Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ajin: Demi-Human vol. 8

What would it take for me to drop this series?  At this point it would have to be some truly offensive storytelling or for it to become truly boring.  We get neither in this volume as mangaka Gamon Sakurai simply has the opposing factions here continue their battle inside a massive office building.  There are some impressive scenes of gunplay strewn throughout the volume, but we don’t get the same level of bravura action seen in previous volumes.  Instead, we get to see Kei and Sato show off some different uses of their powers.  I was going to say “creative” but only Sato’s qualifies as Kei’s basically amounts to a demi-human-specific smokescreen.  Sato’s are also creatively gruesome, as it’s not everyday you see a man feed himself into a wood chipper.  How effective the reader finds this demonstration to be will require them to overlook some ropey plotting, however.  I’m not saying that it’d be impossible for people to fail to tell the difference between fried chicken and a deep-fried human hand.  It’s just that you’d have to assume the people doing the inspecting at all levels were idiots.


Admittedly, that helps when Sato finds his way into the building and starts murdering pretty much everyone in his way.  In my review of vol. 7, I wrote about how the events of that volume effectively stripped away the appealing moral ambiguity surrounding his actions and revealed him to be nothing more than a thrill killer.  Nothing in this volume changes that, except I’m reminded that I’m not really inclined to root for the people opposing him.  I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing him take out the corporate suits who are exploiting the demi-humans for their own ends.  Kei remains an unlikeable little jerk while his fellow demi-human, Ko, appears to only be useful as someone who our protagonist can spout exposition at for the reader in this volume.  So if Sato does manage to kill off any of these people I’m really not going to be too bothered by it.  Now that I think about it, I guess I can actually start to root for his success in this regard.  Maybe the characters he kills will be replaced by more interesting ones later on.  Then again, if Sato gets killed off himself I guess I’ll have my reason to finally stop reading this series.

Marvel Previews Picks: February 2017

We all knew it wouldn’t last, but I think we were at least hoping it would last longer than this.  What am I talking about?  Well, word is that a certain Ol’ Canucklehead will be making his way back to the land of the living early next year.  Just in time for his latest movie, in fact.  There’s no specific evidence to this theory as of yet.  It’s all rumor and hearsay based on how Marvel likes to time things like these to big events — remember how Peter Parker finally took back his body from Doctor Octopus right around the time “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” came out?  Also, there’s also a number of “Wolverine”-related issues being solicited for a dollar and word that the final issue of “Old Man Logan” may be in the offing as well.  Maybe his return will tie into the “Inhumans vs. X-Men” series as well.  But why would Marvel do that when they can probably get bigger numbers publishing a “Return of Wolverine” miniseries instead?


Still, this is all just speculation at this point.  I’m hoping it all turns out to be wrong and Logan stays in the ground for at least another year.  That would help to further entrench Laura Kinney in the role and maybe give Jeff Lemire time to wrap up the story he’s telling with “Old Man Logan.”  Plus, there’s the fact that he just hasn’t been gone all that long.  There’s no doubt that the Wolverine we all know and love will be back at some point.  It just doesn’t seem like March 2017 is the right time for that to happen.

Kingpin #1:  Wilson Fisk gets his own ongoing series from writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Ben Torres and he’s all set to make his mark as a titan of (legitimate) industry.  There’s just the matter of image rehabilitation that he needs to take care of first.  Was anyone clamoring for an ongoing series featuring this character?  Was his “Civil War” miniseries from Rosenberg even that good?  If this series wasn’t greenlit in light of recent political events, then its timing is certainly fortuitous.  There’s not a better time for a series about an obvious crook trying (and succeeding) to convince the public he has their best interests at heart.  Forget this ongoing series, are you all ready for “Fisk 2020?”  Because it’s all too plausible now…


He’s not the only “Daredevil” supporting character to get an ongoing series this month.  “Elektra” is getting one from writer Matt Owens and artist Alec Morgan and “Bullseye” is getting a miniseries from writer Ed Brisson and artist Guillermo Sanna.  Out of all these projects, “Bullseye” sounds the most interesting as it’s described as showing us what the assassin does for fun when he’s down in South America.  “Elektra” has her facing off against “X-Men” villain Arcade, which is at least different, but doesn’t really give us an idea as to what we can expect from this new ongoing.  Seeing Bullseye murder some (hopefully deserving) people south of the border on a lark sounds like the kind of thing that can sustain a five-issue mini.


Doctor Strange #1.MU:  “Sex Criminals” artist and all-around irreverent Chip Zdarsky writes the Doctor’s tie-in issue to “Monsters Unleashed.”  All we know about this is that Doctor Strange’s powers are at all-time lows thanks to the events of “The Last Days of Magic” and now he’s up against some monsters.  You know, I have this image of Zdarsky as someone who can’t take anything seriously thanks to his work on “Sex Criminals.”  I actually have no idea how he translates that kind of sensibility to the Marvel Universe.  Maybe I should go check out his “Howard the Duck” series to see if I can get any answers from that.


Darth Maul #1 (of 5):  Now here’s a character who has been long regarded as one of the highlights of the Prequel Trilogy.  Before he was unceremoniously dispatched at the end of “The Phantom Menace” anyway.  Yet Maul is fondly remembered for his fearsome look, double-bladed lightsaber, and impressive fighting skills.  We don’t really know much more about him than that.  Uh, I mean that “I” don’t know much more about him since I haven’t read any of the books that he’s been featured in or seen his return on the “Clone Wars” TV series.  I did get his miniseries from Dark Horse that came out well over a decade ago, but that just had Maul slicing and dicing his way through the ranks of Black Sun.


Where was I going with this?  Writer Cullen Bunn is giving us a story about Maul’s time as Darth Sidious’ apprentice when he first encountered the Jedi.  It’s a decent enough setup, and hopefully artist Luke Ross will be having one of his better days when he provides art for this mini.  More insight into the mind of this character sounds nice, mainly because I’m too lazy to seek it out elsewhere.


Powers:  The Bureau Saga HC:  Seriously?  They’re calling this a “saga?”  It was just twelve issues and two arcs that Bendis and Oeming couldn’t deliver on any kind of reasonable schedule.  If you’re expecting a self-contained high point for the series, this isn’t it.  The status quo shift these volumes signified for the series had promise, but it didn’t deliver in the end.


Deadpool:  Bad Blood HC:  I was wondering what had happened to this “Deadpool” original graphic novel.  Chris Sims from “Comics Alliance” had mentioned that he was going to be co-writing this with his partner on “X-Men ‘92” Chad Bowers with “Deadpool” co-creator Rob Liefeld providing the art (and apparently co-writing this as well according to the solicitation).  It’s worth mentioning because Sims has had an evolving opinion of Liefeld’s career over the years.  He started out as a hater, but has since gone on to express an unironic appreciation of the controversially talented Image co-founder.  As someone who has followed Sims’ writing at “Comics Alliance” for an extended period of time, I think this is because he’s someone who can recognize genuine passion and sincerity.  I find Liefeld to be really wrongheaded about a lot of things as a creator, but I don’t doubt that he has a complete belief that whatever he puts down on the page is awesome.  On that note, I hope all the creators had fun working together even if my interest in this OGN is mainly that of morbid curiosity.


Death of X:  The prequel miniseries to “Inhumans vs. X-Men” is collected.  Cyclops has been MIA since the Marvel Universe’s time jump from the end of “Secret Wars.”  It has also been intimated that he did something really bad before he disappeared.  Now we get to find out what that was courtesy of co-writers Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule.  As I write this, a good chunk of this miniseries has been spoiled for me and I’m worried that my commitment to following the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s Merry Mutants is going to lead me to a brick wall here.  Check back in February to see if that’s the case.


Night Raven:  From the Marvel UK Vaults:  He’s a masked vigilante in a pulp-era world, stalking the streets of New York and branding criminals with his mark.  Why are his adventures being collected now?  Because some of them were written by Alan Moore.  That’s… pretty much it.


Wolverine vs. The Punisher:  On one hand, it’s pretty obvious what you can expect from a collection with a title like this.  On the other, this also collects stories from Garth Ennis and Peter Milligan.  So if you’re expecting a collection full of straightforward team-ups and/or violent differences of opinion between Frank Castle and Logan then these stories will likely stick out like a sore thumb.  Particularly when Ennis’ involves Castle blasting the skin off Logan’s face and then running him over with a steamroller after their fight against an army of violent midgets.  Milligan’s is just pleasantly absurd as the two anti-heroes wind up in a legendary jungle hideout for criminals.  Fans of these writers will likely enjoy these stories, and anyone who isn’t one is probably going to be deeply annoyed by them.  I already own the issues in question, so I can safely pass on the rest of what’s being offered here.

Image Previews Picks: February 2017

It’s Image Comics’ 25th Anniversary next year and Robert Kirkman is all ready to celebrate.  By that I mean the latest issues of the three titles he writes, “The Walking Dead,” “Invincible,” and “Outcast,” will be priced at twenty-five cents each.  In addition to being a cute way to celebrate the occasion, it’s also a canny marketing move.  All three titles are kicking off new arcs with the issues being solicited here (and in the case of “Invincible,” its final arc) so this is a very good way to hook as many readers as possible for the immediate future.  Kirkman also gets bragging rights as the first of the Image partners to do something to mark the founding of the company.  Which is amusing in a certain way because he’s the only partner who isn’t also a founding member.  It’s probably also worth noting that of the original Image founders, only Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen are still putting out comics regularly for the company.


Also, in Jonathan Hickman-related news, issue #4 of his sci-fi series “Frontier” was featured in these solicitations but don’t expect to read it next February.  Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with how issue #1 was turning out and revising it meant that he would have to delay the subsequent issues.  Rather than wreck the scheduling of the series, he’s opting to delay the title indefinitely until he can get everything just right.  Which is a good thing and shows that he’s learned something from the mess that he and Ryan Bodenheim found themselves in with “The Dead and the Dying.”

The Old Guard #1:  New from Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez.  It’s about an immortal female mercenary and the trouble she runs into when she can no longer keep her long life a secret in this modern age.  It’s from Rucka, so I’m onboard.  Seeing him collaborate with Fernandez again, after they previously worked together on arcs of “Queen and Country” and “Wolverine” many years ago, is also encouraging.  What does this mean for Fernandez’s Image series “The Discipline” with Peter Milligan?  Who knows, but Rucka/Fernandez is a safer bet quality-wise than Milligan/Fernandez.


The Walking Dead #163:  Issue #164 also ships this month, which is a good thing for people who read the single issues.  I’m saying this because the title for this issue “Conquered” and its cover don’t indicate that things went well for Rick and co. in Alexandria.  Putting the main cast in dire straits was bound to happen after things went so well for them in the last war.  I wouldn’t be too worried for everyone, however.  Even when Negan was running the show, Kirkman still offered up hope of resistance with Rick and his plans.  Which is something the TV show could stand to learn from at this point.


Sex Criminals #16:  Returning for its fourth arc with a new set of XXX-rated variant covers.  The one for this issue is from “Saga’s” Fiona Staples while the solicitation text promises that she finally gets to draw something naughty.  I know you can’t see or hear me, but I’m totally slow-clapping the solicitation to this issue…


Seven to Eternity vol. 1:  Back when this was announced, I didn’t give it much consideration.  Even though it’s from Rick Remender and Jerome Opena.  While Opena has been and will likely continue to be a fantastic artist, I believe the announcement for this series came around the time my estimation for Remender had fallen quite a bit.  This was after the first volume of “Low” convinced me not to buy any more of the series, and I was seriously thinking about dropping “Black Science.”  Then the latest volume of “Black Science” turned things around while the most recent “Deadly Class” delivered one of the most electrifying reads of the year (save for that ending).  So now I’m feeling more inclined to give “Seven to Eternity” a shot.  What’s it about?  The last knight of a dying house has to choose between joining a rebel group’s efforts to overthrow the God of Whispers, or accepting the God’s offer to grant his heart’s desire.  Hmmmmm… Coming from Remender, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the knight agrees to fight with the rebels while actually accepting the God’s offer so that he can destroy them from the inside.  It’s a cheerful twist right up the writer’s alley!


Snotgirl vol. 1:  I still think that’s a terrible title for a series.  Even if you were a fan of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim.”  Now it’s time to find out if the series, about a fashion blogger whose personal life is as messy as her allergies, is a good read in spite of that,.


Sunstone Book One HC & Velvet Deluxe Hardcover Edition:  Two series I read about strong-willed women carving out spaces for themselves in an often uncaring world get hardcover collections of their first three volumes.  Of the two, “Sunstone” is far easier to recommend even with its lesbian BDSM-focused narrative.  There’s actual depth to the story and characters, while the sex isn’t presented in an overly salacious way.  “Velvet” is really only entertaining if you don’t look too far beneath its slick surface.  While the solicitation text mentions that this is the collection of “Velvet’s” first adventure, her second has yet to be solicited.  As for “Sunstone,” you can probably expect the release of the “Book Two HC” collecting vols. 4 & 5 later this year (I said if I were a betting man).


The Fuse vol. 4:  Constant Orbital Revolutions:  Vol. 3 was the best one in this series yet, and vol. 4 looks to promise some kind of resolution to Ralph’s search for his missing wife.  If you’ll recall, she went to the Fuse to join up with one of its more militant secessionist groups.  Ralph has yet to tell his partner Klem, who is getting ready for retirement, about this and I’m sure he’ll be able to keep it secret long enough to resolve it without her finding out or anyone else getting hurt.  That’s the way these things always work in fiction.  Right?


Nameless:  Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s trippily occult sci-fi epic hits paperback.  I found the hardcover at Book Off and it turned out to be one of Morrison’s crazier projects.  There’s lots of skipping around in time to the point that it becomes hard to get a handle on what’s actually happening in the plot.  It does have some incredibly strong artwork from Burnham, who goes at all of the creepy mind-bending and face-rotting stuff that Morrison throws at him with gusto.  This is also the first project I’ve seen from the writer to come with annotations from him about the story in the back.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them from him in the future.  If only because this time around he reveals that this story about a down-on-his-luck occult hustler who is recruited to go on a space trip to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in order to find the prison for the extra-dimensional entity we know as God is actually a call for girls to rise up and slaughter the rock star superhero warrior archetype.


Outcast vol. 4:  Haven’t been watching the TV series for this.  Not for any particular reason, but it has yet to invoke the same kind of solidarity which got me to tune in for “The Walking Dead.”  While this volume is advertised as providing answers regarding Kyle’s status as an Outcast and just what that means for the demons who are keeping him captive, I’m more interested in seeing how the tables get turned on the bad guys here.  Vol. 3 ended with the bad guys holding all the cards, and that usually doesn’t work out well for anyone in that position in a Kirkman-written series.

DC Previews Picks: February 2017

One of the key components from DC’s “Rebirth” initiative has seen them publish fewer individual titles, but double-ship their biggest ones.  This is because it’s a far safer commercial bet to publish two issues of “Batman” or “Justice League” than to take a risk on a lesser-known or all-new property.  To be fair, DC is still taking risks like that with the likes of “New Super Man” and Gerard Way’s “Young Animal” imprint.  There are a few other advantages, for the publisher and for the reader (me) to this approach.  For the publisher they’re likely thinking that this approach helps with reader engagement.  After all, a reader will be less likely to drop a series when they’ve read six issues over three months than three issues over the same period of time because they’re invested in the title.  Sales in the coming months will likely reveal if this approach is successful.  As for me, more issues of a particular title each month means a shorter wait for new volumes of a series.  This is especially great news since it appears DC is eschewing the hardcover first mentality for most of the “Rebirth” series.


Why am I mentioning this?  Well, the double-shipping approach has worked so well for DC that they’re going to continue it through next year.  I’m all for this approach, even if it means I’ll have to be a bit more discerning when it comes to what series I follow.  My wallet isn’t bottomless after all.

The Wild Storm #1:  Once upon a time, back in that era we call “The 90’s,” there was a series from Jim Lee’s WildStorm imprint called “Stormwatch.”  It was a second-tier superhero title that no one really cared much about after Image’s white-hot streak had started to cool.  Then Warren Ellis took it over and made it into a smart, clever, and fun title that started to treat its premise of superheroes working for the U.N. with a modicum of seriousness.  It eventually mutated into “The Authority” while Ellis also delivered “Planetary” for the imprint as well.  While he’s not the reason people have fond memories of WildStorm from that era, Ellis is a big part of it.  Which is why his return to rebuild the universe from the ground up is kind of a big deal.  Even though I am (obviously) on board for this, I’ll acknowledge that the premise behind this is somewhat problematic.  Talented writer returning to the characters and universe that he made famous is not an automatic recipe for success.  Just ask Frank Miller.  The good news is that Ellis is smart enough to realize this and anyone expecting him to simply remake the above-mentioned titles in this series had better check their expectations at the door.  However, the writer has already stated he’s on this project for two years (and he has ideas for a third).  So if you’re expecting that he’ll hit the ground running and not pace things for the inevitable trade paperback, you might have some cause for concern there.


Justice League of America:  Rebirth & #1:  My first thought upon reading this was, “They’re relaunching Bryan Hitch’s run on the title already!?”  Then I realized he’s writing “Justice League.”  This is something completely different as writer Steve Orlando has Batman leading an eclectic team made up of Black Canary, Vixen, Killer Frost, The Ray, Atom, and Lobo.  As to the reasons why Batman’s leading his own Justice League, they’re said to be found in the finale of the “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” series.  Or you could just assume that the Caped Crusader got tired of working with his current team and decided to form a league to do things his own way.  …Except that makes no sense because Lobo’s on his team.  I’m gonna have to go think about this for a while.  Or maybe actually read this when it comes out.


Super Sons #1:  Originally scheduled to launch with “Rebirth,” we’re finally getting this series now.  I’m guessing the reason this was postponed was because DC wanted to see if fans actually liked Son of Superman Jon Kent.  The answer is apparently yes and now he’s getting a team-up title with Damian Wayne.  This should be fun if only for the idea of seeing Superman and Batman’s kids keep up their parents’ friendly rivalry, but with less maturity.


Deathstroke vol. 1:  The Professional:  Until now, Deathstroke has only been notable in my book for the oblique role he played in the creation of Deadpool.  It’s not coincidence that “Wade Wilson” sounds a lot like “Slade Wilson,” but it is likely proof of Rob Liefeld’s creativity.  The thing is that I’ve been hearing lots of good things about Christopher Priest’s take on the character in this new series.  Instead of focusing on continuously re-affirming Deathstroke’s badass credentials, Priest has decided to take a closer look at the man’s tangled family life.  I’m intrigued by this approach.  It’s just that the last time I heard lots of good things about a Priest-written series it was his run on “Black Panther” which has been… alright so far.  This will probably have to wait until I can find it at a deep discount, unless it’s the only noteworthy title on the shipping lists the week it comes out.


The Hellblazer vol. 1:  The Poison Truth:  Do I pick this up in the hope that writer Simon Oliver has delivered a take on the character in line with his classic Vertigo series?  Or do I just resign myself to the fact that the previous three-hundred-issue run of “Hellblazer” is the be-all, end-all version of Constantine’s adventures.  Decisions, decisions…


Batman by Brian K. Vaughan:  Originally released as “Batman:  False Faces.”  Likely being re-released under this title after DC realized it’d sell a lot better if they put the name of the writer of “Y:  The Last Man,” “Ex Machina,” “Saga,” and “Paper Girls” on the cover.  I have “False Faces” and it’s not bad.  It’s not proof that we missed out on something great by not getting more “Batman” stories from Vaughan, but he did at least give us the genius idea of having Wonder Woman take on Clayface.


Zatanna by Paul Dini:  Collecting the ongoing series (mostly) written by the writer, the Vertigo one-shot “Everyday Magic” and some strips from DC holiday specials.  While Dini’s legacy is assured mainly through his animation work, his comics have actually been pretty good too.  Whether or not they’re good enough to justify paying $40 for more than 400 pages of comics is a personal decision that you’ll have to make for yourself.  Also, if you’re wondering why she was in a one-shot from Vertigo, it’s likely because it hails from the days when John Constantine (Zatanna’s ex) was exclusive to the imprint.  The more you know, and all.

Dark Horse Previews Picks: February 2017

It’s official:  The anime adaptation of Kohta Hirano’s “Drifters” manga is a hit according to Crunchyroll.  It’s the most streamed anime on the site in twenty states, which is a good thing for the manga as well.  While the series is currently up to vol. 5 in Japan, we haven’t seen a new volume since the third one was published out here by Dark Horse in April 2014.  Fortunately, the publisher has seen fit to confirm that the two most recent volumes of “Drifters” will be published sometime after April in 2017 (as they’re not mentioned in these solicitations).  I’ll be picking them up as soon as they’re published because I was entertained by the action and worldbuilding Hirano was demonstrating in this series.


While seeing any Dark Horse manga series come off of hiatus is a good thing, there’s still cause for concern here.  I’m a little disappointed that the company didn’t seize the initiative and get vols. 4 & 5 out while the anime is being streamed.  This is the time when the series has peak awareness and it appears foolish of them to not take advantage of that.  Particularly when it was the anime of Hirano’s previous series, “Hellsing,” that drove sales of the manga for the company.  Also, Dark Horse’s announcement that the subsequent volumes of “Drifters” will be coming out in the wake of the anime’s success further underscores their apparent inability to sell a manga without a successful anime or other media (see also, “Vocaloid”) tie-in.  I might as well just give up waiting for them to finish “Eden” until it gets an anime at this rate…

Aliens:  The Original Comics Series vol. 2 HC:  So it looks like the reprint of the original miniseries was a success.  Now it remains to be seen how far the company will go in reprinting their backlist of “Aliens” comics in this format.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this was it, though.  The first three “Aliens” miniseries from the publisher represent a nice, complete story before future installments took the form of an ongoing series-of-miniseries.  Continuity with the films is also thrown further out the window with Ripley’s appearance in the two miniseries collected here.  Then again, if the fans who bought the first volume weren’t put off by Newt and Hicks’ appearance in the previous volume that’s likely not going to bother them here.  A more pressing issue is the fact that the two miniseries collected here just aren’t as good as the original.  Writer Mark Verheiden’s cerebral approach to the material is still present here, but with a lot more tropes and action to distract the reader.


Baltimore:  The Red Kingdom #1 (of 5):  The final “Baltimore” miniseries!  While the collected edition of “Empty Graves” has yet to arrive, it doesn’t look like things ended well for the title character and his crew.  The solicitation text mentions that while the members of Team Baltimore are either dying on the frontlines of the fight against The Red King or hiding, Baltimore himself is missing.  With the deck stacked against them, this sounds like the perfect time for our protagonists to get their act together and stage a stunning, and compelling, come-from-behind victory!  I’m sure it’ll be great.  Unless co-writer/co-creator Mike Mignola thinks that his own universe is ending on too positive a note and just wants to see everyone die here.  I’m not saying this will happen, but I wouldn’t count it out.


Blade of the Immortal Omnibus vol. 2:  Collecting vols. 4-6, which includes the high point of the series “Rin’s Bane.”  Everyone who didn’t buy those volumes initially is going to pick this up, right?  Right.


Caravaggio vol. 1:  The Palette and the Sword:  Milo Manara takes on the influential painter in his latest work.  Coming from Manara, it’s safe to assume that there will be a fair amount of sex and women in various states of undress in addition to the sense of swashbuckling adventure presented by the cover.  You’re probably already sure whether or not this is something for you based solely on Manara’s involvement.  As for me, paying $20 for 64 pages of comics is a dealbreaker no matter how pretty those pictures are.  I’ll hold off on checking this out until we get some kind of omnibus edition as we did with “The Borgias” (which I then found for half-price at WonderCon last year).


Conan the Slayer vol. 1:  Blood in His Wake:  In which the title character falls in with a bunch of Kozaki raiders while his wounds heal and gets into more trouble as a result.  While the story sounds pretty standard issue as far as “Conan” tales go, there are a couple things to distinguish it.  There’s the fact that it’s writer Cullen Bunn’s debut on the title.  The “vol. 1” indicates that Dark Horse is (sadly) dispensing with the numbering scheme it has employed with the series since the start of the character’s ongoing adventures with the publisher.  Most appreciated by me is the fact that this volume is eschewing a hardcover version and debuting straight to paperback.


Empowered and the Soldier of Love #1 (of 3):  The first “Empowered” miniseries!  More of this title is always appreciated, and the fact that this is a three-issue mini means that the wait for the next “Unchained” volume collecting the adventures of the character that aren’t (fully) illustrated by creator Adam Warren just got that much shorter.  What’s this one about?  Well, it’s all about how love is tearing apart Emp’s city.  And that’s “love” as an actual force wielded by an embittered International Magical Girl of Mystery.  Warren taking on magical girls again?  I’m sold!  Art this time is from Karla Diaz, who is completely unfamiliar to me.  That’s not a problem as Warren has shown to have impeccable taste in choosing talented artists to work with on “Empowered” spin-offs.


Hellboy:  Into the Silent Sea HC:  In the wake of “The Island,” Hellboy finds himself on a ghost ship whose pirate is in pursuit of a powerful sea creature.  Mignola is working with artist Gary Gianni for this novella.  This is a good thing as Gianni’s talent is as great as his output is scarce.  Even if Hellboy’s story is over, it’s still good to know we have stories like this to look forward to.  As Mignola finds artists he wants to work with, I imagine.


The Visitor:  How and Why he Stayed #1 (of 5):  Also this month from Mignola and co-writer Chris Roberson is this new Mignola-verse mini.  While we all know that Hellboy found himself in the hands of Prof. Bruttenholm when he was summoned to Earth, it turns out that something else was watching over the boy.  An alien, in fact.  Apparently this is the story of the alien that shows up in “Conqueror Worm,” which was something I had forgotten about in the time since I read that story.  These Mignolaverse spin-offs have usually been quite good, so I’ll likely be picking this up once it’s collected.  The fact that it’s going to feature art from Paul “I’d love to see him finish ‘Kane’ one of these days” Grist is also a bonus.


World of Tanks:  Garth Ennis’ miniseries based on the MMO, with art from Carlos Ezquerra and P.J. Holden, is collected.  I’ve never played the game this is based off of and have no intention to.  I honestly wonder if Ennis even gave it a glance as he was writing this.  In the end, I don’t think that matters too much as I’m sure he was happy enough to get the chance to write another war story.  With a focus on tanks.

Mercury Heat vol. 1

Luiza Bora has only one real desire in life:  To be part of the police.  Unfortunately her personality type is a 57B — someone with an emotionally subnormal response to violence and no aversion to killing.  So she’s out of luck working for law enforcement on Earth.  Not on Mercury, however.  In the far-future world of “Mercury Heat,” the planet closest to the sun is basically a sci-fi version of the Old West.  Which is perfect for someone with Luiza’s personality.  That becomes even more clear when an attempt on her life is made while she’s investigating the death of a technician who may have been murdered.  Things aren’t all right on Mercury, and Luiza is prepared to crack as many skulls as necessary in order to get to the bottom of it.


Why did I pick this up?  Because it’s a new series from Kieron Gillen.  He’s still batting a thousand in my book, but I don’t see “Mercury Heat” as something to be embraced by the fans of his witty, fun-loving, and occasionally heartbreaking work on titles like “Phonogram,” “The Wicked + The Divine,” and “Young Avengers.”  This is a straight-up action/sci-fi story about a woman who doesn’t fit into everyday life and is still determined to make the most of it on her terms.  Luiza is a compelling protagonist because of this tension, and the fact that we see her to be quite resourceful and capable of handling everything that comes her way.  It’d be nice if any of the other characters she encounters in this volume were as interesting as her, so that’s something Gillen can work on for vol. 2.


Omar Francia is the artist for the first half of this volume and the one responsible for most of the design work for this world, as revealed in the supplemental material in this volume.  He’s good at giving this series a distinctive look with a lot of detail, but his characters are stiff and the flow of storytelling in the action sequences tends to get jumbled.  Nahuel Lopez has a somewhat brighter, less-busy style to show off in the volume’s second half, though his work also suffers from the same issues.  Lopez will be onboard for the next arc — which has Luiza taking on the Crossed, of all things — so I’ll be hoping for some improvement in the art.  As it is, “Mercury Heat” will probably be best appreciated by established fans of Gillen’s work who have an interest in seeing the writer try new things.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol. 1

After Vertical showed that there was a significant audience for “Gundam” manga with the consistently entertaining “The Origin” series, it was inevitable that we’d get more manga based off of this venerable mecha franchise released out here.  Unfortunately, the first volume of “Thunderbolt” is a disappointingly generic entry that lacks any kind of distinctive storytelling or visual style to make it stand out.  The story takes place shortly before the battle of A Baoa Qu during the One-Year War as a Federation fleet works to clear out the Thunderbolt sector.  Not only is this sector key to Zeon’s supply lines, it’s filled with the debris from the Side 4 Moore Colony.  Most of the members of this fleet, including hotshot pilot Io Fleming, were from Moore so this operation is personal for them.  Standing in their way are the members of the Living Dead Division, a group of snipers made up of Zeon soldiers who have all lost a limb or two in combat and their ace Daryl Lorenz.


The duel of aces looks to be the driving force behind the narrative for “Thunderbolt,” and a relatively weak one at that.  Io comes off as nothing more than your standard-issue cocky mech pilot with his love of jazz serving as the man’s only distinguishing feature.  Also, the less said about the quasi-romance he has with his petulant crybaby captain the better.  Daryl is a bit more interesting thanks to his disability, to the point where I wish more had been done with it and his squad in general.  There are nods to depth on both sides of the conflict here, as the members of the Federation are shown to have scheming sides to them while the Zeon forces are given a measure of humanity and even a bit of self-awareness about the side they’re fighting for in this conflict.  I’d expect nothing less from “Gundam” and mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki also obliges with some decent action scenes as Io shows what he’s capable of with and without a Gundam.  Still, the mangaka’s style is serviceable to the point of genericness much like everything else here.  Things may very well improve in subsequent volumes, but the only way I can recommend “Thunderbolt” now is that buying it may give Viz or Vertical the idea to release more (and better) “Gundam” manga in the future.

Black Widow vol. 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted

Marvel has been trying to put out a successful “Black Widow” ongoing series for years now.  I’ve been immune to their efforts because, prior to this, they had yet to give this series to creators I liked.  So when it was announced that the “Daredevil” team of writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee were going to chronicle this latest round of Natasha Romanov’s solo adventures, there was no question that I was going to pick it up.  As expected, I was onboard with their approach from the very first page which has the title character running through a S.H.I.E.L.D. office while being declared an enemy of the organization.  Things only get more intense as her one-woman escape effort succeeds and we find out exactly why she’s now wanted by one of the most powerful organizations in the Marvel Universe.  Natasha is being blackmailed by a crime boss known as the Weeping Lion who wants her to find out some information on a new Russian program designed to create more assassins just like her.


For most of its length, “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted” is a propulsive action story that takes the Black Widow on a worldwide tour of treachery and betrayal.  Samnee, in particular, turns in some utterly thrilling work with the action scenes in this volume.  Whether she’s escaping from an in-flight S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier or silently taking out assassins stalking a secret graveyard, seeing Natasha at work is tense and exciting.  As good as the action is, even I’ll admit that I had my fill by the end of the volume.  Much as I like getting six issues in a collection, Waid and Samnee probably could’ve trimmed this story down to five and not lost all that much.  The main story in the volume is also a little light with the Weeping Lion himself coming off as a fairly generic villain even with the final-act twist.  While the flashbacks to Natasha’s childhood training are interesting, it’s centered around plot points that will undoubtedly come back into play in a subsequent volume.  Which I’ll be picking up.  Even with these issues, Waid and Samnee have delivered a  “Black Widow” ongoing that I’m actually interested in following.

All-New Wolverine vol. 2: Civil War II

I didn’t know that I needed to see Laura “Wolverine” Kinney team up with Squirrel Girl.  Or, to take on one of Marvel’s more noteworthy giant monsters.  That’s what makes the first half of this latest volume a ton of fun.  To start things off, it turns out that Wolverine’s plan to ditch her pursuers at one point in the last volume by attaching the tracker they were following to a squirrel was not without repercussions.  She finds this out when Squirrel Girl shows up at her apartment to let her know that the squirrel had a family who would love to see him back.  Yes, it’s a silly premise and all the more effective in how writer Tom Taylor has Laura play it completely straight.  As well as how it eventually ties into officially making Laura’s young clone ward Gabby a part of the cast.  This is followed up by an even more ridiculous and action-packed story that has Wolverine being recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. to find out what the substance in a mysterious box is and how it’s connected to the disappearance of Old Man Logan.  A helicarrier, a giant monster, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, digestive juices, pheromones, and jetpacks all play significant roles in this story.  Maybe this isn’t what you’re expecting from a “Wolverine” story, but that’s a good thing in this case.


The second half of this volume, the “Civil War II” tie-in arc, is a bit more typical in that regard.  Ulysses — the precognitive Inhuman whose abilities are at the heart of the crossover — gets a vision which implies that Old Man Logan is going to kill Gabby.  So S.H.I.E.L.D. sends Captain America and a bunch of agents over to make sure that doesn’t happen.  While the story falls into the trap of the self-fulfilling prophecy, Taylor does some decent work with the fallout to move the narrative away from that cliche.  It’s also just a little bit tragic as it was fun seeing Old Man Logan interact with Laura and Gabby in the first half of this arc, and we’re likely not going to get any more scenes like that given how this story ends.  Ig Guara’s art for this arc is decent enough, though it feels overly busy and detailed in ways that don’t add much to the story.  Comparatively, Marcio Takara’s art on the first half of the volume is clean and straightforward, though I still miss David Lopez’s confident work from the first volume.  Overall, it’s very entertaining work which has me looking forward to Taylor’s take on “Enemy of the State” in the next volume.