Loki: Agent of Asgard #1-4

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Thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s awesome portrayal in the Thor movies and to Kieron Dwyer’s writing the last few years, Loki has never been this popular. How popular? He gets a new solo series called Loki: Agent of Asgard.

The premise is pretty straight-forward; in exchange for forgiving his prior sins, the All-Mother have enlisted Loki into their service to do their bidding. Through this first story arc, Loki has to retrieve the magical sword Gram which Odin had once planned on giving his adopted son should he be worthy. With his weapon retrieved, his first assignment is tracking down Sigurd the Everglorious, the previous holder of Gram, and return him to Asgardia.

Al Ewing basically crafted what you would expect from a Loki comic book.There is a good mix of humor, trickery and even the lead character pulling a fast one on the dark one himself Mephisto. The art on the book is great too.

Basically, Loki is a comic book for people who don’t want to read about super heroes, yet like super heroes. I think this is a series I’m going to revisit in a while so I can binge read.

Moon Knight #1-15

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Just like last time, the Marvel Unlimited subscription has put me on a binge read Charlie Huston’s run on Moon Knight was bloody fun. Over the last year or so, I’ve really started paying attention to the character, thanks to cheap back issue sets and paperbacks.

Moon Knight really feels like it flew under the radar at Marvel. Huston is best known for being a crime novelist, and at the time Moon Knight was a largely forgotten character in the Marvel pantheon. The 2006-2007 series was a lot of dark fun, so why should you read it?

  • Gore factor. Now usually I don’t go for that sort of thing. But somehow Huston’s script and the way that David Finch illustrated it is just so gross, creepy and welcoming at the same time. I know I’ve said it before, but Finch really reminds me of Todd McFarlane with how he draws. And his art is so on in this series.
  • Khonshu. If you remember, the premise of Moon Knight is that he’s an avatar of the Egyptian god Khonshu and that by worshiping this god (or just generally poor mental health) he has been slowly driving him nuts. Khonshu has taken the form of the late super villain the Bushman, whom Moon Knight literally defaced and killed. This vision appears, tormenting the hero from the side.
  • Call backs. I don’t know if Huston was a fan of the original Moon Knight series but he certainly references a lot of the older comics, even down to the supporting characters. His former pilot Frenchie (who reveals that he has put up with Moon Knight’s crap for so long only because he had a crush on the masked vigilante), love interest Marlene and his supporting cast are all there. He even finds himself feuding with the current incarnation of the villainous the Committee and is faced to fight his former sidekick Midnight (now a villain) to the death.
  • The second six issues. The main part of this arc is Moon Knight dealing with Midnight, but the subplot involves both Iron Man and Captain America trying to recruit him to their respective sides during the Civil War period. Moon Knight has his own views which happen to not go along with each side and he finds a way to express them clearly.
  • It feels like an indie super hero book. This doesn’t feel like anything Marvel would put out. It’s just really different.

So there you have it. Read Moon Knight immediately. It’s dark, brooding and gory, but still a light and fun (if that’s possible with a hero that’s cutting up people) read. It certainly makes me want to see more super hero stuff written by Huston.

 

Immortal Iron Fist #1-27

immortalironfistYou know what I like doing? I like hording runs of complete (or near complete) series and then binge read them, kind of like how someone will burn through a whole season of something on Netflix. With Marvel Unlimited, I was able to binge read the entire Immortal Iron Fist series.

I must admit that I don’t necessarily know everything about the character. But in this short series, which ran roughly two and a half years, I was able to jump right in at full speed.

There is a lot that happens in this series, ranging from Daniel Rand having to literally fight off corporate raiders that are part Hydra, to fighting with the other immortal weapons in a tournament of celestial proportions, to finally even going to hell. All the while, there are side bars chronicling the life and death of Orson Randall (the previous Iron Fist), Daniel’s father Wendell taking the Rand family on an expedition to find K’un-L’un, and single issue stories about the various other people to wield the Iron Fist. We even explore Daniel’s personal life, whether it be how he runs his business or his relationship with Misty Knight.

The resulting series works so well, whether it be written by the series’ original team of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, to the later issues by Duane Swierczynski. It is a real testament to his abilities as a writer, as he keeps the tone and pace set by Brubaker and Fraction. On the art side, the series went back and forth from David Aja and Travel Foreman seamlessly. The resulting series was just great.

Daredevil #1

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m rereading one of my  Valentine’s Day presents from last year: Essential Dardevil. What makes this so much fun for me is the artwork from Bill Everett. Over the years he has become one of my favorite pencilers and the black and white format really makes his art pop so much.

On the story side, Stan Lee presents a typical origin from this time. We start off with a brief flashback before going back and presenting Daredevil’s history. His origin is very straight forward; Matt Murdock was raised by his boxer single dad. Eventually Matt winds up losing his vision albeit in a noble fashion, and his dad’s life is ended by an evil boxing promoter–appropriately named the Fixer. Matt winds up training to confront the Fixer and winds up becoming the super hero that we know and love called Daredevil.

The funny part of this story is the fact that there’s a blind guy sewing together the costume, developing a spring loaded grappling hook weapon and becoming a master gymnast/fighter. Matt became much more talented once he lost his vision. The other is that Matt’s best friend, co-lawyer Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page both notice that he’s been disappearing frequently. But they never confronted him once during the issue.

Daredevil #1 really wasn’t the best written first appearance of a character especially when you compare it to some of the other stuff Marvel was putting out at the time. But what makes this great, again, is Everett’s artwork. It’s really strong.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters

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This September comic book fans are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men. Since their September 1963 debut, the group of mutant super heroes (and their on again, off again villains) have been involved in some of the best and most memorable stories that Marvel has published.

It’s amazing that the franchise, which has spun off countless movies, video games, cartoons, toys and other merchandise was almost cancelled due to low sales in 1970. Fortunately, the Cockrum/Byrne/Claremont era began around 1975 and the series has been a mainstay since.

So why have the X-Men lasted so long and have been so successful?

The main theme has been about the desire of proving that no matter how different you are, you can be a productive member of society. At one point, everyone has felt insecure about their place in the world, and how they have to work harder to prove to everyone that they belong.

The other theme is about inclusion and diversity. That doesn’t need to be explained. Just look at the all-time roster of the X-Men, having come from different races and cultures, some from different planets. And those are just the differences on the surface. But the point is that we are all mutants people, and everyone deserves to be treated equally.

So to celebrate this, I’m going to be blogging the fifty greatest X characters. This should be fun and I can’t wait to see your responses.

Thunderbolts #9-11

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These issues make more sense when read as clump. There is a lot going on in Thunderbolts to conclude this story arc. There are explosions, gamma powered Crimson Dynamos and more bad one-liners from Deadpool: everything that you would want from this series. But writer Daniel Way delivers much more.

It turns out that the Crimson Dynamos are owned and operated by Elektra’s brother Orestez, as somehow he has gotten himself involved in the black market weapons trade. Ultimately, it’s up to the Thundebrolts to destroy these weapons and stop Orestez. There’s a bit of a twist, as he is on to their plan and is somehow attempting to set up a broadcast of this, hoping that he will be killed and wind up as a martyr. Way never really explains this, and it feels a bit out-of-place. Issue #11 ends with the above scene, with Elektra killing her brother off panel in private and not giving him the brutal public display that would influence future terrorists, which he seemed to have wanted. There’s an earlier seen with her being shocked that the Punisher would so easily kill Orestez, and I wonder if that was done to set up future relationship problems between the world’s deadliest trouble.

The rest of the team is pretty static through this. Red Hulk is, well, Red Hulk. Venom and Deadpool are still very uneasy about everything that is going on but seem to get along with each other for the most part. The Leader is turning out to be an asset to the group, as it turns out that he’s gained the ability to speak with electronics the way that the Drummer does in Planetary. This skill comes to use in the groups final battle with Orestez. The issue ends with Leader speaking to a vision of Mercy, with her telling him that he has much more potential than he knows.

This was Way’s last issue in the series, and I would say that he did a decent job for the most part. Even though there were some odd parts of the story that didn’t come across well (like Orestez’s attempt at martyrdom), Thunderbolts has worked for me because of the way he built the team’s shaky group dynamic. It’s like he’s trying to get the point across that the Thunderbolts’ biggest threat is themselves. And that he clearly was able to get across.

Thunderbolts #8

thunderbolts-8This cover is a bit of a swerve; Deadpool doesn’t attack the Punisher at any point in Thunderbolts #8.

While the main team is on various stake out missions against Middle Eastern terrorists and weapons dealers trying to get a lead on the gamma powered weaponry, writer Daniel Way is still building up the tension among the team’s members, specifically as a result of the Punisher/Elektra/Deadpool love triangle. I also love the way that the Leader is portrayed as being somewhat incompetent and not realizing the full potential of what he can or cannot do.

There is a lot of foreshadowing going on, as Orestez Natchios is giving an author lecture about his newest book on terrorism. I’m sure as the story unfolds he is going to have something to do with the gamma Crimson Dynamos from the last issue.

Thunderbolts #7

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Thunderbolts #7 starts out a bit different from the previous issues, with Phil Noto taking over from Steve Dillon on the penciling duties. Daniel Way has the team dealing with the fallout from their first mission while travelling in a submarine.

There is growing tension on the submarine, as Punisher and Elektra’s somewhat secret relationship has come to life, and Deadpool is quite the jealous merc with a mouth.

The issue ends with all of the Thunderbolts attempting to overthrow the Red Hulk, as they’re still not exactly sure of what’s going on.

Because he’s, you know, gamma powered and everything, Red Hulk quickly dispatches the attempted coup. He finally starts to explain more of their mission and how he has assembled this group to stop enemies of the state that have acquired gamma weaponry. There was a large gamma weapon that was taken during the first story arc and they have to stop it from falling into the wrong hands.

The last pages of the story pretty much reveal that; whoever got a hold of the gamma weapon has used it to put together a battalion of gamma-powered Crimson Dynamo battle armored soldiers.

I’m liking where this is heading and by this point you can see that Way is hitting his stride. Phil Noto’s art is pretty sweet as well. I still don’t get why everyone is so harsh on this series.

Red She-Hulk: Hell Hath No Fury

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Now this was awesome. Red She-Hulk: Hell Hath No Fury was something that felt completely fresh in its concept. Betty Ross (who can change at will into the Red She-Hulk) in a situation like The Fugitive; she has to shut down a top-secret military super soldier program called Echelon.

Since this is technically an attack on the United States, the Avengers have been sent to stop her. They don’t know that Betty has been informed by Nikola Tesla via an ancient computer called the Terranometer is that Echelon will eventually bring about the end of humanity. I know that doesn’t make sense, but if you have been reading Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. it would.

She is in pursuit by Machine Man, who winds up joining her after he connects to the Terranometer and learns of this future. Somehow there is a mute girl named Eleanor who is tied to this. Jeff Parker adds a lot of suspense to the story by having the two fighting to escape S.H.I.E.L.D. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, with Jennifer Banner–the original She-Hulk–seemingly getting involved with Echelon’s plan.

I liked Red She-Hulk a lot. Parker put together a really fast paced story, everything ties together and looks to be building to a huge pay off. Carlo Pagulayan’s art is stellar, but there were a few errors in the coloring/after effects that were left in, like notes to the colorists and what not. Normally that could bother someone, but the story and art are so strong that it makes you ignore them. This is good stuff and I want to read more.

X-Factor Forever

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It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of Louise Simonson’s work, so getting the X-Factor Forever collection was a must buy for me. The book resolves plot-lines that she had set up nearly twenty years ago!

The first part of the story pretty much reestablished the dynamics of the characters. Cyclops (and his son Nathan, who, you know grows up to be Cable) are adjusting to life with a newly returned from the grave Jean Grey, and the rest of the team is enjoying themselves.

At first, it seems like the kidnapping of young Nathan by Caliban and Mister Sinister is the worst that will happen. But instead, X-Factor finds itself in an uneasy alliance with Apocalypse to find the child, for he is the proof that the cosmic Celestials need to deem mutant-kind a worthy species.

The resulting story has to be the best written Apocalypse I’ve ever encountered. Through the main narrative (and a back-up feature that chronicles his life) we learn that he has been subtly influencing the direction of mankind into evolving, ensuring its survival among the planet’s other species, the Deviants and Eternals. Apocalypse had appointed Mister Sinister to be his apprentice who unfortunately has his ideas on how humans and mutants should evolve. It’s a race against time and whoever has Nathan will control the outcome of the Celestial’s judgement.

Again, the writing on this is amazing. Louise is able to conjure the feelings of Jack Kirby style cosmic drama with Grant Morrison-like sensibilities, all the while not sacrificing her own style. I highly recommend this. And if you pick up the collected version, it includes X-Factor #63-64, which concluded her run on the original series. Get this…you won’t be disappointed.

New York Comic Con 2012 Sketchbook: Nova by Andy Lanning

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British comics writer/artist/inker/all around awesome guy Andy Lanning drew this headsketch of Nova for me. I love how he was able to add some silver Sharpie squiggles, adding an awesome effect to it. But what was equally awesome about Andy was the face that he took the time to answer all my silly questions about his writing practices and habits. I was a fan before, but he certainly made a fan for life out of me!

New York Comic Con 2012 Sketchbook: Cable by Reilly Brown

Cable by Reilly Brown

I’m on vacation this week so we’ll be posting some quick stuff, mostly sketches I picked up at New York Comic Con 2012 starting with this one of Cable by Reilly Brown.

Reilly is an awesome artist and I really loved his work on the Cable and Deadpool series. That said, getting a sketch of Cable from him made me super excited. You can catch up on his current projects on his Tumblr. You should also check out his own project Power Play which I highly recommend.

 

Uncanny Avengers #9

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What’s the best part of birthdays? Birthday presents! One of my coworkers gave me the recent Uncanny Avengers #9 which comes at a perfect time, since I just got through the first collected volume of the series.

The series is still following the same main plot points from before. The Apocalypse Twins are now shown as adults who seem to have some sort of plan to destroy everything, and it’s up to this group of Avengers to save everything.

To make matters more confusing, it turns out that a lot of these current problems are the result of Kang the Conqueror and Immortus’ influence on the time streams. I know they are the same person, but the fact that both of them have independently messed things up has to count for something.

There’s also a lot of division on the team, between the mutants that make up the group and Thor being on one side, and the traditional Avengers on the other. There’s a lot of yelling when it’s revealed that Wolverine lead the covert mission to kill the young child Apocalypse.

The book ends with the Apocalypse Twins revealing their new Four Horsemen: Banshee, Daken, Grim Reaper and Sentry. Things can’t be going to well for the Uncanny Avengers.

Rick Remender does a great job carrying plot points from not only earlier in this series, but going back to his work on Uncanny X-Force. And on the visual side of things, David Acuna is great in how he creates a very unique take on these classic characters.

Uncanny Avengers Volume 1: The Red Shadow

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Uncanny Avengers is a follow up of sorts to the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, with a new subgroup of Avengers being assembled for two reasons: to protect the world from super human threats and to publicly show that mutants are a positive force on the world. What this new team–and it’s new leader Havok–get to tackle in their first mission is the Red Skull.

Although technically a clone of the original, the Red Skull has a diabolical plan of his own that harkens back to his Nazi origins. Skull has exhumed the body of Professor Xavier in order to graft the dead mutant’s brain to his own, thus giving him strong telepathic powers. He uses this newly found skill to control the minds of average New Yorkers into murdering mutants. Clearly writer Rick Remender doesn’t care about the laws of science.

But what hakes this work is how the team itself interacts with each other. Havok may be the leader of the group, but Captain America is having a somewhat hard time adjusting to the fact that he’s not in charge. There’s also a lot of tension between Rogue and Scarlet Witch as well. Ultimately, the Avengers are able to stop the Red Skull. As this is going on, there is the birth of twins that seems somewhat important. Thanks to Wikipedia, it turns out that those are the evil future Archangel-as-Apocalypse’s children.

We also get a feel good moment with Havok during a press conference, as he pretty much says that he’d rather be called a human than a mutant. This feeling is shortlived, as an attacking Grim Reaper is killed accidentally by Rogue. So what was arranged to be a huge moment in the coexistence between man and mutant alike turns out to be the broadcast of a mutant killing someone (although a villain) to every television viewer in the world. That has got to hurt their Q rating.

Thunderbolts #6

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Thunderbolts #6 pretty much serves as a book end for the first story arc, tying up the first five issues and setting up what comes next. It turns out that the real reason there was so much interest in Kata Jaya was that the American government had been secretly running a gamma base there for quite some time. Knowing that, everything else finally starts to make sense.

The Leader had uploaded his brain all over the internet and now knows nothing of his past. His brother, Mad Man knew that and teamed up with the Kata Jayan government. If they could create a living network of computers–in this case, people plugged into a computer network–only then could they begin to relearn what the Leader had once known. And in this case, it was gamma powered weaponry.

That ghost like figure from the last issue was Mercy who reminds Red Hulk that he can’t just kill the Leader. Mad Man also tries one last time to stop the Thunderbolts, but meets a gruesome demise when they plug him into the human server network and he literally dies of information overload. His head explodes.

Everyone comes to the realization that even though Mad Man has been taken out, whatever he was working on is no longer on the island. There’s a lot of mistrust amongst the team, especially since Red Hulk has been so secretive about the nature of the mission and the fact that they have to pretty much babysit a brain-dead Leader. Punisher and Elektra seem to be happy with their friends with benefits, which makes Deadpool insanely jealous. Doesn’t he know that he’s disgusting.

One of the things I’ve noticed through these last six issues is how much Venom is the moral compass of this book, something the Eddie Brock version of the character could never be. Flash Thompson has made a fine addition to that character’s host-ship.

Thunderbolts #5

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The crimson-clad murder squad is back and just like this image suggests, love is in the air! The Thunderbolts are still on the island of Kata Jaya. There’s a lot of stuff happening in this issue that is set up to conclude this first story arc.

Red Hulk has hulked out back to his human/General Ross form and is carrying around the Leader, who he was able to revive. We’re not sure if it’s the two of them hallucinating, but it appears that they are talking to the former Hulk villain Mercy, who is floating around and talking to them like she’s an angel. Apparently the Leader knows nothing of his

Remember how they thought that they took out Mad Man in the previous issue? Turns out they really didn’t and Venom has to finish him off. Eventually Venom does, and finds a room filled with people plugged into a computer mainframe like something out of the Matrix.

As this is going on, Deadpool surprisingly has become the most noble of the characters, telling the Kata Jayan rebels that they just can’t kill Mad Man. He has to be tried for his crimes, as it makes them as awful as he was. walking away he finds Punisher and Elektra–who spent a good part of the issue fighting/maiming/killing people–making out.

Power Pack #26

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Don’t let this picture fool you, but Cloak is a great babysitter.

There is a lot of fun stuff happening in Power Pack #26. The group of kid heroes is on their way back home from an adventure on Kofi Whitemane’s home planet of Kymellia.

As a sidebar, I wonder if there is a reason that the Louise Simonson created the Kymellians, a race of horselike aliens, for this series right around the time her husband Walt created the horse-faced Thor stand-in Beta Ray Bill. It makes you assume that horses were very popular in the Simonson household during this period.

Once they land, Cloak and Dagger find Power Pack, only to attack Kofi and his father Yrik. Kofi literally has to climb inside of Cloak to rescue his father from the dark dimension. Once everyone is safe, Kofi returns home with his father and Cloak and Dagger take the Power Pack kids back to their parents.ck are off to Kymellila to help Kofi’s father fight off a hostile takeover, and they are returning to Earth successful in their mission. Because they essentially disappeared, their parents are quite worried. James and Margaret Power have sent out Cloak and Dagger to find their missing offspring, which was kind of weird to me. Cloak and Dagger weren’t really the most highly regarded heroes in the Marvel Universe at that time. There’s also a pretty funny scene with Power Pack-er Franklin Richard’s parents, Mister Fantastic and Invisible Woman, deciphering a note he left behind explaining what they were doing. The Fantastic Four take off into space, only to wind up passing the Kymellian ship that is carrying their children back home.

The final pages show why I loved Power Pack so much as a kid. They may be child super heroes, but they are one big happy family and the story ended with them more concerned over what they were going to have for dinner rather than discuss their intergalactic adventure.

 

 

Silver Surfer #10-11

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These issues somehow manage to tie the Silver Surfer/Shalla Bal love story into a Latin American revolution during the 1960s. And yes, this story arc is as amazing as that sounds.

One of the key points in this series has been how there is such a huge disconnect between the Surfer and humanity. The story starts out with Surfer saving a man attempting to commit suicide and the police officer who was literally trying to talk him off of a ledge. Unfortunately, it becomes a scenario that Surfer is all too familiar with: instead of being thanked for his actions, he is getting yelled at for being a pariah and a danger to mankind.

Silver Surfer winds up travelling to Latin America and winds up getting sucked into a revolutionary war. Siding with the “freedom fighters” instead of the country’s established government, Surfer sets out to rescue one of their leaders, a woman named Donna Maria.

I like the fact that they make no effort whatsoever to identify what Latin American country it was set in. I don’t think it was possible to make it any vaguer.

As this is going on, Shalla Bal is being courted by Yarro Gort, who can’t stand that she still pines for Surfer even though he is no longer really a Zenn-La-ian. So Yarro decides that he’s going to break Shalla’s heart by taking them to Earth so she can see for herself that the Surfer has moved on with his life and that she should as well. Yarro has totally lucked out, as when they get to earth Surfer has just rescued Donna who is smooching him as a thank you. Yarro really is a dick.

Shalla doesn’t seem to be to worried about that and is more concerned by the fact that they’ve been captured by the evil army. Yarro shows his true colors and makes a deal with his captors: if they let him go, they can use his space ship’s weaponry to not only put down the rebellion but the Silver Surfer as well. Ultimately it comes down to an all out battle between Yarro and the government against Silver Surfer and the rebellion. Yarro gets killed, but Shalla is mortally wounded during the melee. Surfer then repairs the space ship and sends her back home to Zenn-La, as no Earth medicine could save her.

Stan Lee and John Buscema really get across with the words and art is how much sadness there is in the Silver Surfer’s life, not to mention that he always does the right thing, even when he has nothing to gain from doing so. He saved those men at the bridge only to be treated like a monster. He’s reunited with his beloved Shalla but has to send her to the other side of the universe so she can survive. It sucks being the Silver Surfer.