I’ve always had a fondness for the Defenders. The team is always a colorful collection of characters, B-listers with more power than popularity, and the writers are generally willing to throw some pretty fascinating challenges at them. But because of the eccentricity of the book, it’s never been Marvel’s most popular team. Current Marvel golden boy Matt Fraction and a fantastic team of artists start trying to change that perception with the profoundly strange debut issue of The Defenders, a Fear Itself spin-off with a fantastic cast and a breakneck pace.
Boring introduction! I read 21 comics in September, and these were the best.
5. Green Lantern #46
Hey, Green Lantern is great again! We know Mahnke’s art is going to blow our minds, but Johns pulled his weight too, delivering the gore he’s so fond of. There was a lot of progression here, featuring a fight that’s been brewing for a long time. Sinestro and Mongul’s conclusion is not only drawn well, Johns gives each baddie a fun monologue, dripping with a bit of truth. Indeed, for a brief time, Johns made me believe that Mongul could actually win. Loud, bloody, and just the kind of cosmic fun that Johns wants you to have.
4. Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Size
It all ends. It was the worth the wait, but for Millar’s part of it, this issue played out exactly how you’d expect, which would’ve been a dull experience, except for the reason we’re all here: Steve McNiven. Just about every panel in here is iconic, ready to be framed on your wall. No matter what silly cliché Millar wrote, McNiven made it sing. However, the writing’s not all bad. This issue pays great tribute to Wolverine’s character as a whole, blending his Western and Eastern ways together. So, even on that corny, Lone Wolf & Cub-inspired last page, I smiled.
3. Detective Comics #857
Another conclusion, what can I say? Those are usually great issues. Alright, Rucka’s opening Batwoman arc hasn’t had as much substance as I’d like, but something we can all agree on is the talent of Williams. We haven’t seen Kate’s origin yet, but she’s already a fully-developed character, mostly due to Williams himself. That continues here, of course, as Williams gets to render some dazzling stunts, with Kate jumping from plane to plane, kicking her way to Alice. Speaking of Alice, this issue delivers a twist with her that I didn’t see coming at all, and it was telegraphed, even on the cover. The twist works, not only to shock us, but as a brilliant window into Kate’s past.
2. Dark Reign: The List – X-Men
I read most of these specials, and this is probably the only one that’s actually a one-shot. Fraction doesn’t conform. This isn’t about political nonsense or the status quo. Fraction gives us the simple tale of revenge, and it works very well. A great deal of that credit goes to Alan Davis. He makes this absurd, spandex-clad medium lyrical. Consider the scene at the end, with Namor, Osborn, and the Sentry. In Davis’ hands, this simple scene becomes a grand confrontation between legends. Superman and Luthor could easily replace Namor and Osborn, and Sentry’s inclusion is the icing on the cake.
1. Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus
I, like many of you, wasn’t very impressed with this crossover. Fraction’s characterizations were still superb, but the plot seemed to contain nothing but buildup. Well, that all culminated with Exodus, and what a culmination. The epic battle between teams is there, with almost every character utilized. Deals with the devil, an old New Avengers callback, and a new status quo makes this the most explosive comic of the month, and the best too.
I’m down, but not out!
Blackest Night #2
I was right there with Lebeau on the first issue, and you can find a bigger, better review of this issue from him. Johns definitely decreased the needless exposition this time around, but it’s not enough. This event is still moving at a dead snail’s pace. He spends too much time relishing in ghastly, deceased heroes terrorizing live ones. However, you can still find scenes to enjoy here, especially if you’re already fond of Johns’ particular brand of fun. Nightmarish sharks devouring Atlanteans here, a two-page, vertical splash of a resurrected Spectre there. The most impressive element of Blackest Night so far has been the images rendered by Ivan Reis. He’s officially a superstar.
The Boys #33
Why is John McCrea drawing this? Shouldn’t he be drawing Herogasm? I’m not complaining. Carlos Ezquerra’s art has been sloppy the last few issues, and while McCrea is no Darick Robertson, his work here, and especially on Herogasm, is more than satisfying. Although, he’s still not the right artist for the job. This is a dark, violent arc of The Boys, and McCrea’s images are too cartoony. Ennis’ writing, however, is still top-notch. This issue was a blast. Watching Butcher systematically take down the Boys-filtered Avengers was very entertaining. The fact that this arc is so action-heavy makes it all the more upsetting that Robertson is absent.
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5
It’s nice to have Hellboy back. The reason for the delay was Duncan Fegredo’s, and the wait paid off. I re-read the previous four installments before this one, and Fegredo’s work is simply stunning. The Wild Hunt has featured a fight in just about every issue. It makes each chapter stand on its own as an episodic action series. Fegredo draws the hell out of the battle scenes, while Mignola crafts a menacing threat for Hellboy in the background.
Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Off the heels of the biggest event in the Ultimate Universe’s history, at the start of a brand new status quo, is this issue exposition-heavy? @*&# NO!!! In true, Millar style, he kicks this series off in summer blockbuster fashion, featuring an extended fight scene, and a last-page shock to punch you in the face! As I mentioned with The Boys, if a comic is action-heavy, you have to provide pretty pictures. Well, Carlos Pacheco, in his glorious return to Marvel interiors, is just the man to provide such pictures. He handles all of the action, including some tricky helicopter scenes, with professional ease. Looking for pure, pop bliss? You got it!
The Walking Dead #64
Dale’s situation provides a wickedly funny beginning. Then we get a typical and sentimental revelation from Dale’s lover, Andrea. I say typical because we’ve seen a lot of it in The Walking Dead, but it is a natural reaction to grief, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that in this series. The rest of the issue is mostly spent planting seeds for future events that culminate in a tremendously badass moment for Rick. Another enjoyable issue, for sure, but this is mid-arc. So, it does suffer from the necessary plot-building.
Uncanny X-Men #514
We’re two issues away from this crossover’s conclusion, and I don’t think it’s the event anyone was really expecting. This isn’t mindless Dark Avenger-on-X-Men action. No, with Matt Fraction at the helm, we’re getting a highly developed and well thought-out story that presents realistic situations for these characters to deal with. The downside to all that is that we’ve had more set-up than payoff, but with an oversized, Mike Deodato-drawn conclusion in the near future, I’m sure we’ll get the carnage that we crave soon enough.
Wow! It’s already come and gone. I thought I’d just give my report on my experience. But don’t expect to see any pictures of fat, sweaty guys, dressed in 300 “costumes.” No, my Comic Con involved laughter, love, and chatting with the talent.
Nicola Scott’s Scandal Savage! Hey, it’s signed by Gail Simone too!
19 sketches in two days, for a total of 80 dollars. Not too bad, right? I think I did good.
And you have to get stuff signed!
Now, the only signature I need on my Sinestro Corps War hardcovers is Ivan Reis.
Green Lantern symbols provided by Geoff Johns.
And she put a Wonder Woman star over her “i”. How precious! Terry Dodson and Bernard Chang have pretty signatures too.
The war is on. Which artist will win?
So, I was standing in line for Jamal Igle at the DC Booth, when Greg Rucka shows up next to me! We talked. I said I was sad since I didn’t have anything for him to sign. He went into his magic bag and pulled that out. Sweet, huh?
So, there you have it, friends. I had a hell of a time, and you got to see my reward for fighting through the unkempt masses. Thanks for reading!
Writing: We’re two issues into Marvel’s only mega-crossover of the summer! And both issues are filled with setup? Yes, that’s right. Two issues and eight dollars later, Fraction is still moving the pieces into position. Fraction introduces the Dark X-Men in this issue, and there are two surprises in the lineup. The details of Norman and Emma’s deal occupy most of this issue’s page count, but Fraction does introduce two threats near the end.
Art: Terry Dodson’s art is most welcome after four issues of staring at Land’s models pose. Unfortunately, Dodson’s strongsuit is cheesecake and splash pages, and with all of the material that Fraction crams into this issue, there’s not much room for any of that. Emma Frost and Dagger look pretty though. Everything is drawn fine, but this issue just doesn’t contain the striking visuals that I know Terry Dodson is capable of.
Final Word: Fraction offers plenty of clever twists & turns that still feel realistic, but with so little actual action going on, this issue was a somewhat boring reading experience. I hope that once Fraction finally finishes setting things up, the payoff will be worth it.
I’ve read the entirety of Fraction’s X-Men run. We’re what, twelve issues in, right? And time after time, I have to talk about the same problems. Too many characters. Fraction has to service too many stories. And, when it’s his turn, Greg Land’s art. These problems probably won’t go away soon. They are a hindrance, but, damn it, Fraction still writes a good comic!
Sure, he stumbles here and there. The pacing is a bit uneven. Some people are frustrated with the Sisterhood’s plot, although, with that complaint, I disagree. Fraction, being a post-Grant Morrison X-Writer, has the benefit of seeing how to best handle X-Men continuity. Acknowledge it, but don’t let it damage your story. The Sisterhood’s plot is entertaining, relatively original, and ends with yet another addition to the X-Roster. Which is kind of a good thing, right? People do love the X-Men.
As for Land’s art, it’s a bit funny. Land is finally straying away from tracing. Oh, sure, a lot of the faces, particularly the women, look startlingly similar, and there are a few awkward poses here and there, but, for the most part, Land is getting more original. The problem? His original art doesn’t look very good. Now, it could be his inker, I suppose, but it’s still troubling. I hate to kick Land because everyone does, but I have to inform you of the book’s art quality, unfortunately for Land.
Despite the book’s problems, Fraction still keeps things creative and fun. I still love his character introductions. They’re entertaining and necessary. My favorite part of the issue is two pages of fighting that provides some rapid-fire comedy that parodies the idiotic comic-fight-banter. Even if the Sisterhood arc didn’t do anything for you , next issue will feature beautiful Yanick Paquette art and the awesome X-Club! And after that? The Uncanny X-Men/ Dark Avengers crossover completely handled by Fraction! That should be good.
Alright, I’m warming up to this book. It’s gotten increasingly better, and that annual was fantastic. I see what Fraction is trying to do, and while it’s not the best approach, his run has the potential to be pretty fun. For too long, the X-Men have been disconnected with the Marvel U and Fraction is trying to remedy that. Fraction’s also given them a goal: Preserving the race and offering sanctuary to all mutants, past and present. That’s cool. What I dislike, is that Fraction has to do so much damn juggling. He has to service the plots of so many other books that it interferes with his own storytelling. Fraction is also using Clairemont’s style, subplots a plenty. Colossus is dealing with his past. Beast and Angel are trying to save the mutant race. And Emma Frost is troubled by Dark Reign and the deterioration of her relationship. So, it’s almost like you’re getting three seven-page stories instead of a single adventure, highlighting one or two team members, which is what I prefer. Still, Uncanny X-Men is better than it’s been in years, and Terry Dodson’s art is always pretty to look at.
Uncanny X-Men #505 (***)
Do we really want this man writing the X-Men?
I think it’s official, Brubaker has left the building. Did Fracker break up? I don’t know, but that picture is awesome. And Tony was right. Anyway, I feel sorry for this book. It’s become Marvel’s answer to JLA. One of the terrible things about the current JLA is that the book has to keep servicing other books. It spends too much time talking about events that it can’t tell its own stories. That’s exactly what Uncanny X-Men is. This issue spends so much time talking about X-Force, and M-Day, and Astonishing X-Men and now Dark Reign. Fraction only gets a few pages to tell the stories he wants to tell, but it has little impact. It barely makes sense! The Dodson’s continue to impress and the fact that this book isn’t terrible demonstrates Fraction’s ability as a writer. Please Marvel, give the man some freedom!
Invincible Iron Man #8 (****1/2)
Everything about this book is perfect. Except the art of course, Larroca can’t draw people. I know I know it’s Iron Man, but this book is about the characters. It’s not about the iron. Although the few panels involving technology do look sweet. It’s still amazing how Fraction manages to write this cast so well. Tony, Maria and Pepper are so lovable even though they’re definitely human and flawed. You know what else is in this issue? Comedy! I’ve said a thousand times but I’ll say it again, if you liked the movie you’ll enjoy this. Last thing, Osborn is the new Skrull. It’s only been two weeks and already I realize how much I’ll type the name Osborn in the coming months.
Thor: God-Sized #1 (****)
The writing is great. The art is great. There are four art teams working on this thing and yet they’re all pretty cool. I enjoyed the part three artist the most. It was very old-school, cartoony, and fun. So this is a quality issue, but I’m sure a lot of you will ask, “What’s the point?” It’s a tribute. Along with the 38 new pages, you’ll also receive a reprint of the classic Thor #362. Walt Simonson had one of the best runs on Thor ever. It easily rivals the Lee/Kirby era. But you know what? You can’t even get a trade that contains Thor #362. They were reprinted in trades but they’re sold out now. That’s why this issue is important. If you haven’t read Walt’s run, it’ll let you know what you’re missing. If you have read his run, you’ll quickly be reminded how great it was. The reason why I loved part three so much was because you got to see all the classic Simonson costumes, Balder in his armor, Thor with his beard, and so on. Of course this issue isn’t all about Simonson, it’s also about Skurge. He was a tragic and important part of the Thor mythos. I highly recommend this issue.
These are books I dread. I have to buy them, but they usually suck!
Uncanny X-Men #504 (***1/2)
Bring on the women! Bring on Terry and Rachael Dodson! Oh yeah! But in all seriousness, has Brubaker left this book? Is this is the end of Fracker?! I thought I read that Fraction was going to write the first three with Land and then Brubaker was going to write the next three with Dodson and so on. Brubaker and Fraction were credited writers are those first three issues, but Brubaker isn’t on there at all anymore. And come to think of it, Brubaker hasn’t talked about this book has he? Fraction seems to be doing all the interviews. So does anyone know what’s going on? Anyway, how was this issue? Let me break it down:
The Crap: Stop trying to be so original and edgy! Now you’re trying to gradually break up Scott and Emma?! You are not Morrison! Yes, Morrison’s run was awesome but let’s move on X writers! I won’t say that Morrison’s run is untouchable, but you certainly aren’t going to surpass him by building on or copying his stuff! Can’t Uncanny just be a lot of fun and leave the seriousness to Astonishing and even X-Force?
The Awesome: So many pretty women. Fraction definitely knows who his artists are. Terry and Rachael are masters of the cheesecake. I loved Scott’s mind. I would think his head would be boring but it was really intriguing. That Dr. Nemesis dude was pretty cool. And I will admit that the finale was interesting. I actually do care about what comes next.
Punisher War Journal #25 (***1/2)
Wow this was actually good! Well, kind of. It finally has the Secret Invasion tag (It was absent last ish) which is funny because this one isn’t really about the Skrulls. Oh sure they’re there, but this story is really about Frank and Clarke. And I suppose that’s what Punisher War Journal was all about. With one issue left to go, we can finally realize that. Frank and Clarke hooked up in the first issue (I think) and they were buds. Then Frank killed Clarke’s girl due to that damn hate ray. So of course Clarke found out and amongst all the Skrull chaos this gets resolved, kind of. I did like this issue, but it’s a bit weird that probably the most important moment in the series takes place in a tie-in. Those new readers are going to be clueless. Anyway, this was a good issue that included emotionality, goofy Skrulls, and awesome sniper Skrulls. Even Chaykin did a good job, kind of. But that last page left a bad taste in my mouth. C’mon Fraction! One issue left! Make it good!
Ultimate Fantastic Four #58 (***)
My God…UFF is readable again. Is that possible? I’m sorry Mike Carey fans but his run was horrible. Pokaski has the unenviable task of picking up the pieces and apparently dealing with the death of the series. Does that surprise anyone? Is anyone even reading this book anymore? Anyway, this is actually an Ultimatum tie-in, but you don’t need to read it. It’s just about what’s going on with Thing and Invisible Woman while Reed does his thing. Oh and Dr. Storm is dead I guess but Johnny is missing. Again, does that surprise anyone? Bottom line, this is an average issue and this series is really just waiting for the abattoir. But I do want to make one thing clear, Pokaski is a good writer. He makes the most of what he has and it will be interesting to see what he will do when he isn’t forced to write tie-ins.
Daredevil #111 (****)
I surprisingly enjoyed this issue. I still think Brubaker’s run is overrated, but there’s a lot to love here. How cool is Dakota North? She’s prominently featured within these pages and it seems she’ll be in DD’s life for awhile. Looking through the issue, the thing I enjoyed most were the supporting characters. Iron Fist is in here and Bullseye is too. It’s just a flashback, but I miss Bullseye in Daredevil comics. I don’t think this new Lady Bullseye will be a good substitute, but she’s not as dreadful as she could be. This issue was very enjoyable and I hope Brubaker will keep it up. It seems like this will be an intriguing arc. Plus Dakota North is in here. Did I mention my Dakota North love?
Captain America #42 (****1/2)
Billy’s on the money with this one. In fact, I think he stole my thoughts, knocked me out, and then wrote his review first. I didn’t even realize this was the end of the arc until all the crazy stuff started happening. But really, Brubaker should have revealed a little more. It’s been 42 issues and we’re still in the dark. The sad part is I don’t think anything will be revealed anytime soon. At least Batroc will be in the next few issues. Any true Captain America fan knows that Batroc is Captain America’s true archenemy. I don’t care that Red Skull is a Nazi! I should read this series in trade, but sadly I’m too invested after 42 issues. Oh, something that will distinguish my review from Billy’s? I don’t like Bucky. Screw Bucky! Everyone else is cool, but to hell with him. The reason why this is in the “badass women” category is because of Sharon Carter and actually Sin too. Also, how cool are the villains in this book? You actually want them to win! Anyway, this was an awesome issue and if you’re not reading this series, pick it up in trade. If you are reading this series, stay strong.
WHAT A ### OF ### ### YOU, BRUBAKER AND FRACTION! I HOPE YOUR ### OF A MOTHER ### GETS ### AND ### DIES… and here’s why!
First, the new X-Mansion…
Hmm, ok. Looks… is stupid the right word?
Really? Just how exactly are you keeping this shit a secret? You already told the entire world where you live, stupid!
Built by whom? The actual US Military or independent contractors!? Have they all been cleared by “X-Security”? as if the US Military would allow your asses to build to “military spec”…
Beast? STFU with the Al Gore agenda! Go die, tree-hugging scum! I find it very hard to believe that the X-Men are concerned with global warming; it just boggles the mind that a group of walking atomic bombs are talking about saving the planet by going green. What about all the property damage you guys cause every time you suit up to fight the “bad guys”? You think that shit doesn’t increase the size of your carbon footprint exponentially? And don’t even get me started on how idiotic it is when super heroes choose a political affiliation. UGH!!!
Um, can I ask yet another question? Why do the writers feel the need to rub our noses in this shit? Yes, the X-Men have money, but here they come off like spoiled rich bastards. This is not a reasonable way for the writers to endear a fundamentally difficult to identify with group of characters with their readers. This is just plain insulting. I don’t envy them, I hate them. “Nice clubhouse, and also… fuck you.”
So, throughout the first few pages of this book, we are led to believe that the “new” X-Men are all about the Liberal agenda, but then as soon as they are confronted with something that personally offend them, they literally go wild shit crazy, demanding that said offensive material be removed from public display. Hmm, I thought the X-Men were always about tolerance.
Now, it occurs to me that perhaps Brubaker and Fraction are trying to cleverly point out the hypocrisy of these X-Men, or the inherent hypocrisy of anyone proclaiming to be utterly tolerant of his fellow man. Well, I’m not buying that, and I’ll explain why when we get closer to the end…
Oh, speaking of intolerance…
Yes, that is an X-Man saying that. Which X-Man is literally anyone’s guess seeing as how every single one that appears in this issue is written horribly out of character.
So, that crack about the wheelchair is offensive, but one of your team using the word “retard” is okay? Hello, Hypocrisy, I’d like you to meet Emma Frost and her friend, Scott Summers. Once more, we have a stunning example of the X-Men as “Role Models for Tolerance”.
…and back to my suggestion that Fraction and Brubaker are somehow trying to point out the X-Men’s hypocrisy? Yeah, not so much. In order for that to be true, the X-Men’s paranoia would have to have been shown as a gross overreaction. No, instead, the writers decide to prove them right. So, class, are you paying attention? It’s okay to destroy or deface “art” if you don’t agree with it. Got it? Sure, they put on a good show, after all, Magneto is attacking again… which in and of itself screams Dues ex Machina, seeing as how Magneto is supposed to be de-powered… and of course he needs to be put down by any means necessary, and if that means destroying some decommissioned Sentinels, which happen to be private property, so be it. “But, but, but, but we need him for the big issue 500 extravaganza!” Shut. Up. Cheap tricks, guys. Very, very cheap.
…sigh. Really? More on this so soon? PUSH THE AGENDA!!!
Yeah, I know, but I just couldn’t leave it out. I mean, I gave the “letting your freak flag” line a pass. What do you want, I’m human!
Shut up, pornstar-Storm. Although, the self-righteous thing is definitely a part of her character, so fine.
Angel takes out a Sentinel all by himself… NO.
As if you weren’t thinking of doing the same thing, Scott!!!
Magneto is dead-on here, and I’m hoping the writers have a plan to use this later. Maybe they really are trying to shame the X-Men? We’ll see.
Oh, great! You mean the sanctimonious X-Fascists are building an army to impose their pseudo-tolerant worldview? SWEET! Can’t wait to read more about the X-Men’s adventures in the Fourth Reich! I can totally see them changing the title of Young X-Men to “X-Youth” any day now.
(I kid, of course.)
I’m done now, I think. I said enough inflammatory things and maybe I should quit while I’m ahead (and perhaps I’m not even that). I leave you with this bit of nonsense:
New Avengers #43 (***): I know this event! Everybody seems to love these. If you’ve followed my reviews at all you’ll know I’m not too hip to them. This one was pretty good though. It’s still all a bit too simple and predictable for an event that should be startling and intricate, oh well. The art is fairly average with a few moments of excellence. There are some well staged action sequences in the beginning half of the book. We get some Skrully information in the second half. It isn’t anything mind blowing or even incredible, but it certainly isn’t bad. It’s entertaining.
Uncanny X-Men #500 (*****): What the heck is Manifest Destiny? I’m not usually big on covers but man these are pretty! I apologize for posting all of these but I love them! Terry Dodson, Michael Turner, and a wraparound by Alex Ross and another one by Greg Land? WOW! My favorite (and Matt Fraction’s) is the Terry Dodson one. The art is astounding inside the book as well. Land and Dodson are both doing the art inside. I was a bit intrigued as to how that was going to work out, and the way it does is some pages are done by Land and some are done by Dodson. Hopefully this will keep the book monthly by having two artists on it. Both of these artists, as many great artists are, usually aren’t monthly (especially Dodson). Enough gushing about the art! How is the writing? The writing on Uncanny has been a bit lackluster on Brubaker’s run, but thanks to Fraction this is a well-written book now. It’s exactly what an issue 500 and a great comic in general should be. It’s an amalgam of old and new comics that takes ideas we’ve seen before and gives them a new fresh twist. There are a few things in here that really got me excited and did I mention the art rules?
Ultimate X-Men #96 (****): This is a long March On Ultimatum! I’m still really liking Aron Coleite on this book. He’s really giving me my money’s worth. He packs so much into each issue. He doesn’t excel at it like Morrison, but then who is on Morrison’s level? Mark Brooks isn’t on this issue which is sad, but the art is still decent enough. I’m thoroughly enjoying this rollercoaster of an arc and I encourage all of you to give Ultimate X-Men another chance if you bailed on it during a few of those shaky arcs.