Friday, May 31, 2013

The Pull List: May 22, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.

A bit late, but what are you gonna do


-Uncanny Avengers #8AU (Rick Remender, Gerry Duggan, Adam Kubert)
Here is an example of an event tie-in comic done right.  The comic works to move the actual plot of Uncanny Avengers forward while maintaining the tone and playing on the story beats of the crossover event.  This might be an alternate universe but the actions within still have ramifications for the regular 616 continuity.  Ultimately it gives more backstory for the villains the Avengers are fighting in the non Age of Ultron timeline.  It's cool to see some alternate versions of characters.  Namely the Havok present in this issue offers what some might be a counterpoint to the controversial speech he made in Uncanny Avengers #5.

-Superior Spider-Man #10 (Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman)
With the grasp of the octopus getting even tighter, things begin to slip through the cracks.  This comic is another intriguing entry in what is becoming one of the most different Spider-Man stories ever.  There's no way the true Peter Parker doesn't come back at some point, but having a slightly heroic Doc Ock offers some counterpoints to the traditional morality/ideology that we have become accustomed to with Spidey.

-Deadpool #10 (Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne)
No joke, Deadpool is a good comic right now.  It hits action and comedy beats, and neither comes at the expense of the other.  The two elements play off of each other and exist in a harmonious state that Confucius would approve of.  It also provides a less serious, but arguably more entertaining, look at Doc Ock/Spidey's new moral code.  The C-list villian spectacular of a fight is great for a number of reasons.  "I'm the Trapster bitch!" and the inclusion of Lady Stilt Man are just two examples. 

-Avengers #12 (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Mike Deodato)
It's another downtime issue for Avengers.  Not that that is a bad thing mind you.  It gives time for some character work and philosophy.  Some might not be too happy with character focus being placed on historically unimportant and cast aside characters, but I don't mind a guy like Hyperion spelling out why exactly godlike beings like Thor become heroes. 

-A+X #8 (Gerry Duggan, Salvador Larroca, Christopher Hastings, Reilly Brown)
Do you like superhero team-ups?  Silly question, of course you do.  That's all this comic is.  Pure distilled action packed buddy adventures.  There are two team-ups within.  The first is Kitty Pryde and Spider-Woman, and it makes sure you don't ever forget that Kitty Pryde is a badass.  The second is a tale about Purple Arrow (Hawkeye) and Ninja Spider-Man (Deadpool) stopping sewer pirates with a submarine from unleashing Lovecraftian horrors.  Deadpool might or might not shoot off Hulk hand trick arrows.  It's a pretty good week to be a Deadpool fan:

-Daredevil #26 (Mark Waid, Chris Samnee)
Daredevil isn't necessarily my favorite superhero comic, but it is without a doubt the best one coming out right now (this is where you insult my tastes)  Waid and Samnee are masters of their craft making the story they are weaving a genuine masterpiece.  The comic appears to be rapidly approaching a conclusion to the initial two years worth of stories.  Everyone should be excited for that.
There's a small little back-up story this issue.  It is potentially the most heartwarming short story ever.  Kids with cancer make a comic about superheroes stopping a giant monster.  The metaphor within the comic is pretty obvious, which is fitting considering the creators are children.  The little twist at the end and the  take away message put this short story in contention for best of the year status.  Marvel should go ahead and make it a free digital comic, because everyone should read it.


-Aquaman #20 (John Ostrander, Manuel Garcia)
Covers lie.  The stuff you see on the front is used to sell comics and at best is a very loose interpretation of an event inside.  Usually they are truthful about the creative team, but that's not the case here where Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier are incorrectly given credit.  Ostrander is in his element in this comic writing a story about a somewhat secretive, eclectic group of people who are to varying degrees involved with ghosts/spirits/spectres.  It's a entertaining enough story, but it has the most tenuous connection to the current Aquaman meta-story.  In the end this issue is complete "filler."  I tend to enjoy filler stories though.

-Justice League #20 (Geoff Johns, Zander Cannon, Gene Ha, Andres Guinaldo, Joe Prado)
So... this wasn't a very good comic, or at least it didn't deliver much entertainment.  It doesn't warrant much of a plot synopsis besides "Justice League C-listers fight Despero."  Not even a love for C-list characters, which I assure I possess, can make this a worthwhile read.  Distrust continues to ferment among the leaguers and the American government remains suspicious of the league too.  The art is all over the place as well, which is to be expected when no fewer than four people share art duties.  The Captain Marvel backup wasn't anything special this issue, but it was consistent, something I can't say about the primary story.   

-All Star Western #20 (Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat)
Time for some math: Cowboy from the 1800's + goofball hero from the future = ?  "Comedy gold" and "the best buddy cop duo of all time" are both acceptable answers.  Booster Gold and Jonah hex teaming-up is definitely something the world needs more of.  Things continue to get crazier from there.  A dwarf in a cage gets involved at some point, which surprisingly doesn't actually make the comic any more kinky or depraved than it already was.  At the end of the day it's still a damn fine western and a damn fine comic in general.
There's also a back-up story illustrated by Staz Johnson were the first words spoken are "Adam, if we don't stop Nosferata from completing the ritual, all of Arizona will be crawling with Apache Vampires."  Thus proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that All Star Western is the greatest comic DC is currently publishing.


-Subatomic Party Girls #1 (Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, Erica Henderson, Josh Krach)
In this inaugral issue the all girl power pop trio "Beryllium Steel" is launched into space.  Things go awry and our heroines end up fighting space pirates.  A band fights space pirates.  This is a love-it or hate-it kind of deal.  Macross 7 is one of my favorite cartoons, so it should come as no surprise that  my $0.99 was well spent on this comic.  While story itself is truly outrageous, it's the art that really elevates the comic and makes it out of this world.

-Knuckleheads #2 (Brian Winkeler, Robert Wilson IV, Jordan Boyd, Thomas Mauer)
Man fights giant monster.  Giant monster tries to eat a hot drunk English chick.  Man's roommate borrows pepper spray and a condom from a pizza man.  Roommate throws a condom filled with pepper spray at giant monster.  If you don't want to read that comic, then we can't be friends.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ten comics I've been reading

I've written reviews for Ultimate Spider-Man, Batman, and Daredevil, but I've been reading a lot of other comics lately without reviewing them on the blog. Instead of writing one article for each series, I'm writing mini-reviews for all of them here.

100 Bullets
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Most of the comics I'm reading are modern-day comics still in their current run, but 100 Bullets is an acclaimed neo-noir series written over the course of a decade, from 1999 to 2009. It's well-written, but I can't read this without thinking of Frank Miller's seminal Sin City, a superior series that came eight years earlier.

Matt Fraction and David Aja

I'm no fan of the Avengers, so I was as surprised as anyone when the Least Interesting Avenger turned out to have the Greatest Superhero Comic on Shelves Today. Plenty has been said already about how awesome this series is. The creators understand Hawkeye is the Least Interesting Avenger, so they run with it as a story about a regular guy trying to fit into a superhero's world. David Aja's minimalist art style (look at those covers!) and Matt Fraction's satirical writing style compliment each other perfectly. Hawkguy is by far my favorite Marvel or DC comic book series.

Side note: Matt Fraction also has the Greatest Comic Creator Twitter Account of All Time.

Animal Man
Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, and Steve Pugh

As a new comic book reader, this was my first time reading a series of a superhero I'd never heard of before. Eventually I heard about Grant Morrison's original run on the series, but I started with this new reboot. And it's fantastic. The metaphysical horror aspect is what draws you in to the series, and you stay for the relatable family-man hero. The grotesque artwork is stunning. It's got a slow first few issues, but now I'm hooked.

Swamp Thing
Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette

Jeff Lemire's Animal Man does a lot of crossing over with Swamp Thing, since both characters exist in the same world. I wasn't planning on reading Swamp Thing, but Animal Man is so good that its compelling depiction of the Swamp Thing made me want to read the sister series. Unfortunately, despite great artwork by Yanick Paquette, Scott Snyder's writing doesn't live up to it. Maybe it's because Snyder is a hotshot at DC Comics right now and Batman is his main creative output. It makes sense that he's leaving the series now, since Swamp Thing is an afterthought to him. I haven't given up on the character as a whole, though, as I've heard great things about Alan Moore's vaunted Swamp Thing of years past.

Dial H
China Miéville and Mateus Santolouco

Dial H is a dark, fun, crazy story about a slacker who suddenly gains the ability to turn into random superheroes. He doesn't get to choose what he becomes--it could be anything imaginable, from Boy Chimney to Iron Snail to Open-Window Man. At first this series just seems like an excuse for the artist to design hilarious, gimmicky new superheroes, but as it goes on the story gets more complex. It feels like an indie series, not something DC Comics would put out, so of course it's being discontinued later this year. R.I.P.

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Stapes

I didn't want to buy into the Saga hype. It was called the best comic book of 2012 by basically everyone. Described as a Star Wars-style space opera about new parents, it seemed a bit too much for me. I love the complex alien galaxy of Star Wars because I was introduced to it as a small child, but as a jaded adult, I didn't think I could embrace a guy with horns and a girl with wings and a naked lady bounty hunter with no arms and eight spider legs. It was at the top of so many year-end lists, though, that I had to cave. And I'm glad I did. I called Hawkeye my favorite superhero comic book because Saga is my Favorite Comic Book. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples weave a beautiful, alien, and ultimately human tale with Saga. I hope to be delving into their world for years to come.

Captain Marvel
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, and Emma Rios

Comics are mostly a sausagefest, so I was excited to read Captain Marvel: a series about female characters, with a female writer and (for many issues) a female artist. Unfortunately, the Woman Factor is the only interesting aspect of this book. Other than that, it's an incredibly generic superhero story where she flies around and blows up bad guys.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Frank Miller

I finally got around to reading the most famous Batman comic of all time! The brooding, dystopian-cyberpunk-future 1986 tale by Frank Miller is credited with ushering in a whole new era of "grimdark" comics. And it's not the most fun book to read--tons of Walls of Text with many pages featuring sixteen panels each--yet it's obvious why this book was so influential. It's interesting to see a superhero at the end of his career, when he's old and weak. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, but The Dark Knight Returns is still a satisfying read. I especially like all the narration done through TV broadcasts; the local news anchor is just as much a character in the story as Bruce Wayne himself.

Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, Amy Reeder, and Trevor McCarthy

This is actually two separate comic book series. The "Batwoman: Elegy" story arc from Detective Comics in 2010, and the standalone Batwoman series that began in 2011. The Detective Comics story written by Greg Rucka and drawn by J.H. Williams III is absolutely fantastic. Rucka is one of the best writers in the business, and JHW3's intricate multi-page spreads are gorgeous. But when Batwoman got her own standalone series, Rucka was nowhere to be found. JHW3 pulled both writer and artist duties alone for a while, and the series suffered because of it. He's a great artist, but a subpar writer. To make matters worse, eventually JHW3 stopped doing the art altogether and enlisted a revolving door of artists to pencil his mediocre writing. I'd strongly recommend the Rucka/JHW3 run, collected as Batwoman: Elegy, but stay far away from the standalone Batwoman series.

The Massive
Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, Garry Brown, and Dave Stewart

I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings and geopolitical globetrotting, so The Massive is right up my alley. It's the story of a group of environmental activists trying to survive in a post-global warming world. At first I was put off by what looked like fairly generic artwork, but if you give it a chance, The Massive is intelligent and suspenseful. I consider myself a pretty Worldly Dude, and even I had to look up some of the topics in The Massive on Wikipedia. The characters are from all over the world, travel everywhere, and deal with all sorts of real-life issues. I didn't know anything about Tamil Eelam or Unalaska before I read this series. And even the art, which I thought was unremarkable to start, hits its stride after the first issue. The Massive is a text-heavy comic book, but it's intellectually fulfilling in a way not many other comic books are today.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Metro: Last Light review

A while back I reviewed Ukrainian developer 4A Games' cult hit Metro 2033. Based on a series of bestselling Russian novels, Metro was one of my favorite games of 2010. It was flawed, but it was beautiful.

Now the Kiev-based studio is back with a sequel, Metro: Last Light. Despite its publisher THQ giving the studio a tiny budget, imposing terrible working conditions, and folding a few months later, 4A persevered. The game was picked up by German publisher Deep Silver and released earlier this month.

Metro: Last Light serves as a natural progression of Metro 2033. It's set in post-apocalyptic Moscow, where the surface is irradiated and survivors live underground in the tunnels city's Metro system... hence the title. You play as Artyom, a man dealing with the guilt of his murderous past. Guilt is one of the driving themes of the entire story, something carried through until the end credits.

I've had a lifelong love of both post-apocalyptic stories and public transit systems--subways in particular. So Metro is right up my alley; Fallout 3 is perhaps my all-time favorite game largely because of its post-apocalyptic version of my hometown Washington, D.C. Metro system. Last Light's Metro is based on the real-life Moscow Metro with its distinctive circular routes, and it'd be really interesting to take a trip there and see how closely the in-game locations match their real-life counterparts.

If you haven't played the original game, you won't understand much of the plot line, and that's a good thing. Instead of spending the opening hours of the game on exposition introducing you to the characters and setting, Last Light is able to jump right into the meat of the story.

Last Light is also a natural progression from 2033 in terms of gameplay and mechanics. It definitely feels tweaked and upgraded all around, but the core gameplay loop of Metro remains intact.

The game has been described as "Fallout meets Silent Hill." It mixes survival-horror with FPS and stealth mechanics, and the combat is serviceable enough. You've got a wide range of ways to approach obstacles, from ninja-like creeping to Rambo blazin'.

The most interesting gameplay mechanic is the gas mask, carried over from 2033. Anytime you venture to the surface of Moscow, you need to wear a gas mask. You need to make sure you have enough air filters, and you have to manually switch filters when one runs low. Combat has its effects on the mask, cracking the glass and making it harder to see. You can take filters and gas masks from corpses you find around the city if your current one is banged up.

I love to play games slowly and savor the experience, and at first I thought this gas mask stuff would be an unnecessary time-limiting annoyance when I'm trying to survive in an already-hostile world. But in practice, it enriches the experience and made me feel more immersed in the dystopian gameworld. It added the "survival" aspect to "survival-horror." You can survive on the surface for a minute or so without a mask, and some of the most intense experiences I had with Last Light were when I was frantically rushing around the surface sifting through rubble to find a new air filter for my mask.

Luckily, Metro is a series made for slow gamers like me. Where the game truly shines is in the downtime at the various Metro stations around Moscow. It's not an RPG, but you're free to explore the heavily-populated stations at your leisure. Unlike many games in which NPCs have fake conversations for a few seconds, in Metro, you can sit and listen to random underground citizens talk to each other for minutes on end. You don't need to listen to any of them, but if you do, it enriches the game's fiction and makes you feel like part of a larger world.

Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 MLS jersey rankings update: Sporting KC third kit!

A quick update to my ranking of Major League Soccer's assorted club uniforms for the 2013 season: last month, Sporting Kansas City unveiled a third jersey. What do you think?

Black with an argyle light/dark blue pattern across the chest. It's apparently a reference to the team's original jerseys back in the '90s when they were known as the wonderful Kansas City Wiz, later extended to the Wizards.

The jersey is great. The design is original and striking. The sponsor logo below the argyle pattern makes the whole thing look a bit too busy, but we can't escape big ol' sponsor logos even in specialty shirts... or can we?

Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers seem to be able to convince their sponsors to minimize their logos when the clubs want to release commemorative jerseys. Celtic's new 125th anniversary kit features the Tennent's sponsor logo in small white-on-white lettering below the team crest:

Why couldn't Sporting KC convince Ivy Funds to do the same?

Anyway, the dark new third jersey is so good, I'm not sure why it's a third jersey. Really, it should replace SKC's decent-but-unremarkable current away jersey:

But the whole "acknowledging our uniforms from the '90s" thing may be a sham. I don't recall nor could I find online any evidence of 1990s argyle jerseys in Kansas City. I guess the jerseys are meant to be a reference to this beauty:

A black shirt with a wavy design on the chest. But way more groovy than Sporting KC's new third jersey.

Overall, Sporting's new kit is a great design, but it doesn't quite bump the team up in my previous jersey rankings.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Pull List: May 14, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Age of Ultron #8 (Brian Michael Bendis, Brandon Peterson)
A couple things happened this issue, so that's a nice switch from Age of Ultron's generally terrible pace.  Hank Pym (Ant-man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, etc.) isn't treated like the biggest piece of trash for once, which is a welcome change.  AoU is still a pretty weak alternate reality story though.  The spectacle of the big mid air battle at the end would be a lot more spectacular if it didn't look like it was drawn and colored with the comic version of bad CG.  Only two issues remain.  Please heed my warning and just read the eventual Wikipedia synopsis if you're interested.

-Iron Man #10 (Kieron Gillen, Dale Eaglesham)
It seems my fears of "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" are being confirmed.  The meat of the story is about the Tony Stark's father and culminates with  X-COM meets Ocean's Eleven.  Howard Stark leading a group of some of Marvel's foremost old operatives and secret agents on a heist of a Gray run casino in Las Vegas is a winning concept that honors and plays upon continuity.  Too bad this comic seems to be a cog in a retcon machine.

-Nova #4 (Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness)
Once again we get a wasted page in a cosmic Marvel book.  What a great way to start a comic that annoys me on so many levels.  Before chronicling the rest of the bad let me at least say that the makings of a fun space adventure are here, but they unfortunately don't coalesce, except for the cyborg space tiger.  The pacing of the plot is non-nonsensical and it doesn't help that the comic is completely incompetent at suggesting passage of time.  Structurally the comic is a no bueno, and to top it off, the inclusion of the Chitauri is maddening.  They're the alien race that were Skrull analogues in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's Ultimates, and more recently they were the bad guys in Avengers, the movie.  To explain why this is the least bit frustrating would take too long and result in responses that would come across as "but muh Nova".  

And now for time for something completely unrelated

To make up for the slow week and my overwhelming negativity, please to enjoy Snake Eyes being badical beyond belief
The Arashikage Mind-Set doesn't just turn Snake into a killing machine, but a dancing machine as well
Cobra might have Croc Master, but the Joes have the Shark Master

A ninja commando on a jetski is super badass, and the narration only ups the ante

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Pull List: May 8, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.

Not only is it an Avengers kind of week, but it is a fantastic comic kind of week as well.


-Avengers #11 (Jonathan Hickman, Mike Deodato)
Right from the get-go this is my kind of comic.  Sure, the cover might seem like a boring "heroes leaping into action" shot, but as a dude who watches Super Sentai weekly, Dustin Weaver's design modifications to the heroes in question is something I have to appreciate.  The story within is Casino Royale-esque.  Superheroes literally gambling for the fate of the world is a concept that is instantly a very fun comic.  Things go a bit smoother for 7 Avengers than they did for Hawkeye and Hawkeye when they attempted a similar feat over in Hawkeye.  Since Avengers is a team book, Hickman is able to have some of the cast revel in the fun nature of an issue like this while maintaining a level of espionage intrigue.  In many ways this feels like an early issue of Secret Avengers.  The art is similar to the other title too, as Deodato provides his typical stiff and photo reference heavy art.  Shang Chi beats up ninjas with Stark-tech nunchucks as he dispenses some esoteric kung fu mysticism, so everybody should definitely pick this up.
This might very well be page of the year  (click on images to enlarge)
-Secret Avengers #4 (Nick Spencer, Luke Ross)
Speaking of Secret Avengers, let's take a look at the inadequate follow-up to the highly enjoyable volume 1. This is an okay comic.  It just pales in comparison to its predecessors and the primary Avengers books.  Spencer crafts a story that is the proverbial smorgasbord of today's hot issues: drone strikes, definition of life, Chinese tech sweatshops, stolen weapons, state sponsors of terror, and war with a nuclear Iran.  Taking a closer look at any of these topics within the context of a world that is home to the Incredible Hulk would make for an interesting read at the least.  This book doesn't afford much time to any of these and instead continues to read like a spin-off of the Marvel movies.  I'd prefer if the movies tried to capture the essence of the comics a bit more, so making the comics more like the movies rubs me all sorts of the wrong way.

-Deadpool #9 (Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne)
There's some genuine humor in this latest Deadpool entry, and it comes in a smattering of packages.  There's the continued overt ridiculousness of Deadpool and his band of misfit supporting characters (a sassy black woman stuck in his head, a bad necromancer in a kilt, and the ghost of Ben Franklin), pop culture references (TLC really deserves being made fun of at every opportunity), subtle nods to Marvel's rich shared universe (teleporting=BAMFing), and not-so-subtle jabs at the Distinguished Competition (people are dicks to Aquaman in comics from other publishers).  If comedy and loose morals in regards to murder are your thing then why aren't you reading Deadpool?
Trips through Deadpool's psyche always prove entertaining

-Avengers Arena #9 (Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker)
Are you a sadist who revels in watching a bunch of teenagers kill each other for rather dubious reasons?  Chances are that yes you are, if the success of Hunger Games is anything to go on.  Don't worry though.  This comic isn't derivative at all.  It's 100% original content do not steal.  You hear that Battle Royale?  Any similarities are coincidence, don't even try to say the logos are similar.  If it seems bizarre to read a comic that you don't really enjoy, then you don't know how masochistic some fans are.  I just want to read stories about some of the minor characters that have the misfortune of appearing in this meat grinder of a comic.

-Uncanny Avengers #8 (Rick Remender, Daniel Acuña)
If you haven't read Remender's Uncanny X-Force you might be a bit confused by this issue.  You should also go read those 35 issues of Uncanny X-Force.  The only other mark against this latest entry is that some of the characters continue to be way too bitchy.   It's okay for the Wasp though, because part of her character is being insufferable.  Besides that nearly all of the character voices are a great fit.  Where this comic really knocks it out of the park is the narration/inner monologue and the spectacle of the story.  If there is any justice in the world, Acuña will continue to illustrate this comic.  Words fail me.  This comic is good.
It's only a matter of time until Remender writes a Thor ongoing


-Threshold #5 (Keith Giffen, Tom Raney, Phil Winslade)
This is a solid comic with themes I am quite fond of (space heroes) and a creative team I trust.  There's nothing too spectacular between the covers, but it's still a fun read.  Seedy cities in deep space mixed with The Running Man is a winning concept.  Just wait for the trade paperback though, since there are only 3 issues left anyways.


-Prophet #35 (Brandon Graham, Simon Ray, Giannis Milonogiannis)
I might've hopped on the Prophet wagon a bit late, but I'm on now and there's no way I'm getting off.  It's an epic (in the most classic of definitions) space opera.  Everything is A+ from script to art.  Seriously, anything I can say about this series won't do it justice.  Go check this issue out if you don't believe me.
You tell me what's more confusing, the math or the battle

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Pull List: May 1, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Superior Spider-Man #9 (Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman)

Goddamn!  This is one intense issue.  One of the most important storytelling elements in superhero comics is putting the hero up against a credible threat.  The creators need to make the reader believe that the villain might triumph.  That has been a strong point of the Superior Spider-Man, but this issue takes it to an entirely different level.  Peter Parker and Doc Ock revealing their inner Spider-Men makes for a great visual.  The premise of Superior Spider-Man is still off-putting, but there is an interesting story to tell here.  

-Age of Ultron #7 (Brian Michael Bendis, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco)

Once again I find myself asking the question, "Why am I buying this comic?"  At this point I might as well see the story through to the end, even if the plot is barely paper thin.  Not even the art can save this book as it is nothing special and the lackluster set-ups don't even result in remotely interesting fights.  Overall this issue is just another mediocre entry in this horribly decompressed event.

-Thanos Rising #2 (Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi)

After a rather disappointing first issue, I was trying to give this one a fair shake.  That's not going to happen when the first 2 pages of a 22 page comic that costs $4 is completely wasted.  The story told in those remaining 20 pages is an unnecessary mess.  There is no need to revisit and muck up Thanos' origin.  I've never been a fan of Bianchi's art.  This comic is pretty damn bad and Marvel would've been better off just reprinting old stories if they really wanted to push Thanos for movie appearances.

-Iron Man #9 (Kieron Gillen, Dale Eaglesham)

By the grace of some god Greg Land doesn't have art duties for this issue, so that's a plus.  However there is the banner of "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" as well, which fills me with a sense if dread.  For the most part the comic plays to its strengths, no Land, and my tastes: robot space bounty hunters.  Eaglesham's art isn't anything groundbreaking. He draws a pretty great Death's Head though, and the panel bordering is neat.  This issue is an entirely serviceable story that tickles my fancy.  Until the end that is, when that whole "Secret Origin" bit rears its ugly head.  Hopefully my faith in Gillen is well placed and  this will all turn out to be a clever ruse.


-Animal Man #20 (Jeff Lemire, John Paul Leon, Timothy Green II)

A story within a story is the premise of this one, and it all got very meta very quickly.  Lemire explores Animal Man's loss by examining his drive to be a hero while critiquing the fame for fame's sake reality television stars that dominate real-world entertainment.  The heavily inked art of the "fictional story" was well done and differed from the series' stylistic tone enough to stand out, yet not too much to be jarring.  There are stronger Animal Man issues out there, but one small road bump isn't too bad in the grand scheme of things as long as the entire story pulls together.

-Aquaman #19 (Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier)

There are a lot of moving pieces and most of them are still being set up.  As "villainous" Ocean Master's actions were during the Throne of Atlantis crossover, his point about perspective and his actions merely being retaliatory are poignant.  It rings especially true because the majority of the time people are just straight up dicks to Aquaman.  The selling point of the book is the art.  Every underwater panel is a sight to behold as it captures the scope and subtleties of the ocean.  Also, Atlantean organ theft.

-Stormwatch #20 (Jim Starlin, Yvel Guichet)

Full disclosure: this is only the second issue of Stormwatch I've ever read (the first being #19).  Jim Starlin taking over writing duties is what drew me in.  The story is a bit confusing, but that is probably a symptom of my neophyte Stormwatcher status.  Proving that I am an equal opportunity hater of retooled origins, Lobo's new backstory is wack.  Sorry Starlin, just because Aaron messed up Thanos' origins doesn't mean you can screw with one of the greatest DC characters of all time.  As you can see below, one alien gets its head kicked clean off while on the opposite page one gets punched straight through its chest.  Stormwatch #21 is a confirmed purchase.


-Action Comics #20 (Andy Diggle, Tony S. Daniel)

It's hard to live up to Grant Morrison's recently finished run on Action Comics (it concluded with #18).  Unsurprisingly, this issue fails to meet that lofty standard.  That's not to say this is a bad comic.  Coupled with the tumultuous situation with the creative team due to Diggle's premature departure means that this issue isn't as good as this series can and should be, at least from a writing standpoint.  Thankfully the book is still visually appealing.


-Hypernaturals #11 (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom Derenick, Andres Guinaldo)

This comic is at the bottom of my reading list because it never disappoints.  Hypernaturals continues to be a rock solid engaging tale of heroes protecting all of known space.  The current plot threads all seem to be coming to a climax and that invariably means things get crazy.  High concept deicide levels of crazy.  Though the art sometimes falls a bit flat during more mundane scenes it is consistent and performs beautifully once the action starts.  If big heroes fighting big threats is your thing, do yourself a favor and catch up on this book.