A special note to our regular Bullet Reviews readers and followers:
You may have noticed Bullet Reviews was missing from your regular Tuesday reading list last week. This was because, among other things, I was out-of-town for a few days then I ended up getting really sick and couldn’t bring you the column you all love. I apologize for that and to make up for it I now present GIANT-SIZE Bullet Reviews! More comic reviews for you to enjoy!
Just as soon as you’re done laughing at the Baby Galactus picture…
A-BABIES VS. X-BABIES (Marvel)
It’s hard to believe there was a time when I hated Skottie Young’s art. But I’m talking back in the day when he was doing the Human Torch ongoing series and his art was more graffiti than comic book art. He’s come a long way since then and I’ll more likely consider getting a book I wouldn’t normally look at now with a Skottie Young cover than without. Seriously, how could you not at least smile while looking at the cover? I mean, Thor has a propeller beanie on! All right, on to the book… This one-shot does more in one issue than the adults did in 12 (and counting). Also, it’s very clear that the X-Men are at fault here when Steve Rogers, while doing nightly roll call on his teddy bears, realizes that Bucky Bear has been taken by Scott Summers. Also, The A-Babies have a much cooler battle cry: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!, whereas Summers has to say he thinks he hears the ice cream truck to get the other X-Babies to show up.
So an epic battle between A-Babies and X-Babies ensues with the life of an innocent teddy bear hanging in the balance. Now, there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue here, but that’s fine, that isn’t why I picked this up. It’s good for a laugh to see baby versions of our heroes, Baby Thor is riding a pony that is Baby Beta Ray Bill–how do you not laugh at that? Well, if that doesn’t crack you up,then the image of Baby Galactus should. It was that image alone that got me to pick this one up.
This was a highly entertaining, one and done, book that shows that Marvel still knows how to poke fun at itself–something we get far too little of these days! -Skott Jimenez
AVENGERS #32 (Marvel)
As we continue End Times, the next storyline for the coveted Avengers title, we know this issue will answer a few questions such as who was the mystery woman earlier (yes, we all know who it was) and what evil awaits Earth’s Mightiest Heroe.? Brian Michael Bendis pens this script and it isn’t exactly what I would call Bendis’ best work, but I will say this: A lot happens in this issue. It involves Giant-Man making a semi return to the team because he hasn’t exactly been around as much due to the Avengers Academy. Henry Pym has been missed from the Avengers books as of late, especially in a more dominant role rather than a background role. Is it possible this is due to the Ant-Man movie getting a release date? Maybe. But a hero long thought dead returns, and Wonder Man continues be a goofball with his strange apologies. All this and more in Avengers #32! It doesn’t set the stage for Bendis’ usual style of work, but he did his best to cover so much in one issue. I won’t spoil the big return, but I will say this–if you are a big Avengers fan you won’t want to miss this. -Nick Furious
AVX: CONSEQUENCES #2 (Marvel)
Wait. Before you stop to say anything about how Consequences #2 is old news or Consequences #4 is the issue that came out last week, I want to let you know that none of the comic shops in my area even carried Consequences. Not only did they not carry Consequences, they said it would be weeks before they would get even the first issue. What?! So like a good journalist, I avoided every review of Consequences #2. This was a treacherous journey that ended one very lucky trip to my local used book store which recently started selling comics (THANK YOU) and I was able to grab the next installment in Kieron Gillen’s Consequences series. I am so glad that I did. Consequences #2 made up for the shotty and cheap Consequences #1. First, the artwork is done by Steve Kurth which shames the artwork of previous issues. Consequences continues the animosity between Wolverine and Cyclops as Wolverine tries to find out everything he can about the Extinction team, only to have Cyclops push him the limit as Wolverine attempts to kill him. Cyclops’ true form is revealed, and his path towards a darker, more twisted Scott Summers as Summers makes Magneto look like a preschool teacher. Summers never apologizes for his actions–if anything, he praises himself with saving the mutant race. Buy this issue. Skip the first issue and buy this one. It’s worth it. Wish me luck in my quest for future Consequences issues, I’m gonna need it. -Nick Furious
BATMAN INCORPORATED #4 (DC)
Coming closer to Frank Quitely than any of Morrison’s other Batman collaborators, Chris Burnham continues to shine. Of course, there are the stylistic flourishes–skewed angles, shattering panels, a zoom on a skull’s eye socket, even Batman’s Bruce Timm-inspired huge chin–but what Burnham does best are the little touches. Things like how a trail of gunpowder or a fork are deliberately placed before they become relevant to the plot. The facial expression a Leviathan flunkie makes when Batman Inc. agent Wingman casually steps on his groin. Batman climbing over a railing in a panel’s corner. A whole range of narrative tricks and quirks are utilized. Burnham’s not as avant-garde as Quitely (Batwing using a sound gun on ninja Man-Bats is the most experimental image), but he’s as solid a craftsman.
More importantly, he shares Quitely’s ability to get when Morrison is joking (something lost on Tony Daniel, Philip Tan, and Andy Kubert). Batman Inc is a fight comic, one group of colorful characters battling another group of colorful characters. It’s like LARPing, but with bloodshed. Morrison’s big experiment with Batman is, like All-Star Superman, to harken back to goofier days while tying them to (post-)modern sensibilities. If it’s overly-nostalgic, it at least is without slavish fanboyism or taking itself too seriously. To that end, Burnham has visual gags aplenty (even without Bat-Cow, check off that obligatory reference). There’s the aforementioned groin attack, Knight’s sidekick Squire cramped up in a crawlspace like a Dickensian child (cutting the power at her master’s word), and Alfred having a cup of tea ready as he dutifully mans the Batcomputer. Like a lot of Grant Morrison-written superbooks, the story arc threatens to come apart, but the ride sure is fun. -Andrew Taylor
THE CBLDF PRESENTS: LIBERTY ANNUAL 2012 (Image)
All proceeds from this book go to the CBLDF!
Of all the evils battled in our comics, the one evil that we all face together is censorship. It’s wrong. End of story. Now, while there are times when you wonder ‘just because you can say something, does that mean you should say it?’ Sometimes you wonder if someone has ‘gone to far’ but they still have the right rather you agree with it or not. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) is a group of Real Americans who have taken the fight against comic book censorship to new levels. Their tireless defense of artist, writers, comic shop owners, and even fans and readers, is truly something to admire.
This collection of short stories from some of the top talents in the industry today tackles the topic of censorship in many ways, be it direct or indirect, and more than a few of the story stand out to me. The very first one, answering what came first the chicken or the egg gives an answer that hard to argue against. The second story is also amazingly entertaining as well as thought-provoking, especially if you’re dealing with people who think the demons of faith can easily take us over.
Let’s look at some of the names involved in this project: Jonathan Hickman, Andy Diggle, Ben Templesmith, Howard Chaykin, Chris Roberson, Roger Langridge, Chris Giarrusso, Kieron Gillen, Terry Moore, Robert Kirkman, and Charlie Adlard.
Yes, you read those last two names right and, yes, it’s an all new Walking Dead story featuring… well, if I tell you it won’t be a surprise, now will it? Even if you buy it for just one of these fine creators or if you’re a Walking Dead fan who wants to read a new story featuring a certain someone, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in grabbing this and showing some support for the CBLDF! -Skott Jimenez
CHEW #29 (Image)
It’s kind of a weak issue for an otherwise enjoyable series. There are a couple of things I can point to specifically, like Rob Guillory not packing as many Easter eggs in the background as usual, or John Layman trying too hard for cheap laughs (a masquerade ball where a character shows up dressed as a bear). Mostly, it’s something that can’t be pinned down so easily. To be quite honest, it’s not even a bad issue, it’s just… filler. A “case of the month.” Considering Chew is a satire of procedurals, that in itself isn’t bad. In fact, it’s been the series’ M.O. to use genre framework to indict the ever-expanding surveillance state and the culture wars.
However, this issue limits its ambitions to a mild skewering of privatized healthcare on the first page (“If you ain’t dyin’, you ain’t tryin’.”), and of makeover culture (the monthly case revolving around facial masks that literally transform people into other people). The FDA/USDA/NASA task force is done at face value, as is the subplot involving the Russian ‘vampire.’ The humor is more of the “wacky, quirky” kind that was before in service to the larger ideas, but becomes the point this issue (a “Poyo Vs. Mecha-Turducken” spread). Layman and Guillory’s best joke this issue is protagonist Tony Chu relegated to a first page cameo (“Wonder where everybody is.”), which has gone on for two arcs now (“Tony is kidnapped” is now “Tony is in the hospital”). They get the benefit of the doubt, but I hope this isn’t the series’ new normal. -Andrew Taylor
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #13 (DC)
This arc is devoted to a team-up between Black Lightning and Blue Devil, which is an odd pairing–wait, Black and Blue? Oh, I get it now! Between this and the line, “And you must pay the Blue Devil his due!,” DC’s got itself a bona fide classic! Forget about Batman and Robin, Superman and Wonder Woman, or even Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, Black Lightning and Blue Devil are the duo everyone should be watching!
Okay, now that I’ve gotten all the ad quotes taken care of, let’s get down to business: this comic wasn’t meant to be read. At least, not “read” in a way that implies an active engagement with printed words and images. To do that would be to invite unpleasant questions like, “Why does Black Lightning blow up cars right next to a bunch of people?” I mean, sure, Blue Devil–the guy BL is dancing the misunderstanding/fight/team-up tango with–escapes unscathed, but he’s got Devil powers and such, whereas the mooks they were fighting were just some guys with guns, so they’re dead. Another question is, “Why does Robson Rocha lay out one page so that people are looking at a woman’s breasts first, and then her nether regions when the eye goes down to the next tier of panels?” The answer for both is “DC.” Rocha’s art has a bit more flair than average, with stylish intros to both characters and backgrounds with life to them. Marc Andreyko might be cruising along on goodwill from Manhunter, but he knows how to pace a script (two-page shot of Blue Devil, notwithstanding), so the cruise is at least smooth. If all you want out of a comic is to kill 5-10 minutes of your life, this is for you. -Andrew Taylor
GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #3 (IDW Publishing)
How awesome is this book? Not much more can be said about it that hasn’t already been said. The art is spectacular and the story is action filled and loads of fun. This issue delves a little more into what’s actually driving the monsters to attack. There is someone behind it, and the reasons may spell doom for a lot of people!
But while the story is actually a lot of fun and fairly solid, it’s the monsters that take center stage. We have a who’s who of classic Toho beasts including Megalon! Rodan! Battra! And Hedora, The Smog Monster! All of them are seen in all their glory and look amazing.
We’ve reached the half-way point for this story and it’s still picking up steam; the balance between the monster action and the human story is as perfect as you can expect from material like this. We have characters that we’ve come to know because we’re following them through the decades, and all I can wonder is, will we see these characters again after this series wraps up? Maybe, maybe not, but as I’ve said before: If you’re a fan of Godzilla and you’ve been looking for a story that showcases the big guy and the rest of Toho’s cast in all their glory, then this is the book for you! I can’t say anything more about it. It’s fun, action packed, and has everything I like in a Godzilla story. Would I want to see James Stokoe on another Godzilla project in the future? You bet I would! Put him on it and I’ll buy it! -Skott Jimenez
IT GIRL! AND THE ATOMICS #3 (Image)
This is probably going to be a short one, folks. Honestly, there isn’t much I can say to do this book justice. This is the type of super hero comic book action I’ve missed for years. It’s back to basics and so much fun. You have all the elements that made super hero comics fun ‘back in the day,’ including the confusion on if a former villain is actually trying to better himself or not and the reveal of who the main baddie in the series is. That, in a nutshell, is what you get in this issue, all wrapped up in another fantastic cover by Michael Allred. This is one of the reasons I still read comic books!
The characters are fun and entertaining; the art is modern, but has an old school feel to it. Seriously, if you’re sick of New 52s or if you just want good, fun action comics now, then this is the book you need to be reading. No reboots, no relaunches and it’s only on the third issue so it’s easy to catch up on.
And if that isn’t incentive enough to at least try it, then look at the cover price: $2.99. For that price you get fun characters, classic super hero action, the adoration of your friends, and you get to say you read a super hero book that isn’t Marvel or DC! There aren’t many out there, but of the few that exist, this is one of the best.
I am waiting to see the rest of The Atomics in here. I know It Girl is the marquee character here, but The Atomics have their name on the cover, and I really want to see Mr. Gum! -Skott Jimenez
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #644 & 645, THE MIGHTY THOR #20-22 (Marvel)
The story that ends everything for the Asgardians and opens the door for many new things in the Marvel NOW! era wraps up! Naturally, this seems to center on Loki as all the plans and schemes he’s put together over the last year or so finally catch up to him. And then quickly fall apart. All the Nine Realms are in danger as Surtur makes a bid to go beyond Ragnarok level destruction. While everyone in the Nine Realms try to defend themselves, Loki is still scheming and trying to figure out a way to save everything, himself included. Everything from once again betraying his half-brother Thor to going back in time to chance the future story in here along with a few minor points (is anything really minor when Loki is involved?).
I was fairly well behind on this story because my LCS had sold out of The Mighty Thor #20 before I could let them know I needed it, but I was able to read this whole thing in one sitting. It’s a very entertaining story! I’m into this mostly for Loki; Kieron Gillen has really made him the stand out character of 2012, and this story is a perfect example. He’s hard to gauge. Sometimes, you think he’s doing things for everyone benefit, but he tricks Thor into defeat and ultimately convinces him basically to die… something that ends up being for the best.
So Thor is once again Asgard’s favored son and Odin, again, takes a powder but not before finally fulfilling his oath to unite Aesir and Vanir blood (guess what that means). But will any of this impact the upcoming Thor: God Of Thunder series beginning soon?
And what about Loki? After JiM #645, he’s no longer part of the series but before he goes, he has one final thing to do: Settle things with the shadow of his past, his former Loki self. Even though young Loki was a backup plan for Loki, it seems the backup plan made some backup plans of his own, and they stand at odds. Who comes out? Well, we already know it’s Loki who survives, right? Next time we see Loki he’s going to be responsible for putting the Avengers together. Wait… it’s young Loki and he’s putting together the Young Avengers. That sounds right. -Skott Jimenez
PROPHET #30 (Image)
What makes Prophet such a dense, interesting read is the human scale of its planets and stars. As much weird, sci-fi jargon Brandon Graham likes to throw in his scripts, the narratives are not complicated at heart: here, it’s a prologue involving an assassin, followed by John Prophet and his allies going to an alien castle for aid, only to find betrayal. The beauty in it is the level of space artists like Giannis Milonogiannis give to each page. Prophet #30 opens with a huge, swimming castle under a sea, an image treated so casually in the plot yet given majestic dimension on the page. Later, when Prophet is reminiscing about his time amongst lizard people, his lizard-wife Yilala (yes, it’s that kind of story) tells him about the twin mountains, how they “have not moved…since they disagreed.” She then tells him, “You have learned, you are not stone.” It’s a moment that emphasizes that Prophet is human, not bound to the eternal conquering the looming Earth Empire has set him on. However, as Milonogiannis transitions from the large-scale shot of the mountains to Yilala embracing Prophet, it also becomes a commentary on humanity. Small, intimate, and transient in a universe that is epic, distant, and eternal. The page closes with a tiny panel of Prophet (now an old man) reaching for a keepsake that is “gone now,” suggesting the only thing worth the struggle to survive in this universe are those small, temporary moments, even if we can’t keep them forever. It’s a comic full of moments like that. -Andrew Taylor
UNTOLD TALES OF THE PUNISHER MAX #5 (Marvel/MAX)
This is the final issue of this series, and I’ve been up in the air on the title. This is not the typical Punisher title, but instead this miniseries has been letting the reader see perspectives from other people involved in the story. You don’t get “Punisher War Journal, 5:45 PM” – no, instead you get a story that moves the reader.
The plot: A police officer’s son wants to learn to fight so he can get back at some bullies. The officer recalls a time when he also wanted revenge, as his father was killed by Frank Castle. His dad was not a bad guy, but was an accountant working for someone who was, and so was fair game to Frank. You see the boy dealing with the grief, helping his mom (who has resorted to drinking), and planning his revenge.
This is not a story about firefight and battles. It’s a story based in reality – of bullying, of revenge. It ‘s a human story. And this is quite possibly the only Punisher story that sticks with me – and it fits within a single issue!
Written by Skottie Young with art by Mirko Colak, Norman Lee and Rick Ketcham, this is a story that puts the Punisher in a new light. He doesn’t fight back against the kid – he shows him that revenge is wrong… that revenge will turn the kid into Frank. And he wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
This is a merciful Punisher, but still the same – we rarely see this side, and this book is a suitable way to end the Punisher MAX environment. There are no super heroes, no major gun battles, but it’s still a story that we can all take to heart. -Kelly Cassidy
THE WALKING DEAD #103 (Image/Skybound)
This point in the series, with Negan showing up and essentially stealing a lot of the supplies, Andrea almost losing faith in Rick who confides in her that ‘bending over’ for Negan is more to buy time than anything, with Carl beginning to take a stand, and Jesus spying on Negan’s troops… This is a powder keg, and the explosion is going to be massive. If the events of #100 haven’t reawakened readers to the fact that anything can, and will, happen in this book, I think the ending of this current story will take us to a whole new level.
Things are building, and with the hit TV series taking things in its own direction, it’s nice to see the source material isn’t willing to take a back seat to the AMC product. With Robert Kirkman involvement in both projects, both versions of the story have reached a level that has rarely been matched.
I also want to talk about this cover. I rarely talk about the covers of this series, but this one stands out. Negan standing over what looks to be a beaten Rick. But it seems more like it’s Rick lulling Negan into a false sense of security, making him feel like he has control. The question is will be can Rick pull it off? Is that what he’s actually doing? How many sides is he playing, anyway? This issue shows that even after 100 issues and nearly a decade under its belt, The Walking Dead is still one of the best horror comic series on the stands! -Skott Jimenez
X-MEN LEGACY #274 (Marvel)
I told myself I would not buy X-men Legacy anymore, as the last few issues have just been incredibly dull and not really bringing anything to the table. But every once in a while there is a cover to a comic that is just beautiful. Just blows all the other covers on the shelf away. You know what I’m talking about, Skott Jimenez with that Fairest poster. The cover showcases Magneto reaching for Rogue in a field of flowers, it is just remarkable Mark Brooks deserves mad props for this one. But the real question was if the issue could hold water to the magnificent cover (comics rarely do). Since Rogue has returned to Earth from her boring previous storyline, she has been helping with the disaster relief from the Phoenix. During this rescue mission, she has to help a man escape from a bus accident. She does this with the help of Magneto, who shows up to help out as well. Things don’t exactly end in a fairy tale way but the ending is still touching as Rogue redeems herself, and she reminds me why X-Men Legacy should have Rogue as the main character. She is so interesting, with layers of depth and a heart of solid gold, regardless of being more confused than ever about what she is doing with it. So I guess I’m back to buying Legacy. Damn you, Marvel. -Nick Furious
And that wraps up another week! Let us know what you think about these books. Do you agree with our Bullets? Disagree? Now’s your chance to speak up! We have that comment section below for just that reason, you know.
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