After fifteen volumes, and roughly two and a half years since the start of this title’s publication in English, we were finally going to learn Koro-sensei’s origin with vol. 16. So yes, I was pretty excited to finally read this volume. Having read it… I wouldn’t classify my disappointment as “crushing” but I was expecting better from mangaka Yusei Matsui after all this time. It’s not that the story behind Koro-sensei’s origin is bad, per se. The problem is that once the story gets going it’s VERY easy to see how things are going to play out. You’ve got the master assassin who is being experimented upon, the ruthless mad scientist who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and the kindly schoolteacher who wants nothing more than to make a difference in the lives of those she teaches. These are all familiar elements and there are precious few surprises to be had in seeing how they interact and play out in this context.
To be fair, that’s not to say that there aren’t any surprises to be had here. It was interesting to see the connection between Koro-sensei and the Grim Reaper established here and to find out the real reason behind the partial destruction of the moon. Furthermore, for all the familiarity of the story elements here, Matsui executes things skillfully enough that you wind up hoping things aren’t going to play out in the way that you know they will. When all is said and done, the revelation of Koro-sensei’s origin leaves the relationship between him and his students in a much different place than where it was at the start of this volume. For some of the students at least. While it’s not surprising that there’s a contingent of them who want to save their teacher after hearing his life’s story, some of the students still want to go through with the original assassination plan. Will they be able to work things out, or will overcoming this divide prove to be Class E’s greatest challenge? Unlike the main story in this volume, I appreciate that the resolution to this new plot point isn’t immediately obvious.
Hard as it may be to believe now, but there was a time when I actually enjoyed reading Mark Millar’s work. With regards to his superhero work at Marvel, he had a real knack for coming up with high-concept storylines that got to the heart of the characters he was writing. Such was the case with the original “Wolverine: Enemy of the State” and follow-up “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” storylines that had the character being brainwashed by the Hand and Hydra and forced to kill for them before their control was broken and he went out for revenge. It was a best-selling run that’s still fondly remembered to this day, which is why we’re getting the sequel in the pages of “All-New Wolverine.”
Continue reading All-New Wolverine vol. 3: Enemy of the State II
Forget the previous “Batman” series to bear this title. This time around “All-Star” is the victory lap for Scott Snyder after he, along with Greg Capullo, delivered some of the best “Batman” stories in recent memory with their run on the “New 52” incarnation of the title. While that series worked because it managed to keep topping itself with each arc, Snyder is deliberately dialing down the scale for this one to tell different kinds of stories (and for the sake of his own sanity as he’s mentioned in interviews).
Continue reading All-Star Batman vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy
He’s one of the best and most prolific writers of superhero comics, but not everything he puts out is a home run. Take Champions vol. 1: Change the World as an example. Subsequent to the events of “Civil War II” along with a general disappointment at how adult superheroes tackle their job, Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan, Miles “Spider-Man” Morales, and Sam “Nova” Alexander quit the Avengers and start their own team. Along with Amadeus “The Totally Awesome Hulk” Cho, Viv Vision, and Scott “Cyclops” Summers they take on cases with a clear human toll including human trafficking, gender oppression, and racism. They also have a bonding campout in the woods and take on some irate Atlanteans at one point as well. The execution is solid and it all looks great with Humberto Ramos’ expectedly energetic art. Where “Champions” falls short is that it’s lacking in youthful rebellion. For all their talk about changing the world, this team’s rebellion honestly feels pretty by the books. I hate to say it, but a younger writer less steeped in superhero convention is probably what this book needed.
Fortunately that’s not the case with the second and, sadly, concluding volume of “Black Widow.” Black Widow vol. 2: No More Secrets is a tightly-crafted action story just like the first volume, only it makes more effective use of the six issues collected here. Where vol. 1 felt like it went on for too long, vol. 2 feels just right as it hits the ground running with the Weeping Lion under the Black Widow’s thumb as she fights for the future of the young girls trained under the Dark Room’s Headmistress. Natasha’s fight takes her to secret bases in Russia and the Antarctic, the White House in D.C., and even the Moon. Waid and co-writer Chris Samnee keep the tension relentlessly tight, but also make room for some worthwhile character development regarding the Weeping Lion and the Headmistress’ second-in-command Recluse to make them interesting antagonists. Samnee also delivers some flawlessly engaging art that will appease your eye even as you’re trying to turn the pages in a rush to find out what happens next. It would’ve been nice to see where Waid and Samnee would go from here with the Black Widow, but at least we got one great epic story from them.
While the release schedule for DC’s once-celebrated Vertigo imprint continue to thin out with each passing month, it’s still in better shape than Marvel’s was-almost-kinda-sorta-a-contender creator-owned imprint Icon. It launched with the first issue of the second volume of “Powers” by Bendis and Oeming and in that moment it looked like the imprint could be the next big thing. Particularly with all of the Mark Millar projects that followed such as “Kick-Ass,” “The Secret Service,” and “Superior.” Other creator-owned work from creators like Jason Aaron and Ron Garney’s “Men of Wrath” followed, but projects like these were few and far between. These days with Bendis’ creator-owned output having all but dried up, it would appear that Millar is the only creator left to carry the Icon banner forward.
Until this round of Image solicitations, that is. There’s a new “Kingsman” miniseries solicited here along with a reprint of the original “The Secret Service” collection as well. If Millar has no problem with taking away one of his most successful titles when a new movie promoting it is all set to come out then it’s not too hard to assume that the rest of his output from Icon will be making the jump to Image at some point as well. Thus leaving Icon dead in the water and most people to remark, “Wait, that was still going? I thought it closed down years ago.” At least Vertigo has history to its name. Icon is just going to be remembered as that imprint Marvel started up to keep its top-tier creators happy until they realized they could get a better deal at Image.
Continue reading Image Previews Picks: September 2017
Vol. 2 of this series carries on in much the same way as vol. 1 did. There’s plenty of over-the-top thrills on tap here, but not a whole lot of depth to go along with them. The first two-thirds of vol. 2 are dedicated to wrapping up the “Murder Party” arc from the previous volume as our lady-lovin’ psych protagonist Kuroko eventually finds herself going tongue-to-toe with the unfeeling maid bodyguard of the mansion’s master. Other characters figure into this arc, but they only exist to provide exposition, die in order to build up the threat, or are Kuroko’s airheaded follower Hinako who is here to provide (weak) comic relief. The battles featuring Yukari, the maid, are the high point of this part and mangaka Yoshimurakana handles them with style. Kuroko’s utter amorality in this struggle continues to be refreshing when compared against your average shonen, seinen, or even American comic book protagonist.
That said, the only time this series becomes thought-provoking is when I ask myself, “Is it okay to be entertained by scenes where the antagonist is threatened with sexual assault by the protagonist if they’re both women?” Yes, “Murcielago” is that kind of series. Kuroko’s lasciviousness doesn’t manage to become off-putting until the final third when she “rescues” a little girl who may have seen her dad murder someone on DVD. Our protagonist is insistent on getting the little girl to strip so that she can see if the girl has been abused. Forget character consistency, that’s just fucking creepy! Fortunately in Hinako’s one worthwhile action in this volume she manages to convince Kuroko that it’s not necessary before taking her in for a bath to calm the girl down. A bath which is at least thankfully free of any casual nudity.
If I seem hard on Hinako here, that’s because I think her character description from vol. 1 to vol. 2 has changed. Where she was a bubbly airhead” in the first volume, now it looks like she has to occasionally be reminded to breathe. Hinako becomes a focus of the last third with an underwear thief plot at school and that, along with the aforementioned creeper business, makes this section noticeably less entertaining than what has come before. I’m still onboard with Yoshimurakana’s stylish brand of action trash, but let’s make sure any new characters have at least reached the age of consent and are smarter than Forrest Gump, okay?
One of the titles in this month’s round of solicitations either represents a welcome second chance for a series or evidence that Dark Horse needs to re-think the way they promote original titles without a built-in audience. The Once and Future Queen is a modern-day female-centric spin on the Arthurian Legend from writers Adam Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, and artist Nick Brokenshire, the creators of “Amelia Cole.” This was originally solicited as a five-issue miniseries, of which two saw print before the remaining three were cancelled. Why? Well, the impression I got is that despite good reviews and word of mouth, the first two issues sold badly enough that releasing the rest would only put everyone involved further in the hole. Better for everyone to cut their losses now and release the whole thing in trade paperback form to see if it can find its audience that way.
While I’m sure the people who bought the first two issues may wind up feeling burned by this move, isn’t it good thing that the story will be completed in the end? I bring this up because it’s a similar situation to what the company has found itself in with regards to The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Editor/English adapter extraordinaire Carl Horn has talked about how the sales of individual volumes of the series had rendered the title unprofitable, but reprinting it in three-in-one omnibi have actually brought it out of the hole. The problem is that they’ve already got volumes 13 & 14 in print so doing another omnibus collecting these and brand-new vol. 15 would burn faithful readers of the series. You know, ones like me.
Except I wouldn’t mind. I’d much rather pay $20 to get a brand new volume of the series along with two others I already own. It’s a much better prospect to consider than possibly not getting anymore “Kurosagi” at all. The same pretty much goes for “The Once and Future Queen.” Who knows, maybe it’ll sell well enough for the creators to consider doing a follow-up story. One that debuts as an original graphic novel, of course.
Continue reading Dark Horse Previews Picks: September 2017
“Marvel Legacy.” This is the plan that’s going to return the company to creative and commercial dominance in the industry? Based on all of the teasers for the initiative Marvel released last Friday, their plan does not inspire confidence. While some of the plot points teased have promise — just what is Spider-Man going to do that will put him behind bars — others seem dubious from the start. Having the Punisher take up the War Machine armor of the deceased James Rhodes? Teasing the death of the Jane Foster Thor? A new Falcon series apparently starring Sam Wilson? These appear to be big steps back regarding Marvel’s diversity efforts and fans will be (even more) livid if they turn out to actually be true rather than just promotional images. Also, there were no new creative teams announced for any of these upcoming titles, save for the apparent confirmation that Greg Pak will still be writing “Weapon X” and the rumor that Ta-Nehisi Coates will be taking over “Captain America.” Maybe some good creative teams for the titles will get people excited, like the one for the one-shot that kicks this all off after the break:
Continue reading Marvel Previews Picks: September 2017
While I haven’t been actively looking for info on DC’s latest event “Dark Nights,” it’s hard to miss the articles about it which begin with the exclamation that the DCU will be invaded by seven evil alternate-universe Batmen this summer. Honestly, I think it’s a solid setup for the event. If our “good” Batman can take on the Justice League singlehandedly, then how is everyone going to cope when seven “evil” Batmen come knocking on the DCU? It does remind me of “Invincible’s” classic done-in-one crossover event issue where all of the Image superheroes came together to take on evil versions of the title character. “Dark Nights” certainly won’t be able to match it for economy, but they can probably top it for scale. Particularly with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo masterminding the main event.
Also, has anyone noticed how slim the Vertigo solicitations have been in recent months? This month there are only four items solicited: The third issue of John Ridley and Georges Jeanty’s new “American Way” series, the penultimate issue of Justin Jordan and Ibrahim Moustafa’s “Savage Things,” the third and final volume of the new “Lucifer” series, and a new one-volume repackaging of Grant Morrison’s “Sebastian O” and “The Mystery Play.” Without any new announcements soon (though Comic-Con is just around the corner) Vertigo will cease to exist as a creative entity by the end of the year. The imprint’s best days are certainly behind it, but it’s just sad to think about it fading away after all it’s given us over the years.
Continue reading DC Previews Picks: September 2017
Was this event series as bad as everyone says it was? I look into it and some of its tie-ins.
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