Monthly Archives: December 2016

Captain America: Sam Wilson vol. 2 — Standoff

Vol. 1 was all about establishing writer Nick Spencer’s take on Sam Wilson as the new Captain America.  A hero who was more about fighting for the little guy and for social change than simply beating up bad guys.  It delivered on that approach, but offered no real surprises.  If you were hoping for more of that here, then you’re going to be a little disappointed.  Though the title implies there’s a connection to the “Standoff” event that wound its way through the “Avengers” titles earlier this year, that’s not quite the case.  You’re getting the spine of this event here as current and former Captain Americas come together to clean up another one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s messes.  While the story is fairly predictable as these things go, Spencer’s quirky style helps it to be more fun than I was expecting.

One of the subplots from the previous volume involved S.H.I.E.L.D. collecting fragments of Cosmic Cubes with the hope of using the bits of these reality-altering constructs for the greater good.  This plan was exposed by a Snowden-style informant known as the Whisperer and shut down, but not before a wedge was driven between current Cap Sam Wilson and former Cap Steve Rogers regarding what should be done about the leak.  Cut to the present day and also former Cap Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes has been on a mini-rampage attacking four classified S.H.I.E.L.D. outposts on the hunt for some information.  Meanwhile, the Whisperer has some new info for Sam that’s so hot that he wants to meet his partner in order to deliver it.


Both of these meetings are about the same thing:  Thanks to some behind-the-scenes maneuvers by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill, the organization’s Cosmic Cube program wasn’t actually shut down.  Instead, Maria spearheaded a new initiative to use the Cube’s power to wipe the minds of some of the Marvel Universe’s worst villains and set them up with new civilian identities in the idyllic town of Pleasant Hill.  She tells Steve as much when he finds out about it and gives him the grand tour while promising that the system is foolproof and that nothing is going to go wrong in a town full of brainwashed supervillains.


You can probably guess what happens next, as well as how it all turns out in the end.  The larger plot of “Standoff” presents no real surprises and stands as the weakest part of the volume.  Spencer’s only real twist on how the proceedings play out is with Kobik.  It turns out that when S.H.I.E.L.D. fused the Cosmic Cube shards together, they took on the form of a small child.  One who has almost godlike power at her disposal.  I realize that’s something of a trope in and of itself, but seeing how both sides of the conflict are forced to deal with this development at least adds a bit of nuance to the fisticuff-leaden proceedings.


In fact, one of the high points of this story also serves as a good example of the welcome quirkiness that Spencer brings to the proceedings.  After Kobik disappears at one point, Kraven the Hunter volunteers for the job of tracking her down.  So how do you track down an immensely powerful being with the appearance and mind of a six-year-old girl?  By throwing a birthday party!  It’s ingenious and ridiculous in equal measure, and pretty funny to see how fully Kraven commits to the charade.


There are plenty of funny bits like this strewn throughout the volume.  Things start off with a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hijacking the command center of a helicarrier to watch NFL Sunday Ticket.  Kobik’s love of bowling helps provides a key lead at one point.  There’s also a fun sense of self-awareness to the banter between Sam and Bucky once they team up.  Other parts, such as Baron Zemo’s exasperation when things stop going according to plan, and the quasi-competence of D-listers the Fixer and Trapster in this effort recall Spencer’s (honestly, much more entertaining) “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.”  None of this is enough to make this story a must-read, but it makes what is effectively a storyline designed to set up future stories go down smoother than you’d expect.


Yeah, that appears to be “Standoff’s” main job in the end.  Aside from getting a new Quasar out of this event, the most recent “Thunderbolts” series was set up here, along with parts of “Captain America:  Steve Rogers.”  While I can’t comment on how those other two developments have paid off, I will admit that it’s interesting to read this storyline after being spoiled to the “Hydra Cap” development in Steve’s new series.  Parts of this story have a more sinister edge to them when you’re aware that the de-aged Cap is actually a deep-cover operative for Hydra.  Whether or not this is good setup for that series proper will be known to me soon (the first volume of “Captain America:  Steve Rogers” is in the mail).


Jesus Saiz, Angel Unzueta, Daniel Acuna, and Paul Renaud all draw parts of the main storyline here.  Saiz and Renaud are solid superhero artists and they deliver their issues with welcome detail and clarity.  The same goes for Unzueta, even if it looks like he was brought on to help out on the issues Acuna was drawing.  That’s disappointing because I’ve always liked Acuna’s work and he turns in the most distinctive work of these artists.  His lushly textured work is always eye-catching, whether he’s showing a full-page shot of Steve’s face after it has been badly beaten, or delivering adorable and then frightening renditions of Kobik.


It’s also worth mentioning that issue #7 of this series collected here in this volume also served as a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Cap’s first appearance and featured a few short stories from some A-list creators.  “Presentation” is a WWII-set story from Joss Whedon and John Cassaday that deftly explains why Cap wields a shield rather than a gun (even though one was made just for him).  Tim Sale gives us a mostly silent tale about Cap breaking into a Hydra stronghold to retrieve a bit of personal memorabilia.  It’s slight, but I still liked seeing Sale’s art after his years of involvement with projects I’ve been less than interested in.  Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins close things out with the clever “Pas de Deux” that packs a lot of character into a short that has Steve learning to appreciate ballet while working with Natasha Romanov to thwart a Latverian assassination attempt.


In terms of advancing Sam Wilson’s career as Captain America, I guess you could say that “Standoff” does its job.  He gets to help sort out a semi-major crisis, but only alongside his fellow superheroes.  Advancing the cause of social justice takes a backseat here.  This volume will be of more interest to people who are invested in the ongoing narrative of the Marvel Universe given all of the plot threads it sets in motion here.  If nothing else, this volume represents a more cost-effective way of following the event than shelling out for the hardcover collection of these issues plus all of the related tie-ins.  “Standoff” is pretty middle-of-the-road as far as events go, even if it does have some fun bits to make it just a little memorable in the end.

My Girlfriend is a T-Rex vol. 1

Monster girls are a big thing in anime and manga right now.  While the concept of a guy who winds up accumulating a harem of cute girls will never go out of style, some creators have thought to improve on this idea by making some of the girls hybrids of mythological monsters like dragons, lamias, or cyclopses.  I fail to see the appeal in such an approach.  Since it can’t mean that I have too much taste (as the latest volume of “Prison School” arrived in the mail last week) this likely means I’m just getting old.  That being said, I picked up “My Girlfriend is a T-Rex” not to challenge my preconceptions about this sub-genre but because I’d heard that this title functions as more of a parody of it.  Or rather, as I lack the awareness of any conventions of this sub-genre that need skewering, that this was something that’s geared more towards comedy than anything else.

That turns out to be true from the very first chapter as we’re introduced to Yuuma, our normally easy-going and unflappable protagonist, and Churio, a female T-rex who lives in an abandoned building in his neighborhood.  After a late night run-in where Yuuma finds Churio’s efforts to frighten him more cute than anything else, they start to bond as the former does his best to educate the T-rex on the conventions of modern life.  Which is far more difficult than you’d expect because while it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that Churio is dumber than a sack of hammers… that would still be selling the hammers short.


Most of the humor springs from Churio’s misconceptions about everyday life, and mangaka Sanzo turns this into a one-note joke with legs as Yuuma helps her to wear clothes regularly, get a part-time job, and find a proper place to live.  It’s also worth mentioning that the dinosaurs’ character design of human face and chest, dinosaur everything else proves to be cleverly effective pandering.  After all, everyone knows that guys will put up with a lot of things as long as a girl has a pretty face and a nice rack.


The supporting cast is also pretty strong too.  We’re introduced in short order to Churio’s velociraptor friend Torika, who is shown to be a figurative maneater in the way that she skillfully manipulates her many boyfriends into giving her plenty of free stuff.  This is seen clearly when Yuuma’s high school friend Hiroya falls head over heels for her and gives the series its sole romantic subplot so far.  Then there’s the pterodactyl Nowoll who is outwardly cute, but only to people he respects as being strong.  His early interactions with Yuuma proceed along expected lines as the kid terrorizes the college student because he thinks that the college student is a bit of a pushover.


Much to my surprise, that turns out not to be the case.  While Churio is very much a case of what you see is what you get as far as her personality goes, Yuuma feels like an effort by the mangaka to break with the convention of a milquetoast male lead in harem stories.  This is because it’s revealed that he has a checkered past as a thug during his high school years and is trying to make amends for it now.  Unfortunately for those on the receiving end, Yuuma’s threatening and violent tendencies tend to bubble up when he’s provoked.  Which Sanzo manages to play off to good comedic effect.  The mangaka also shows his protagonist to not be above teasing Churio when the situation presents itself, sometimes by tricking her into carrying more trash with praise or by distracting her with a thrown meat bun.  None of this feels particularly mean-spirited, and it balances out when Churio gnaws on his head when she’s happy, tries to incubate him like an egg when he’s cold, or massages him by hitting him on the back with a massage book.  Theirs may not be a romantic relationship as the title implies, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had seeing Yuuma and Churio interact within each other’s friendzones.


I wasn’t expecting to write this much about a series where a guy strikes up a friendship with a T-rex who has evolved specific female parts.  You can take that as a sign that this series has more to it than its spot-on title would suggest.  While I can’t say how much this series would actually appeal to dedicated monster girl fans, it’s highly recommended to people who can appreciate very silly character-driven comedy.

East of West vol. 6

This volume marks the end of year two of the Apocalypse, with the concluding year three to follow in due course.  Does vol. 6 represent a significant ramping up of stakes and excitement in advance of this?  Kinda.  I imagine that the second meeting of nations called by the now-empowered Ezra was meant to herald the beginning of the end.  The problem is that it doesn’t quite click since the arguments during this scene can basically be boiled down to Ezra yelling, “I am The Message made flesh!  You will all follow me!” and everyone else going, “Nuh-uh!”  There is some skilled wordplay from the cast at large during these scenes courtesy of writer Jonathan Hickman, while artist Nick Dragotta does his best to energize the proceedings.  Dragotta does a good job of it too with his designs for a further mutated Ezra, the chaos as the pilgrims rush in once the meeting falls apart, and (of all things) an homage to Rob Liefeld’s cover to “X-Force” #1.  While there are a lot of things to like about the meeting, it doesn’t manage to come together in a satisfying dramatic way.


Better served here are Death and his son Babalon.  In an effort to find his missing son, the errant horseman hits up the barkeep/info dealer he terrorized back in the first volume.  Much violence ensues, but Death gets a talking, rhyming eyeball out of the encounter so I’m going to consider that a win.  Meanwhile, Babalon doesn’t start to rebel against the lessons Balloon has been giving him.  The boy starts to subvert them instead, but still makes time to take on some of the most ridiculous characters Hickman has cooked up in any series to date.  Well, that’s being unfair to the tragedy of Psalm 69’s devout believer turned robotic killing machine, but Billy Blackgun feels like the writer’s effort to commit the most ridiculous stereotype of a hardened, grizzled gunfighter to the page.  This encounter is followed up by some alternately heartwarming and ominous scenes that do a better job of setting up the final year of the Apocalypse as the forces of darkness prepare to finish the job of destroying a family they started several years ago.

Crossed +One Hundred vol. 2

I was very much looking forward to seeing what writer Si Spurrier would be doing with this series he inherited from Alan Moore.  After all, Spurrier is one of the few writers who has done something interesting with the “Crossed” concept beyond exploit it for purposes of gore-related shock value.  So imagine my disappointment when this turned out to be one of the most difficult reads I’ve experienced all year.  It took me multiple tries to get into this second volume of the adventures of Future Taylor as she acclimates to her new living situation in Murfreesboro after her home of Chooga was destroyed by the Crossed in the previous volume.  It’s not that her adventures in exploring the countryside or trying to wake the community up to the menace facing them were particularly uninteresting.  No, it’s because Spurrier fully commits to maintaining the future vernacular Moore cooked up for this series in the first volume and it’s just as much of a chore to get through here as it was there.


Wait, I take that back.  It’s actually MORE of a chore in vol. 2 because the first one had worldbuilding, a sense of discovery, and some genuine mystery to drive the narrative and make putting up with the language worth it in the end.  Spurrier is digging more into the world Moore created here, which means he’s telling a story with more subtleties and nuance.  These things tend to be lost when you can’t parse them through the characters’ dialogue and writings.  This makes the majority of the narrative a slog to get through until the very end.  That’s when Spurrier takes things in a dramatically different direction with a shake-up in the power structure at Murfreesboro thanks to some decisions Future makes for what she believes to be the greater good.  I’m… just about convinced this development may be worth following.  We’ll see if my interest there can overcome my antipathy towards reading more of the wretched futuristic dialogue this series takes too much pride in.

Gotham Academy vol. 3: Yearbook

The first volume of this series was pretty great.  The second was a disappointing mess.  If you’ve been following my writing here for an extended period of time, then you’ve probably seen me (repeatedly) mention my hopes that this third volume will help get “Gotham Academy” back on track.  Well, “Yearbook” is a lot different than those previous volumes in that it’s an anthology of short stories from many different creators, with some connective material from regular co-writer Brenden Fletcher and artist Adam Archer.


It’s actually pretty good as far as these things go.  I imagine the idea behind this approach was to not only give a lot of talented writers and artists a crack at the characters and setting of “Gotham Academy,” but to help flesh out its world as well.  So you’ve got Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen showing us why it’s a bad idea to raid Dr. Langstrom’s lab during prank week, Ken Niimura revealing what length Maps will go to in order to bring some mystery and fun into her friends’ lives, and David Petersen recounting the academy legend of four geeks who were never heard from again after they went to play Serpents and Spells in a secret passage.  Faith Erin Hicks even shows up for a two-pager about Maps’ driving lessons.  That the majority of these stories are pretty entertaining is an achievement in itself for a volume whose main arc is basically an anthology.


Yeah, I said “main arc.”  There are regular and extra-sized stories bookending the “Yearbook” arc of varying quality.  “Robins vs. Zombies” is a mediocre tie-in to the “Robin War”storyline and it doesn’t do the series any favors by trying to wedge in current “Batman” events into its world.  Fortunately “Broken Hearts” fares much better as Colton and Pomeline pursue competing theories — vampire infestation vs. mad professor — regarding Olive’s current illness.  It’s a fun adventure with ties to the wider Bat-mythos that serve the story well, though you’ll get more out of it if you’re a fan of “Batman Beyond.”  This was a nice way to close out the volume after a successful anthology.  Consider me back on board with the coming “Second Semester” for this series.


Simon Roy is probably best known for co-writing and illustrating a decent chunk of the “Prophet” revival spearheaded by Brandon Graham.  As his short-story collection “Jan’s Atomic Heart and Other Stories” showed, he’s a pretty capable talent when flying solo.  “Habitat” offers further proof of this in its story of a spaceship whose crew has become feral and tribal several generations after they severed communications with the outside after an attack on the ship.  The plot is put in motion once Cho, a cadet in Habsec, comes across a new card for the 3D printer his tribe has and winds up creating an energy weapon.  After finding out just how powerful it is, Cho is forced to flee for his life to the rival Engineers and across the Habitat itself to see if things will remain as they are or if life on the ship can be changed for the better.


Roy respects his audience enough to trust that they’ll be able to follow the story he’s telling without the need to over-explain things.  For a world as strange as the one that he has conjured up for this series, that can make parts of the narrative difficult to follow.  However, close attention (and a re-read) will make one appreciate the effort Roy put into building this world.  This approach also works because the general direction of the story is pretty familiar and doesn’t need special attention.


“Habitat” also has a distinctively lush look about it, perfectly reflecting the setting of a sci-fi world gone to seed.  Metal structures sport visible signs of wear and are surrounded on all sides by greenery.  Even some of the machines double as walking forests thanks to years of assumed botanical accumulation.  The tribal nature of the world is also further emphasized by the locals who go around in either loincloths or ratty old uniforms and wield bows and arrows while using the powered armors still available to them.  Roy probably could’ve done more with the ending which does end on an abrupt but hopeful note.  Even so, it all adds up to an entertaining one-and-done volume

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation vol. 4

The fact that I’m writing anything about this volume at all likely means that I’m a bad person.  After all, vol. 3 had that scene where ten-year-old protagonist Rudy (who is actually a thirty-something otaku NEET who has been reborn into this fantasy world) grope fellow 10-year-old Eris with the intent of getting it on with her when she shows up in his bedroom the night of his birthday.  The scene was as creepy-and skin-crawling as you’d expect and was likely the last straw for anyone reading this series who was putting up with its fanservice tendencies in order to appreciate the redemptive arc for its main character.  I should’ve done just that.  But the volume ended with an explosive climax that had me thinking the end might be near and I wanted to see if it could turn things around for the finale.


“Mushoku Tensei” doesn’t end with this volume.  In fact, it seems to be gearing up for an even longer storyline here as Rudy and Eris are transported to the Demon continent and meet Ruijerd, a member of the widely-maligned Superd race.  Rudy also has some encounters with one of the gods of the land who wants to advance his own agenda through the boy, and we find out that the magical explosion which transported the kids to this new land may be a sign that the big, bad demon Laplace is starting to rise again.  Which means it’s clearly a sign for our heroes and the narrative to shift gears into an RPG-esque guild-joining, quest-taking state of affairs!


Last week I wrote that perpetual hot-mess series “Ajin” would likely have to become boring in order for me to finally give up on it.  That’s effectively what “Mushoku Tensei” has managed here.  I don’t have the patience to put up with its skeevy loli-fanservice tendencies (and there’s even more of that in this volume) if the narrative is just going to rehash RPG tropes on the page.  Which begs the question that if there was a series with a story interesting enough to justify the disagreeable elements of “Mushoku Tensei,” would it be worth reading?  With luck, I’ll never know.  After my time with this title, I’ll take the easy way out and just stop reading it when the idea of groping a ten-year-old becomes a plot point.

The Walking Dead vol. 26: A Call to Arms

I’ve read some crap this year, and I’ve also read a lot of very good comics as well.  Yet there hasn’t been anything which has surprised me.  With most of this year’s comics, they’ve been entertaining along expected and established lines.  There haven’t been any out-of-the-box shocks which have come my way.  Until now.  I was expecting this latest volume of “The Walking Dead” to be good as all of the recent volumes have been.  What I didn’t expect it to do was deliver was the most surprising read of the year (so far).

After the events of the last volume, Rick decided that it was time for Alexandrea to start developing its own military force.  While this was ostensibly done to combat the threat of the Whisperers, it also gave the residents something to focus their anger and frustration on aside from their leader.  It’s not a solution for everyone.  One kid, Brandon, whose mother was killed by the Whisperers, and whose dad was killed by Rick in self-defense wants nothing more than to see both communities destroy each other.  This isn’t just vindictive daydreaming on Brandon’s part as he actually has a plan to make this happen.  Unfortunately (for everyone) that plan involves letting Negan out of his cell.


There is much about this volume that is ordinary.  Things start off with Rick, Dwight, and the volunteers they’ve rounded up for their militia training in the woods against zombies.  We also see Rick set up anti-Whisperer propaganda to further channel/distract the citizens’ anger.  Maggie and the Hilltop residents who came back down for the faire decamp and Andrea makes her way back to Alexandrea to be duly shocked at what has transpired since she’s been gone.  Michonne also has a sit-down with Rick about possibly taking over The Kingdom in the wake of Ezekiel’s death, before current events send her and Aaron out into Whisperer territory on a killing mission.  Eugene’s efforts to contact someone else via HAM radio also bear fruit and a tenuous relationship between him and this other party is established.  We even get to check on the outsiders who were welcomed into Alexandrea way back in vol. 22 and find out that while some of them are very onboard with Rick’s plans, others are not so much.


All of these events and interactions successfully advance the many ongoing plot threads in this series.  If the volume was just about these things, I’d have been suitably entertained.  That’s because everything here showcases these characters reacting in believable ways to the circumstances at hand while building on things that have come before.  While there’s nothing particularly exciting about any of this, it’s still a sign of solid craftsmanship from Kirkman in the writing and Adlard on the art.


No, what makes this volume special is Negan.  Stuck in a cell since the events of “All Out War,” he’s slowly been biding his time down there talking to Rick during his frequent visits and alternately serving as a verbal sparring partner and counsel.  Though Negan has made it clear that he wants out, and also to be a part of Rick’s team, it’s been made clear to him that’s not going to happen.


So what’s a former leader with a violent and vulgar streak a mile wide to do in this situation?  Rely on the anger of a kid who wants to use him to make the people responsible for the deaths of his parents suffer.  When this happened, I was fearing for the worst.  Negan was going to go straight for the Whisperers and we were going to get “The Walking Dead” equivalent of a supervillain team-up.  Even the covers for the upcoming “Whisperer War” seemed to indicate that Negan would be facing off against his former captors in this storyline.


That… doesn’t quite happen.  Oh, Negan does go straight to the Whisperers, but I certainly wasn’t expecting his first encounter to involve trolling their second-in-command, Beta, about being a rebel for only wearing a “skin cap” instead of the full zombie-skin mask.  This is only the tip of the iceberg as Negan goes on to profess his love for Alpha at first sight, point out the some of the logic flaws involving a community where all of its members go around in zombie skins, and mentions out loud how his skin suit will need to be extra large around the crotch (to allow for his large penis — GET IT).


Negan’s vulgar charm has sometimes been hard to take in his previous appearances.  Usually because it was also mixed in with his efforts to bring Rick and his friends to heel in violent ways.  Here, it’s honestly a ton of fun to see him be the square peg trying to fit into the round hole of Whisperer society.  Negan gets in because they recognize his strength and what he has to offer, but he’s also the guy who will just not shut up in a society that isn’t big on talking.  We haven’t seen the Whisperers struggle since they’ve been brought on as the new bad guys for this series.  Seeing them put up with Negan more than makes up for that.


It also shows that Kirkman being able to mine some worthwhile material out of a direction for the story that I could see coming and was fairly certain that I wasn’t going to like.  That’s great.  What’s better is that we find out that Negan didn’t come to the Whisperers without an agenda.  A few pages from the end of the volume, something happens that gives you a pretty good idea as to what it is.  I mean, he did lead the Saviors for a good long while.  It’s only natural that he’d want to step into that kind of role again.


Until you get to the very last page and you find out what his agenda really is.  I tell you, the last part of this volume was great stuff and had me utterly hooked.  Then that last came along and completely floored me.  It’s a beautiful twist that I didn’t see coming at all, while also making perfect sense in light of Negan’s ongoing conversations with Rick.  I can see why Negan did what he did.  Now the only question is what Rick is going to think of this.


It’s probably worth mentioning that I know one person dies in “The Whisperer War” so far.  I can only hope that the identity of the character who dies (as well as any others) remain a mystery to me by the time that volume arrives.  For all I know, Rick could have decided to put a .45 into Negan’s head for his actions.  That wouldn’t surprise me.  Which makes me think that it’s not going to happen.  For a good long while now, “The Walking Dead” has done a tremendous job of avoiding the obvious tropes and cliches of zombie stories, and genre material in general.  I honestly have no idea what to expect from the next volume or the series in general, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Scarlet vol. 2

There are merits to this volume.  Bendis’ dialogue, now that he’s back to having real people talk to each other, feels more energized and believable than it has in a while.  Maleev’s art perfectly captures the grimness of the story while taking periodic stylistic departures to remind you of his range.  There’s also a certain appeal in seeing the series tap into current events and letting the rage in them boil over into a full-on riot.  None of this matters in my final consideration of this volume.  The simple fact is that Bendis and Maleev’s failure to get the issues in this volume out in a timely fashion has left me convinced that they don’t care as much about this series as its incendiary subject matter would indicate.

It’s honestly kind of amazing how prescient/current this volume manages to be.  Here you have a protagonist in a comic dedicated to a very specific cause — the rooting out of bad cops from the police force — after police killings of unarmed civilians has been a recurring headline in real life for well over a year now.  The two issues in this volume that hail from 2013 feel even more relevant now as Scarlet digs into her crusade.  If that wasn’t enough we see the backstory for one of her followers, an African-American woman named Isis, and find out that her father was killed by police after he was stopped and dared to raise his voice while they were questioning him.  These moments tap into the current zeitgeist in a way that’s scary, and it makes me wonder if the scenes from the back half of the book as the people revolt against the police won’t be equally relevant in a few years.


There’s also the parts where members of the FBI and police profess to be taken completely off guard with how Scarlet’s message is resonating with these people.  While they recognize Scarlet as a cop-killer, she’s still able to draw a crowd of thousands to a rally when she and her crew break into a TV broadcasting studio to tell everyone who agrees with her to meet up at a specific place.  It’s almost amusing to consider how these people in power can’t understand how the message of an obvious (to them) villain is resonating with so many people.  That kind of failure on their part is uncomfortably familiar in light of recent events as well.


By all rights, these elements should have made this volume an electrifying read.  There are some logic issues that do detract from the overall experience.  Thing such as the ability of Scarlet and her gang to waltz into that TV studio to broadcast their message without a hint of trouble or resistance.  As well as the fact that the next step in her plan is to make the mayor of Portland be the one who answers for this problem.  That in particular seems like a weirdly specific and laughably small-scale way to continue her fight.


However, these issues pale in light of the simple fact that the publication schedule for the issues collected in this volume doesn’t give me any faith that Bendis and Maleev will be able to follow up with this in any meaningful way.  Vol. 1 came out back in July 2011.  Issues #6 & #7 arrived in February and July of 2013, respectively.  Issues #8-10 were then published over May and June of this year.  If you were reading this series in single issue form, then you have my condolences.  In my case, if you’re going to make me wait five years between volumes then I had better get a transcendent read out of the experience.  Vol. 2 of “Scarlet,” for all of its current relevance, is not at that level.  Furthermore, if you are going to make a reader wait five years to find out what happens next in your series, ending the volume on a cliffhanger with the promise of more to come in the next year is just going to piss them off!


In fact, “Scarlet’s” future may not lie in comics at all.  It was announced earlier this year that the series would be adapted to TV on Cinemax with a yet to be specified air date.  Even with the reduced episode counts for cable shows, there’s a pretty good chance the first season could run through all of the existing material from the comics.  At which point the people behind the show would have to start determining what happens next on their own terms.  That is, unless Bendis and Maleev actually make good on their promise to deliver more “Scarlet” next year and have new issues come out on a timely basis.  Though it’s very likely we will get a new #1 issue when the TV series arrives, I doubt we’ll see subsequent issues come out in a timely manner.  History is kinda with me on this:  Bendis and Oeming couldn’t do it for “Powers” when that series made its debut.


So if Scarlet’s crusade does sound like something you’d have an interest in, you’re probably better off waiting to see if the TV series is any good before checking out the comics.  As of now, there are only two admittedly good volumes in the series out right now with the third a potential mirage on the horizon.  Back in my review of vol. 1, I wrote that my main reservation about it was that Bendis and Maleev’s schedule meant that it would be a while before we got a vol. 2.  After all this waiting, I wish I could go back to that time and tell myself to just skip buying that volume all together.