Archive for the ‘Image’ Category

by Phil Gibson

For the first week of 2013, I had a nice comic day indeed. After a slight setback in issue #4, All-New X-Men got back on track in a big way, and Manhattan Projects delivered with an awesome payoff for the last few issues worth of setup.

All-New X-Men #5

My only gripe with this series is that Marvel has been pushing it out too quickly. Five issues in barely two months is too fast, and the last issue in this series suffered for it. That being said, the fifth installment in Bendis’s mutant epic delivered, and in a big way. While there is little in the way of “action”, per se, Bendis handles the interactions between characters much better than in last issue. Jean Grey and Beast are the stars of the show here, which shows just how much better this comic is when it has focal characters. Bendis gives us an insight into the deep friendship between Hank and Jean, and uses their interaction to point out just how sorely missed Jean has been since her death. She is the conscience of the X-Men, something Bendis makes more clear with (SPOILERS) her revelation that the past-tense team will be staying to put Xavier’s dream right, knowing full well that, when they return to the past, she will still end up dying.

When Bendis is able to focus on individuals characters, he is one of the best in the business. His treatment of Luke Cage and Spider-Woman brought them to a level of relevance they had never had before. He is doing the same thing with Beast here. By bringing out Hank McCoy’s vulnerability, which is masked under his intellect and stubborn integrity, the character becomes relatable in a way he hasn’t been for some time. By returning Jean Grey to the fold, Bendis shows us just how much Beast has withdrawn from the other X-men the last few years. This is a writer who is definitely on his game.

I am excited to read X-Men stories going forward, so much that I am actually going to be adding the new Uncanny X-Men book to my pull list. Bendis is seemingly revitalizing the X-Men family with this series, and I am looking forward to seeing why comes next.

Manhattan Projects #8

It is hard to explain what I love about this book. This is Hickman gone wild, with no continuity to hold him back. This series feels like what he would have done in FF if the characters had belonged to him, and not Marvel. The scale is crazy huge, with the brightest (and least sane) minds of the twentieth century banding together to pull their scientific pursuits away from the powers that be. Why? I’m not sure, but the results are ridiculous and fun.

In this issue, we see the payoff for two issues worth of setup. As the soviet and American scientists have been combining their efforts to prepare a defense against potential alien invaders, the president of the US, along with FDR’s artificial intelligence and a host of other zany world leaders past and present, are none too happy about losing control of their mad scientists. S what do they do? Send virtual FDR to kill everybody. The entire idea of this issue, like the series, is ludicrous, but it works.

There are no “good guys” in this series, except perhaps the former Nazi rocket scientist Helmutt (yes, he’s a Nazi). Rather, there are morally questionable characters working for a “greater good”, and other characters who are only interested in control. It is hard to get invested in most of the characters, but the overall story is fairly engrossing. There’s little in the way of an overarching “moral to the story”. Instead, Hickman is play a big game of “what if” and letting his imagination run wild. For readers like me, who love science fiction, it’s a home run.

It is worth mentioning that Nick Pitarra is a fantastic artist. The only downside is that the release schedule for this book has been super slow. That’s not a huge deal for me, since I have double shipping books to contend with every month. The wait is definitely worth it, as Pitarra’s take on Frank Quitely style art is great to look at.

Manhattan Projects is probably not for everyone, but if you are looking for a zany escape from the superhero genre, it may be the book for you.

by Phil Gibson

The Review Round-Up will be a regular installment here at Comic Critique. We’ll  be taking a look at their pull lists each week and reviewing the new issues of our favorite books. If you enjoy our thoughts, leave suggestions on future books for us to review.

Alex had a pull list chock full of DC comics in his post earlier today. If you want to get your fill of what’s going on in the new 52, check out his Review Roundup.

This week I only had two books on my list, but they’re both standouts; Jonathan Hickman’s The Manhattan Projects and Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force

Manhattan Projects #7

Manhattan Projects #7
Property of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

Let me preface this by saying that this is my favorite series going right now. I’m a huge science fiction fan and Hickman has been delivering every issue in this series so far.

Issue seven acts primarily as a set up issue for an upcoming conflict. The whole premise of The Manhattan Projects is that the atomic bomb work during World War II was really just a cover up for much more bizarre, borderline paranormal projects. It features twists on some familiar historical characters, such as Albert Einstein, FDR, and Robert Oppenheimer, who have a variety of hidden agendas as they work together on a number of bizarre projects. By issue seven, the cast has grown to include the residents of Star City, the Russian alternative to the Manhattan Projects. They are tentatively working together to prepare earth for a potential extraterrestrial threat, previously fleshed out in the first story arc.

The thing that works best about this issue is that it seems to be setting up for the real action of the series. So far we’ve been continuously warned about the threat of science “going horribly wrong”, but for the most part things have managed to basically worked out. In issue seven we see the Manhattan Projects becoming its own entity with an agenda separate from that of any nation, which of course puts it at odds with just about every power player in the world. Basically, the world’s foremost geniuses, who are almost unanimously unstable, are setting themselves up for a war against not only every extraterrestrial in the universe, but their own governments as well. Nick Pitarra’s art reinforces the utterly bizarre feel of this book by shamelessly emulating Frank Quitely (only weirder). It works amazingly well in this series as a compliment to Hickman’s characterizations.

Despite being a fun ride, issue seven is not the best jumping on point if you haven’t read the previous six issues. There are a lot of things going on with every single character in this series, and it may not make sense if you haven’t already read their back story. Hickman does provide a nice “Cast” page in the back of the book that tells you a little bit about the many mad scientists who work on the Manhattan Projects, but you really need to go back and pick up the previous issues to fully appreciate what is going on here.

Uncanny X-Force #33

Uncanny X-Force #33
Property of Marvel Comics

This is the series that made me take Deadpool seriously as a character. That’s how good it is. Now it’s getting ready to end at issue #36, but Remender is definitely not winding things down.

Anyone who has been reading this series has been waiting for “Evan”, a clone of Apocalypse, to go from potential atom bomb to actual atom bomb. The last few issues have drawn out the inevitable a bit, but we finally get to see some things come to fruition here. Wolverine has an awesome heart to heart with his son Daken (who also happens to be the leader of the latest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants) that doesn’t end so well for the old man. Psylocke, who will be taking over as leader in the Marvel NOW! reboot, faces off with the Shadow King with unfortunate results. Nightcrawler (from the Age of Apolcalypse universe) reaps the benefits of betraying the team in issue #32. And Deadpool, oddly enough, plays the role of Jiminy Cricket to Evan, trying to keep him from giving in and becoming Apocalypse (it doesn’t look good).

Long story short, it seems like everyone is royally screwed in this issue, which has been a running theme during Remender’s run. He has continuously found ways to make things worse for the cast, and this issue is no exception. It’s hard to imagine a happy ending to Final Execution, which is fitting given the nature of this title. Even when the team wins, it comes with a huge cost, and it seems like that trend will hold true as we are getting ready to head towards the series finale. I’m looking forward to it.

If you haven’t been reading Uncanny X-Force, get it in trades. It’s a little late to jump into this story but it’s so good that it’s worth the money. It’s almost certain that Marvel will do an omnibus of this series, so that might be your best bet to get the best value for your money.

Saga, Chapter One
Property of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

by Phil Gibson

If you are a comic reader at all, you’ve probably heard of Brian K. Vaughan. He’s the mastermind behind such masterpieces as Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghdad, and the Runaways.

Vaughan is that rare writer who is equally gifted at storytelling and character development. Every one of his series/graphic novels seems to feature an outside-the-box concept that still draws on archetypes we all know and love. The characters are rich, morally complex, and relate-able, even when cast against ridiculous backdrops.

Vaughan’s newest series, Saga, drawn by the phenomenal Fiona Staples, is the work of a scribe at the very top of his game. The main characters, Alana and Marko, are star crossed lovers on opposite sides of a neverending, intergalactic war that superficially resembles something out of Star Wars. Their newborn child, Hazel (who narrates the story in retrospect) becomes the center of attention to both her parents’ home planets.

Everyone in Saga has there own motives for pursuing Hazel and her parents.I won’t spoil too much here, but the morally gray “The Will” is one of the most interesting characters in the series. His motives to kill our protagonists for money tie closely with his own agenda to “do the right thing”, making it hard to peg him as a true villain. This is a running theme in Saga, as many of the characters’ means and ends are in constant conflict with one another.

Another big theme in Saga is inequality. The two planets involved in war have long since “outsourced” the actual violence to other locales to minimize the actual impact on themselves. Meanwhile, inhabitants of planets with no real stake in the war bear the brunt of the costs of violence. There are various characters that embody this sense of dehumanization, such as the supposedly violent spirits that inhabitant the woods of Cleave, where Alana and Marko spend the bulk of the first arc.

Yep, humans with TV heads
Property of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

There’s a lot of social commentary to be found in Saga, but the book is never so heavy that it stops being fun. There is a balance between the serious and ridiculous that Vaughan seems to get better than just about everyone, and this series is no exception. Fiona Staple’s art drives this balance home perfectly, with its highly stylized but believable characters. The whole series has a painted look to it that makes it feel like a piece of folklore rather than a comic book.

If you like science fiction, fantasy, epic adventures, or humanoids with TV heads, do yourself a favor and pick up the first trade, which is an absolute steal at $10. It contains the first six issues, and will basically get you up to speed, as issue seven comes out November 14th. This one is well worth adding to your pull list, especially if you’re looking for something a little meatier than the usual spandex-and-tights fare.

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