Monday, June 11, 2018

THE HOUSE LEX BUILT: Justice League #1 is Architectural Genius

In my mind, there are three foundations to a classic Justice League tale; 1) An epic threat that requires earth’s greatest heroes to divide into smaller teams, 2) a crisis across different eras in time (if not dimensions), and 3) as an offshoot off point 2, Vandal Savage.

The debut issue of writer Scott Snyder’s run on DC’s flagship team covers all three points in the first ten pages.

While surprise guest stars including Kamandi and the Justice Legion show Snyder is completely rocking the step from the insular world of Gotham he wrote in Batman, to the driver’s seat of DC’s most multiversal title, one of the best aspects of this issue is actually the restorative work it does on two opposite sides of the same strategist coin - criminal mastermind, Lex Luthor and founding Leaguer (in original DC continuity), chairman, Martian Manhunter.

Even Aquaman’s quip on page three, that his ability to link the team through telepathy means J’onn J’onzz can never leave, seems more a note for future editors and writers.

I've wanted artist, Jim Cheung to draw DC’s big guns since he illustrated Cybermancer and Iron Man in the pages of Marvel’s Force Works. Here he proves the wait was worth it, rendering the last days of Mars, cosmic dragons and the Martian Manhunter’s analytical gaze like few before him.

As battlesuit Lex strikes his first pose with a stare equally as intense, you know his recent ‘superhero’ run is over. Fully aware of the potential held by the heart of the Source Wall exploding towards earth, he is ready to use its arrival to transition into the man who will lead the earth against the all future cosmic threats.

In order to become that man, he’s made his own Legion - and like everything Luthor does, their membership shows he means business. Sinestro. Grodd. Cheetah. Black Manta. Joker. The League is in trouble.

“See I know what you have hidden from me and every other human on this planet. The darkest secret in the universe." A big gun Justice League. A Legion of Doom to match. Cosmic threats and the Martian Manhunter at the heart of it all. Justice League #1 restores the foundation of this title in one issue, and now the only place to build is up.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

AVENGER TO REVENGER: Horror Hits Hard in The Immortal Hulk #1

Avengers Infinity War didn’t get me back behind the keyboard, nor did the significantly better Deadpool 2, but this week's comics did. In particular relaunched icons, Justice League from DC, and the subject of this post, Marvel's The Immortal Hulk #1.

Due to the mess the majority of the publisher's titles seem to be in, I almost didn’t pick this up. However, the Hulk has always been one of their ‘Big 3’ icons to me. 

With Bruce Banner reborn and ‘Hulk-superhero’ replaced with the spine-tingly good ‘horror-star-Hulk’, the Jade Giant is not the only one back from the dead. This issue is the first real sign that the former House of Ideas is no longer letting the tail that is the Marvel movieverse, wag the dog that created it.

Writer, Bruce Jones' HIGHLY-unsung Hulk run featured a dark and moody tale of Banner hunted for the destruction wrought by his uncontrollable alter-ego. In a similar shade, new scribe, Al Ewing has Bruce off-the-grid and alone, brilliantly questioning his place on the good to bad spectrum, and well aware of the devil inside.

And what a devil it is. This Hulk is not only intelligent and sinisterly vengeful against those who cross him, this Hulk won't die - and by extension, now, neither can Bruce. There is no longer any escape from his own personal demon. A demon who sees the man or monster inside you AND has the muscle to do something about it.

Replacing the 'Manhattan-based super-villain beatdown' setups of other comics with heartland America and human natures as twisted as Bruce’s own psyche, this issue feels like a modern Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde take on the Lou Ferrigno / Bill Bixby nomadic TV adventures that helped make the Hulk such a pop-culture smash.

Case in point, the issue's 'villain' is merely a man whose efforts to repay a gang loan and keep his family safe, backfire in the worst way possible.

While Joe Bennett’s art balances the dark with the light, the standout for me is how colourist Paul Mounts makes Hulk’s eyes horrifyingly glow like neon in the night.

“There are two people in every mirror. There’s the one you can see. And there’s the other one. The one you don’t want to." After reading this issue, you too will see the Hulk in every reflection. Welcome to the world of Bruce Banner, and get ready for what really goes thump in the night.

Monday, February 26, 2018

SWEET AS: DC Comics' Top 5 May 2018 Solicitations

When we Kiwis find something we like, we say it's 'Sweet as'. When I look at all of DC Comics May 2018 solicitations, these five comics make the 'Sweet As' grade:

ONE) (Spoiler warning) The return of Hunter Zolomon - Zoom, in the pages of the recent Flash Annual was crazy cool. In May, The Flash War kicks off in The Flash #47, as The Renegades - a futuristic police force in combat gear that resembles The Flash's greatest rogues - come to arrest Iris West for the murder of the Reverse Flash. Pitting sidekick against mentor, Barry Allen vs Wally West!

Tyler's cover for May's Green Arrow #40 is going to smash it on the stands!
2) Jeez, I hope Andy Kubert stays on art chores for New Challengers, long past the initial storyline - that is a creator/concept match made in heaven! In May's #1, five strangers are given a second chance at life, only if they execute missions impossible in the most unexplored corners if the multiverse. Written by Scott Snyder, you know these new Challengers of The Unknown are going to be good!

3) Working out a truce after their existence long civil war is the name of the game in Mister Miracle #9, however Scott Free trusts Kalibak and his minions less off the battlefield than he did on it - meaning deadlier risks need to be taken.

4) Dan Jurgens recent run on Action Comics has been INSANE in ways that make his legendary last super-stint pale in comparison. From Zod and the Superman Revenge Squad to Lois Lane going rogue for her father - it has been amazing stuff.

Sadly, it comes to an end in this month's Action Comics Special #1, as Lex Luthor's transformation into a hero is tested, when he alone has the ability to save Superman from an unimaginable foe! Which way will he act? Plus stories by Francis Manapul and others. 48 pages.

5) I love the sound of the upcoming Suicide Squad story-arc 'Constriction'! Kicking off in May's #41, Batman breaks Deadshot out of Belle Reve to save his daughter from Kobra. Only Amanda Waller's not having it, and sets out to get the man who never misses back. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

SWEET AS: Marvel Comics' Top 5 May 2018 Solicitations

When we Kiwis find something we like, we say it's 'Sweet as'. When I look at all of Marvel Comics May 2018 solicitations, these five comics make the 'Sweet As' grade:

ONE) May is meant to be the launch of Marvel's "Fresh Start" initiative, however, all the relaunched titles announced for May already feel like a continuation of the same things currently threatening to condemn the former House of Ideas, except for Black Panther #1. While the African super-hero, T'Challa will always be a grassroots warrior to me, the idea that he is about to discover a galactic empire founded in his name, really opens up the door for some cosmic ideas - just don't tell Vader! 40 pages.

2) Darkhawk is back! As THE title I collected in the 90's, seeing Darkhawk back in action automatically opens my wallet. Hopefully before this miniseries Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk 
concludes, NYPD officer, Chris Powell's war with the alien army of the Fraternity of Raptors will see plenty of old faces like Lodestone, Savage Steel and Portal return too!

3) Invincible Iron Man #600 will be writer Brian Michael Bendis's last work for Marvel, before bolting for DC, and like when he left Daredevil, he (and an all-star team of artists) are throwing down a challenge for the incoming team to take up and get out of - launching a brand new major villain! Who will be Iron Man when the dust clears? 56 pages.

4) The final fate of the Fantastic Four is revealed as the mini-series, Marvel 2-In-One comes to a close. Boy, this Jim Cheung-drawn series has been great - especially in getting The thing to sound like him old self again. The answer will probably be spoiled online first, but still pick this issue up for prosperity. It'll be worth it.

5) Ever since Superman had Bizzaro, super-heroes have needed their evil counterpart. Domino, X-Force's ultimate soldier of fortune, gets hers in #2 in May from writer, Gail Simone.