X-MEN v. INHUMANS / JUSTICE LEAGUE v. SUICIDE SQUAD / GAMORA / KLAUS / MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL [Reviews]: Fistful of Stocking Stuffers.
Ho, ho, ho, fellow geeks (and…ho, ho Channukah to our other interfaith believers?)! This is it, the last stretch before the holiday season reaches its apex and we can kick the dumpster fire that is 2016 to the curb! Until then, we’ve another week full of new releases; so throw a log on that fire, crack open another bourbon eggnog, and crank that Nat King Cole up another notch, and let’s see what Santa (or Krampus) is leaving for us this week…
Here we are again, with another Marvel big event pitting “heroes against heroes”…and honestly I had no interest in it. If it hadn’t been for Jeff Lemire (one of my favorites) being involved, I wouldn’t have given it a chance, even with a PDF review copy. Thankfully, the writing team up of Charles Soule (Uncanny Inhumans) and Lemire (Bloodshot Reborn) are handling the conflict by establishing what’s at stake for both sides before jumping into the thick of battle. They’re taking time to focus on what X-Men fans love most, which is the bickering dysfunctional family personalities of the crew. The last issue caught us up with everything that has happened since the Death of X and almost felt like the X-Men had no chance against the Inhumans. After losing one their established longtime leaders to Black Bolt, the X-Men barely had enough left just to take down just one of the Terrigen clouds that have been killing mutants and then making new Inhumans.
In this issue we receive the story through different viewpoints of the broken team. We see the mighty Beast, Hank McCoy, falter as he comes up short without a plan for taking out the remaining cloud, which keeps tensions high. But, when the overall impact of Emma’s precisely forged plan hits, it works perfectly — since we, the reader, have been anticipating it all along. See? That is the power to good writing! Since A-Force is no longer around, I’ll take Dazzler when I can get her, and she’s a warranted and welcomed inclusion in the issue. I’ve always felt that Magento–who continues to remind us of the death and anger he’s had to deal with in his lifetime–is one of the strongest mutant characters, and when written well he gives goosebumps. T
The greatest part in this issue for an X-Fan, however, is watching them work together: systematically taking out The Inhumans with hard hits, and the tactical planning for which they’re well-known. Again we’re shown why the X-Men are one of the greatest teams ever written: when they work together, they are capable of impossible things. Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and David Curiel definitely deliver on the artwork tip, too, reflecting the heavy story with the same intense linework. Hopefully the rotating artists coming in can keep up with the pace and quality they’ve set. Lifelong X-fans who felt slighted by the tragic Terrigen tale, in particular, are sure to enjoy this issue as the X-Men finally hit back. 4/5 Gifted Children.
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is exactly what it says on the tin: the Justice League finds out about Task Force X and decide to put a stop to it (after clutching their collective do-gooder pearls). As expected, Waller gives them orders to not get taken alive and a fight starts. Despite seeming like a standard crossover on the surface, The Flash‘s Joshua Williamson keeps the book from feeling formulaic. He captures the Squad’s team dynamic well, from their banter to their actions to the descriptions of their breath (i.e. Killer Croc’s smells like bad sushi). Most importantly, it feels like everyone has a legitimate reason to be there; aside from the whole bomb in the neck thing, no one feels unnecessary. Jason Fabok’s (Detective Comics) art is also a standout, with action sequences that feel almost movie-like. In fact, an earthquake occurs at one point– and even I felt a little shaky reading the panels. 4/5 Bibles.
Nicole Perlman did a great job of character development in this, but–confession time–I only know Gamora and Thanos through Marvel movies. The Guardians comics were way too obscure for me to even know of them when I was growing up. I finally understand why Thanos is feared, though, as he’s quite the manipulative force. Just a quick overview of the story: this is Gamora before she ran into Star-Lord, her beginning with Thanos. There’s already quite the amount of drama and deep dark secrets being revealed. At the same time, I already, disappointingly know what’s coming; I like mystery. On that note, the art by Marco Checcheto is your glossy, muted, standard for Marvel now. I am not a fan of the Gamora that looks like a sorority girl wearing an overnight anti-aging mask. Overall, decently written, but predictable story that at least gives us more insight to why Gamora is such a… stand-offish female alien. 3/5 Bibles.
Start off like this: what if Santa Claus was played by Chris Hemsworth and written by Grant Morrison (Multiversity, Final Crisis)? That picture you’re getting is more than likely, a bearded, badass rooted in a battle with twisted characters from Christmas lore; boy and does Dan Mora deliver on the visuals. Oh and Geppetto is in it too, yes the very same Geppetto that made Pinnochio. What!? It’s a lot to take in but then again what Grant Morrison book isn’t a bit convoluted? At the heart of it though it’s a story about forgiveness, believing and the power of positivity. It’s “A New Day”: Klaus and the Witch of Winter is a one and done story that is rife with Christmas spirit. 3/5 Bibles.
This is a title probably should’ve gotten into back before Civil War II, it seems, as the fallout for that crossover is setting up what is sure to be the first major story line in The Mighty Captain Marvel #0. We meet Carol Danvers coping with the aftermath of her confrontation with Iron Man (and several others): she’s in therapy, and overworked, and suffering from insomnia. There is an ongoing alien refugee crisis, and she’s just doing her best to not only make the world safe for humans, but also for our extraterrestrial visitors…and to keep herself busy enough to not have to face up to her own human failings. This is a tight story: giving a quick once-over of her backstory, as well as how she got her powers (a story with which I was not too familiar, so it was fortuitous that this title did not grind to a complete halt just to cover that well-tread ground).
Frankly, origin stories and the like are getting much too rote, and tend to bog down a story with expository set-up — especially in this new era of setting up future stories, tie-ins, and connections to what is now established in respective films. Just tell a good, concise, clear story; and the audience will follow wherever the characters will go if that first part is done well. Thankfully, this title does it well: tidying up the aftermath of the prior crossover, while having plenty of character moments. And, refreshingly, there isn’t a “big bad” or throw-down just yet: just simple character moments, and action beats. The art, however, has the same psuedo-workman-like vibe to it that feels reminiscent of early-2000 DC titles; could’ve used a bit more “umph”, but for what it is, it gets the story across just fine, I suppose. 3.75/5 Bibles.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER…
Does anyone remember Calvin and Hobbes? Spaceman Spiff? Anyone? Bueller? Ok, now that I’m done dating myself, let’s talk about what happens when the aforementioned characters hit high school. And realize their dad came back to life. Allegedly. From the Cancerverse. Because they share the same galactic power….
So now that I’ve given the plot of Nova #1 away, let’s do a little analysis, shall we? Major spoilers (I think) ahead. Sam Alexander—the newest heir to the Nova crown—may be out of the Avengers, but is definitely back in action. The opening pages show young master Alexander battling cosmic forces on behalf of Kurt Russell (aka Ego the living planet) then returning to high school to be as smooth with the ladies as any teen who dresses in spandex and a helmet…a helmet that can detect other Nova Corps helmets… like that of RICHARD RIDER!!! If you, faithful reader, cannot sense my obvious excitement about this character returning to the Marvel Universe, stop. Just…stop.
One of the best part about the narrative, and Jeff Loveness‘ (Groot, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) script, is the underlying connective tissue. The actions of Richard Rider cannot be overstated in terms of the overall Marvel Universe. However, most readers have likely come into contact with the Nova Corps through either the live-action Guardians of the Galaxy film or the animated Spider-Man series, which also featured Sam. Both, on the other hand, make no mention of Richard, the first Corpsman from Earth. Nova #1 takes into account both of these factors, yet retcons past storylines enough to make for an entirely satisfying new narrative. The structure shifts between characters flawlessly so that we readers become involved, despite or in spite of any knowledge we may be lacking (I.e. Cancerverse). Nevertheless, there are seeds of answers to the events left unknown, most of which come through in the art.
The art of Nova #1, by Ramon Perez (Hawkeye, Tale Of Sand) is as much of a chameleon as is the dialogue. Flitting between the narratives of Sam and Richard, a distinct style is present for each, giving visual markers for where the story is at any given point in time. Which is particularly good if you’re like me and reading this book on the way to Vegas. There is a clear, visually represented distinction between the mindsets of each character. Sam in high school has a different aesthetic than Richard back on Earth, which shows not only immense talent, but an understanding of the characters that is often lost. As a whole, the book fell a bit short; though time may prove otherwise, as there was too much time spent on extraneous circumstances that seemed to have little payoff. What was paid off seemed more allegory than statement, which may be a function of the plot devices, or it could mean nothing. Except for Richard possibly being Sam’s dad. That’s huge. 3/5 Cosmic Bibles.
The battle of good versus evil is always a theme that comics have at their core. Optimus Prime, of Transformers lore, is no different. Underneath the dynamic characters with amazing abilities usually lies plot lines with ties to a social issue of some sort. Optimus Prime (formerly known as Orion Pax) a police officer on the planet Cybertron is uncovering injustices on behalf of the ruling faction. This was 4-million years ago, before the war on their planet. It appeared that a robot was murdered for merely being a Decepticon on Cybertron. Prime is the investigating officer caught in the middle of an agitated population and law officials who would like to see the shooting deemed justified.
Fast forward to today: Prime is learning how to lead in a way not reminiscent of his predecessors. In Mexico City he is trying to get the aliens (i.e. humans) to accept a cohabitation of Earth, which the Transformers wish to keep peaceful. He pleas with the President of the United States to convine World leaders to have Earth join Cybertron’s Council of World’s, an intergalactic NATO if you will. Optimus Prime is haunted of the past. Did he do enough to thwart the deceptive practices employed by the leaders of Cybertron? Prime feels that more could have been done to prevent the war that destroyed his planet. The leader feels the lessons of the past must be applied to save Earth from his planet’s destiny. 3.75/5 Bibles.
Arrows, Bank Robberies and Cyber Stalking, oh my!!? In a book that is dripping with pop-culture goodness and all around bad-assery from the first page (yes, there is a Point Break homage; “heart eye emoji”; Kate Bishop has arrived and don’t call her “the other Hawkeye”), the former Young Avenger and Clint Barton bestie is on her own and seizing the West Coast. Kelly Thompson (Jem and the Holograms, Misfits) delivers the good-shooting Hawkeye into the Venice Beach scene to open her own detective/hero for hire agency.
This is a book you can absolutely fall into very hard and completely. The awesome art by Leonardo Romero (Squadron Supreme) is a fantastic blend of clean line work and minimal throwback that perfectly fits the vibe of the action and lends a bit of familiarity for any fans of the Fraction Hawkeye books, while still making it completely their own. Between the vibrant and fitting color by Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Deadly) bring the book to life, and it jumps off the page. In what appears to be the start of a limitless slew of possibilities, Kate foils a bank robbery only to be met with the hostilities of starting her own P.I. firm and also the drama that ensues with carrying the moniker. She’s off to the races when she has to solve her first case as a young college student is being maliciously stalked, harassed and tormented. Can Kate find the perp and crack the case? I’ll be waiting for number 2 with eager anticipation. 5/5 Dead Presidents.