Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Funny Pages

Hey gang. It's gonna be a little mix of last weeks books and this weeks books for this round of reviews.

Guardians of the Galaxy 1

Okay so this is the first issue. For real this time. Seriously. Ignore the 0.1 issue that came out last month. Well don't ignore it, but don't think of that as the first issue. This is the first issue. Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven bring us the real first issue of Guardians of the Galaxy an it's kind of just meh.
Star-lord Peter Quill is back from the Cancerverse. How? Don't know. They really don't say. Other than a quick mention in the first few pages that Quill fought Thanos, the Annihilation mini isn't really touched upon. Now Star-lord is on a mission to protect earth from his father and a coalition of alien races that have declared that earth is off limits and on its own. A move that apparently puts earth in prime position to be invaded. Star-lord gathers up the old gang, consisting of Gammora, Drax, Groot, and my personal fave Rocket Raccoon. Oh Iron Man is there too. Why? Cross polination would be my best guess. Together they’re going to keep earth safe from the dangers of Aliens like the Badoon, or Thanos, or any other number of Jim Starlin era space based baddie. It's an interesting idea and I'm curious to see here Bendis takes it, but it doesn't strike the same resonance as the last volume of Guardian. Gone is the slightly wacky feel to the book, such as Cosmo the telepathic Russian space dog. Also gone is Star-lord’s kick ass costume. Replaced by a rather simple costume that doesn't have the same umph as the prior masked almost WWI German suit.
Bendis-speak is in full swing here. It tends to stick out like a sore thumb amongst this cast. In all honestly I feel that Bendis isn't suited for this type of story. He's a ground level writer. He can’t seem to make the big concept work in most cases.  Even when he was on Avengers his best stories tended to be a little more down to earth.
Steve McNiven’s art is passable. He's not delivering his worst like in the mini-series Nemesis he did with Mark Millar, but he isn't delivering his A game art like Civil War (coincidentally also with Mark Millar).
Marvel is pushing their cosmic titles in a big way. With a Guardians of the Galaxy movie coming out next year I see why they're pushing a more mainstream version of the book. That would be all right for the casual reader. But for those who have been with Guardians of the Galaxy or the characters involved for a while, it does fall a little short.


East of West 1

Is it a western? Is it science fiction? Is it a story about the apocalypse? Yes. Yes it is. This is an alternate history tale with cowboys, indians, chairman Mao, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta bring their genre bending tale of the Horseman Death as he cuts a bloody path across an America unlike we’ve ever seen.
With this issue Hickman is really laying out the world which the story takes place. But in typical Hickman fashion he isn't exactly laying all his cards on the table. The story opens with three of the four horsemen waking as children, short their fellow rider Death. The story then skips to some exposition about a very different United States and a very different civil war. Jump again to the missing Death in a very different form as his brethren. A cowboy clad all in white aiming to kill the president of the United States.
Nick Dragotta shows a very different side of his art compared to his most recent FF work. Jumping from epic vistas and landscapes, to very brutal but intimate moment of the white rider. His work seems to be a lot more polished here. Not that his FF run was bad in anyway but the art seems to be a little tighter than previously.
Hickman’s work tends to be head trippy and not for a casual reader. Pax Romana, Red Mass for Mars, even his Fantastic Four run is an investment in time but always works out and is worth the read.


All New X-Men 10

When All New X-Men was announced I (along with a lot of other X-fans) had some concerns. It had some major strikes against it. Brian Michael Bendis’s Avengers  had become somewhat stale. He had done too many Avengers titles for too long, and later issues had really shown that the joy was gone. I didn't really want to see that brought to an X book. The title was spinning out of the somewhat mediocre Avengers vs. X-Men. I was also nervous this new X-Men book was going to affect Jason Aaron’s fantastic Wolverine and the X-Men. But what worried me the most about All New X-Men was the overall premise. Modern day Beast goes back in time and brings the original teenage X-Men back to the future (and yes there have been several references to the movie over the series). But Bendis surprised me. He surprised the hell out of me.
He took what could have been an awful mess of a book and made it work. As I stated earlier with Guardians of the Galaxy, Bendis works on a street level with his characters. He doesn't do well with the big concept stories. But he nailed it in All New X-Men.
This issue focuses on Mystique, Sabertooth, and the newly freed from prison Lady Mastermind robbing a bank truck. Bendis is building to a major showdown between Mystique’s crew and the original 5 heroes. And when it goes down it'll be good. Meanwhile over at The Jean Grey School modern Cyclops shows up to try to recruit from Wolverine’s school. The exchange between sides does get a little Bendis-y dialogue wise but doesn't get too hampered. We get an interesting exchange between young and old Cyclops. And we are left with a cliffhanger that has left me curious in a way that I haven't felt about a next issue in a long while.
Now Stuart Immonen. Oh my god on a scooter Stuart Immonen. This man is one of the best artists working in the industry. His art in this issue is phenomenal. He had a short break with David Marquez capably filling in. But man is it good to see him back in these pages.
I absolutely love Wolverine and the X-Men and didn't want All New X-Men to come along and futz Wolverine’s title up. Thankfully both titles work well off each other. Toss in Bendis’ sister book Uncanny X-Men and the X Universe is in the best shape it's been in years.


Abe Sapien Dark and Terrible 1

For an Abe Sapien book there is surprisingly little Abe Sapien in this book. This book goes a long way to introduce the reader to where we are in the Hellboy/BPRD Universe. Recapping the problems plaguing the Earth. What's happened to Abe to bring us to this point. This may be an attempt to draw in a new reader but with a lot of BPRD books or various titles within the  Hellboy universe but they may end up feeling like their drowning in information. There's a lot to know with these comics. They are all tied to each other. It can be argued that Hellboy continuity is as vast and extensive as say the Star Wars universe.
Abe Sapien is somewhat of a fan favorite but unfortunately I'm not one of them. I've never liked him as much as I have the ironically down to earth Hellboy, or the impressionable Roger the Homunculus, or even the ghostly Johann Krauss. This first issue doesn't do much to change that. Even in recent months where Abe has changed and evolved and there is a mystery as to why, I find myself not all that concerned.
The writers Mike Mignola, and Scott Allie, as well as artist Simon Fiumara do a capable job. The book isn't bad. It's just nothing really remarkable. And where the Hellboy universe is right now they need to do more than just kind of coast. This being the first issue in a new ongoing they are obviously going to be moving to something big but to grab you and keep you they need to make more of an impact coming out of the gate.


~ Nick

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