storytelling is that he makes every character he writes – even the second tier ones no one ever gave much thought to – seem legendary. Luke Cage and Iron Fist being two prime examples. Daredevil was given the trademark Bendis treatment years ago, when he took up writing duties on his individual title a few years back, so he’s got a pretty good handle on what makes Matt Murdock tick and what makes him so extraordinarily suited for Avengers membership. Mike Deodato’s art is, as always, gorgeous and cinematic and gives the story a distinctive weight and epic feel. I know there are those out there who feel DD doesn’t belong on an Avengers team, but I think the doubters should give this issue a try. Bendis’ argument on why the team needs him is a valid one. Simply put, he’s a bad ass. -Eric Scroggs
PIGS #1 (Image):
PIGS is a shining example of how comics can be used to tell stories that don’t involve, men in tights punching each other through the moon. Nate Cosby, who up until recently was an editor for many of Marvel’s all ages titles, and Ben McCool (Choker, Incredible Hulks) weave a story of a Cuban terrorist sleeper cell that remains quiet for more than 50 years but is suddenly called into action. Weave political espionage with a mysterious tone, PIGS is produced like a good movie. The writers have chosen to pay careful attention to the pacing, characters, and dialogue. (Also, don’t be fooled by Cosby’s time on all-ages books. He can weave a tapestry of profanity like a professional.) Even the art, by the talented Breno Tamura, is laid out like a movie storyboard. His rough style fits well with a story based on America’s involvement in the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. With an industry over saturated with superheroes, PIGS comes as a refreshing change of pace. I cannot wait for the second issue. -Michael Wirth
PUNISHER MAX #17 (Marvel):
Hopefully you have just read the first issue of the “Home Less” story arc by Aaron and Dillon. And if you didn’t, go read it. No really, I’ll wait. … … … … Done? Good! Now I ask you, what is this story about? Is it about Frank exacting revenge on Fisk? Is it Mrs. Fisk exacting revenge on Wilson? Is it about Fisk fearing Frank? Or is it just an introduction to the Hand and Elektra in the Max line? I think it’s all of these, but I think it is also a re-settling of Frank into a place of discomfort. We don’t know how he will function or what he will do. That’s this story. He’s old, he’s outdated, yet still he is timeless. This is the story of how a timeless character, that is in fact dated, fits into current continuity finding his place amongst a city that has moved on without him. If you look at all 16 issues up until now, we have looked at Frank’s life, his motivation, and his definition. Next we begin a journey of his modus operandi. How does Frank do what he does? We know who he is, but how does he manifest his character through his actions? I have to say, I am mesmerized by this title. I love what Aaron is doing, and I am fully on board with this for the long haul. The only real important question i have is: how far can he successfully take this? -The Andy Kirby
SERVANT OF THE BONES #2 (IDW):
When one hears the name, Anne Rice, one would tend to think of vampires. Or witches. Or possibly heaving bosoms. I assumed that Servant Of The Bones, a comic-book adaptation of an Anne Rice story, would fall within any of those lines. But so far, this is not the case. Billed as a ghost story, Servant Of The Bones tells the tale of Azriel, a young man who grew up in ancient Babylon. Azriel grows a relationship with Marduk, the Babylonian god of gods. Told as a flashback, the story plays out well, straightforward and understandable, which is more than I can say for the first issue, which was somewhat confusing. I’m certainly glad that writer Mariah McCourt was able to find her stride to tell the story.
So far I can extremely pleased with the artwork by Renae De Liz (The Last Unicorn). Her art is full of emotion, her figures detailed and lively. De Liz’s pencil-work is enhanced by the colors of Ray Dillion, who also assisted De Liz on The Last Unicorn. His colors add depth to the characters, creating a sense of warmth in the environments. The two make a great pair artistically.
While I was ready to give up on Servant Of The Bones after the first issue, issue #2 helped to regain my interest. Having Azriel’s backstory made me care more about the story and revitalized my curiosity. I’m looking forward to see where Servant Of The Bones takes me. -Michael Wirth
SEVERED #2 (Image):
If you are a horror fan of any kind, into dark and twisted stories, or just looking for something that seems to draw from a bizarre place, you should be reading Scott Snyder. His work on Detective and in American Vampire is without question among the best of the last couple of years. His run on Batman will start when the last stream of new 52 books finally hits the stands, but until then we have his side project with Scott Tuft and Attila Futaki, Severed.
If you are not yet reading it the story focus on a twelve-year-old boy, living in 1916, that has run away from home. The antagonist of the book is a demon in hiding that travels the countryside feeding on boys he can find. My take away from the first book, was that it was going to be a straight forward monster tale. We had seen to some extent what our demonic salesmen turned into, and him feast on his victim. We have a subplot of a boy who is adopted trying to find his biological father and make it on his own. While these in themselves were enjoyable, I found myself wanting to come back, less for the characters, than to see what Snyder and Tuft would do to frighten me. I should be reprimanded for this. I should have known that the plot would pull me in even if I was prepared to be only half vested.
With issue two the scary is left at the door a bit as your investment in the characters and the emotional build up mount. Our protagonist Jack’s story takes center place, and before you know it you’re pulling for him and riding the same emotion rollercoaster that Jack is. Will he be able to handle the hardships of riding the rails and exploring cities? Will he be able to find his father? Can he survive the monster that has taken notice? In addition, after issue one I was left thinking that Snyder and Tuft let the monster out of the bag too soon, but issue two manages to bring a new dimension and intrigue to our demon.
If you have not gathered yet that I love the writing well, I do. The dialogue is period appropriate, without being heavy and cliché, and the flow of the book has you on the edge of your seat. That being said it is completely enhanced by the art and coloring of the book. I always gauge a book’s art by doing a little exercise. Memorize a brief part of the book and then play it back in your head with your eyes closed. Does the art match or compare with the picture in your head? Futaki’s work is better than the picture in my head and it balances the heavy creepy needs of a horror book, with the old-time feel the team is looking for. With the third book set to release the first week of October, make sure you get caught up on a terrific horror series. -Jason Pauda