BOOK of DEATH / HAIL HYDRA / SIEGE / MERCURY HEAT / ANT-MAN [Reviews]: As hot as the surface of Mercury!

Hello, hello there, fellow geeks and geekettes. We’ve still got this heat to deal with, but while you’re keeping cool and maybe taking a dip in the pool, we’re out here working our butts off making sure you’ve got the best updates in the comic world…and we wouldn’t want it any other way!

In this week’s edition of the Sunday Night Stash, we’ve got another great stack of titles from Marvel, Valiant, IDW, Avatar Press and Dark Horse this week, and great reviewers to write about them as well. It’s an eclectic mix, but let’s see if there’s something out here to pique your interest…

BOOK OF DEATH #1 – Valiant Comics
"Saint" Patrick Obloy @OffTheGeekEnd
“Saint” Patrick Obloy

Valiant has had a bumpy road since its beginnings in 1989, but in the past few years they have really brought themselves back to the forefront of comics. With revivals of the badass Bloodshot and Ninjak running alongside existing awesome characters such as X-O-Manowar, Valiant is now presenting an epic short series to bring all their heroes together, in a fight for their lives and their world.

Book of Death #1 kicks things off this week, and is followed by four individual side stories each focusing on one hero in the Valiant Universe. At first, Book of Death feels familiar, like a Valiant version of AvX; but the more you read, it is clear that this is something different and unique to Valiant. Where Avengers vs. X-Men was more of a civil war battle royale based around one mutant, Book of Death is a sort of “Heroes vs Evil” story, centered around a Geomancer who can foresee future events and wants to help prevent upcoming atrocities. However she is not alone, as another Geomancer — a mystic from a long line — also exists and intends to fullfill the apocalyptic prophecy.

Tarantino has some bad ass comics, too.
Tarantino has some bad ass comics, too.

Valiant executes this first issue amazingly and has made this reader anxious to check out the next issue. With artwork by Robert Gill (Armor Hunters: Harbinger) and Doug Braithwaite (Punisher: MAX; The Brave And The Bold) and writing by Robert Venditti (The Surrogates), Valiant has a hit on their hands. This is definitely one to check out, whether in individual comic form or in the eventual trade paperback. And don’t forget the individual side stories of Book of Death, starting this week with Bloodshot. 4.5/5 Bibles of Death.

HAIL HYDRA #1 - Marvel Comics
HAIL HYDRA #1 – Marvel Comics
"Heirophant" Luke @LUKEPOISONER
“Heirophant” Luke

Marvel’s Secret Wars event rolls ever onwards, this time showing us the section of Battleworld where Arnim Zola and Hydra have always reigned supreme. However, there’s a new spanner in the works of this gigantic fascist machine: Nomad! Arriving from from yet another alternate reality of the collapsed multiverse, via the “Infinite Elevator”, is Ian Rogers; the estranged son of Arnim Zola, but raised from childhood by that universe’s Steve Rogers.

With me so far?

Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force; Uncanny Avengers) crafts a frightening fascist dystopia where, like many parts of Battleworld, the heroes seem to have already lost. It’s bleak and macabre, but familiar within the genre of the alternate history, with nothing particularly shocking. It could get more interesting, but it all felt a little perfunctory. What saves the book somewhat is the gritty art of Roland Boschi (Winter Soldier; Ghost Rider) that raises the book from mediocre to good; with thick lines and angular framing reminiscent of Carlos Ezquerra but with certain panels that almost evoke John Romita Jr’s square-jawed style. The real shame of this is that Arnim Zola is in charge, and he’s not all that interesting. Diabolical, sure – but imagine if Impossible Man ran Hydra. That’s all I’m saying. 3/5 Prodigal Sons.

Richard "Bishop" Zom @eyebzombie
Richard “Bishop” Zom
MERCURY HEAT #1 – Avatar Press

Nothing like a whole bunch of storyline confusion with a new comicbook. Story written by Kieron Gillen (Journey Into Mystery, Phonogram), I had a hard time understanding what was going on for this female hero/intergalactic cop. The comic starts off like she’s a astronaut at a space station on Mercury, a total vibe of Starship Troopers meets the the art style of Mass Effect with a little Dead Space thrown in. From what I gather, she’s a special classification of human stationed at this outpost to be a representative of law enforcement.

By making some pedestrians uncomfortable, and unnerved from her being a bad ass, she’s out here on Mercury handling a form of undercover/bounty hunter/catch-the-law-breaker’s police work. It’s pretty cool to see her rock some cybernetic performance enhancement armor to help slam up suspects with strength/agility augmentation. Ultimately, though, Mercury Heat has potential as a sci-fi comic, but needs better structuring as the story unfolds. I’m hoping it finds salvation rather than becoming forgotten space junk in the vast void of the ever-growing comic book world. Its saving grace so far is the vibrant art by Omar Francia (Legends Of The Dark KnightArrow) and amazing color work of Digikore Studios. I’m rooting for a The Shield (TV series)/Robocop (Movie) intensity in space. Here’s hoping…stay tuned. 3.5/5 Test Tubes of Mercury.

"Sister" Sarah G @DarthHistory
“Sister” Sarah G
DEATH HEAD#1 – Dark Horse Comics

A couple go backpacking in the woods then get lost because the man (oh so predictably) won’t ask for directions. Wandering aimlessly in an attempt to get back to familiar ground, the couple stumbles upon an abandoned town – and the horrifying secrets it hides beneath its rotting skin. Sound familiar? If you like horror movies, it should – it’s the basic premise of so many…and it’s the story that kicks off Dark Horse’s Death Head #1.

Written by Zach and Nick Keller (best known for the web series “Dick Figures”) Death Head opens like a traditional horror story, and the familiarity its plot breeds makes for an enjoyable read. Two other storylines are introduced within the first issue: a young boy tormented by schoolyard bullies, and a teenage girl rebelling against the form and function of the religious school she is forced to attend. By the end of issue #1, the three storylines are distinct, with nothing to connect them, but as the story progresses in future issues that will be resolved. The final pages of the book reveal that our couple made it out of the woods but asked what they brought with them – and I for one want to find out. Art wise, there is nothing new or innovative going on within its pages; but for fans of horror comics, or horror in any form, Death Head is a solid book that promises to draw the reader deeper into the story as it progresses. 4.25/5 Chilling Bibles.

Battleworld Seige #1 --- Marvel Comics
"Dangerous Disciple" Danny Witt @Noway
“Dangerous Disciple” Danny Witt

I was tired of BattleWorld. Seriously. Maybe I’m old. Maybe I’m set in my ways and this whole darn shooting match is just too different, too far of a cry from the established canon at Marvel for me to even latch on. Sure it was innovative and it’s always cool to reimagine things, but what’s the endgame? I could never find myself genuinely giving a shit about these new titles…until I met BattleWorld’s Abigail Brand.

As essentially the Nick Fury of this new universe, Ms. Brand fights to protect the entire world on The Shield- a massive wall that encompasses all of BattleWorld. The safety of every one of BattleWorld’s inhabitants rests on her shoulders, as every single day those with a mind for destruction and carnage test the fences and see if they can get through to the other side. A fine start by scribe Kieron Gillen (Legends Of The Dark Knight), Filipe Andrade’s (Rocket Raccoon; Figment; Captain Marvel) pencils aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but it does fit the tone well, of a last outpost on the fringes, cut off from civilization. If you’re looking for a reason to care about BattleWorld, Siege #1 is a great find. 4.5/5 Bibles.

"Dynast" Dana Keels @hatandwand
“Dynast” Dana Keels

Few Monsters can stand the test of time as well as the King of Monsters. In this new series from IDW, Godzilla finds himself in Hell, in case you couldn’t tell by the title. That’s pretty much all the plot you need to know, seeing as how there’s absolutely zero dialogue and the book banks on its images as a purely visual tale. Hell, and all the monstrosities it brings with it, come to life beautifully thanks to the art by James Stokoe (Godzilla: Half Century War) also the books scribe. Once again, the book is extremely light on plot, and has more in common with a classic Samurai Jack episode or Heavy Metal album cover, if anything. And the result is nothing less than stellar. It may take you less than a minute to get through the book, but as soon as you’re done you’ll want to take that plunge into hell again and again thanks to the beautifully nightmarish visions of hell. 4.5/5 Silent Bibles.

"Cardinal" Roberto de Bexar @RobBex2
“Cardinal” Roberto de Bexar @RobBex2
Ant-Man Annual #1 --- Marvel Comics
ANT-MAN ANNUAL #1 – Marvel

Ant-Man Annual #1 is 1/3 flashback, 1/3 establishing story and 1/3 set-up story for a new Giant-Man (since it seems that Hank Pym is missing yet again). Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Bedlam, Ant-Man) does a good job connecting the Ant-Man, both past and present, while gearing us up for another newcomer in the form of Raz Malhotra. There are a few “tender moments” between Scott Lang and his predecessor, Hank Pym, and Janet van Dyne (i.e. the Wasp). He brings a dry wit to the Wasp that is usually reserved for Spider-Man, but unlike Spidey where everyone gets tired of his jokes quick, Spencer allowed for Lang’s jokes to land on semi-appreciative ears.

We are also treated to two very good artists in Brent Schoonover (the upcoming Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.), drawing the flashbacks, and Ramon Rosanas (Night of the Living Deadpool) drawing the present day. Both artists have more positives than negatives. The only compliant I would have with both styles of art is that at times the faces look fat. That’s it. They both have great story-telling styles, a la Alan Davis. It’s a fun book with some very, very funny interactions between Lang and his cohorts at the beginning of the book (which includes a throwback joke that all geeks should get and laugh at) and between Lang and Pym. Ant-Man Annual does its job in making me curious to read the rest of the series. If you have an extra few bucks, I would say pick it up and read it– the character Machinesmith alone almost makes it worth the pick up. 3/5 Tiny Bibles.

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