Friday, January 18, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 5

I said in the opening paragraph of last year's version of this post I needed to find a way to work the creators' names into those posts in a way that was less clunky. I did not manage that, mostly because I did not remember that I had thought that was a thing I should do. Oh well.

Some of the categories this year have almost no candidates. Some of them have several, but not many good ones. As always, it's limited to the things I bought. Seems like that should go without saying, but just in case.

Favorite Ongoing Series (min. 6 issues bought):

1. Giant Days
2. Ms. Marvel
3. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Because I dropped Deadpool after 5 issues, and because both Stellar and Coda seem to be mini-series, there were only 4 books in this category. Yikes. Domino is the odd woman out here. Giant Days was the most consistently enjoyable book, and had 4-5 jokes or lines that would make me stop and laugh every issue. The battle for second was close, but I gave it Ms. Marvel because I enjoyed the stories more this year than in 2017 (when there was the sentient computer virus and the return of Civil War II fallout). Plus, it helped that Nico Leon stuck as the book's artist all year, and I prefer his art to Derek Charm's, who drew Squirrel Girl most of the year.

Favorite Mini-Series:

1. Coda
2. Mata Hari
3. Stellar

There were actually quite a few candidates for this category, about 9 in all. Unfortunately, several of them were not any good, or were a letdown. Demon: Hell is Earth felt pointless, Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk and Multiple Man were both mistakes. Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow took a hit because of its muddy coloring dragging down the art. Empowered and Sistah Spooky felt a bit drawn out, or thin in places. I ultimately took Stellar for third ahead of Spider-Girls, narrowly, but really, there's a huge gap between Coda and everything else.

Favorite One-Shot:

1. Giant Days - Where Women Glow and Men Plunder
2. Street Angel - After School Fight
3. Domino Annual

There were only three options to begin with, might as well include them all. It was pretty close between them, as none of them were what I'd call truly exceptional books I'll cherish for the rest of my days. But the Annual suffers for being a bunch of loosely connected smaller stories of variable quality. The other two are one distinct story, which gives them more time to flesh out, and that works to their advantage. I'm more fond of Giant Days than Street Angel, so there you go.

Favorite Trade Paperback/Graphic Novel (anything purchased this year is eligible):

1. Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba! vol. 14
2. John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell's Giant Days vol. 6
3. Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

I bought 27 trades, graphic novels, or manga volumes this year, and 13 of them where from either Planetary, Starman, or Giant Days. Which probably works against them, because when you have multiple parts of a larger work, picking out just one is a little harder than when there's just one volume of something to consider. If a Starman volume had made the list, it'd probably vol. 7, A Starry Knight, the first half of Jack's space adventure. Planetary, probably volume 4, the last 10 issues or so. But there always seem to be issues where Ellis goes into a tone that hits me the wrong way and puts me off. Which is why I'm pretty cautious picking up his stuff. I don't need his cynicism on top of my own.

Favorite Writer:

1. John Allison
2. Ann Nocenti
3. G. Willow Wilson

Well, Giant Days-related stuff won Ongoing, One-Shot, and placed on TPB/GN, so who do you think is going to win? I enjoy his sense of humor, and I've ended up caring about the fates of three fictional British girls at university more than I would have thought possible. That has to count for something. Ann Nocenti has to be on here most any time I buy something she wrote. I always find her stuff interesting, even if I can't pull apart what she's driving at. I at least feel the need to make the effort, which is more than I can say with some other writers.

Favorite Artist (min. 110 pages):

1. Carla Speed McNeil
2. Max Sarin
3. Matias Bergara
4. Nico Leon

I didn't want to leave Leon off, which is why this list goes four deep. Bergara might be getting extra points for how well the vivid colors on Coda help his art pop, but he does at least part of that color work himself (along with Michael Doig), so he would therefore deserve at least partial credit for that. Even though I love Sarin's work with expressions and body language, I had to give the edge to McNeil because she showed more creativity in panel layouts and got to draw some action sequences, and they all looked good. That might just be a matter of the books I saw their work - Sarin doesn't get to draw extended fight scenes, and Allison's writing style seems to lend itself to straightforward layouts and lots of talking - but I don't know that for sure. I can only go off what I see, and I do remember that my issues with Finder had nothing to with McNeil's art (and almost entirely to do with not being able to stand Jaeger as the main character).

That does it for the Year In Review until 2020. Sunday is a Sunday Splash Page, and then Monday we're back to regular comic reviews and books and such.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 4

I bought a lot more back issues this year than I did new stuff, even without counting trade paperbacks and other collections. Some complete runs of series (all the '80s Amethyst stuff). In other cases, whatever scattered issues of a title I thought sounded good, like how I grabbed about two dozen issues of Power Man and Iron Fist, or Joe Casey's stint as writer on Adventures of Superman (which I need to backtrack to for Sunday Splash Page).  There were some misfires in there - I tried some of the '90s Guardians of the Galaxy series, and that was not my best idea - but most of the stuff was at least interesting.

Spider-Girls #1-3: Having learned nothing from that Darkhawk mini-series, I tried another ancillary tie-in to a Big Event comic, written by Jody Houser, penciled and inked by Andres Goulet, colored by Triona Farrell, and lettered by Joe Caramagna. Anya Corazon Spider-Girl and Mayday Parker Spider-Girl traveled to the Renew Your Vows universe where Pete and MJ's daughter might hold the key to stopping the Spider-Geddon event

High Point: I liked Goulet's art for it's clean look, but also the little details. The way all three characters web-swing a little differently. Peter Parker pacing up the wall and onto the ceiling while he's thinking. Those are nice touches. And it was nice to see Mayday and Annie each get to interact with a sister they could have had, if things had gone a little different.

Low Point: I guess the fact it's tied into an event I didn't care about. There's a vague resolution in that Annie might have seen a way to win, but we don't know if it worked. And Morlun's siblings are just barely there enough to qualify as a threat, and are hardly even in conflict with our heroes, that's a little unsatisfying even if I understand why.

Stellar #1-6: I thought this was an ongoing, but for now at least, it's a mini-series. Joseph Keatinge, Bret Blevins, and Rus Wooton, with a story about a pair of super-soldiers who won't leave their pasts behind.

High Point: I enjoyed Blevins' take on 1950s style sci-fi stuff, like giant robots and space ships, and so on. The basic initial concept of these soldiers trying to decide what to do after the war is over and nobody won was why I tried it in the first place. The repeated sense of time, years or decades, passing where Stellar or Zenith might go about their lives peacefully, only to fall back into old habits eventually was kind of sad, but handled well. One of those vicious cycles where neither one (but mostly Zenith) will just leave it be. They always have to hunt each other down and start again.

Low Point: There's a bit in the first issue where it's mentioned time and space seem to be damaged, or else whoever is in charge of keeping track of time is falling down on the job. I would have liked to see more with that. Spend more time in the ruined universe than the one that isn't devastated.

Street Angel - After School Kung-Fu Special: I think this was part of a larger story that had been released previously. It was $1, so I imagine the idea is to encourage you to get the whole thing. Although Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca at least had it end on a point that could sort of qualify as a conclusion. You can tell more could happen, but it's at moderately funny ending as it stands.

The Seeds #1, 2: Ann Nocenti and David Aja with a story of an Earth that's dying, and people are either unaware or unconcerned, but aliens are taking steps to preserve whatever they think is worthwhile. Aja works mostly in 9-panel grids, but shakes things up enough to keep it from getting too static, and I'm always curious about what Nocenti has going. Unfortunately, it's been three months and counting since I've seen an issue. Which is frustrating for what's supposed to be a 4-issue mini-series. But I'll wait. I expect it'll be worth it.

Tick 2017 #3: It seems like Cullen Bunn, JimmyZ, and Duane Redhead were doing a riff on Wolverine's time in Weapon X with the Tick. With a school in the middle of nowhere in Canada, and weird memory blocks, and a girlfriend he remembers sometimes, but not always. But it wasn't very funny, and there seemed to be big enough delays between issues I stopped looking for it.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28-39: Ryan North, Rico Renzi, and Travis Lanham were on the book all year as writer, colorist, and letterer, respectively. Derek Charm took over for Erica Henderson as pencil artist in May. Doreen went to space to deal with some scammers, got stuck in a lethal escape room with Kraven the Hunter and her other friends, fought a librarian ghost, and then attended her own funeral.

High Point: I was fond of Drax promising intensive testing to find where Loki would be hurt most by stabbing. The Avengers getting trounced by a librarian ghost was funny, and should certainly humiliate them. The Silver Surfer was almost tolerable when he appeared. Brain Drain is a constant delight with his commentary and how excited he got about swimming pools. But the absolute high pont is that I accurately predicted that it was Mojo II: The Sequel behind the dangerous escape room. Look, just let me have this victory.

Low Point: In general, I feel like Charm's faces and body types are more generalized than Henderson's. Most notable to me for Nancy's design, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Unbelievable Gwenpool #24, 25: The last two issues of this series, by Chris Hastings and the Guruhiru art team, and Joe Caramagna. Gwen, having seen that refusing to be a world-destroying villain is going to cancel her book, or possibly end her existence, tries to pivot to a less destructive form of villainy. But that doesn't work, due to Batroc's good intentions, so a different future version of herself shows up to convince things aren't as doomed as she thinks. You just have to look at it another way. I miss this series.

Unstoppable Wasp #1: By Jeremy Whitley, the Guruhiru art team, and Joe Caramagna. There were definitely parts of this mini-series I think I would have enjoyed, but the first issue gave me the impression there was going to be a lot of focus on things I didn't care about, like Nadia's stress over coming up with some sort of invention to show the viability of her lab to investors.

And that's all the titles! Tomorrow comes the customary listing and comparing, where we try to make books and creative talent feel bad about themselves by one random schmuck on the Internet saying he doesn't like their work as much as someone else's.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 3

In my annual artist tracking page count, 8 artists drew at least 110 pages of the stuff I bought this year. I'm surprised there were that many artists, considering how few series I bought for any extended period of time. But some of the publishers are still doing 22 pages an issue instead of 20, which helped Carla Speed McNeil and Ariela Kristantina hit 110 pages on the nose on their respective mini-series. Bret Blevins ended up at 120. David Baldeon is at roughly 141, I say roughly because there was one issue of Domino where he and Michael Shelfer were both credited as artists. I didn't see any pages that looked his style, so I don't know how many to count for him and presently I'm not counting any.

Four of the eight made it past the 154 page mark, all of them making the list for the first time. Matias Bergara (160) from his work on Coda. Derek Charm (160) taking over for Erica Henderson on Squirrel Girl. Ms. Marvel finally landed on a regular artist for the first time in three years, with Nico Leon at 214 pages. And this year's leader, at 220 pages, the regular artist for Giant Days, Max Sarin!

Infinity Countdown - Darkhawk #1-4: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims as writers, Gang Hyuk Lim handing all the art chores, with Travis Lanham as letterer. Man, this was a bad whiff. Lim's art was pretty, but lifeless, especially whenever there was fighting going on. And Sims and Bowers decided that what Darkhawk needed was a connection to the Phoenix Force. And that we need to have Darkhawk and Nova at each other's throats. Let's leave that I disagree with pretty much all of that. Not even bothering with "High Point, Low Point", because I don't know what I'd put down for a High Point. My fault for buying a Big Event tie-in mini-series.

Mata Hari #1-5: Emma Beeby, Ariela Kristantina, Pat Masioni, and Sal Cipriano with at least one possible version of Mata Hari's life, motivations, and true goals. It's one where she spends her whole life being punished for the feelings men have when they see her. Ostracized for making a living taking advantage of their feelings, and ultimately is used as a convenient scapegoat to disguise the incompetence of the French Army command in World War I. Is that accurate to history? We don't know.

High Point: I think Beeby weaves that notion about Margaretha suffering for the thoughts and impressions everyone else has of her in very well through the story. When she decides to make a living with a circus, she thinks she could use her horse-riding skills, but it's the ringmaster and the other performers who suggest she should be a dancer. And so she goes with it, to make a living, but it's one more thing people can use against her, that informs their opinions. (Although I wonder if we are supposed to trust her version of things.)

Low Point: I mean, it doesn't have a happy end, but I knew that was the case going in. There were some delays, so the last issue was three months late, but that's about it.

Mega Ghost #1: We'll get to a review of the book next week alongside Coda #7, but for now, it's about a young man interested in the occult who ends up with a cursed ring that lets him combine ghosts into a ghost mecha. Gabe Soria writes it, and Gideon Kendall handles the art, colors, and letters, with assists on the colors from Michael Robinson.

Ms. Marvel #26-36: G. Willow Wilson wrapping up her time writing the book, at least for now. Nico Leon drew almost all of this, except for a few pages in issue #31, that were drawn by one of Gustavo Duarte, Bob Quinn, or Elmo Bondoc. Ian Herring handled the color work, and Joe Caramagna was the letterer. The year started with Kamala missing, and a bunch of her friends forming the Legion of Substitute Ms. Marvels to fight off the creator of the Inventor, and his mech-assist reptile army. Bruno returned from Wakanda, leaving Kamala torn between him and Red Dagger. Then Shocker showed up trying to be the biggest villain in Jersey.

High Point: I love Shocker trying to be a big villain, complete with a not-at-all secret lair, filled with makeshift booby-traps. He seemed like he was having so much fun too. I love Nico Leon's designs for the chameleon or the giant cyborg snake thing. And that he has maintained the tradition started by Adrian Alphona of adding fun little details in the background (in issue #31, Abu's newspaper has a headline about a man winning the lottery and investing in cats, with a picture of a smiling guy surrounded by cats). Plus, the Substitute Ms. Marvels doing Power Ranger style poses before they leap into battle. And Kamala and Carol had a pleasant conversation to reaffirm their friendship after that Civil War II nonsense.

Low Point: I wasn't very fond of #36, the issue spent on why the guy she'd encountered while briefly lost in time thought he recognized her. Not sure how I felt about the low-key scene where Kamala finds out all her friends knew she was Ms. Marvel. Felt like that should have been a bigger deal, considering Nakia was annoyed at one point feeling she was left out of Kamala's life. Was that because she knew, or because she didn't, and the frustration faded once she understood?

Multiple Man #1-5: An extremely lengthy and convoluted mini-series involving time travel and alternate dimensions, written by Matt Rosenberg, drawn by Andy MacDonald, Tamra Bonvillain on colors, and Travis Lanham as letterer.

High Point: We have a Jamie Madrox back, and it sounds like Layla Miller and the son she had with Jamie are still alive (I thought they bought it when Jamie did in Inhumans vs. X-Men). The Marcos Martin covers were pretty cool. That's about it.

Low Point: For what the series was trying to accomplish, it was far more confusing than it needed to be. I'm not sure all the time travel and sequencing of when Madrox dupes came into being or were absorbed really works if you tried to sit down and map it out. Why does one of Bishop's allegedly timeline preserving bombs destroy an entire block, but another can't destroy one Madrox duplicate standing three feet away? It's all just a mess.

Rogue and Gambit #1, 2: Kelly Thompson, Pere Perez, Frank D'Armata, and Joe Carmagna send Rogue and Gambit to couples therapy! I gave up after two issues because while I was sorted interested in them rehashing some of their past history, I wasn't interested at all in the villain who was trying to swipe their memories or something. Still, the bit where Rogue points out Gambit has no business criticizing her for making out with Deadpool, and implies Wade is a better kisser than Remy, that was enjoyable. Gambit deserves every ounce of shit he gets, always.

Smooth Criminals #1, 2: A hacker of the '90s teaming up with an Unfrozen '60s Cat Burglar to steal an impressive diamond thing. They haven't gotten to that part yet, but we're only two issues in, I can wait. Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten Smith writing, Leisha Riddel as artist, Brittany Peer as color artist, and Ed Dukeshire as letterer. My only concern is that the second half of issue #2 was starting to look fairly rushed in the art. A little troubling with 10 more issues to go, but we'll see how it goes.

Hey, we managed to get through the three disappointing Marvel mini-series I bought last year! Thumbs up! Tomorrow, a few more mini-series, the last two issues of one series, and the only other ongoing I bought the entire year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 2

I bought 114 new comics this year, down three from last year, which was down three from the year before, which was down four from 2015, and so on. Although, if all the books that were solicited to ship in 2018 had actually done so, I'd have ended up around 121. The pitfall of switching to buying more stuff from more creator-owned companies. They aren't going to do a fill-in issue when someone falls behind.

Marvel accounted for 55 (48.25%) of the 114. That's the lowest number of comics for them since I started this blog, well below 2012's 64, but still a slightly higher percentage than 2012's 47.41%. DC had its worst year yet: 8 books total, for 7.02% of the total. 2016 was the previous low in total comics (11), and 2007 was the previous low in percentage (7.5). DC actually finished 5th among publishers this year for me. It hadn't done worse than 3rd previously.

All other publishers totaled 51 (44.73%) books. Boom! is in the lead, at 22 books. That's a new high for a single-year total for any non-Marvel/DC publisher, beating Image's 16 in 2015. After that, it's Dark Horse (12), Image (11), IDW (4), Albatross and NEC (1 each).

Domino #1-9: Gail Simone wrote it, David Baldeon drew most of the pages, with Jesus Arbutov on the color work. Arbutov also drew a few pages, and so did Michael Shelfer. Clayton Cowles handled the lettering. Domino forms a merc team with Outlaw and Diamondback (random, but OK), then has to survive a couple of people with a grudge and a traitor from within. Then they get roped into stopping vampires from destroying humanity by either rescuing or killing Morbius, and Domino's in the middle of trying to kill Longshot as the year wraps up.

High Point: Domino's speech about being a Disney Princess while pummeling the angry redhead with a rock was odd enough to be funny. Simone gets a lot of mileage out of playing up a contrast between Domino, the super-cool mercenary with luck powers, and Domino, who is kind of a dork and looks like a complete mess when she wakes up. It's not how I would have pictured her, but it's an interesting approach. Baldeon's expressive art can really play it up, either by showing how terrified she is when Outlaw uses the fastball special, or how she looks when she first wakes up.

Low Point: The identity of the traitor seemed like a big deal in the first few issues, then it was casually explained and dismissed in the last few pages of issue 6. I was disappointed we weren't seeing more crazy stuff happening as a result of Domino and Longshot's powers clashing in issue 9. Maybe we get that in issue 10.

Domino Annual: You'd think a comic would have to last more than a year to get an annual, but you would be wrong. There were four short stories, two of them about Domino and her old boyfriends, one about how Outlaw joined her and Diamondback, and one about a support group for mutants with a physical appearance altered due to their mutation, that Domino and Nightcrawler started up. Again, not something I would expect from Domino, but OK. The Cable story is the weak point, since it's written from Cable's POV, not Domino's, and is mostly about him trying to come to grips with the Domino he was in a relationship with having actually been a shapeshifter or something. Even Early 90s Calvin wasn't dumb enough to read X-Force on the reg.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #2-6: A book that ran into delays, but at least it finished before year's end. Adam Warren as writer, Carla Speed McNeil on art and lettering duties, and Jenn Manley Lee on color work. Emp and Spooky get trapped in a hellish re-creation of Spooky's high school, where all the girls who tormented her are waiting for a chance to kill her and steal her magic powers. Emp is just collateral damage as far as the girls are concerned.

High Point: Carla Speed McNeil's artwork is excellent, and the ways that the tactics the girls would use back in school are translated to actual powers are usually pretty clever. Or gross. Being strangled by the guts of giant, dissected frogs? The fact that while the attacks are deadly, the taunts and insults aren't really doing much because while all these girls are still the same brats they were in high school, Spooky isn't. She has other traumas, but the old weak spots aren't really there any more to exploit.

Low Point: I dunno, the delays were irritating. After the first few battles, things move into a Lightning Round, which makes it seem as though it's getting easier. Except each girl should be getting more powerful as their classmates are defeated, so it should be getting harder.

Giant Days #34-45: A lot happened. Ed drunkenly confessed his feelings to Esther, which has been causing fallout all year. Daisy broke up with Ingrid - hallelujah! - and is mentoring new students. Susan had a mostly quiet year, but is growing increasingly bothered by the life of domestic bliss she's settling into, the loss of her edge. Esther is trying to mature in her own bizarre, zigzag path. So, not much different from the rest of us. John Allison wrote all issues, Max Sarin drew most of them (with inks by Liz Fleming for two of those issues), minus two Julia Madrigal handled. Whitney Cogar is on the color work, with Jim Campbell as letterer.

High Point: I love most everything about this book. The breakneck pace, the number of plots and subplots running through it. Allison has a great ability for writing clever dialogue, or just stuff that makes me laugh. Max Sarin's art, with the range of expressions and body language, and knowing when to really exaggerate for effect. For a single moment, the panel in #34 when Ed realizes he just confessed to Esther, and that Esther is still sober enough to have heard and understood him was my favorite. I've been waiting for that basically since I realized Ed being interested in her was a thing, and his "Oh God, what have I done?" look was just perfect.

Low Point: I wasn't into that arc with Cliff, the old man McGraw briefly helped, who also ran a very shady Christmas Village. One of those times where the book's tendency to move quickly through plots and onto the next one really worked out because it was over and done.

Giant Days -Where Women Glow and Men Plunder: Ed travels to Australia to spend the holidays with his girlfriend Nina and her family. Hilarity, kidnapping, and giant sausages ensue as Ed tries to live up to the idea of masculinity he thinks Nina's family expects from her boyfriend. He fails, but he tries, and he impresses in other ways. Nana Joan thinks he's extremely well-mannered. John Allison wrote and drew the story, with Whitney Cogar and Jim Campbell on color and letter work, respectively.

Harley Quinn #53: Sam Humphries, Lucas Werneck, Alex Sinclair, and Dave Sharpe. I bought this first issues of a two-parter because I liked what I thought I was gonna get. Harley confronting Minor Disaster, who makes people have small personal disasters, rather than creating earthquakes and such, sounded like it would be fun. The potential for silliness seemed high. Then it turned into this whole thing where Minor Disaster is disappointed in her dial because she's trying to impress her dad, and Harley's breaking down under the strain of trying to film clickbait videos to make money to pay for damage she's caused to the city. Ugh, I wanted a silly story, not all these emotional issues!

Infinite Dark #1-2: A story about what's left of humanity trapped in a space station floating in whatever exists after the universe ends. Except there's something out there, and people are either going crazy, or willingly working with it. Ryan Cady, Andrea Mutti, K. Michael Russell, and Troy Peteri were the creative team. It just didn't really click for me.

That's Day 2. Tomorrow, 3 mini-series from Marvel (none of them particularly good), one ongoing series, another mini-series, and a first issue.

Monday, January 14, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 1

The last two comics arrived Friday, let's get to this! As always, the first 4 parts are looking at all the different titles I bought this year, mention who worked on them, little bit about what the major story arcs were. If there were enough issues, we'll touch on the high and low points. Those can be anything. A particular issue, a joke, a fight scene, one of the artists if there was more than one. Part 5 is the point where I try and pick my favorite ongoing, trade, writers, from all the new stuff I bought.

I considered doing two days of just Marvel books, and everything else the other two days, but ultimately decided to stick with alphabetical order. I think it makes for a more interesting mix that way. Here we go.

Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow #3-5: Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Anthony Clark, and Lee Powell as the creative team. Robo avoids taking any responsibility for getting his company up and running, instead choosing to hunt down the source of the weird artificial humans that are collapsing around the world. Which leads back to ALAN, but also to Helsingard.

High Point: The ongoing struggle with Richard Branson, who is abusing the hell out of the Homeowner's Association, and how Lang and Vik got Elon Musk to help them cancel the injunctions. The Battle To Be Able To Build Bathrooms was the defining conflict of 2018. Plus Robo stole one of Branson's private jets, then got it trashed. I'm here for prats who refer to themselves in third person getting comeuppance.

Low Point: The coloring was not doing Wegener's art any favors. Especially in the fight scenes, everything was so muddled. There were times Robo was just sort of a grey blob. Maybe it was Wegener and not Clark, I don't know. Maybe he's not inking the same way, but it's been more of an issue the last two mini-series. Otherwise I feel like I'd have been more into the battle on Hashima Island, but it was so visually unappealing.

Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers #1: Joshua Jabcuga, Tadd Glausha, Ryan Hill, and Tom Long as the creative team. It seemed like an exciting idea when it was first solicited. Then the first issue was at least a month late, and the second issue was two months after that (I think the fifth issue just shipped last week). But the gap was long enough for me to realize I don't really care about Elvis, unless Bruce Campbell is actually playing him. So there was no reason to be buying the book.

Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye #1-3: Jon Rivera, Michael Avon Oeming, Nick Filardi, and Clem Robins following up Cave's adventures underground and across dimensions by sending him into deep space. They got briefly tangled up in a civil war on an alien world, then kept moving, but I didn't go with them.

High Point: Filardi's coloring, with these vivid neon shades all over the place was pretty great. I was really impressed with some of Oeming's panel layouts, building structures out of the panels and things like that.

Low Point: I missed Wild Dog. He and Chloe had a cute friendship in the previous series. The doctor, Marcus Bastrow, I didn't was adding much. He was supposed to be kind of weird, but Cave was already doing stuff like using his eye to enter one psyche through another being's psyche, so how much weirder do you need?

Coda #1-7: Simon Spurrier and Matias Bergara, with Michael Doig assisting with the color work, and Colin Bell on lettering. Basically set in a post-apocalyptic medieval fantasy world. Following a bard who is trying to cure his mostly-heroic wife of her berserker tendencies, without bothering to consult her on that matter.

High Point: Bergara's art is fantastic, both the linework and the colors (although that's him and Doig, but I don't know who is doing what). I like the designs for the characters and the creatures, like the bard's increasingly mutated unicorn. At times he switches to a style that's supposed to look like charcoal or just ink drawings on parchment, and the variety of colors is impressive. It's a fun book to look at.

Low Point: Nothing really. I want to see how the second half of the story goes.

Copperhead #19, 20: Jay Faerber, Drew Moss, Ron Riley, and Thomas Mauer handled the first issue, then Scott Godlewski came back to draw the final story arc. Which, unfortunately has only managed to ship one issue in 8 months. The book is on hiatus now, so that's just swell. This is not the last time delays are going to be a problem with a book this year.

Deadpool #292-296: The penultimate story of Gerry Duggan' run on Deadpool, as Wade gets a series of good guys after him, while trying to fulfill the terms of his agreement with Stryfe. Basically five issues of Deadpool blaming everyone else for his problems, while everyone else calls him names and punches him. Matteo Lolli and Ruth Redmond handled art and color chores on 4 of the issues. Scott Koblish and Redmond handled the other, with Joe Sabino as letterer throughout.

High Point: The bit in 296 when Wade goads Captain America into stabbing him with his own sword, and immediately afterward, Cap realizes there were a bunch of schoolkids watching who think he's back being evil. Then he tricks him into punching some poor sewer maintenance guy, again in front of a bunch of other people. That whole issue of Wade pissing in Cap's cheerios was pretty great.

Low Point: Deadpool not killing HYDRA Captain America when he had the chance. I understand Wade's reason (to torment the other Captain America), but come on Wade, throw us a bone. Also, the constant attempts to get me to care about Agent Coulson by acting like everyone is pissed at Wade for killing him. Agent Preston I get, but Rogue gave a crap about this guy? Really? It doesn't help I remain unconvinced Coulson is actually dead. Also, Kitty Pryde being so disgusted Rogue would have briefly been with Deadpool got old in a hurry. Kitty dated Pete Wisdom and the idiot man-child version of Peter Quill, she doesn't have room to talk.

Demon: Hell is Earth #3-6: Andrew Constant, Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, Chris Sotomayor, and Tom Napolitano with this story about Etrigan's father trying to expand Hell onto Earth. Which splits Etrigan and Blood into separate entities, except Blood's immaterial. Madame Xandau is there, and Merlin, and they stop Hell from expanding its reach, and everything goes back to how it was before, more or less.

High Point: The fact that Blood keeps using himself as a duck blind. Get an enemy's attention focused on him, then let Etrigan attack right through him. Walker, Hennessy, and Sotomayor draw some excellent fire. Which is good considering how much of it there is in this story.

Low Point: I don't know what the point is supposed to be. Etrigan's rhymes are very basic, clunky, and just not clever or funny or anything. It's like they let me try to come up with his rhymes.

That's it for the first day. Tomorrow we have a couple of the very few ongoing series that I bought for the majority of the year, and a few other things.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #48

"Virtual Reality Has Come a Long Way", in Avengers #468, by Kurt Busiek (writer), Kieron Dwyer with Rick Remender (artists), Tom Smith (colorist), RS & Comicraft (letterers)

The second half of Kurt Busiek's stint on Avengers, after George Perez left, was dominated by an all-out war to defend Earth against Kang. Kang brought along a big old spaceship base in the form of a sword, which he called "Damocles", because of course he did. Have to appreciate his flair. He blows up Washington D.C., which was promptly ignored by every other book. Which doesn't actually bother me much. What's actually smarter is he convinces a bunch of greedy, opportunistic warlords types already on Earth to throw in with him and take their shots.

So the Avengers are scattered across the planet trying to deal with fights on every front at once, plus other threats that crop up that are independent of Kang. The Presence comes out of the radioactive depths of Siberia. The old Alpha Flight enemy the Master shows up as a potential challenger, unwilling to let Kang claim a world that should be his. Which makes me wonder what Dr. Doom was up to during all this. And the arc with the Triune Understanding wraps up with the arrival of a giant alien space pyramid full of souls (which you can just barely see in the upper left corner, behind Kang's head, in the picture above).

The scope of things allows for a ton of Avengers to get pulled out and have nice moments. Stingray gets a few pages for a brief recon mission he runs solo. Quasar and Living Lightning pop up for the deep space segment of things. Black Knight's part of the science team trying to decipher the Master's base. Even though there were times it felt like the story was running long, I kind of wish we'd had more time to see some of the squads interacting more. Carol Danvers, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Vision, Silverclaw, for example. Interesting mix of personalities. Or Triathlon, Yellowjacket, Wasp, Jack of Hearts and Stingray.

There's also a whole subplot about two Hank Pyms running around (just what the world needs), Thor worrying he's too attached to these mortals with their brief lifespans. Kang's son is the spitting image of that Marcus guy who tricked Carol Danvers into joining him in some pocket dimension so she could give birth to him. Or something. I don't remember the details, only that I think Claremont went back and said Marcus controlled her into going along with it, and so she was fairly pissed at the Avengers for just grinning like idiots and waving "so long" when they went off together. 

Anyway, this Marcus is also very into Carol, which rightly sets off all sorts of alarm bells for her. Frankly, I'm really hoping all the recent work that's been done with Carol has involved just quietly dumping that bit of her backstory into the garbage, then lighting said garbage on fire.

Art chores were handled by a shifting cast. The first few issues post-Perez were mostly the Alan Davis/Mark Farmer team. In the later stages it's mostly Kieron Dwyer, but Ivan Reis is in there (we're a couple of years away from him being one of the regular artists for Geoff Johns' Green Lantern run), Patrick Zircher near the end, Manuel Garcia for a couple of issues in the middle. Tom Smith is the colorist throughout, which helps keep the book having a similar feel across artists and plot lines.

Although most of the artists are close enough you aren't getting whiplash from issue to issue. Dwyer's style is certainly blockier, with heavier inks than Davis', but you don't feel as though you're looking at something wildly different from what you saw a couple of issues previously. Garcia and Reis are somewhere between those other two. It all feels like big, bright superhero action.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Supporting Cast Trembles Before the New Creative Team

We're a couple of months out from Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jing taking over as the creative team for Ms. Marvel, with a new #1 issue, naturally. This week I started wondering what'll happen with Kamala's supporting cast.

I think she has a pretty good supporting cast, between her parents, her brothers, her sister-in-law's family, her various friends at school (Nakia, Mike, Zoe), and Bruno, of course. Granted I got annoyed with G. Willow Wilson for not making more use of them. Sometimes because she set up something as a possible plot thread, then never explored it. She never did much with the revelation Kamala's mother knows she's Ms. Marvel, and I still don't know if Kamala's dad knows or not. Mostly it's just a matter of pacing. With almost every story taking 4 months minimum, if you go a couple of stories without seeing Zoe or Aamir at all, it just seems abrupt when they suddenly pop up in the next arc and are relevant. Have something going with them in the background that helps them feel like characters that have their own lives going on independent of whatever Ms. Marvel is mixed up in that week.

(I could be convinced that, because we're mostly tagging along with Kamala, us not being aware of what's happening with Nakia or whoever while she's not around is part of a larger theme of Kamala being disconnected from the important people in her lives. But you could still show us what's going on so we see Kamala actually is missing out)

All griping aside, it's a good supporting cast. Mix of personalities, views, approaches. The frustration was because I liked them and wanted to see more going on with them. New creative teams often want to put their own stamp on things. Create their own supporting casts or favorite characters. Fabian Nicieza incorporated some of Gail Simone's supporting cast in Cable/Deadpool, but not everyone. Plus he brought Weasel back into play, and threw in Bob and Irene Merryweather. And then Daniel Way pitched them all down the garbage chute, and had largely no supporting cast (at least for the two years I bought the book). Then Gerry Duggan just made a whole new supporting cast (and killed most of them himself). Or how every writer who uses SHIELD usually comes up with at least one new SHIELD agent, who will then pop up in almost anything they write that involves SHIELD going forward. But it's entirely possible no one else will ever use them. Stuff like that.

So I wonder if we'll see a difference. I'm sure Ahmed will add new characters, and hopefully they're interesting. I wonder who might get the short end of the stick as a result, though. Wilson had brought Bruno back into play the last six months or so. Maybe Ahmed will move him more into the background, for more time for Nakia or Kamala's dad, or someone new entirely.