Posts Tagged ‘Age of Ultron’

By Alex Headley

This week brings a lot of change-ups in status quo for several books on my pull list. The highlights include the first and last issue of Andy Diggle’s Action Comics run and an Age of Ultron twist that sets the stage for what’s to come. I also have a brief reviews for Animal Man and Green Lantern.

Pictured: Not at all what this book looks like. Property of Marvel Comics.

Age of Ultron #4

Age of Ultron 4 picks up directly where 3 left off. With Luke Cage and She-Hulk facing down a heavily damaged Vision in Ultron’s fortress. The Vision’s reveal was a big deal last week but nothing compared to what we learn here: that Ultron is controlling events and exacting revenge on the heroes from the future. This time-travel twist isn’t totally unexpected, thanks to solicits and teaser images but it’s interesting nonetheless and it looks there may be some continuity tweaks happening as a result of this time travel, mostly involving Hank Pym and Ultron of course. In addition to that little revelation, everyone manages to make it to the Savage Land and meet up and prepare to execute a plan created by Nick Fury. There is a lot going on in this issue and to get it all in, Bendis has really picked up the pace of the storytelling. A lot goes down in this issue and it all has impact and weight to it. The series still has an alternate reality feel to it, something that is really driven home by the violence and darkness seen in this issue. Whether that’s Red Hulk smashing Taskmaster to pieces or She-Hulk’s unceremonious death at the hands of Ultron bots or Luke Cage’s slow, painful demise from radiation poisoning, the book obviously has no qualms with killing characters in gruesome manners. While that lends a sense of danger and immediacy to this story in the heat of the moment it also takes away from any impact it might have in the long run. Bendis is still delivering some of his best work in years on this book and I think as far as event books go this is still a worthy read. And although, Brian Hitch will be leaving the book after issue 5, it’s worth noting that he is knocking it out of the park in this story as well, Luke Cage’s weird hair notwithstanding. The scenery is especially interesting as Hitch continues to make the Marvel U a depressing, bombed out hellhole. You know, in a good way.

We could have had months and months of beautiful Superman books. Sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. Property of DC Comics.

Action Comics 19

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news first: Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel deliver a great Superman story in issue 19! I loved it. The bad news: it’s pretty much already over. Whatever Diggle’s professional reasons were, they must have been damned good to make him walk away from this story. It’s exciting and new but pays homage to the character in a timeless way. This was poised to be the best Superman book on the market and now all of that is undone with a tweet and, from the sound of it, poor conditions and management at DC. This saddens me greatly. I guess we will see how Daniel does on his own for the rest of the arc but if his run on Detective Comics is any indication at all, the quality will fall dramatically starting with next issue. The worst part is that Diggle really has a great interpretation of one the best characters in the Superman mythos, Lex Luthor and the story looks to deliver that characters first big story in the New 52. The Lex scene in this book is absolutely perfect and Diggle influence will be sorely missed come next issue. One thing that shouldn’t change in the next chapter is Tony Daniel’s fantastic pencils. He really has come into his own lately and knocks it out of the park in this issue. The pages are crisp and clearly drawn, with clean lines and dynamic lighting. Daniel really puts the Action in Action Comics this issue and at the very least, we can expect him to do the same for the rest of his run.

Swamp Thing 19

Ol’ Swampy gets a new status quo this week too, as a new creative team comes onboard and replaces the excellent Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. Despite the big shoes to fill, Charles Soule and Kano do a great job in this issue at making Swamp Thing more relevant to the greater DCU than he really has been, almost tying right in with Geoff Johns’ JLA and guest starring Superman. The duo also deliver a fun take on the Scarecrow, a villain I’ve always quite liked but that never gets enough to do. Alec still feels like Alec too and that’s a good thing. Having not read too many Swamp Thing stories before the New 52, I was worried that Soule’s Swampy would feel different from Snyder’s. That is not the case and I’m happy to say that this transition is pretty seamless. Alec has a new mystery to solve and a few new powers to explore and that lends some excitement to the issue. He’s keeping himself busy in the wake of Abby’s death and it feels like something the character would do and not at all like a new writer grasping at straws to pick up the pieces. Kano, whom I am utterly unfamiliar with, delivers some great visuals too. First with a dry and dusty setting, and Swamp Thing to match, and later with fuller colors with lush environments. His Scarecrow lurches and hunches in disturbing ways and has an aura of menace to him. Kano also delivers a very cool two-page spread of Holland traveling through the Green. I’m glad to see him working towards keeping the book visually distinctive, even if his palette and staging isn’t quite as good as Paquette’s. I was skeptical of the new team, but this issue won me over and it will officially stay on the pull list.

Green Lantern 19

Geoff Johns’ epic run on Green Lantern nears its final issue and although the First Lantern still doesn’t excite me very much, I very much enjoyed this issue. Largely because it focused on the greatest Green Lantern of them all, Sinestro! Johns lets the First Lantern dig into the life and mind of one of DC’s best characters and delivers a great tale in the process. We also see just how powerful this new villain really is and how Hal plans to escape the Dead Zone. Also, Korugar explodes. Lots of stuff going on in this issue and it all has to come to a head in issue 20 and end with a lead in to the new status quo. It’s a tall order to be sure but it should be exciting nonetheless. Ardian Syaf delivers some great visuals in this issue as well though I still miss Reis’s touch on the book.We’ll see how everything shakes out next month in #20.

Animal Man 19

Jeff Lemire has delivered a pretty big shakeup for Buddy Baker and his family and although it brings back that family drama I enjoyed so much in the book’s early days, it’s so dark and joyless that this is far from my favorite entry into the series. Everyone is angry and everything is bad. There’s a lot of yelling and crying and to be honest, a month of mourning for Damian over in the Batman books has left me tired of comic book grief. Cliff sure did choose an inconvenient time to go and die on us. But dark and gloomy feelings aside, Animal Man 19 is still a great book that sees Buddy Baker trying to make sense of the world after the death of his son and the events of Rotworld. Steve Pugh isn’t at his best with the dramatic emotional stuff apparently as many of the faces of grief and anger seen throughout the issue just look odd. Proportions are weird and although bathing the scenes in black and shadow makes sense for a funeral issue, it’s just too much. The scenes in the Red are far better though and in keeping with the book’s somewhat gory tradition. This is by no means a bad book, but  it’s not quite up to snuff compared to the rest of the series.

 

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I’m sure everyone is aware by now but just in case, here’s your warning. Spoilers for Batman Inc. 8 are in this post.

By Alex Headley

The cover to Batman and Robin 18 is striking and the comic makes a great reference to it about halfway through. Property of DC Comics.

Batman and Robin 18

I won’t say much about the contents of this issue, as it’s better to just read it but its fair to say that this is one of the most emotionally powerful comics I’ve read. The issue is completely silent, no word balloons at all, as Bruce deals with Damian’s death over in Batman Inc. 8. The decision to make this a silent issue means that all of the responsibility falls on Patrick Gleason’s shoulders and he really pulls it off well. Bruce has lost people before, but never quite like this. His reaction is perfectly in character and very easy to relate to. Every page here works to drive home a terrible feeling of emptiness, guilt and anger. Damian’s dog Titus is particularly heartbreaking to see, as he waits for his master’s return at this bed and in the Batcave near his uniform. Damian’s drawings and list of recommended from “C.K.” give the absent dead a personality and something to remember him by, while the unfinished painting of Bruce and his sons in the library reminds us that Damian lived for only a short time. All these details and more make for a riveting read. It is utterly depressing but excellently crafted at the same time. This issue is a great example of what comics have to offer as an art form and anyone that is the least bit interested in the medium should take notice. Gleason’s use of shadow and quick-cut panels is especially provocative and the final pages will stay with you for quite some time.

Greg Capullo may be absent this issue but his cover is still great. Property of DC Comics.

Batman 18

Scott Snyder teams up with Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev to bring us another issue all about Harper Row, the mysterious girl first introduced all the way back in Batman #7 and she’s just as interesting as ever. This time around, she’s here to help Batman grieve for his dead son, and maybe hint that she should be the next Robin (or maybe a new Oracle?). This is a great issue and it goes hand in hand with Batman and Robin 18 out this week. While it’s not quite as heartfelt and emotional as Patrick Gleason’s offering, it still packs quite a punch and reminds us why Batman is such an endearing character. Harper’s speech late in the issue is a bit cheesy, but it feels appropriate and gives her a lot of personality.I like Harper, and I’m quite curious to see what role she ends up playing in the grand scheme of things. I hate to see Damian gone but his death really signals the passing of the torch from Grant Morrison to Scott Snyder and gives the new showrunner a lot more room to play with the story. Morrison’s Batman epic is drawing to a close and it makes sense that a new status quo should follow his absence. And although he’s a bit of a jerk for killing my favorite Robin and the best new DC character in years, Damian was his creation and it’s fitting that he gets the final say on his fate.

Andy Kubert delivers some fun visuals early in the book, managing to get in quite a bit of action in a short time in a way that still has emotional underpinnings. But the real story here is Alex Maleev on a Batman book. His pages are fantastic and really left me wanting more. I loved Maleev’s run with Brian Micheal Bendis on Daredevil all those years ago and to see him working on my favorite title is exciting. DC needs to find him a steady gig soon.

New York has seen better days. Property of Marvel Comics.

Age of Ultron 2

That’s right, this is a weekly series! Issue 2 doesn’t let up with the doom and gloom, immersing us further into a world that is very unlike the Marvel U we know and love. Heroes kill without question to get by and shiny golden robots gun down citizens in the streets while Avengers stand by and watch. It’s kind of rough to read but Bendis is delivering an incredibly intriguing story here. So far, this event feels very unique and is a breath of fresh air to me. Of course, being an event that promises “Everything Changes!” means that as the story goes on it may be a little less unconventional and a little more predictable. Bryan Hitch continues to deliver cinematic visuals and big, sweeping destruction. The flahsback pages with Spider-Man tell a tale of a battle won before anyone can react. The heroes are all dead or in hiding and nobody can stand up to Ultron, whom we have yet to hear much from at this point. There are still quite a few questions regarding what happened and how all this went down but it doesn’t seem like Bendis is too interested in exploring that, instead pushing the story further along with almost every page, the last page in particular pushes the story forward a great deal.

By Alex Headley

The cover to Age of Ultron #1 is pretty cool. The gold foil on the print edition is a little cheesy though, what is this? The 90s? Property of Marvel Comics.

Much has been said of Age of Ultron over the last couple of years. Originally teased in Bendis’ Heroic Age of Avengers and seemingly pushed back for the sake of AvX, issue 1 has finally arrived. And it’s a doozy. Brian Micheal Bendis and Bryan Hitch throw us right into the thick of things, Ultron has already won and the Earth has been enslaved by golden robots. Only a few heroes remain, including a grim and gritty Hawkeye that has no qualms about shooting fools dead with a crossbow. While I’m not a fan of heroes killing, I have to say that Age of Ultron #1 has won me over for what it is. A great big ‘What If?’ tale. At least that’s my takeaway as far issue one goes. I struggle to think how this book will mesh with the current continuity seen in Marvel NOW! and to be honest that’s just fine with me. World shattering events are a dime a dozen in comics, and especially so in Marvel, so the concept of a self contained epic story that puts these characters in a new light without damaging what creators are doing in their own stories is very appealing to me. Recasting Marvel’s cast of characters as the last holdouts of humanity in a bleak sci-fi adventure story is fun and exciting but there is no need for it to be canon. I’m fine with beginning the story in progress, it gets us right into the thick of things without the overdone all is lost but the heroes win at the last second ending we’ve all come to expect from a big event like this and instead delivers something new (at least for the moment, time will tell if that changes as the event rolls on). I like that the bad guy has already won, it gives the event a new twist and casts these characters into a tale that twists the genre a bit and in my book, that’s a good thing.

Now let’s get to the actual issue. Hitch is at the top of his game here, delivering bleak landscapes and jarring, bone-crunching violence with great ability and talent. His faces still aren’t great here (they never have been the best in the biz) but the emotion still comes through thanks to Bendis’ excellent dialogue. I’ve given Bendis a hard time in the past, but it really does seem like the guy has found a new rhythm and depth to his prose lately and I’m slowly coming around to it. His X-Men stuff has been great and this issue is more of that in a way. He works best when his characters are in the thick of it, with bit emotions and dire consequences at stake. In that regard, he’s perfect for this dystopian future. He seems to trust Hitch implicitly as well, there are fewer word balloons in this issue than in anything else Bendis has ever written I think and he lets Hitch do a lot of the heavy lifting, telling the story with quick, choppy action sequences and big bold panoramas of a devastated New York. It’s quite good. The story itself is quite interesting, if a little bleaker than I typically like my superhero comics but as I said above, I’m down with an out of canon ‘What If?’ romp through the Marvel U, and the lack of Marvel NOW! branding on this issue seems to suggest that’s what we will get. I am more than a little confused as to who Spider-Man is at the moment. He seems like good ol’ fashioned Pete but is that just Otto becoming more like Peter or has Peter regained control of his body somehow? I don’t care too much but it’s a question in the back of mind. Still, I’m very interested in seeing how this little even plays out. I may skip out on the tie-in issues for now but I think I’ll pick the main 10-issue book.

What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments.