It’s a mid-week gander at some of the upcoming comics this week, geeks and geekettes! This time out, we’re looking at the House of Ideas, and looking at some of their upcoming new premiere issues! We’re still in the comics business here at GodHatesGeeks, so let’s just get right to it and see what’s what!
Agents Of Atlas #1 branches off of Marvel’s latest, largest crossover event, the War of Realms, and, despite only tangentially knowing a handful of the characters involved…it was damned refreshing.
The first issue in the latest volume focuses on an international team of mostly pan-Asian superheroes (including Cindy Moon, and Amadeus Cho) as they clean up some of the remaining Fire Dragons that have wandered into our realm. They find themselves suspicious of Ngyuen, leader of the Pan Industries group that has opened up portals connecting several major cities throughout Asia; if the second half of the story is any clue, the AoA is going to have to stop an upcoming ancient battle.
Greg Pak does a great job balancing the various characters here (there are about two dozen speaking characters), and imbues each with their quirks and eccentricities, even if they only get a line or two in; he also does his best work with Cho, finally making interesting enough to be be viewed as the leader of a team, but still struggling with his self-doubt (truth be told, I hadn’t read any comic with Cho since he headlined the Totally Awesome Hulk…so maybe I missed a lot of further development between then and here?)
Carlo Pagulayan and Nico Leon‘s art is lively, and the action moved at a pace; I was less enamored with the story occupying the second half of the book — it seemed to come out of nowhere, and with less explanation as to who these characters (3D-Man; Venus; Marvel Boy; ….Gorrila-Man? Right?) are for me to engage with them; I suppose I’d have to had read the previous titles with them, but for some reason this half felt more like a lesser Justice League Dark entry. 3/5 Bibles.
Wow. Anyone reading random Marvel series’ from Hulk to Avengers to GOTG will have seen tremors and evidence leading up to this crossover series, but here is where Absolute Carnage kicks off in earnest, and here we may finally see the full and terrifying potential of Cletus Cassady as Carnage.
What started as kind of a stupid character (“What if Venom were more like the Joker and Hannibal Lecter? Wait…he kind of is already.” Tom DeFalco chomps on a cigar and thinks a second before saying: “Do it more hillbilly, and in red!”) – has grown to become a critical threat in a number of corners of Marvel’s various universes over the years, but was thought to be put down for good…. Enter an ancient symbiote god; a cult bent on resurrecting Cassady; and more Carnage than Spider-Man and Venom have ever faced before… yes folks, this is Absolute Carnage #1.
Donny Cates (Redneck, Babyteeth, Doctor Strange) has really swung for the fences in this, with the world-building and additions to the Venom/ Carnage mythos; but it all feels pretty natural and in keeping with the extended canon built up around what was originally just a weird black suit Spidey picked up in the first Secret Wars.
This is a long book — by newsstand issue standards, anyway – but it doesn’t feel 3 issues long, even with all the explanatory text and obligatory catch-up, and this is largely due to the pairing of Cates with the always visually exciting Ryan Stegman (Superior Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider), whose unique and cartoonish style deserves a place among the most iconic Spidey artists of all time (Ditko, Larsen, Bagley, MacFarlane, Romita Jr, etc), and who, admirably, does the pencils for the whole issue, with no fill-in artists or breakdown hand-offs. The able and talented JP Mayer (Blue Beetle, Superman, X-Men: Gold) lends a murky, gritty, and claustrophobic edge with his inks, and Frank Martin’s colours bleed red, black, and blue.
Maybe 25 years ago I remember collecting the first big Carnage crossover, Maximum Carnage. It was my first big crossover, and I had high hopes. It linked together Spidey and Venom with Morbius, Cap, Cloak and Dagger….. I wanna say Deathlok too? And it had them all fighting some Manson family-type team Carnage had put together with Shriek, Demogoblin, that eight-armed Spider-Man Doppelganger thing… I don’t know…
The point is, it was fucking stupid. This isn’t. Absolute Carnage looks to be both huge and wild, and should be worth following for at least most of the upcoming storm of related titles for the next few months. I haven’t said it since the 90’s, but make mine Marvel. 5/5 Resurrections.
I felt confidant going into Major X #000 that I would immediately understand everything that was going on. After all, a prequel to a series as new as Major X can’t have that much mythology to unpack, can it? Instead, within two pages, I felt like I’d just started playing a late-era BioWare game. All sorts of terms and titles were thrown my way to suggest a lore, but I didn’t have any context for them. (And way too many X-Puns for my taste, from the X-istence to the X-ential, it was all a little X-tra.) There was also the mention of a Cataclysm, hence my sudden “Anthem” flashback. What had I gotten myself into?
However, while you would be served to have read at least the first few proper issues (ie 1-6) of “Major X” before tackling Issue Zero, it isn’t a requirement. This issue isn’t actually a new tale at all, but rather the re-release of “Wolverine” #154 and #155 from 1988 with some “Major X” trimming on the front and back ends to re-contextualize those stories for the current character and plotline. If you’ve already read or currently have the original issues of those comics, there’s not much new to see here. This is the equivalent of the same movie you already own with some new extra features on it to entice a second buy. From that perspective, you can skim through the fresh material while waiting in line to buy a different title and still have time to check your phone.
However, if you aren’t familiar with Wolverine’s run-in with the Watchtower and their shadowy leader named (somewhat anticlimactically) The Administrator previously, the story does hold up well on its own merits. The ending that incorporates Major X into the proceedings also has a degree of shock value to it that feels earned and not pandering. Assuming you are not familiar with the original 1988 versions, I won’t spoil the story here but rest assured that both Wolverine and Deadpool are front and center and that’s likely to keep even the most casual fan entertained.
“Major X” creator (and the writer/penciler of the two “Wolverine” issues in question) Rob Liefeld’s typical excesses from both an art and writing style are on display here, giving this 2019 re-telling of a 1988 story-arc a distinctly 90s feel to it. Nobody actually talks like this and no physical form (mutant or not) looks like this, but that’s all part of the fun. Liefeld’s never been about photorealism or Shakespearean prose. He’s a blunt instrument in both word and illustration so, if you crave subtlety or subtext, you’ll need to look elsewhere. However, if you love Wolverine, Deadpool and the world they inhabit, or are nostalgic for the old 90s X-Men cartoon (which this feels like it would be in lockstep with), you could do a whole lot worse.
There’s concept art at the end of the issue, along with an interview with Liefeld about how “Major X” came to be and why he wanted to tie it into this particular story from his back catalog. If you’re a fan of the Major X character, this adds context even if he’s not around much. You’ll certainly never look at his sword the same way again. 3/5 Bibles.