We are well on our way through the first exciting month of 2013 and that means we’re going to have some exciting Bullet Reviews to share! This week we take a look at some of the first books released in ’13 and while there may be some our contributors weren’t that excited about, rest assured, there are some we absolutely loved!
FF #2 (Marvel NOW!)
As with Hawkeye, Matt Fraction is doing good things here. Okay, Mike and Laura Allred are doing good things here, but Fraction is giving them worthy material.
There’s a great fight scene with Mole Man and a giant monster (who knew “Nyargh” could translate into working class frustration?), where the Allreds use panel asides to give small, personal moments within the big fisticuffs. Even better is the downtime where Ant-Man tries to avoid a nervous breakdown, She-Hulk gives legal lectures, or Artie and Leech climb all over Darla Deering like the little kids they are.
The previous issue had poppier moments – Medusa forming a heart with her hair or Ant-Man’s protracted “No” breaking a feel-good hiring montage – but the Allreds show some much-needed warmth in this issue. Ant-Man’s constant, frowning eyes denote grief due to his deceased child, and Laura Allred’s Silver Age palette gives him a sheen of exhaustion. Normally, Fraction’s preening dialogue is grating, but the empathy lent by the Allreds’ Pop style trims it into something resembling humanity, even when they harken back to the satire of X-Statix with embarrassing headlines. With David Aja, Fraction made Hawkeye about class identity (Clint Barton being uncomfortable in every situation but those that are blue-collar); FF with the Allreds likewise concerns parental identity. The crisis facing Scott Lang and co. (each a different facet of adulthood) isn’t Mole Man, but whether they’re up for raising these kids. Both series use humor to expose human frailty in dramatic, yet objective ways, as demonstrated when Ant-Man fumbles explaining what “ex-con” means (even beginning the way a parent might explain sex). It’s a very Wes Anderson approach to superheroes, self-consciously quirky but not for its own sake. Never would’ve expected Fraction to bring such emotional honesty. -Andrew Taylor
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #15 (DC)
I have always been a fan of the Firestorm character from when he first appeared (to me, anyway) in the pages of Super Powers back in the 80s. I even picked up the action figure with the line of toys accompanying that brand, watching him go up against Darkseid and the like. Yes, I’ve had a certain fondness for Ronnie and Professor Stein for a long time, and was hoping that when this title came out it would include that original pairing. Alas, that was not to be, but I did like this new title and the merged identity that arose from multiple Firestorms. It was a twist on an old idea, and just enough of one that made this somewhat fresh in this new DCU. This issue in particular, though, took me back to my childhood as my favorite Firestorm story took place in DC Comics Presents #90 – the pairing of Superman, Firestorm, and Captain Atom. ‘Storm and Atom had powers that contradicted one another and actually caused problems, such as Atom needing to explode to fend off the energy. This issue of Fury has the first meeting in the New 52 of those 2 characters and with a similar outcome , again with Atom exploding and seemingly dead. What we do get here, though, is Atom’s energy exploding into the timestream, creating a character in Legion Lost… but more interesting is that this is the timestream that writer/artist Dan Jurgens expelled character Booster Gold into in JLI Annual #1. Could this be the start of something? I’m just speculating, but I certainly hope so. So, even though the story arc itself was not my favorite the last few issues, this story brought me much enjoyment and took me back to my childhood, and I am grateful for the creators for that moment. -Kelly Cassidy
GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #4 (IDW)
I’m really loving this series. And as much as I’m also enjoying the regular Godzilla book I think the fine folks working on it should be looking at what James Stokoe is doing on this title. It’s nothing short of perfect. Each issue has taken place in a different decade of Godzilla’s reign. We follow the story with one of the men who have been there, trying to stop the beast, since he first appeared in 1954. This issue brings us to the late 1980’s as Godzilla is still being baited into attacking cities by a man called Deverich who has created a device that calls the great beast like a moth to a flame. By now, though, he’s perfected his tech, in order to keep the people backing him from killing him, and it’s working to well. Not only does he draw Godzilla to the city of Bombay, but the frequency is beginning to draw monsters from outer space as well. As Godzilla is confronted by man’s newest weapon, Mecha Godzilla, everyone must try to survive the arrival of Space Godzilla! The space monster shows his dominance by quickly dispatching the Mech and begins to destroy the King of the Monsters. Ota, the man who’s been trying to kill Godzilla himself for over 30 years, finds himself in the position of being Godzilla’s savior now as he uses Mecha Godzilla to help Godzilla defeat the space monster. For him the decision to help Godzilla was easy, after all, you wouldn’t want a monster with the power to kill Godzilla running around Earth would you?
While the story is top of the line for Godzilla, the art is very distracting. Not in a bad way, no, each panel is so full of energy and life that it’s easy to fall into them and forget you have to keep reading. If anyone from IDW reads these reviews I beg you: WE MUST have a James Stokoe Godzilla poster! At least one or two! -Skott Jimenez
MORBIUS: THE LIVING VAMPIRE #1 (Marvel NOW!)
Honestly, I had little hope of liking this book. Not because it was Morbius, no, I like the character a lot. Back in the 90’s I collected the Midnight Sons family of books that included Morbius. His title was one of my favorites in that line. He’s always been a character that interested me, especially his origin of being a scientific vampire rather than a traditional one. But even the fact that I really like the character doesn’t deny my thought that I really don’t think he can support his own ongoing series. But, I love to support my favorite characters, especially since my faves are generally out of the Marvel Mainstream, so I grabbed the first issue.
I really liked the cover. It shows Classic Morbius, the way I love and remember the character, and after seeing it I thought maybe I was wrong and this book might be alright. Then I read it. I’m sorry, no disrespect to the creative team but I have to wonder if they were even familiar with the character. Morbius is now younger looking, no doubt to interest the Twilight fans, but his origin is horribly changed. Before he contracted the blood disease that was killing him and he experimented on himself and eventually became the living vampire by using the blood of vampire bats. Now, suddenly, he’s had this disorder since he was a child and it somehow made his bones brittle. He also has a life long friend who felt guilty over a childhood accident so he swore to find a cure for Morbius. Bottom line, in my opinion, the new origin sucks.
I normally don’t like doing a straight bad review for a book but there really wasn’t anything in this issue I liked other than the cover. The changes in his origin and look have made him a character I no longer recognize and have no interest in. Another Marvel NOW! book I’m dropping at the first issue. -Skott Jimenez
NEW AVENGERS #1 (Marvel NOW)
Well, another Marvel NOW! book that was less than it could have been. At first I had the hardest time reading this because we seemed to have been dropped right into the middle of a story and nothing made sense. Then I realized it was written by Jonathan Hickman who has made a name for himself writing full stories instead of short ones that are easily followed. The problem here is, when you begin a story, it helps to let the reader have some understand of what’s going on. I found myself putting the book down numerous times because I couldn’t follow the story and, a result, I didn’t care. I know Hickman has a large fanbase and I respect that. I’m not part of it. While I love his enthusiasm for creating far-reaching stories, I also love being able to understand some of what’s happening from the get go. I don’t think you should have to be 5 issues into a series before things start making sense. I had the same problem when he wrote Fantastic Four a few years back. So, for fans of Hickman’s work, I’m sure you’re going to have an amazing story once it’s done, but being this is the first issue of a new series I think there should me more sense made of things. Confusing readers from the get go isn’t the best way to bring them back.
I’ll be looking in on this series though, there are hints of a certain Devourer showing up, which was the only thing that made sense, although why he’s involved doesn’t make any sense. -Skott Jimenez
PUNISHER: NIGHTMARE (Marvel)
I harped for some time on the mini-series that Marvel put out last year, Space Punisher, as being a dirty little secret comic. And it was, and it was amazingly well done. It could have been a train wreck, but it wasn’t. It’s an example of what a well thought-out story of Frank Castle can be and this new miniseries, Nightmare, is another. There are 2 main characters in this story: Frank, as expected, and Jake Niman. Jake is put into the story because of what happens to him: on a casual day out with his family, Jake watches his wife and daughter get gunned down in a drive-by shooting and this hits Frank where it hurts the most: his heart. This was his story many years ago. He says it best himself: “I’m the monster that stops monsters.” And that’s what makes this story interesting. Writer Scott Gimple (one of the writers of The Walking Dead TV series) captures the pain of Frank as he sees how easy it can be for another man to become like him… and he wants to stop that at any cost. Mark Texeira (from Space Punisher) returns on pencils and it’s a great piece of work from him – switching back and forth from Frank to Jake, from the War Journal to Jake’s flashbacks of military service in the Special Forces… 2 personas who are so alike but still so different. Texeira’s art is complemented by Frank D’armata’s colors, which give the story a whole new dimension I was not expecting. This is the first issue of 5, being released weekly, so I know one title I will be picking up for the next 4 weeks! -Kelly Cassidy
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel)
Of the entire Ultimate line, this is by-far the best of the lot. The others are bogged down in politics, a mutant reservation, and so much going on from all directions that it seems like the universe is the worst place to ever be. But this title takes it back to the basics: one kid, trying to survive with super-powers, and live up to a legacy. Peter Parker had to live with the murder of his uncle and found responsibility there. Miles Morales is living in a world that is much darker than Peter’s, but using Peter as his inspiration to rise above it all (yes, from McFarlane’s legendary Spider-Man #1 – the quote was needed, I think). Although there’s not a ton of action in this issue, it’s for the best – we have Miles seeing his dad in a new light after how he took on Hydra; we have Jameson taking a stance against the police, indicating that even if he did know who this new Spider-Man was he would never print it out of respect for Peter Parker; and we have the escape and return of Venom. Brian Bendis continues on his Spider-Man run, which I think he’s been doing in the Ultimate universe longer than his Avengers run. I’m hoping he alludes to a lot of other content in the Ultimate U, but keeps Miles’ stories somewhat segregated. It would be nice to see another teenager dealing with his powers and learning and growing vs. the downer of a universe that the rest of the Ultimate U has. I will say this – if someone dies in the Ultimate universe they stay dead… But it’s still nice to see things from an eyes-open character instead of a hardened soldier or a persecuted species. -Kelly Cassidy