Archer and Armstrong / Superior Iron Man / Capt. America and the Mighty Avengers / Deep State / The Kitchen
Alright, fellow parishioners! This week in our comics reviews we have a whole slew of Number Ones, some with new faces. Some with old faces. And some with new faces in old roles. Got it? Got it. From superhero shenanigans to the dirty, mean streets, this week has got something for everyone, no doubt. Let’s get to it and see which of these government-agency, mob-wife-enforcers, EXTREMIS-suit-wearing comics is worth your hard-earned time and money!
Archer and Armstrong: The 1% is a rarity – a Valiant comic I’m not over the moon about, an Archer and Armstrong book no less. Well, therein lies the first problem: Archer and Armstrong don’t feature in this one shot, with the focus instead being a coup d’état within the secretive 1% Sect, one of the many clandestine cult-like orders that secretly run the world. Readers of Archer and Armstrong (and maybe Harbinger) will know what I’m talking about, but there is seemingly little here to recommend to new readers. Ray Fawkes (Batman Eternal, Justice League Dark) tells an adequate tale, met with clear and bold artwork from Joe Eisma (Morning Glories) and Ulises Arreola (Green Arrow, Batgirl); but there just isn’t the usual wild spark of creativity Valiant has been bringing to basically every title. Events in this one-shot foreshadow a new threat for Archer and Armstrong, perhaps even the Valiant universe itself, but from this beginning it is hard to get to excited about it right now.
1.5/5 Moneylenders Thrown Out Of The Temple
Iron Man was never my favorite Marvel character. Robert Downey Jr. was never my favorite actor. But, somehow, putting the two together changed everything. Ever since Matt Fraction’s historic 5-year run on Invincible Iron Man, Tony Stark has been more Downey than his Tom Selleck-hokie-stuntman of previous years; he’s come close to overriding Spider-Man in terms of popularity (those recent movies certainly don’t help); and he – no matter what they tell us about good ol’ Cap – has appeared as THE LEADER of The Avengers since Day 1. He’s Marvel’s happier Batman. Hell, he’s now Superior.
Yup. The Asshole is Back.
Despite being one of Hollywood’s good guys, this is the role Downey was destined to play, and this is the role we’re likely to see come Captain America 3. What makes Iron Man so Superior in this ongoing by Tom Taylor (Injustice: Gods Among Men) isn’t the sardonic humor of Doc Ock. No, that spark, twinkle and swagger is still dripping off Tony more than ever before. This Superior Iron Man flat out just looks cool. The newest, silver suave Extremis feels far more persuasive thanks to Yildiray Cinar (Fury of Firestorm), who proves that – at least in this comic – image is everything.
As for the rest of New Golden Gate Stark, he’s just a prick. There’s not too much depth or exposition for his latest motivation for this one, and you’ll become especially lost as to why if you aren’t reading AXIS. It’s more like “I’m Iron Man. You should also listen to my trying to be hip!” In most cases, that certainly would be enough to justify following his recent spurn of whiskey-laden behavior. But with Superior, we’re only looking up to ol’ Shellhead for his showmanship — not his faulty, ‘stache-twirling Google analytics.
3.25/5 Skimpy Bathing Suits
Taking place after the events of AXIS #3, we see the ramifications of the mini-series now moving through the other issues and nowhere do we see our heroes acting more out of character than in Al Ewing’s Captain America and the Mighty Avengers.
We were promised that, during the events of AXIS, our heroes and villains would be acting strangely and Al Ewing (Mighty Avengers, Loki: Agent of Asgard) does a fantastic job of making me seriously not like characters I’ve grown to really like. He used the surrounding cast just to show how much of a change has occurred with certain characters and even brought real humanity to the B-villains, too. At one point, Ewing actually has you cheering for these B-level bad guys and jeering against the title character and, just as in Marvel’s Hobogoblin series, you are left there waiting for the other shoe to drop; however, in this series the shoe hasn’t dropped yet. I don’t even know if the other foot has been lifted, but when it does I would be willing to bet money that Jason Quantrell (a new character) will be behind that foot being put into motion. I can honestly say that I have never read Ewing’s work before, but I would like to go back and read his other work now.
On the flip side is Luke Ross (Gen13, Dark Avengers)behind the pencils. His work reminded me of a cross between Bryan Hitch and Steve Epting and that is not, by any means, a bad comparison. It’s actually a great comparison. He brings a healthy dose of realism to the art. I read the book a few times to make sure I didn’t miss anything in the artwork and it was well-worth it. It was fantastic. I am extremely interested where this series goes.
4/5 Shields being slung
Deep State #1, is an exciting introduction to a familiar and similar kind of world that we’ve seen before in works such as Men In Black, Warehouse 13, and The X-Files. What could devolve into rote and familiar (and cliché) territory instead skips the exposition and jumps right into an investigation of a mysterious, returned Soviet space capsule form the 1960’s.
The main characters, the gruff and older Agent Harrow, and the young, energetic, newbie Ms. Branch, are a sly twist on the “mentor/surrogate” dynamic, simply due to the change in gender. Ms. Branch is a fiery, energetic young woman, jumping into action without really thinking, as well as being a capable, smart investigator. Harrow, on the other hand, is much the veteran agent (for what agency, we don’t find out yet). Justin Jordan (Green Lantern: New Guardians) packs a lot into the story, rewriting the history of the Space Race, as well as teasing the history of whatever agency Branch and Harrow find themselves working for. He gives just enough detail to allow the story to make sense, but at such a fun pace one can never get distracted from the story. Ariela Kristantina (Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy) creates a very unique look: rough and sketched, very much looking drawn with obvious pencil lines, and a deep, rich color palette. She also has a very dynamic eye for action and motion.
Although the final page (a big splash layout) resembles something out of The Venture Brothers, that is no way an insult: the comic looks and reads great. This is a fun, exciting read, and it is worth delving into the world of Deep State.
5/5 Mysterious Soviet Cosmonaut Capsules
The Kitchen #1 – written by Ollie Masters (Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman), with art by Ming Doyle (Adventures Of Superman) – reads and feels like it should be the feel-good-comedy of the year, but it’s really the opposite of that. This issue introduces Kathy, Raven, and Angie, three housewives whose husbands were once mobsters but are now jailbirds.
The focus is on Kathy, as she convinces the other wives that they should now be “collecting” for their men and keeping the business going. Very quickly, Kathy becomes a ruthless machine who will let no one stand in her way. To be honest, it felt very “Desperate Mob Wives of the Jersey Shore”.
This series could very easily be turned into an HBO series or Lifetime Original Movie; if that happens, I would probably watch it because I love strong, take-charge female leads. As a comic though, it falls a little flat. Thankfully, there are only 8 issues to this story arc.
2/5 Cooks in the Kitchen