The Pull List has grown a lot longer this week – 17 issues in all!
That’s due to catching up with another Marvel book (Thanos), several new indie #1s, and a few Image books I’ve read to the present in the past few weeks. Also, starting this week I’m running very short reviews of the X-Men books covered in This Week in X here, so that you can catch up on all the week’s new titles in one place!
Here’s what’s on my Pull List:
- Abbott (2018) #1
- Avengers (2017) #677
- Backways (2017) #2
- Detective Comics (1937/2016) #973
- Dissonance (2018) #1
- Doomsday Clock (2017) #3
- Gasolina (2017) #5
- Legion (2018) #1
- Maestros (2017) #4
- Marvel 2-in-One (2018) #2
- Phoenix Resurrection (2018) #4
- Raven: Daughter of Darkness (2018) #1
- Thanos (2016) #15
- Vinegar Teeth (2018) #1
- Wonder Woman (2016) #39
- X-Men: Blue (2017) #20
- X-Men: Blue (2017) Annual 1
I hope these capsule reviews can help you decided what series you should add to your own pull list, or at least catch up with once they hit collected editions! And, remember, this feature is still new and evolving, so your comments and suggestions count a lot!
Abbott (2018) #1, Boom! Studios
I picked this up blind purely because it was by Black Bolt‘s Saladin Ahmed and his writing there has been incredibly strong.
The first half of this issue was slow. A black woman beat reporter agitating for social justice in 70s Detroit is a terrific story concept, but it felt more like a novel or a TV show than a comic book. It didn’t feel like a story that was taking great advantage of the visual storytelling capabilities of the comics medium.
However, in the middle it takes a turn towards something more supernatural, and it ends with those elements coming to the fore. Ahmed has accumulated enough good will from Black Bolt that I’ll be happy to stick around for a few more issues to see what develops here.
Avengers (2017) #677, Marvel Comics
In the third installment of “No Surrender” it’s becoming apparent (to the reader, at least) that the stolen Earth has been turned into a giant colosseum for villains assumed to be dead to fight across.
The Avengers deploy to fight the Lethal Legion, who are now split across two locations. Are they permanently resurrected or just disposable video game sprites? We don’t know yet.
I’m really hoping that the four initial issues here are all just set-up for things to be expanded on or explained later, because so far this plot is on the dull side. Maybe that’s just because it repeats so many recent plot and tropes.
On the other hand, I heartily endorse big, dumb action comics that you could hand to a 10-year fan of the Marvel films who would respond, “Whoa, cool!,” and this series is very much that. Keeping Pepe Larraz and David Curiel on art throughout this entire first portion of the series was an amazing call by editorial, and must have taken month of work from Larraz and Curiel just for four weeks worth of comics.
Backways (2017) #2, Aftershock Comics
Early on in this issue I had to stop for a moment to consider if this an extension of the non-canonical Ben Savage classic Little Monsters. You know the one – where the one where kids disappear under their beds to inhabit a monster world and if they do not return by sunrise they turn into monsters themselves?
The answer is: almost.
I don’t know why we can’t have more of this comic – YA-appropriate adventures in horror that pack decent scares and strong artwork, and maybe even focus on an entirely female cast of characters. It feels of a piece with Jim Zub’s Wayward, which I also love.
It was easy to go go along for the ride in this issue after a mysterious disappearance in the debut informed us us that the supernatural is real in this universe. This issue was less mysterious and more expository, and at points it was so much information it turned into a hard-to-follow swirl. By the end of a confrontation a giant magical baby I was feeling pretty confused. I probably need another issue to figure out all of what’s going on.
Detective Comics (1937/2016) #973, DC Comics
This issue is fast as hell, and artist Jason Merino (with David Wright on colors) plays it a bit looser on art than we’ve been enjoying to this point. It’s nothing bad, but it’s back to the high-end of normal superhero art instead of the stunning perfection we’ve been getting in this last run of issues.
However, Tynion’s script does not let up for one second. The entire run of over thirty issues has been leading up to this point, as he weaves together multiple threads of Monster Town, First Victim, Batwing and Azreal, Cass and Clayface, and more to craft heartbreaking final moment that will fracture the team irrevocably.
I think this seals the deal that Detective Comics has been the best Big Two comic for nearly two years running at this point.
Dissonance (2018) #1, Image Comics / Top Cow / Glitch
Tremendously attentive science fiction word-building combined with attractive artwork with the slightest tinge of manga influence make for a heady debut that I could read again and again!
We are introduced to a nearly-immortal alien race called “The Fantasm” that could not defeat its own solipsistic, destructive tendencies, so they visit a pre-industrial Earth and form 1-on-1 bonds with humans to use as their outboard conscience and sense of morality. Over a century later, Earth’s technology has flourished, but now it’s humanity that lacks a moral center aside from the anesthetizing effects of consuming pop culture.
All of that comes to a head when a shadowy conglomerate of bonded humans arranges for the assassination of a popular bonded fashion designer.
There’s the surface level mystery of what this mysterious council seeks to achieve with a schedule of murders to threaten and enthrall the populace, and then the greater mystery of if humanity might learn the same lesson they managed to teach The Fantasm.
Doomsday Clock (2017) #3, DC Comics
Some big stuff finally goes down in this one. Doctor Manhattan on page two. Comedian vs. Ozymandius. Batman and Rorschach. Mime and Marionette breaking into Joker territory (and he might already be watching them).
And that’s not even all of it!
Doomsday Clock #3 is the first issue of this maxi-series that feels like a potentially world-shaking classic in the same way as Watchmen. While many of the thrills come from seeing certain characters bump up against each other, what’s unsaid is much more interesting.
Meanwhile, a quiet subplot about folks in an old-age home arguing over TV channels yields more development of the Superman Theory plus a tantalizing story-within-story that might be a better execution than the original Black Freighter.
Gasolina (2017) #5, Image Comics / Skybound Entertainment
I thought the opening issue of this comic about gang wars on the Mexico/US border and also unholy demon bugs was a perfectly-constructed comic. It’s like the human portion of Scicario or a dozen other movies about drugs and Mexico, but with an Alien sort of body horror element to it to. Yet, as this initial arc has pressed on to its close, I found I’ve gone from feeling tense to mostly feeling confused.
The artwork is pleasing, but it often doesn’t distinguish between characters and changes camera perspectives too often to get a clear understanding of action. I spend a lot of time not knowing what the hell is going on, and it’s not always in a good way.
Even as the plot has cohered a bit, the actions of our protagonists just don’t make sense – not in terms of what we know of their history or in terms of decisions that any human being would make. Like, if there was a clearly dead child inhabited by a ravenous snake monster who thirsts for the blood of men, would you want to take a road trip with that kid? Or, do you think you’d hit him with a double tap?
This creative team seems capable of incredible storytelling, but their narrative is snagged on a lot of editorial problems right now. I’m willing to call it growing pains and try the beginning of the next arc, but this is teetering on the edge of being bad.
Legion (2018) #1, Marvel Comics
This debut makes no attempt to capture Legion’s voice or acknowledge Spurrier’s beloved Marvel Now series, nor does it line up at all with the brilliant FX show soon to start its second second. It never does much to contextualize Legion’s inner life. It just flatly tells us he’s got personalities with their own powers and sets him in motion towards New York City to track down a talented psychotherapist. The colors as wan and washed out.
It’s a dull issue in every regard, and I’m not sure who it’s made for.
Maestros (2017) #4, Image Comics
This series just keeps delighting, here showing us how Will wound up back on Earth after his training in the Maestro’s magic academy at the same time it explains his current end-around to regain some power after his source of godly power is destroyed. I think this chapter could have done with slightly more context of what we’re coming from – it doesn’t even vaguely mention the major events of the last issue. But it’s still wonderfully weird and transgressive, and I love it.
Marvel 2-in-One (2018) #2, Marvel Comics
I could describe this comic two different ways.
First, I could say: Human Torch and The Thing fight against a cave of Moloids and Monsters and would lose if it weren’t for the help of Doctor Doom.
Or, I could explain it as: Johnny Story and Ben Grimm desperately search for one last artifact hidden away by their beloved patriarch Reed Richards, and while they assume they’ll find it amidst the monsters they fought in their debut, they’ve got to travel further back to find the answer – to the beginning of Grimm’s brotherhood with Richards and the birth of their enmity with Victor Von Doom.
The magic of this issue is that it’s both. The big action beats play out perfectly alongside the subtler emotional ones. Chip Zdarsky went from “that guy that writes the funny books” to “that guy who tugs on your heartstrings” in the course of two issues. Jim Cheung is delivering career-best work here, which is a staggering thing to say considering how often Marvel runs to him to illustrate their biggest comics, but he’s simply stunning here. That’s in no small part thanks to Frank Martin on colors, also delivering a definitive performance here.
The secret that could dissolve the bond of this Two-in-One pairing is that one of them believe’s Reed and the family are alive while the other is sure they aren’t. Either result would create a powerful ending to their quest, and right now it’s hard to know which one we’re headed towards or how Doctor Doom will remain involved (who, let us not forget, was the architect of their disappearance).
I know we’re only two issues in, but Zdarsky can keep this up, not only will this book begin to rival Thor as Marvel’s biggest epic story, but it could even notch itself along some of the best FF tales of all time.
Phoenix Resurrection (2018) #4, Marvel Comics
This penultimate issue is a letdown, and I’m not sure the groan-worthy promise it makes at its climax is one the final issue will be able to fulfill. It’s mostly talk and one little “haha” gimmick about the naive Jean’s weird psychic world. This series started so promising, but not one iota of its initial mystery or suspense has really paid off.
Raven: Daughter of Darkness (2018) #1, DC Comics
Apparently this is a sequel to the Raven mini at the beginning of Rebirth which I haven’t read.
As a book about a solo female hero that vaguely references the superhero side of DC and has a dark air of foreboding hanging over it, this one is pretty solid even without knowing the backstory. Raven feels like a major fish out of water without knowing all that much about her or her powers, and the intercuts to the strange man in Baltimore are appropriately mysterious.
This was well-crafted, with solid narration and art, and notably great colors from Lovern Kindzierski. I’m happy to keep reading.
Thanos (2016) #15, Marvel Comics
We’re now into the third arc of this Thanos series, and while this brisk issue is clever and looks terrific (Geoff Shaw with Anthony Fabela on colors is amazing!), the only thing it’s done is convince me there are no good stories to tell with Thanos as their lead.
He’s too big, too powerful, too inscrutably inhuman in his motivations, to write a story focused on him and his character growth. All you can do is swing him around on the end of a chain, hitting out against big concepts like fate or death, and watch him chew through the scenery.
Something Jason Aaron did very right in his similar time-traveling Thor: God of Thunder plot was to leave no one at the end of the world with Thor, so it was purely a story about Thor and his development – not another cutesy Old Man Logan pastiche of reusing present day characters in unexpected ways.
One tossaway moment in this issue is an inane reveal of the identity of the far-future Ghost Rider who is at Thanos’s beck and call. I know a lot of fans love this time travel stuff and plot points like the Ghost Rider reveal, but these sorts of moments really irk me. We just met this character two issues ago. It’s not a big revelation to learn who he is in the third issue – especially when it’s a ridiculous twist that no one could have possibly guessed with the hints that we’ve been given.
That’s not a bad thing. It’s fun comics! But, treating the reveal as though it makes this a good issue why we can’t have nice things like long-running plots anymore. Fans won’t let them happen.
Vinegar Teeth (2018) #1, Dark Horse Comics
Maybe this is aimed at some fandom corner I don’t occupy – like, Robert Crumb, or something? I’m not sure, but I thought it was a mess. The art is definitely Crumb-esque, but the script was hard to follow and the lettering was very hard to understand. It’s for you if you want a super-underground buddy copy comic about a policeman who unintentionally gains a Lovecraftian partner.
Wonder Woman (2016) #39, DC Comics
I’m trying my best to find the positive in this James Robinson arc while others are just abandoning ship. Honestly, he’s getting a few elements very right and the overall craft of the series has been strong, even if some of the overall themes are on the weaker side.
For example, I’m still entirely negative on the story of this new Silver Swan, but at this point she’s here and there’s nothing we can do about it. At least she makes for a decent foe for Wonder Woman, who has been at the fore of precious few superheroic battles as we close in on two years running of this series.
Then, there is Darkseid. I more than low-key love that Darkseid is now a defacto Wonder Woman villain and that he’s getting all of his important development in this title rather than in Superman or some limited series. Yet, giving it half the real estate of each issue here feels like we’re skirting getting a good, strongly-focused Wonder Woman comic.
If the crux of Darkseid’s return is truly going to play out here rather than elsewhere, then this time will all prove to be well-spent. Diana deserves to have him (and Grail) as part of her pantheon of foes when Superman and Batman have so many villains to choose from. However, if all this development just leads him into his own event or into a Justice League arc, this will have felt like a waste.
X-Men: Blue (2017) #20, Marvel Comics
[This review contains minor spoilers for the outcome of this arc!]
If you’ve kept up with me for any amount of time you know I have no love for these original X-Men nor much goodwill towards Cullen Bunn, so please believe me when I tell you Bunn with penciler RB Silva delivers possibly the best and most satisfying issue of the time-displayed original X-Men to date.
This is the end of their being shunted through time to discover periods of unsettled X-history, and they’ve finally gone back to the source – their original timeline! Except, things are different there now, and not even a blowout fight can make it so that the team can pick up where they left off their lives in the past.
For me, that leaves this team and their title in a much more interesting place than they were before. Instead of wondering if they can ever return to their past lives, now they have the terrible knowledge that eventually they must return.
For some reason, that’s so much more compelling to me than the constant, “Can they ever go home?” Does it mean they will all forget their time in the present day, their development, and their loves? What if some of them (a-hem, Bobby) are happier in the present than they ever are in the past? And, what if others (Scott and Jean) have no interest in living out the script that the universe has already written for them.
X-Men: Blue (2017) Annual 1, Marvel Comics
This was surprisingly all of the good things I expected from a X-Men/Venom crossover, and not really any of the bad ones.
The Starjammers encounter some rogue symbiotes, and the original X-Men kidnap Eddie Brock to assist them (riding in a Danger-assisted spacecraft) in tracking down their extended space family.
I don’t think Cullen Bunn has a particular gift for writing Venom (as we saw back in 2013), so the internal dialog between Brock and the symbiote gets a bit wearing as the issue presses on, but otherwise this was a fun, enjoyable book that respected a lot of prior stories along the way.