Top 5 Best Comics of July 2009!

June was a quick month, but July? July took forever, in a good way. Extremely eventful month for me. Hope you all had fun. Anyway, I read 22 comics in July, and these were the best. Oh, and, sorry, I haven’t written proper reviews for some of these because I was at Comic Con.

 

5. Secret Warriors #6

This ended a little more conventionally than I would’ve hoped, but it’s still a fitting conclusion to Hickman’s first arc. The characters are clearly defined, and, so, we actually care how this big battle plays out. Throughout this arc, this issue included, we’ve been treated to several twists & turns that really elevates this material. This is Hickman’s first foray into the world of super-heroics and he’s already delivered the Nick Fury series we’ve all been waiting for.

4. Detective Comics #855

Only two issues in and Rucka & Williams are collaborating brilliantly. The art services the story and vice versa. What we’re left with is one gorgeous, kick-ass comic! The only problem is that we still don’t have much connection with Kate, but, with this issue and the last, we’re getting glimpses of Kate’s origins. So, until that story is eventually told, we might as well enjoy the beautiful ride.

Seventh Soldier’s Review

3. Invincible #64

Well, essentially, this was just a gory, knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. However, since we’ve had over sixty issues with Mark & friends, there was a large amount of emotion in this fight, both for the characters and the reader. And, credit to Kirkman, this was a pretty fun fight.

2. Ultimatum #5

I probably have a “Why Ultimatum Works” article in me somewhere, but I won’t write it. There’s no point. People are extremely prejudiced when it comes to Loeb’s recent work, and if I were to write such an article, it would be met with outcries about how stupid I am. Ultimatum was a necessary evil. The Ultimate Universe had grown too dull, too watered down, too similar to 616. If you aren’t going to give the Universe a proper reboot, presenting an Ultimate Universe in the style of Morrison’s Marvel Boy, isn’t this the next best thing? Oh, sure, it reminds us of the issue of Radioactive Man when he and Fallout Boy get killed on every page, but have we ever seen anything like this before? The tragedy is quick and brutal. The genuine shocks are plentiful. And, really, this comic is packed with the imaginative stunts that couldn’t be seen in a movie. Whether you love it or hate it, Ultimatum #5 one of the most memorable comics in years.

1. Batman and Robin #2

In two issues, Morrison has established a new Batman, a new Robin, new villains, even a new, more colorful Gotham, and he’s done so with professional ease. You’ll find no lengthy exposition here, just fresh and exciting adventure. And, of course, Morrison’s longtime collaborator, Frank Quitely, has helped tremendously in breathing new life into this franchise. His style is already radically different from what you saw in All Star Superman. It’s looser and more energetic, which has helped in rendering some incredible fight scenes in this second issue. This is one of the most likable comics on the stands, and the best comic in July.

My Review

That’s my list. What’s yours? Oh, and let’s keep that Ultimatum feedback to a minimum, shall we?

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #133

Oh, lord. I do love this series. I really do, but man, the last few issues have not been the best, and it all, unfortunately, culminates in this terrible issue. Ok, it’s not really terrible, but it’s frustrating.

“This is a SILENT issue.”

That’s on this book’s first page, as if it’s to save Marvel’s ass when the fans try to get their money back for a wordless, four-dollar issue. Yeah. Four dollars. Regular length. Wordless. Kind of pisses you off, huh?

Having said all that, this issue isn’t a train wreck, thanks to the talent of Stuart Immonen. I’ve never been his biggest supporter on this book. Yes, I liked Bagley. No, I don’t think Immonen is a bad artist. In fact, his work on Nextwave was exceptional. Anyway, even fans who didn’t appreciate Immonen’s art on this book can marvel at this issue’s beauty. Immonen does a stellar job, and he was indeed a fine replacement for Mark Bagley.

So, this was a decent issue. It’s not bad, but damn it, why pay four dollars for a wordless comic, when you could pay three dollars for a well-written comic with gorgeous art?

Grade: C-

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Ultimatum #4

Why am I even reviewing this? You already know if you want to read this or not, right? Either you’re reading it and hopefully having fun, or you dropped it after the first issue, and then you took that first issue, lit it on fire, and threw it at someone you didn’t like. I didn’t get arrested for throwing a flaming comic; so that makes me one of the ones who is reading and enjoying this series.

Is it great? Hell no! In fact, there’s even a line in here that is borderline racist. Nick Fury actually talks about how much he loves Roscoe’s. Yeah. That’s a little messed up. But you better believe that this issue included more death, more shocks, and more of that lovely David Finch art that takes ever so long to produce. Although, to be fair, Finch just had a kid. So, maybe that is what’s slowing him down.

If you’re one of the few who is waiting for the trade, let me clue you in on what this series is. Something terrible has happened to the entire world. Absolutely devastating. And, quite literally, every issue is packed with the deaths of ultimate versions of the characters you love. I’ve even heard this comic compared to a snuff film. Now, does that mean Loeb doesn’t care about the heroes? Maybe. Or, did he have to discard these characters to further deviate the Ultimate U from 616? Quite possibly, as well. And, really, if you had to get rid of everything that came before, this is a fun and unexpected way to do it. It’s kind of like, “What if heroes faced logic?” Something happens to Angel in this issue and, considering Angel is just a human with wings, it’s completely realistic. So, enter at your own peril, trade-waiters. If you’re open-minded enough, looking for a good time, you should have it.

Grade: B-

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #132

Ultimate Spider-Man #132

This is the part where most reviewers would whine about how mean, old Jeph Loeb is making this comic late with his poopy-pants Ultimatum. Well, I’m not most reviewers. I’m better, and more humble. Actually, why was this comic delayed? It doesn’t really spoil anything from Ultimatum #3. It’s just kind of doing its own thing. And we already knew that the Dark Dimension was spilling into the Ultimate U from the last issue, and Fantastic Four if I remember correctly. Anyway, this book was very late.

Did the wait pay off? Not really. Like all of the Ultimatum issues of USM, this issue only inches forward the plot. What makes up the bulk of this comic? Splash pages! Immonen showing off! I like Immonen, loved his Nextwave art, actually, but he’s not really the guy who provides glorious splash-pages, except in Nextwave. Go read Nextwave! The other ingredient mixed in, is traditional Bendis Spider-Man. All hell has broken loose, and Spidey is in the middle of it. That’s new, right?

Sorry, this was a good issue, but just barely. There were a few moments that made me smile, and I think the best moment, both in writing and art, is the creative reimagining of the opening pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. We also get a little more background on Ultimate Dr. Strange, which, if he lives, is kind of interesting. This isn’t any sort of jumping-on point, and if you’re already a USM fan, you’ll be happy. But for those who are reading this just because it’s an Ultimatum tie-in: This series does have better to offer. Go read the first trade. This series can be a lot of fun.

Oh, and that cover is awesome. That event kind of occurs in the issue, but it’s brief, and it felt a bit forced.

Grade: C+

For more comic goodness, go here.

July 2009 Solicitations

Wow! This July will apparently be the best month for comics ever! Check it out!

REBORN #1 (of 5)
Written by ED BRUBAKER
Penciled by BRYAN HITCH
50/50 Covers by BRYAN HITCH & ALEX ROSS
Variant Cover by JOHN CASSADAY
Solicit to be revealed soon
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Is Steve Rogers coming back? That seems too obvious, but then again, Marvel and DC aren’t usually subtle about these things.

UNCANNY X-MEN #513
Written by MATT FRACTION
Pencils & Cover by TERRY DODSON
Variant Cover by SIMONE BIANCHI
“UTOPIA: CHAPTER 2”
WHO ARE THE DARK X-MEN? He has his own Avengers team and now Norman Osborn has his own X-Men team. The other shoe has finally dropped and Emma Frost has betrayed Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men. And that’s just one of the huge surprises in “UTOPIA”.  Is that Namor? Cloak and Dagger? Professor X?!  The thing that you aren’t ready for is that Osborn is right.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

DARK AVENGERS #7
Written by MATT FRACTION
Pencils & Cover by MIKE DEODATO
Variant Cover by SIMONE BIANCHI
“UTOPIA: Chapter 3”
The DARK AVENGERS/UNCANNY X-MEN crossover continues!
San Francisco teeters on the brink of absolute chaos and the X-Men keep getting in the way of Norman’s vision of law and order.  So Norman takes his game to the next level: who are the DARK X-MEN?  And will Norman’s Avengers play nice with Norman’s X-Men?  Here’s a hint: no.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Ok, so it may not be the most exciting Marvel summer event, but it is the first crossover helmed by Matt Fraction, one of my favorite writers. And it appears that the whole thing will be written by Matt Fraction himself. No Bendis here!

CAPTAIN AMERICA #601
Written by ED BRUBAKER
Pencils and Cover by GENE COLAN
70th Anniversary Variant by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
*Black & White Variant Also Available!
A special double-sized issue featuring art by the legendary Gene Colan! Bucky and Nick Fury uncover a lost tale from Cap and Bucky’s days in WW2 – a tale of horror and war and brothers-in-arms.
48 PGS./Rated A …$3.99

Again, not a big event, but Gentleman Gene Colan returns! That’s cool, right? And, though the book does cost 3.99, it’s double-sized. So, that’s also cool, right?

 

INCREDIBLE HULK #600
Written by JEPH LOEB
Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
Cover by ALEX ROSS
50/50 Variant Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
Variant Cover by TIM SALE
WHO IS THE RED HULK?! 
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN IS GOING TO TRY AND FIND OUT! 
GREEN HULK!  RED HULK!  SPIDEY!  SECRETS REVEALED!
A STORY SO BIG IT CAN BARELY BE CONTAINED IN THE INCREDIBLE 600TH ISSUE OF HULK!  ALL THIS AND A STARTLING SURPRISE ENDING TO TOP ALL THE OTHER SHOCKING SURPRISES THIS HULK BOOK IS KNOWN FOR!
The chart-topping team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness bring you a 600th-issue celebration guest starring your friendly Neighborhood Web-Head as the original Incredible series returns!  Plus, back-up story by Fred Van Lente featuring the Savage She-Hulk! And representing the first issue of the Loeb/Sale HULK: GRAY series,
104 PGS./38 All-New Pages & Reprints/Rated A …$4.99

Will we actually find out who Rulk is? I’m guessing it’s this dude.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600
Written by DAN SLOTT, STAN LEE & THE REST OF SPIDEY’S WEB-HEADS
Pencils by JOHN ROMITA JR., MARCOS MARTIN, MARIO ALBERTI & MORE!
50/50 Wraparound Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.
50/50 Cover by ALEX ROSS
Variant Cover by JOHN ROMITA SR.
Wraparound Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
The greatest Marvel super hero of all celebrates his 600th issue with the biggest all-original issue of Amazing Spider-Man EVER! This one’s got it all! The return of Doctor Octopus, Daredevil, a wedding you never predicted, and the return of one of the most important people in Peter Parker’s life in a giant-sized lead story by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr.  Doc’s back in town, but it’s only a prelude to darker days ahead as Spidey unknowingly prepares for a gauntlet he can’t even see coming.
On top of all that, witness the return of one of Spider-man’s creators, Smilin’ Stan Lee (along with Masticatin’ Marcos Martin) as he presents a story of unbridled passion, drama and angst as Spidey reflects over his many, many years of adventures.
But that ain’t all…as the rest of the Spidey Web-Heads bring you several short features showcasing some rarely explored aspects of both Spidey and Pete’s life, drawn by some of the greatest artists in comics. Plus, several other surprises and NO REPRINTS! 104 pages of goodness brought to you by some of the best creators that have ever worked on Spidey!
104 PGS./All-New/Rated A …$4.99

Yes, Marvel renumbers to get your money.

ULTIMATUM #5 (of 5)
Written by JEPH LOEB
Pencils & Cover by DAVID FINCH
Variant Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
Sketch Variant by ED MCGUINNESS
Gatefold Variant by DAVID FINCH
Fallen Heroes Variant by OLIVIER COIPEL
Is this what the end of the world looks like? You better believe it!!

As only Emmy & Eisner award-winning writer Jeph Loeb and superstar artist David Finch can deliver, it’s an apocalyptic conclusion where every, and we mean EVERY, score is settled! The Ultimate heroes have faced their final judgment…and when the dust settles will they be found wanting? If you can handle the growing body count, stick around as ALL is answered in this explosive series finale that will shock fans for years to come!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Yes, it was solicited back in May. Yes, a lot of people hate it. But it is a big event. Will it finally conclude?

BLACKEST NIGHT #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert
Variant cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Sketch variant cover by Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis raise the dead in the most anticipated comics story of the year! Throughout the decades, death has plagued the DC Universe and taken the lives of heroes and villains alike. But to what end? As the War of Light rages on, the prophecy of the Blackest Night descends upon us, with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps at the center of it all.
Don’t miss this 8-issue epic taking the DCU beyond the grave!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with three covers. For every 25 copies of the Standard Edition (with a cover by Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert), retailers may order one copy of the Variant Edition (with a cover by Ethan Van Sciver). For every 250 copies of the Standard Edition, retailers may order one copy of the Sketch Variant Edition (with a cover by Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert). Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale July 15 • 1 of 8 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Really, it’s the biggest event of this summer. My only problem so far is that Arthur Curry appears to be among the dead. But he came back in Final Crisis, damn it!

 

 

GREEN LANTERN #43
Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy
Variant cover by Rodolfo Migliari
The official prologue to BLACKEST NIGHT starts here as the first Black Lantern is born! Black Hand has been an enemy of Hal Jordan since Hal’s early days as a Green Lantern. But even Black Hand is unaware of the true power he holds that will connect him to the Blackest Night! Discover this villain’s connection to death and the Black Lantern Corps!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. For every 25 copies of the Standard Edition (with a cover by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy), retailers may order one copy of the Variant Edition (with a cover by Rodolfo Migliari). Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale July 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

GREEN LANTERN #44
Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy
Variant cover by Rodolfo Migliari
“Blackest Night” continues! As Hal Jordan and Barry Allen investigate a bizarre crime in Gotham City, they come face to face with one of their oldest allies – J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter! But their old friend is not there for reunions; he’s come for much more. Meanwhile, Sinestro seeks to rebuild his army and take his revenge on the being who would usurp it – Mongul!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. For every 25 copies of the Standard Edition (with a cover by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy), retailers may order one copy of the Variant Edition (with a cover by Rodolfo Migliari). Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale July 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Doug Mahnke, one of my favorite artists, has found a home at Green Lantern, one of my favorite comics!

BATMAN AND ROBIN #2
Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by Frank Quitely
Variant cover by Andy Kubert
“Batman Reborn” continues with the reteaming of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, WE3, New X-Men)! In a blazing Gotham City police department, the new Batman and Robin face the bizarre, fighting freakshow that is the Circus of Strange and find that they don’t make as good a team as Batman had hoped! Meanwhile, the mysterious Sasha escapes from Professor Pyg and vows vengeance on the people who killed her father.
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. For every 25 copies of the Standard Edition (with a cover by Frank Quitely), retailers may order one copy of the Variant Edition (with a cover by Andy Kubert). Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale July 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Yeah, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are just about the best creative team in comics. This will be AWESOME!

DETECTIVE COMICS #855
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by JH Williams III; co-feature art by Cully Hamner
Cover by JH Williams III
“Elegy” part 2 of 4 by Greg Rucka and JH Williams III! Batwoman captures her enemy, a madwoman known only as Alice who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable extras – including Kate! But when the tables are turned, Batwoman finds herself in a hallucination slamming the present into a collision with the past, and the hints of a threat that will claim the lives of every man, woman and child in Gotham City.
And in the all-new co-feature starring the Question, Montoya’s quest to find a missing young girl turns deadly.
On sale July 29 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Greg Rucka+Batwoman+Renee Montoya+JH Williams III+Dave Stewart+Cully Hammer=BUY THIS BOOK!

THE FLASH: REBIRTH #4
Written by Geoff Johns
Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver
Barry Allen left a legacy that thrived after his death. Now his return threatens it all. What secrets does Barry hold inside him about the fate of the Flash Family? What destiny awaits Wally and his twins? What murderous force targets Bart Allen? And what does it truly mean to be a speedster?
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. For every 25 copies of the Standard Edition (with a cover by Ethan Van Sciver), retailers may order one copy of the Variant Edition (with a cover by Ethan Van Sciver). Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale July 22 • 4 of 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I wasn’t too impressed with the first issue, but this is probably the best Sciver has ever looked. And hey, I do love Barry Allen.

WEDNESDAY COMICS #1-4
In July, DC Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition with WEDNESDAY COMICS, a new, weekly 12-issue series by some of the greatest names in comics today!
WEDNESDAY COMICS is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28” x 20” tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14” x 20” page.
Spearheaded by DCU Editorial Art Director Mark Chiarello, whose past editing credits include BATMAN BLACK & WHITE, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER and SOLO, each page of WEDNESDAY COMICS spotlights the continuing adventures of DC heroes, including:

  • BATMAN, WEDNESDAY COMICS’ weekly cover feature, by the Eisner Award-winning 100 BULLETS team of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso
  • ADAM STRANGE, by writer/artist Paul Pope (BATMAN: YEAR 100)
  • METAMORPHO, written by New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman with art by Eisner Award-winner Michael Allred (Madman)
  • THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN, written by Walter Simonson (Thor, MANHUNTER) with art by famed DC cover artist Brian Stelfreeze
  • DEADMAN, written by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck, art by Dave Bullock
  • KAMANDI, written by Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS) with art by Ryan Sook (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL)
  • SUPERMAN, written by John Arcudi (The Mask) with art by Lee Bermejo (JOKER)
  • WONDER WOMAN, written and illustrated by Ben Caldwell (Dare Detectives)
  • GREEN LANTERN, written by Kurt Busiek (TRINITY, ASTRO CITY) with art by Joe Quiñones (TEEN TITANS GO!)
  • TEEN TITANS, written by Eddie Berganza with art by Sean Galloway
  • SUPERGIRL, written by Jimmy Palmiotti (JONAH HEX) with art by Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL)
  • HAWKMAN, written and illustrated by Kyle Baker (PLASTIC MAN, Special Forces)
  • SGT. ROCK, written by Adam Kubert (SUPERMAN: LAST SON), ilustrated by legendary comics artist Joe Kubert
  • THE FLASH, written by Karl Kerschl (TEEN TITANS YEAR ONE, THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE) and Brenden Fletcher, illustrated by Karl Kerschl
  • METAL MEN, written by Dan DiDio with art by Ian Churchill (SUPERGIRL)

WEDNESDAY COMICS will arrive in stores folded twice to 7” x 10”, with the first issue set to reach stores on July 8.
Issue #1 on sale July 8; Issue #2 on sale July 15; Issue #3 on sale July 22; Issue #4 on sale July 29 • 1-4 of 12 • 7” x 10”, 16 pg, FC, $3.99 US

This is original, and it feature’s some of the medium’s top creators. It’s fantastic!

So, comics in July will kick ass! From Marvel: The likely return of Steve Rogers, a Dark Avengers/X-Men crossover, the end of Ultimatum, and renumbering up the ass. From DC: Wednesday Comics, Flash: Rebirth, Blackest Night, and some phenomenal Batman books. Will DC finally beat Marvel this year? Or at least in July? Maybe?

Review: Ultimate Fantastic Four #60

Ultimate Fantastic Four #60

(**)

Listen to this song while you read my review. And so, another title bites the dust. That seems to occur more and more in these harsh economic times, but when it comes to this title, I have to say, it’s well-deserved. This series hasn’t been enjoyable since Millar left, and that was almost three years ago. Oh sure, some of the stories weren’t terrible and I enjoyed Mark Brooks’ art (He only rendered a few issues), but let’s face it, no disrespect, but Mike Carey drowned this series long before Jeph Loeb did. Why did I stick around? Because I made the foolish mistake of declaring myself as an Ultimate completionist. Completionism, no matter how cool it may appear, is a bad thing.

So how was this sad conclusion to an overall poor series? Well, nothing concluded, does that answer your question? Quesada has chosen to show no respect, even when cancelling the books, to Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four. In addition to Ultimatum, you have to follow the FF’s “death” in a requiem one-shot as well. Oh joy! Logically, I’d say that it’d be best to not waste my money on the last issue of UXM and the two following requiems, but alas, there’s no logic in completionism.

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #130

 Ultimate Spider-Man #130

(**)

I love Ultimate Spider-Man. I’ve been with the series through all the ups and downs. Sadly, this issue belongs in the latter category. This is basically a retelling of events that occurred several months ago. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another tie-in go to such extreme lengths to actually recreate the main event. Dialogue and shots from Ultimatum #1 are literally copied. Remember this? You’ll see that same shot in this book. This all makes for a weird and uninteresting issue.

Though Bendis tries to make the dialogue and narrative entertaining, there are only two ways I can imagine someone enjoying this comic. Either they haven’t read Ultimatum #1, or they despise Finch’s art. I don’t belong in either of those categories. Oh well, this was the catch-up issue for fans who aren’t reading Ultimatum. It looks like we’ll have at least three more tie-ins to deal with. Hopefully those will be better. Although USM #133 promises the final issue of the series, so maybe things won’t get better.

Review: Ultimate X-Men #99 – Spoilers!

Ultimate X-Men #99

(**)

I don’t know what to make of this. This series ends next issue. What is its coup de grace? Unnecessary Ultimatum crap! Seriously, this stuff doesn’t mean anything! Hell, they couldn’t even get the death count right last issue (They forgot to mention Beast’s second death)! Having said all that, I’m a sad panda. Coleite only had four issues of freedom and you know what? They were good. He could have had a terrific run on this series. I mean, Ultimate X-Men hasn’t been great, but I enjoyed it. Oh well, I guess my wallet is happy. So for you Ultimatum completionists out there, let me spoil things to save you money.

-Stryker causes havoc (The word not the mutant).

-Sabretooth, Juggernaut, Rogue and Wraith (Guardian, Vindicator, whatever) arrive to save the day.

-Big fight (I didn’t have to tell you that did I?) and Madrox gets Sabretooth back into Magneto’s crew.

-Juggernaut gets hit in the eye (Through that visor thing) with a poison dart and dies (Again? Kind of? Juggernaut could totally come back in Ultimatum) after being touched by Rogue.

-Rogues goes wild! She “kills” a bunch of Sentinel dudes. Stryker is all “Ha Ha! You murderer! You mutants are monsters!”

Bruce Castle Presents: Bendis vs. Loeb – Spoilers!

Large Cover of New Avengers #48

New Avengers #48 (***1/2)

Ok, so if you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I didn’t like Secret Invasion. I disliked the New Avengers issues during that time and I liked that recent Dark Reign one-shot even less. But this issue was good. First off, Billy Tan has drastically improved, He’s soared above mediocrity and he assures you that he’s worthy of being featured in Marvel’s flagship title. The objective of this issue should have been to establish the new team, wrap up all the SI nonsense, present an intriguing future for our heroes and possibly a twist or two. Bendis accomplishes all of that, mostly. Yes there’s another damn Skrull (Can that be the last time I type that word please?) and I’m still not sure about my enthusiasm towards this book, but this issue was satisfying enough. Bendis uses “Talky Room” again (Description of that here) and he introduces his new team in a fun way. The new lineup is the five dudes on the cover (Big surprise) plus her, her, her and her. Jaw-dropping? No, it’s pretty much who’d you expect. And the big twist in this issue? Luke Cage sells out to you-know-who. So, it was a good issue, but will I stick around post-4 bucks? I don’t know.

Ultimate Spider-Man #129

Ultimate Spider-Man #129 (****)

This issue was great. It was an Ultimatum tie-in that was better than the main mini this week. But what did this have to do with Ultimatum? Business seems normal. There’s a bit of a big event in here though. It concludes with the cops with May wanting to talk about her relation to Spider-Man. That’s cool, but Ultimatum related? I don’t think so. Then again, Bendis did say that Spider-Man may not be Peter Parker after Ultimatum. Jessica Drew returns! The clone one not the Skrull (Damn it! Again!) one. Bendis loves him some Jessica Drew. Human Torch makes an appearance as well. The highlight of this issue of course is Bendis’ marvelous teenage dialogue. Well done again sir!

Ultimatum #2 (of 5)

Ultimatum #2 (***1/2)

Say what you want about this book, but at least it delivers the goods. Well, it does in the death and WTF departments. The biggest problem here is the lack of emotional attachment. If you aren’t invested in these characters, you probably won’t care much. And if you do care, you may feel Loeb shows disrespect towards the beloved characters. The deaths in this issue? The Blob eats the wasp! Again, WTF! The last time I saw Blob (Other than possibly Ultimates 3. That series is a blur) was in Ultimate Spider-Man when it was revealed that he was Liz’s father. He was a sympathetic character, and now he’s chowing down on the Wasp and says “tastes like chicken”. Ok, that one I can’t explain, but I think I can with the next one. Magneto snaps Professor X’s neck! So that’s a WTF, but that makes sense in the Ultimate U. Magneto is much more evil there. He’s furious about the death of his children, but he’s also a vicious bastard. And remember, Prof did screw with Magneto’s mind earlier. So I kind of like this outcome. Both of them are willing to go to extreme lengths to fight each other. Oh there was one more death in this issue, but even I didn’t care much because it was Valkyrie. But we did get to see Ultimate Hela who’s an S&M nightmare (Must all the Ultimate Loeb characters be so “modern”). Thor went to Valhalla and Cap was there too?! Oh noes! Is Cap dead?! Oh and it was a bit annoying to see events I already know the outcome to because of those recent Fantastic Four issues. Why must Finch be so slow? Oh well, he did another great job here. But have the boobs on his women always been this BIG?

Ultimatum #2 of 5 Preview Preview Page 7

See? Was Finch always that…Cho? Anyway, Ultimatum continues to be a violent shocking cleansing of the Ultimate U. I just wish there was more substance to accompany all that flash.

Large Cover of Hulk #9

Hulk #9 (****)

And speaking of Frank Cho, it’s his last issue of Hulk, for now. Reviewing this book is silly. Almost as silly as the book itself. You either love it or you hate it. And if you haven’t read it or even to those who hate it, this is basically a modern Stan Lee book. The comedy, the zany ideas, even the great art. It’s satirical people! Multiple Wendigos! Wendihulk! Sentry and Moon Knight talk about going to the same shrink! It’s a lot of big pretty dumb fun. Next issue? It’s Defenders vs. Offenders! Nuff said!

Large Cover of Hulk #10 (50/50 Variant)

Bruce Castle Presents: Conan vs. Zombies! The Ultimate Showdown!

Ultimate Fantastic Four #59

Ultimate Fantastic Four #59 (***)

It’s depressing to read this book and write about it. This should’ve ended after Millar left. The story is average and the art is average. But I don’t blame the creative team much. This is another Ultimatum tie-in, but again you don’t have to read it. The only important thing that MIGHT happen next issue is that Johnny comes back. But who didn’t see that coming? This series is just wandering around waiting to die. The trigger is pulled next issue and sadly, I’ll be there.

Conan the Cimmerian #6

Conan the Cimmerian #6 (***1/2)

Wow! Not much happened, that’s a first for this book. This is one of those middle of the arc issues and for some reason, it’s taking place in the penultimate chapter. I don’t know why. It was still fine enough. Conan is back home. He sees his mom again. He spends some quality time with the girl he lost his virginity to. The stage is set for next issue. Even the Connacht story is mostly uneventful. Oh well, the writing and art is handled well enough that this didn’t bother me. And if I was reading this in trade, the fact that not much happened wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.

Walking Dead #56

Walking Dead #56 (****) SPOILERS!

Has it really been five years? Good job, Kirkman! Anyway, I called it. Maggie is alive, baby! I’m a little bumbed, but Kirkman made it work. That’s what this issue is about. What happens when people think Maggie is dead? Tensions rise between the new and old groups and we continue to explore Abraham’s character. The big reveal is something we pretty much guessed already. This issue isn’t bad of course, but I have to tell you something, right? Here, I’ll end on a positive note. The last issue came out three weeks ago! Keep the less than monthly schedule coming, Kirkman!

Bruce Castle Presents: Hulk Gives Spider-Man an Ultimatum!

Hulk #8

Hulk #8 (****)

I have so much fun reading this comic. Art Adams and Frank Cho kill this book. And Loeb’s writing is exactly what it’s supposed to be, enjoyable. I still think this is his way of poking fun at what he dislikes about comics. So the Red Hulk is called Rulk right? And so many haters including a friend of mind say “So is green Hulk Grulk?” Check out the recap of this issue, “Mr. Fixit (Fulk? Grulk?)”. C’mon guys the silliness is intentional.

Ms. Marvel punches Fixit and takes out the power!

Pretty Lady, Sheet Face, and S-Man fight green Hulk!

But what about the Wendigos?

“The Lady Liberators. For when you absolutely, positively have to liberate the @#$% outta something.”

Abe on Mount Rushmore is collateral damage!

Tigra, Spider-Woman, Storm, Black Widow, Invisible Woman, and Hellcat join the party! Cho draws more pretty women! Oh yeah!

Ultimate Spider-Man #128

Ultimate Spider-Man #128 (****)

Ok, this was pretty cool. I still think this arc was a little weak, but it ended nicely. So this issue begins the way the first one in the arc did. Cool. Aunt May has a giant Dirty Harry gun?! Really? Aunt May also has heart problems. Do I smell an Ultimate One More Day? We get more video game nonsense. Which is what this arc was really about I guess. That’s a big part of what’s crappy about this arc. So I guess Gwen Stacy is “alive” again? And this issue ends the same as the first one in the arc, but with a big twist. Will this be in Ultimatum or just the Spider-Man tie-ins?

Ultimate X-Men #98

Ultimate X-Men #98 (****)

An Ultimatum tie-in! And a bunch of stuff happens! In one issue, William Stryker is introduced, reluctant about fighting mutants, and by the end he kills one. Am I the only one who’s disappointed when Ultimate characters are the exact same as their 616 counterparts? I guess Kurt and Allison did “die”? So Rogue is kind of evil now? Don’t do drugs kids. The identity of Ultimate Vindicator is revealed! Ultimate Juggernaut is alive and it’s no big deal? Wasn’t he last seen as dead in that annual or am I forgetting something? Sabretooth and Juggie are not in the best strip club in the world. Those girls aren’t even topless! Oh but it does give an excuse to see Rogue half naked. Vindicator is already the Guardian? I told you a lot happened in this issue. Oh and again, Mark Brooks draws really pretty pictures.

Bruce Castle Presents: Marvel’s Multiverse!

Ultimatum #1 (of 5)

Ultimatum #1 (***1/2)

Jeph Loeb’s name is synonymous with good art. David Finch handles the art chores here and it’s nice to see him on interiors again. It’s even sweeter to see Finch return to the Ultimate U. But the art isn’t ever the problem in a Loeb comic is it? Well, maybe in that Liefield one. What? Liefield sucks. Anyway, I actually enjoyed this. It’s the set-up issue and that requires a big bang and it has to leave me wanting more. Ultimatum #1 accomplishes both of those. The characters are handled well, better than you might expect, and there are even a few deaths, maybe? It’s that maybe that bugs me a little. See, when I first read this issue I enjoyed it quite a bit, but after flipping through to write this review I had a few questions. That’s not a bad thing since this is the first issue, but one of these days I want to read a Loeb comic where everything is just spelled out. Oh well, at least this isn’t a murder mystery.

Invincible Iron Man #7

Invincible Iron Man #7 (****1/2)

Ah, the fun before the storm. Matt Fraction mentioned something about the next arc being a “Born Again” story. So naturally, this is the entertaining breather between arcs. But Fraction makes it more than that and proves once again why this book is so awesome. Spidey and Iron Man team up again! But this is a post-Civil War team up, are you interested yet? How about the fact that this issue references an old New Avengers story? With humorous results of course. You might also be pleased because Fraction doesn’t treat Tony like some kind of God like other titles do to their heroes. Iron Man is a flawed character. Anyway, the point is, though this appears to be an overdone concept, this issue is unique. Fraction continues to write the hell out of this book. 

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Laughing Corpse #2 (of 5)

Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse #2 (****)

It’s a little hard reviewing an adaptation of a book, especially since I haven’t read the book. I can say that if you have ever thought about reading Hamilton’s series, but either you don’t want to deal with all those words or you want to look at pretty pictures, you should give this book a shot. It’s an interesting take on the whole monster world (Vampires, zombies, ghouls, etc.) and it seems to be one of the more “girly” books that I read. Anita Blake is a badass chick that is actually a really interesting character. I’m not a Buffy fan so it’s possible that some of this stuff might feel familiar. On the other hand, if you like Buffy, it’s very possible that you’ll enjoy this. Lastly, I’ve always been a fan of Ron Lim’s art and he provides some fantastic visuals.

Bruce Castle Presents: Ultimatum Is Almost Here!

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 (*****)

This was the best issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in a long time. This series has been a bit disappointing lately with the new Venom arc, but this was a refreshing return to greatness. I’m sad that Mark Brooks wasn’t providing the art. I actually thought that Brooks would have made a better replacement for Bagley. Lafuente does a decent job though. He has a super cartoony style that mostly works well here due to the large quantity of laughs. That’s right folks! USM is hilarious again! That’s what was so great about this issue. It wasn’t the action or the new Ultimate character (It’s a villain. I won’t give away any more. It will remain a mystery until you read it), it was the high-dose of laughter and those oh so lovable teen moments. Peter and MJ talk about sex (There I spoiled something, happy?)! Hey! What did this have to do with Ultimatum? Unless that new villain is the reason, I have no idea why this was an Ultimatum tie-in. Oh and I loved that moment when the girl dressed as 616 Spider-Woman screams “Embrace change! Embrace change!” So awesome!

Ultimate Captain America Annual #1

Ultimate Captain America Annual #1 (***1/2)

I don’t know, but I think Ultimatum might actually be pretty cool. First off, this is such an awesome teaser.

C’mon! How can you not be excited after seeing that!? Anyway, this wasn’t really a Captain America comic. It was really about Black Panther. It’s pretty much his origin and then it explains how he got to Ultimates 3 and such. I don’t know if Loeb just had to get his bearings or if it really was intentional that most of Ultimates 3 seemed so off. At first, it was like Loeb had never read an Ultimates book, but in the last installment of Ultimates 3 and again in this issue, you can tell the man knows his stuff. Continuity is thrown at us in a totally accessible way. I rarely get to see Marko Djurdjevic on interiors, but he provides some stunning work here. There is also a new Ultimate character and the usual Loeb humor (Fury uses a Hulk cutout shooting target. Ha!). This comic is mostly about explanation, but it does plant some seeds that I’m sure we’ll see pop up like daisies soon.

Review: Ultimates 3 #5

This, despite the awfulness of the last four issues, was a fairly decent comic. In fact, without actually going back to reread the last four issues, I will tentatively say that issue #5 of the Ultimates 3 “mayhaps” redeems this mini-series, if not Jeph Loeb’s entire comic book writing career.

Whoa. Did you read that right? FYI, I also liked Hulk #6.

Ultimates 3 pays off story threads originally setup by Millar way back in Ultimates 1, namely the Ultron subplot. I love me some Ultron, perhaps that’s why I’m satisfied with the way this story ended… I just kind of wish he’d gotten to the point of it all 2-3 issues sooner. But, it’s a mystery and this is how these things go. Confusion follows confusion followed by more confusion and then BOOM! Startling revelations! I’ve been watching a ton of Thin Man lately. I know things.

To his credit, Loeb doesn’t make us wait until the end for the recap-revelations, he feeds it to us within the first couple of pages:

Ultron replaced the Ultimates body snatcher style with android duplicates!
The Scarlet Witch’s murder was a crime of passion… gross.
The butler did it! (serious lol’ing right there folks.)
Captain America was the Black Panther THE WHOLE TIME! (Well, this isn’t really explained but I’m sure Loeb’ll get to it in the forthcoming Ultimate Captain America Annual.)
Dr. Doom was behind it all?!? (Does this mean Doom is involved in Ultimatum? I may have to revise my Celestial theory.)
Somehow, The Wasp stopped being Asian!!!

Plain and simple, this was a fantastically enjoyable read. We got answers and they were satisfying. To me, at least. Oh, there’s War Machine! And Quicksilver dies! That was sweet. And Hank redeems himself! Okay, sort of. Cap still hates him but apparently the Wasp is ready to get remarried to the schizophrenic wife-beater. Crazy broad…

…why is Janet always written this way? Why can’t she be a real person? This sexist “ditzy dame” garbage just doesn’t cut it anymore, Marvel writers. Maybe you guys could learn a thing or two from the guys over at DC who know how to write female leads. Strong women are WAY sexier than damsels. Anyway…

How does this story sync up with Ultimatum? I don’t know, but all of a sudden I’m excited about it! Also, does anyone else think that the planned/cancelled/rescheduled Ultimates 4 is actually Ultimatum in disguise? Or was this announced somewhere already? Am I behind the curve?

Just about the only thing that still bugs me about this version of the Ultimates (my problem with Janet doesn’t count since she’s written that way in ALL versions of the Avengers) is the characterization of Hawkeye. LAME. I understand the guy has a death wish. Fine. But Loeb has him acting more like a spoiled brat than a man on the edge. Make him desperate, but not too desperate. Cut the melodrama, dude. It’s unnecessary.

Oh, and the art looks better. But the coloring still sucks. DCBS sent me the “Ultron Variant”, which I have to say as a fan of all things Sci-Fi/Horror kicks the crap out of the regular cover. “Terminator” Cap is the complete filth, do you not agree?

Ultimates 3 was lame and stupid most of the time, and in no way lives up to the epics that preceded it, but it was also fun. It was the “ultimate” funnybook. I think that above all else (including pretentious pretendering) shouldn’t comics be fun?