ALL NEW X-MEN / HARLEY’S LITTLE BLACK BOOK / TOTALLY AWESOME HULK / ROBIN WARS / SPIDEY [Reviews]: Double-Dipping Reviews!
Good Monday, fellow congregants! I hope the ongoing holiday onslaught holds up for a bit longer; while we take a look at some of the new titles to add to Santa’s list!
We’ve got a whole slew of new titles to go over, and a double review from your very own “Traveling Nerd”. We’ve got what is being called the “Best New Title of 2015,” as well as a few new looks at some old familiar faces.
UPDATED on Wednesday, December 9th:
- All New X-Men #1
- Harley’s Little Black Book #1
I’ve been a religious (pun intended) reader of just about every X Book since I was about 15 years old. I’m not gonna tell you how old I am, butjust know that spans a couple decades. In that time, there have been more reboots and #1’s then we’ve had US Presidents. Some were good, some were great, and some were just plain bad. The landscape has changed drastically, Professor X is dead and with him his dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants is all but forgotten. Magneto, one of the greatest X-men and one of their greatest villains is dead. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine are all head and being an X-man is more dangerous than ever before.
Dennis Hopeless (Spider-Woman, House of M) and penciler Mark Bagley of Amazing Spider-Man fame bring us the newest version of the All New X-Men, in which the 4 original members Cyclops, Jean Grey, Hank McCoy, and Ice-man have been plucked from the past to help save the their future and our present. If that doesn’t boggle your mind, stay tuned and welcome to the Uncanny world of the X-men. I’m not too familiar with Dennis Hopeless, but he seems to be able to tell a story pretty well. He’s got big shoes to fill with all the legends that have come before him. Bagley on the other hand is a legend in his own right and his line work looks better then ever. Bring it on boys, lets see where you take us. Issue #1 looks great and reads well.
3.75/5 Optic Blasts
Harley Quinn has had a busy year. She has battled various foes, gone on a road trip with her besties, teamed up with Power Girl, and headed to Hollywood for some fun and excitement (and a little bit of mayhem). This time around, Harley is determined to prove that she’s one of the good guys…by jetting off to England to save Wonder Woman. Of course, this is Harley we’re talking about, so things don’t go as planned.
With an appearence by the London Legion of Superheroes, Harley’s plan is foiled by the fact that Wonder Woman is…Wonder Woman. Harley’s playful yet insane tone is convayed in LBB #1, which makes sense, since Amanda Connor (Birds of Prey, Power Girl) and Jimmy Palmiotti (The Resistance, The Twilight Experience) are the voice of Ms. Quinn, and the visuals are spectacular as always. The only detracting factor is that, after all of the build up, there is very little Harley, Wonder Woman interaction. The buildup to such an unlikely team up leads to a very brief encounter, and you’re left wishing they had hung out longer. As the start of a series of meetups with some of DC’s finest, it’s a great start, leaving the reader anxious for her next encounter.
3.75/5 Golden Lassos
From the first mention of Tom King’s (Grayson, Omega Men) new project dealing with his time as a CIA operative, in Iraq, I knew it was going to be a must-read. King has far surpassed my expectations with this incredible whodunit mystery, based around his experiences. There are no blood filters, nor any kid boxing gloves, in this modern day dragnet thriller.
The story revolves around Chris Henry…or essentially Tom King…a Floridian police officer sent to Iraq to help train the new Iraqi police force. Immediately, Henry is met with the futility of an uphill battle: things come to a head when a suicide bomber clears out a mess hall, and Chris jumps at the chance to use his negotiations skills to defuse the situation. While in mid-conversation with the bomber, a US sniper ends the discussion.
Left to contemplate his place in this Eastern war field, Henry finds out that he is more of a marlin-out-of-water than he ever thought possible. Across this new Iraq, our second lead, Sofia, works on creating a new empire over the rubble of the old. Our final character is Nasir, a Saddam Hussein loyalist, whose children were killed by a US missile mishap. In King’s world, these are the inheritors of a new Iraq.
King’s story really starts to build foundation when he switches narrative to his two Iraqi natives. Both are simply trying to survive in this new foreign landscape. Sofia, Iraqi born but American schooled, is quiet and ruthless; and you can see that she plays this new game like an aspiring future kingpin. Nasir, on the other hand, is slowly starting to crack under the pain of losing his children. Once a ruthless left hand scourge of Hussein, he is now left to bloody his hands on his own. All three of these new characters exude depth, and they leave you in a hard place to judge them; based off of their past and current actions.
King is partnered up with the multi-talented Mitch Gerads (The Activity, The Punisher) for this 8 issue run, with Gerads not only illustrating a beautiful work of art; but also playing double duty with colors as well. The palette choice gives you the feeling that you are seeing a desert landscape straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. Gerads does an excellent job portraying the unnamed and never spoken final character: the sweltering desert heat. The same can be said about the gore and carnage portrayed, with seemingly violent realism. Both Mitch and King never shy away from the truth, in all its unease, inducing feelings of danger and/or voyeurism.
Another highlight of Gerads’ talent, is the phenomenal Iraqi cityscape. Very few artists in the current landscape could portray the crowded craziness of an early millennium war torn Iraq. Gerads has the eye of a talented cinematographer: panels switching between city level shots, to birds eye views of the cityscape; showing the research that Mitch has undergone to create authenticity.
A graphic novel, covering the early years of our war in Iraq could of gone in many different directions: Geo-political, religious, or pro-American. Thankfully, Sheriff of Baghdad, tells a story so truthful and open, that it makes you care and feel for each of the characters in new ways. The politics of this New Iraq in 2004 are only a backdrop to this modern day suspense detective story. Regardless of your feelings on the US in Iraq, this is a comic that tells a story made for the silver screen. Easily, this is the best book of 2015!
5/5 Peace Protestors agree!
At first glance, this concept seemed like a sad way to exploit the lack of Native American heroes in the current comicscape; while banking off of an enjoyable carry-over from Secret Wars by Marvel. Nathan Edmondson (Punisher) surprised though: with Red Wolf #1 set in the exact same world, Marvel left Red Wolf in after the end of Secret Wars – with it seeming to be more of an end to 1872, that slowly segues into the beginning of our new story here…
Using a new intellectual property and largely untouched resource, Marvel has an opportunity to take this Cheyenne warrior in many directions. Red Wolf seems poised to be an heroic loner, who champions the disenfranchised; someone that the masses most often relate to and admire. RW is feared and hated by the white man, due to the color of his skin and his religious beliefs…a character arc Marvel has explored to certain degrees in the past… Also, with the continued state of imperialism in the US and abroad, combined with the fact that Europeans committed genocide against the indigenous tribes of America when they arrived and colonized this country; isn’t the timing right for Stan and Co. to give Marvel’s first American Indian super hero, his own title again???
Edmondson starts our hero, in the town of, Timely, where we last saw him as Sheriff of this lawless and bigoted town. This allows all manor of prejudiced subtext and dialogue to impact our new hero; and this struggle shares similarities to those of Professor Xavier’s (or MLK, Jr., who the prof was based off of) dream of universal acceptance, regarding all of humanity. Though some of the interaction and lack of character development seems pushed or less than thought out, Nathan maintains a steady flow from beginning to end.
Like I said, if you view this more as an end to 1872 that starts to transition into Red Wolf #1, it is more fitting. By the end of this first issue, our hero is left more of a stranger-in-a-strange-land, than the new comic Old Man Logan; or even the original Captain America, after his stint, frozen in ice.
Red Wolf and Edmondson’s story strength rely heavily on Marvel vets Dalibor Talajic (New Avengers) and Jose Marzan Jr (Y the Last Man), who both play double duty bringing different feeling and illustrations to the image frames and their orientations. From an opening splash page, to tense showdowns over dusty landscapes, the artists excel at bringing an authenticity and organic feel to the book.
Marvel gets the most credit for bringing on graphic designer Jeffrey Veregge (G.I. JOE) to the team as a Native American consultant. Though not the same tribe as Red Rolf, having Jeffrey on board helps to bring an authenticity to the series and less of a western reimagining.
This is a good comic, and gives the feel of an indie vibe for issue number 1. Though not as adult as Jason Aaron’s Scalped, Red Wolf does do a good job of showing a hero-minus-spandex protecting a group of people who have been too often exploited. With only issue number one to go off, its hard to predict the lasting power of this new property. The team behind it is sound and their work deserves a read. This part Native American Traveling Nerd approves!!!
3.75/5 Bleeding Axe Wounds!!!
Marvel has introduced its titular green anger monster in the guise of, Amadeus Cho (the appointed seventh-smartest person on the planet), in Marvel’s The Totally Awesome Hulk #1; and, much like what I’d written about the new Amazing Spider-Man…something about the new format is irking me!
Writer Greg Pak (Planet Hulk, Incredible Hercules, Batman/Superman) has thrown us into quite the introduction, with Cho leaping into action; fighting off a double-headed giant turtle attack on a beach, before getting into what happened to former Hulk Bruce Banner. The exposition, thankfully, doesn’t bog down any of the action or story, and moves briskly. There’s enough backstory for even a novice Hulk reader (like myself) to be able to follow what’s going on and put the pieces together; and he adds a nice, flippant sense of humor to Cho, that adds deft touches throughout the story (like Spider-Man and She-Hulk’s cameos…although this marks maybe the third Spider-Man cameo in as many titles I’ve read).
Frank Cho’s art seems extremely utilitarian; as the current Marvel approach seems to be “all lean, sleek, smooth lines, all the time!” – which makes for easy reading, but the personalities of each title seem to blur together. That being said, Marvel’s current approach seems off-putting: every single one of these heroes is now part of a team. I suppose that makes crossover events that much more common, but whereas I’m used to the loner Spider-Man occasionally teaming up, or an outsider Hulk joining a team only when the shit hits the fan, here there’s an entire roster of supporting characters who not only constantly update the heroes, but who know their identity, struggles, and abilities. When every single one of their A-listers has the exact same set of technology, intelligence, and supporting cast, it loses its appeal, and quickly becomes rote.
I just finished reading the title about an hour ago and I’m pretty sure that, just thinking about it, I am confusing some panels of Totally Awesome Hulk with the new Amazing Spider-Man. And that’s fine, if that’s what you’re into; but for a casual reader just looking to jump into a good story with interesting characters to whom I can relate…well, hopefully somewhere down the line the technobabble and crossover events stop taking precedence over just telling a simple story. If Hulk is for you, enjoy this title. Maybe. Whatever. Later on…
3/5 Hulks Busted
Another month, another crossover event. DC’s Robin War kicks off right here; tying elements from recent Detective Comics, Robin, We Are Robin, Grayson, Red Hood, and the Court of Owls storylines into one plot. What does this all mean? The streets are awash with Robin-wannabes, and as as result, a law against Robins is brought into effect and carried out with ruthless efficiency. Add to this mixture almost all the Robins (WE’LL NEVER FORGET YOU, STEPHANIE BROWN) and the new Robo-Batman, and there’s all the makings of a fine story here. Scenes like Damian encountering Robo-Batman for the first time are neat, and the banter between Damien, Jason, and Tim…with Damien being his usual bitchy self…was particularly enjoyable.
This new crossover may not run as long as some of the others of late given that this core title is numbered issue 1 of 2 – and also due the limited scope of this evidently Gotham-centric storyline (this is all a plus, yes?) – but with this first issue Tom (“former CIA operative turned author”) King (Grayson, The Omega Men) and a group of different artists set us up for a crossover that promises to be full of action and intrigue and Robins and Owls and cool shit to keep us entertained whilst Batman is off being a god or whatever the hell they’ve done to him now. We’re giving this a rating of 4 out of 5 disciples, which is a coincidence because it only really features 4 out of the 5 Robins; New 52 be damned.
4 out of 5 Disciples
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…back in the olden days of the ’90s. It was back then that I was introduced to Spider-Man, and instantly became a fan. Then the cartoon made me a super-fan, and the comics made me a fanatic.
I’ve seen/read the early parts of Spidey’s hero life a million times. Sometimes it’s dry and boring, sometimes, its as awesome as the first time. This is one of those awesome times. While I’m not a huge fan of the style chosen for the artwork, it’s still great art. I think my main issue with it is the simplicity of the details in the background of the panels. Artist Nick Bradshaw’s (Wolverine and the X-Men) foreground art looks awesome and all the coloring is excellent. The story flows well and the writing is exceptional. Writer Robbie Thompson (Silk) captures the feel of the early Dtiko/Lee Spider-Man fairly well. He definitely captured Spidey’s wit without sounding cheesy or outdated. Although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this exact scenario play out in a cartoon at some point, reading it still kept me interested and excited for the next page, which means they’ve done their job very well. Bravo.