My pull list just keeps getting bigger and better! This week, The Pull List is twenty-six issues long with seven new number ones, four issues with Batman, and an average rating of 3.17.
What did I pull this week? Well, I’m still not caught up on my Superman, but I’ve got a pretty big cross-section of DC and Marvel on my list, plus a handful of smaller publisher titles!
- Aftershock Comics
- Monstro Mechanica (2017) #3
- Boom! Studios
- Giant Days (2015) #35
- Mech Cadet Yu (2017) #6
- Dark Horse
- Incognegro – Renaissance (2018) #1
- DC Comics
- Batman (2016) #40
- Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (2018)#2
- Justice League (2016) #38
- Milk Wars: Mother Panic / Batman Special (2018)
- Swamp Thing Winter Special (2018) #1
- Young Monsters In Love (2018) #1
- Image Comics
- Paper Girls (2015) #20
- Twisted Romance (2018) #1
- VS (2018) #1
- Witchblade (2017) #3
- Marvel Comics
- Avengers (2017) #679
- Black Bolt (2017) #10
- Black Panther – Sound And Fury (2018) #1
- Hawkeye (2017) #15
- Iceman (2017) #10
- Infinity Countdown (2018) – Adam Warlock One-Shot
- Rise of the Black Panther (2018) #2
- Rogue & Gambit (2018) #2
- Runaways (2017) #6
- Spider-Man (2016) #237
- X-Men: Gold (2017) #21
- X-Men: Red (2018) #1
Marvel/DC Issue of the Week: Justice League (2016) #38, DC Comics
Justice League is finally back to being amongst DC’s most exciting books every month with Christopher Priest at the helm for the first time since Darkseid War in the latter part of New 52 in 2015.
Marco Santucci’s pencils on this are brilliant right out of the gate! Flash’s one-man reenactment of Sandra Bullock in Gravity is riveting and an absolutely amazing blend of real science and comics magic. It plays out over a League realizing just how reliant they’ve become on technology, both to back them up and to tell them what to do and where to be.
What makes the story unusual is that Batman is the physical representation of that weakness – not Cyborg. As a brilliant tactician who is just a regular man, Batman uses technology to enhance his detective skills and the breadth of his knowledge. Yet, that can easily be used as his own Kryptonite when there’s a situation he cannot strategize his way out of.
Just as Flash keeps emphasizing “I’m only a scientist, not an engineer” as he tries to arrest his free float through space, Cyborg is an engineer first and a tactician second. He’s not Batman. He “doesn’t want to be the boss.”
What happens when Cyborg has to take charge of the League in a way that’s greater than just Boom Tubing them from place to place? Can he fake being a leader with engineering in the same way Flash fakes being an engineer with science?
I don’t know, but I am transfixed by this Christopher Priest arc!
Small Publisher Issue of the Week: Mech Cadet Yu (2017) #6, Boom! Studios
With the way this book has been going, it’s going to be really hard for anything to excite me more in a week that it’s on the stands.
If you haven’t seen my breathless catch-up on this Greg Pak/Takeshi Miyazawa series in this week’s Back Issue Review, here’s the skinny: years ago a giant semi-organic robot crashed to Earth and bonded with a pilot, and ever since then four mechs descend into our atmosphere each year.
To find the four pilots that will bond, the US maintains a Hogwarts-esque Mech Academy to train the best and the brightest. We need them, because a race giant Kaiju monsters named Shargs are constantly creeping into our orbit and can only be repelled by the mechs.
We’re in the middle of the second arc of this book now after it was extended past a mini-series, presumably for just being unbelievably excellent (and also selling a few copies). I cannot tell you the last time I got this nervous about characters in a comic book being in peril.
This series continues to perfectly toe the line between Pacific Rim and Harry Potter, and I just want there to be 20x as much of it so I can keep reading more!
The Pull List
Avengers (2017) #679, Marvel Comics
Marvel is truly pulling in all of their best artists for this event – we’ve gone from from Pepe Larraz to Kim Jacinto on art duties here! They can’t manage art this good on their actual event books!
This week took the plot of “No Surrender” from pretty cool to freaking amazing for me. Part of that is Jacinto out-Coipel-ing Coipel. But, part of it is that this story is starting to cohere.
All we saw from the Avengers was aftermath – them picking up the pieces after their battles and their seeming loss of Human Torch, who has turned into a living poker chip in the game between The Challenger and the Gamesmaster.
Then, we get about half an issue of background on this Challenge. Usually these expository villain moments feel like slow ones – necessary but not exciting. This doesn’t feel that way for me. It feel epic, like the curtain had been drawn back on a cosmic mount olympus.
Also, the implication (“everything dies”) seems to be that Challenger began to make his way back to the universe in the wake of Secret Wars, which I think is a clever turn and also gives the impression that we’ve been building to this event for the last 2-3 years.
I’m totally into this story, at this point! I could do weekly Avengers comics all year if a few overly busy issues keep resolving to terrific ones like this.
Batman (2016) #40, DC Comics
“Just as my Steve Trevor is a good man.”
This issue resolves the pair of superfriend team-up stories nicely, and is maybe the second-best issue of the four of them after Bruce and Clark at the fair.
I think that’s because it had so much of Catwoman, and because Catwoman is acting with agency and learning something about herself in the process. I found myself really caring about her missing Bruce for just a day and for the Gentle Man and his curse in the other realm.
The Bruce and Diana stuff was a tossaway, but the visuals continued to stun with linework from Joelle Jones and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Jones who has reached Phil Noto levels of minimal perfection on her faces (which from me is the highest possible compliment), while sticking with deliciously thick, luscious ink lines to outline her shapes.
On the whole, my takeaway is that I’m getting a little weary of Tom King. It feels like he ran out of ideas for really amazing Batman stories about 20 issues ago and now we’re just reading a lot of manufactured relationship drama as we amble towards a Bat/Cat wedding.
Black Bolt (2018) #10, Marvel Comics
Christian Ward’s art is fascinating and it blends seamlessly with a beautiful Stephanie Hans dream sequence, but Ward is still not great at fisticuffs this does not stand along as powerfully as some of the prior issues.
This issue has a slightly dull back-and-forth quality to it. Everyone is captured twice, they’re tied up twice, the poison takes effect twice. It’s a bit of a comedown after the past few issues of brisk plot.
Black Panther – Sound And Fury (2018) #1, Marvel Comics
This is a timeless Panther one-shot that could occur anytime after Fantastic Four #56, seeing him briefly face off against Klaw as he threatens Dubai.
This is, to me, a perfect All Ages comic. It’s not written down to lower reading levels at all. The concepts aren’t easier to understand. It’s just a well-made comic book with a clear plot, where the character somewhat narrates his actions instead of relying solely on the art to communicate the story.
With strong craft in script and art, this feels like a forgotten piece of late 80s comics, back when even anonymous Marvel titles were on the stronger side of average.
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (2018) #2, DC Comics
There is no magic here. From the opening montage under the monologue to randomly happening upon an stage managing octopus to Huckleberry Hounds’ bad attempt at cruising, it all feels so jammed in and unconnected.
I wish I could be more excited about a book exposing so many aspects of life as an undesirable in the midst of the red scare, but this has none of the subversive wit of The Flintstones. It’s a non-allegorical allegory – does that make it an actuary?
Giant Days (2015) #35, Boom! Entertainment, Inc.
This felt a little lightweight and silly at first with the random gag of bringing in Esther’s friend and her sister for a visit, but we needed an injection of (very silly) reality like the kid sister to shine a light on just how ridiculous our three women have become as they’ve lost focus and grown apart. That made for an issue that felt equally weighted and even a bit heartwarming.
Hawkeye (2017) #15, Marvel
I can see how Kelly Thompson is chewing scenery a bit here, but it’s all so amazing I’m having trouble finding any problem with that. Is this the feeling people get reading a Brian Bendis comic, where it’s all just hee-haw chatting but it’s also the best and more in-character thing you’ve read in your life?
This plot is a little ping-pongy with its reliance on a massive crowd of minions to be virtually everywhere to be beaten up, and even as great as they look these big bash-em-up spreads are getting a little repetitive (and this one is on the weaker side).
Iceman (2017) #10, Marvel Comics
It feels like there was a lot more that could have been done to resolve Daken’s big showdown with the entire X-Mansion, and decent fight choreography from penciler Robert Gill doesn’t excuse the general “meh” quality of this book (and how badly Daken is written here). I suppose Idie got a good moment?
Incognegro – Renaissance (2018) #1, Dark Horse – Berger Books
A comic that feels like a novel. That’s not just because of the serious, historically-based story. It’s also just the way the characters speak.
This isn’t short, pithy dialog written to fit into a dialog balloon. This is a prequel to an existing graphic novel, about a black man that passes for white and uses that to safely investigate a series of lynchings. This book is his origin story in 1920s Harlem, when he’s just a small-time photography for a black newspaper.
Our journalist goes with his bartender friend to cover a mixed party for the launch of a white author’s novel about black Harlem only to find himself in the midst of a murder investigation – at least, he’s sure it’s a murder. Everyone else says its a suicide.
The black and white artwork in this book is fantastic. At first I was annoyed that it was hard to tell a pair of the black characters apart from the white ones with just ink wash coloring, but now I understand that it’s both visually and thematically the point of this book.
Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock (2018), Marvel Comics
Welcome to time and space shenanigans with Adam Warlock! He spends the entire issue verbally sparring with Kang, although it’s not always the same Kang every time as Warlock falls backward from re-hatching in a distant future to winding up in ancient Egypt.
At this point going back to Egypt to visit Rama Tut Kang has become painfully overdone, but this still manages to end with an unexpected twist. And, the recap of Adam’s decidedly kooky history as drawn by the Allreds is amazing.
(Why you would put an Aaron Kuder cover on a Mike and Laura Allred issue, I’ll never know).
This issue helps to illustrate why Gerry Duggan’s big Infinity story was deemed too large to contain entirely without Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m intrigued to see what he has up his sleeve on this galactic event, as we’ve never really seen him steer a crossover before save for his bits of events in Deadpool and Uncanny Avengers.
Monstro Mechanica (2017) #3, Aftershock Comics
This issue was a little less packed with the various factions of Renaissance Italy and their machinations, and a little more filled with dry humor and Monstro thumping on things. With less plot to parse, the absolutely lovely art from Chris Evenhuis with colorist Sjan Weijers comes to the fore. It’s really damned impressive. Enough to keep me tuned in even though I’m only low-grade interested in the plot of whether DaVinci and his assistance have really made a clockwork artificial intelligence.
Milk Wars: Mother Panic / Batman Special (2018), DC Comics
Oh my goodness, this comic was gorgeous, wonderful, inviting – all of the things that the first chapter of Milk Wars was not for me last week. Jody Houser not only makes this story feel accessible, but within a page or two invites me to hoover up the actual Mother Panic series. Ty Templeton’s art is beautiful. Big win.
Paper Girls (2015) #20, Image Comics
As I made notes on this issue I almost jotted down that Chiang’s art has matured a bit, and then I realized I had just mis-read three pages because I couldn’t tell the characters apart.
This issue has some tantalizing hints of what the time travel stuff real means, but it’s yet another “end of arc random jump” moment. We keep disposing of all our interesting supporting characters save for the time travelers. I’ve tried reading this in both single issues and in collections, and it’s simply not working for me. I think this is where we’ll part ways.
Rise of the Black Panther (2018) #2, Marvel Comics
I’m not totally wild about this T’Challa and Namor team-up, a piece of retcon that fits neatly between the coming of Galactus and the first appearance of Black Panther just a few issues later. Evan Narcisse’s minor invented conflict it relies upon does fill in as much missing structure in Black Panther’s history as the story in the stellar first issue.
Yet, this encounter perfectly motivates T’Challa’s reaching out to Reed Richards just a few weeks later in Fantastic Four #52. Again, the art is absolutely flawless – beautiful line work from Paul Renaud and colors from Stephane Paitreau that would befit the most major of Marvel titles.
Rogue & Gambit (2018) #2, Marvel Comics
This issue is a massive gift to any longtime X-Men reader from Kelly Thompson, who gives us two absolutely critical scenes with Gambit and Rogue from the Muir Island Saga that we’ve always needed and never seen in this fashion.
For newer fans it might feel like all talk, but for those of us who understand where that fits into continuity, it’s a blessing. Add to that an issue of strong artwork and this was a really enjoyable comic, even if the actual plot of the thing is moving rather slowly. You’d be forgiven if you forgot exactly what Rogue and Gambit are investigating, at this point.
Runaways (2017) #6, Marvel Comics
A weirdly weighted final chapter to a spectacularly good first arc. The standoff between the Runaways and a certain matriarch feels like it’s a big deal, but the stakes of their showdown are unclear. Then, we get a huge, world-shaking revelation in the middle of the confrontation, but it doesn’t seem to escalate things any farther then they already are.
It’s still great. It still looks amazing. Matthew Wilson’s colors have so much texture and depth, and Kris Anka is seriously drawing unlike he’s ever drawn before. It was simply a rushed finish to get the team reassembled even when a few of them don’t particularly want or need to be there. The real test will see where author Rainbow Rowell takes it from here.
Spider-Man (2016) #235, Marvel Comics
This issue is a rare instance of a Brian Bendis comic not looking absolutely incredible. It’s honestly kind of shocking!
Brian Reber’s colors give this clean line art from Oscar Bazaldua a sort of vauge, low-budget feel. I love a flat color look, but this isn’t that. It’s like they’re from the 90s, when color gradients where not really doing enough on flesh tones and bodies, especially on Miles’s mother.
Without great art to lean on, there usually isn’t a lot to keep me tuned in to a Bendis script. This book doesn’t move forward in the slightest. It’s four conversations, mostly repetitive, and the only hint we have of the ongoing plot is Hobgoblin tripping over Red Hulk (nothing like the brutal showdown on the cover). Bendis takes way too long having Miles’s parents reconcile. At one point I paged back, because I thought I had read something twice.
Nope – that’s just the script.
Swamp Thing Winter Special (2018) #1, DC
The A-story in this issue is one of Tom King’s slow, repetitive, beat-you-over-the-head with a repeated moment kind of scripts, but with Jason Fabok drawing the ever-living hell out of it. It’s obviously manipulative but still emotional, more of an abstract scene study than a story.
It’s backed up by an unpublished story of what was meant to be the first issue of new Swamp thing mini-series scripted by his creator, Len Wein, who recently passed away. Because Wein didn’t write it as a script with tight dialog, the issue is presented as Kelley Jones’ art with Michelle Madsen on colors and without lettering, followed by the full script.
To Wein, Jones, and Madsen’s credit, you don’t really need to script to understand what is happening in any scene of this comic. It’s the utter opposite of King’s high concept riddles – it’s a straight forward, primal sort of story that hardly needs words at all.
We lost a master of the form.
Twisted Romance (2018) #1, Image Comics
I couldn’t find love in my heart for the art style in the lead story of this anthology by women creators. It’s like an adult webcomic version of Adventure Time? If that’s your thing, you might love it! The story was certainly clever, by Alex de Campi – about a private detective succubus who uses his life-sapping skills to break up adulterers from their partners in cheating. The story is so damned clever, and I wish it was given the lush treatment instead of something that’s just a few degrees past stick figures.
VS (2018) #1, Image Comics
This is a challenging first issue with a lot of brilliant elements that will probably come together more with more material.
At its base, we’re seeing a real life war game play out on Earth and also following one of its heroes (much later) as he recovers from an injury.
I wouldn’t describe either story as especially interesting, especially with the oblique angle from which we approach them. We have no information, no clear protagonist, and no POV character.
The way into this book isn’t the characters, but the lettering. In addition to people speaking, we have commercial overlays, commentary, and penalties to convey that the comic story we are reading is a broadcast. It’s clever as hell – I’m hard pressed to think of something else in this same style.
Add to that some of the best coloring I’ve ever seen on Esad Ribic, courtesy of Nic Klein, and Ribic in absolutely wild form – as good as he was on Thor God of Thunder.
While it looks amazing, for a book this full of fighting I’d expect the visual storytelling to be a bit stronger. It remains to be seen how important the beautiful opening pages will prove to be – of an earth ringed like Saturn, a space satellite, and a seemingly artificial meteor. I think I found those more interesting than the entire rest of the book.
Witchblade (2017) #3, Image – Top Cow
This series keeps up its habit of beautifully subtle artwork, but I’m starting to think the creative team just doesn’t have the script-to-page cohesion to make it compelling. I’m following the plot, but there are just so many scenes that don’t quite make sense as written and drawn. They feel like they’re missing a panel, or some context. I don’t feel particularly invested in this character or this world, because despite looking great I feel like the book is always keeping them at arm’s length.
X-Men: Gold (2017) #21, Marvel
After a long, punishing year of mostly-mediocre X-Men: Gold issues, this is the first one to feel great.
Even though I’m usually beating up on the script of this book, here it’s the art that lifts it to new heights. Penciller Diego Bernard and inker J.P. Mayer do a wonderful job that has a shade of Mike Deodato, including some truly spectacular and subtle colors from Arif Prianto. It’s is the best the art on this series has looked outside of the Mojo crossover, where Marvel dropped the big dollars on some presumably high page rate artists.
It’s hard to know how much of those art woes are down to the book’s artist rotation getting busted early on with the departure of Ardian Syaf, who was likely tapped to alternate with Ken Lashley and at least one other.
As for the script, the team finally feels like it’s cohering into something less generic here. Old Man Logan finally steps away here, specifically leaving room for the Ed Brisson arcs in his own title. Guggenheim writes Mesmero, Pyro, and Avalanche just fine, and seeing the in a rematch with the X-Men after the first arc is fun – as is seeing that Kitty is still fallible as a team leader.
X-Men: Red (2018) #1, Marvel Comics
Finally, Jean Grey steps into her rightful role as leader of the mutant race as hinted back in Morrison’s run. This is the peaceful version of Cyclops’ revolution, with stakes just as high.
To see Jean address the UN on the behalf of mutants around the world gave me chills, as did the final reveal, but the moment in this issue that hit my heart with Jean reconnected with her old friend Kurt. It was such a wonderful, pure moment.
It’s a pity all the really next-level artists are tied up with Avengers “No Surrender” right now, as with the right artist this could be a 5-star comic book. Mahmud Asrar’s faces aren’t consistent. They sometimes looks as though he thought they might be small enough to just rush past with a sketch of what a face ought to be, even in the middle of dramatic splash pages.
Speaking of which, the first dramatic splash is just… it’s bad, okay? Jean doesn’t look like Jean at all.
It’s a little odd that we have X-23 and Gabby just romping around with Jean since neither have met her before (and Laura is friends with Teen Jean), but I’m sure we’ll get our explanation soon enough – Tom Taylor doesn’t do things by mistake. Taylor seems focused on giving Jean new interactions rather than rehashing past relationships. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of where she might have interacted with Namor before!
Young Monsters In Love (2018) Special, DC Comics
This giant-sized issue is a gem, although I’m not sure it’s worth the $9.99 retail price. It packs in a ton of brief romantic interludes from all across the DC Universe with some major highlights. (And, no, it does not include Swamp Thing making out with The Bride of Frankenstein, as we see on the cover.)
This begins with a fantastic, funny, and sad Man-Bat story with arc by Kelley Jones, with Kirk trying to stay off the Man-Bat sauce even as he’s being haunted by a (somewhat lovable) vision of his monstrous self. Then, there is a a new Frankenstein story and it looks amazing!!! I loved Frankenstein: Agent of Shade SO MUCH and I love whenever DC brings him back. This Tim Seeley and Giuseppe Camuncoli (with Tomeu Morey colors!) story is sad and wonderful.
A tense Maggie Sawyer face-off with a gorilla named Mallah penned by Steve Orlando could be the most heart-breaking story in the issue, with terrific art from Nic Klein. And then… an Alisa Kwitney I,Vampire story illustrated by STEPHANIE HANS! SWOON! The story feels like a complete issue of I, Vampire, and it just makes me want to go back and re-read the most recent series by Jeff Lemire. That’s a great short story!
There are some solid tales in the middle ground. A brief, sombre Superman/Solomon Grundry story by Mairghread Scott looks fantastic with Bryan Hitch artwork – it looks better than what he’s turned in on his own title, Justice League! The Swamp Thing story is sort of medium-dull, but has some very different-looking artwork from Frazier Irving, who I love. I enjoyed a final story of DC’s Creature Commandos, more because it made me remember their appearance in Frankenstein even more fondly than I had before than because of James Robinson’s script.
What’s not to like?I didn’t really get the Etrigan story or enjoy it’s washed out colors. It felt like perhaps it was following up on some old plot minutia I wasn’t privy to. A Raven story looks terrific, but was a touch confusing during the ghost action (why was a kid coughing up blood in the halls of his high school and why was the high school burnt down? In an X-Men comic this would go a totally different way!).
Finally, I didn’t love a Paul Dini Deadman story. I don’t like Deadman in general, but this was because the kids in it looked and acted way younger than 4th graders and then I was really confused to find out their age and never really regained my balance.