Weekly Comic 100s: X-Men #1 For the Heck of It, Plus DC Digitals

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Calls it Soda. Not Pop.

The other day I said I wanted to feature the X-Men a little more. So this week I tossed in X-Men #1 from back in November. Along with DC’s digital-first stuff, of course.

TITLE: X-Men #1
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED: November 14, 2019

Jonathan Hickman intimidates me. He tends to go a little too far out of this world, and I get lost.

Thankfully, X-Men #1 is relatively straightforward. Mutants have established their own nation on the island of Krakoa. And of course, there’s a group of humans that don’t like mutants that are trying to destroy them.

Had do to a Marvel Wiki search on Cyclops to see how the hell he could be leading the team again. He’s a more interesting character than most casual fans give him credit for.

TITLE: The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #2
AUTHOR:
Gail Simone
ARTISTS:
Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Cully Hamner and Dave McCaig.
RELEASED:
May 1, 2020

Clayton Henry’s style, let’s call it moderately cartoony, is a perfect fit for Flash. When Barry’s zipping around in the costume, Henry stretches his body just a bit for effect. But at the same time, all the scenes about his civilian life have the weight they need. He can exaggerate, but he doesn’t overdo it.

Once again Simone gives us a scene that’s unintentionally poignant given the times, as Flash saves a pair of kids whose mom is a nurse.

Cool time-travel shenanigans make this the highlight of DC’s digital releases this week. (Or at least the ones here.)

TITLE: Aquaman: Deep Dives #2
AUTHOR:
Michael Grey
ARTISTS:
Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan (Inker), Hi-Fi (Colors), Wes Abbott (Letters). Cover by Philip Tan and Elmer Santos.
RELEASED:
April 30, 2020

Aquaman vs. Russian Mobsters? Not a pairing I expected, I’ll give you that. But it works.

The Sea Devils make an appearance in this issue. If you have no idea who they are, I was right there with you. Somehow they’re in one of the few corners of the DCU I haven’t explored yet.

Not an amazing issue from a story perspective. But mad respect to Aaron Lopresti, who’s low key one of my favorites, for drawing fish deformed by poison dumped into the sea. Legit creepy.

TITLE: Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace #2
AUTHORS: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Hi-Fi (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Conner and Paul Mounts.
RELEASED: April 29, 2020

So here we have Diana in another team-up issue, this time with Lois Lane. I’m curious if this is just a coincidence, of if they wanted to throw another big name character in there to help support her. With the Gal Gadot movie under her belt, and another one coming out in the near future, I’m not sure Wondie needs it right now.

We get a really nice fight sequence between her and what basically amounts to a demonic abominable snowman who spouts textbook supervillain speak. (“Give up impudent morsel! Death awaits!”) Steve Orlando gets Wonder Woman and knows how to write her. But from a story perspective, I haven’t been overly impressed by these last two outings.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #2
AUTHOR: Michael Grey
ARTISTS: Ryan Benjamin, Richard Friend (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer). Cover by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Lucas.
RELEASED: April 28, 2020

Pretty standard Batman stuff here. It’s not bad, but it’s not overly remarkable either. Crime involving an old theater, theater lead traces back to…well, you can probably guess based on the cover.

My favorite line in this issue: “Who was it that said every villain is the hero of their own story? Probably a villain.”

TITLE: Superman: Man of Tomorrow #2
AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS:
Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey.
RELEASED:
April 27, 2020

Another great issue from Venditti, Pelletier, and the crew as our Man of Steel faces off against a new villain called the Gambler.

In addition to a great “shirt opening” sequence, this issue contains a panel reminiscent of a famous Alex Ross painting where Superman is sitting in a chair with his shoulders slumped a bit. Like he can feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. Only in this issue, he’s holding what looks like a beer bottle. It’s soda, of course. I love that.

He’s got a few great one-liners too. “Don’t bet on it, Gambler!”

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Suicide Squad: The Black Vault Review – Squad vs. Zod

suicide-squad_-the-black-vaut-jim-lee-coverTITLE: Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: The Black Vault
AUTHOR: Rob Williams
PENCILLERS: Jim Lee, Philip Tan, Jason Fabok, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1Suicide Squad #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: February 28, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If The Black Vault isn’t the most important and most notable Suicide Squad book DC has ever published, then it’s absolutely in the top two. This is the biggest that Suicide Squad has ever felt, and may be the best its ever looked.

Thanks to the movie, the Suicide Squad “brand” has never had more eyes on it. The Black Vault features almost all of the characters from the movie, including a few pages of the Joker. So it’s bursting with crossover appeal for casual moviegoers. With this in mind, DC loaded the book up with A-list artists, most notably Jim Lee. Indeed, the master of the modern superhero epic is drawing characters like Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, and the Enchantress. Talk about something you don’t see every day…

Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad, is a black ops group assembled by government agent Amanda Waller. Comprised primarily of imprisoned supervillains, the team is sent on covert missions. They serve as both soldiers, and built-in patsies. Should they refuse an order or become compromised, Waller detonates a nanite bomb in their skulls. Like the movie, in The Black Vault our team consists of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and the Enchantress. They’re accompanied by Colonel Rick Flagg and Katana.

suicide-squad_-the-black-vault-harley-quinn-jim-leeTheir latest mission sees our heroes sent to a secret Russian prison to neutralize a secret doorway to the Phantom Zone. In the process, the team meets none other than General Zod.

People can say what they want about Jim Lee’s influence, for better or worse, on DC’s “house style” right now. But when he’s in his element, he’s one of the all-time greats. Lee is at home with the dynamic and the awe-inspiring. As such, it seems like Lee’s work on the book starts out rather slow. He starts on issue #1 and has to re-tread some of the ground covered in the Rebirth issue, specifically Waller’s motivations. He takes us from the team’s home base at Belle Reve Penitentiary to the Russian facility, giving us a few cool shots in the process. He and Rob Williams also have a really fun take on Belle Reve, where the prison cells are plucked and moved by a giant claw arm.

But once Zod enters the story at the end of issue #2, Lee gets to flex his muscles. He makes Zod surprisingly large, literally twice the size of the other characters (save for Croc). But the ultra powerful Kryptonian against these mostly street-level characters makes for a fun fight, particularly when the big guy goes against Katana. At the end of issue #3, we bring in a few other characters to oppose the Squad. But the good stuff is with the general himself. Issue #4 gives us a cool interaction between Zod and Croc, and a nice climactic moment involving Rick Flagg. It’s not Lee’s best work. But it’s still pretty damn awesome.

suicide-squad, Joker, Harley Quinn, Gary FrankThe notoriously deadline-challenged Lee was massaged into Suicide Squad‘s a bi-weekly format with a reduced workload. He only had to produce 12 pages per issue, with the rest going to an oversized back-up story spotlighting a particular team member. I suspect most fans will find Gary Frank’s look at Harley Quinn the most enjoyable. While on a mission with Flag, she struggles with some of her more villainous impulses. These are personified, of course, by the Joker. I’m not in love with Frank’s rendering of Mr. J. But his Harley is delightfully expressive in a way that’s exaggerated, but not quite cartoony. Naturally, this compliments both her character and Williams’ script.

But artistically, Philip Tan gets “Best in Show” as far as these back-ups are concerned. In addition to the Rebirth issue, he does the Katana story for issue #3. Tan shows off his versatility with an anime-inspired look at her origin. The script isn’t the strongest, but Tan and colorist Elmer Santos provide visuals that range from haunting to downright heart-breaking.

Rick Flag gets a lot of quality page time here. The Rebirth issue is essentially about him. Williams writes him as unwaveringly loyal, even to his own detriment. He’s the conscience of the team. A good guy tasked with leading all these bad guys. Flag is easy to root for and empathize with. Considering he’s the least flamboyant and colorful character in this book, that’s a good thing.

General Zod, Suicide Squad #2, Jim LeeOn the other end of the spectrum, Zod is an oversized caricature of himself, spouting lines like…

– “Prostrate yourself before your general, sub-creatures!”
– “I will boil and eat your magic!”
– “I have incinerated your human flesh and reveled in it’s pungent stench!”

I understand humor is a valuable component here. But c’mon, really? You’ve got Harley for that. You’ve got Boomerang for that. We don’t need Zod for that.

On the subject of weird comedy, this book has a recurring bit about Killer Croc throwing up. Oddly enough, it works. Can’t say I ever imagined Jim Lee drawing that.

The Black Vault represents the first time Suicide Squad has been elevated to a top-tier title with A-list talent. That alone makes it one of the most noteworthy stories in the team’s history. And while this isn’t the best scripting I’ve ever seen, Rob Williams knows how to put together a good Suicide Squad story. One can argue the book has never been in better hands.

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