Weekly Comic 100s: A Star Wars Trifecta, Bendis, and More!

***”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
Fanboy Wonder

We’re strictly looking at Marvel and DC this week, as that’s just how things shook out. Seems like a catch-up edition of “Weekly Comic 100s” is in order sooner than later…

Incidentally, Wolverine #1 was February’s top-selling comic. And no, I still won’t be reading or reviewing it.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #1
AUTHOR:
Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS:
Paolo Villanelli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

Covers don’t usually play a big part in whether I’ll try a new series, or an issue I otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to pick up. But if ever one could, it’s this one. Epic work by Lee Bermejo.

I’d call this a strictly okay start. The success of this series is largely riding on how the Vance character comes off as these early issues are buoyed by classic characters like Boba Fett and Bossk. He’s got a kind of Terminator-like appearance, and a mysterious backstory that piques my curiosity.

Tell me more, comic. Tell me more…

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #4 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney, Guru-eFX (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by E.M. Gist.
RELEASED: March 11, 2020

This mini ends exactly how you think it will. Some questions we now have answers to. Some we don’t. But we did get a really nice character moment that illustrates a really interesting, though in hindsight obvious parallel between Kylo Ren and Luke.

During a fight with one of Luke’s other Jedi pupils, Ben says that neither Luke and Snoke see him as a person. “I’m just a…legacy. Just a set of expectations.” From a certain point of view (wink wink), that’s exactly what Luke talks to Rey about in The Last Jedi. The burden of his bloodline.

TITLE: Darth Vader #2
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS:
Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon, Joe Caramagna. Cover by Inhyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

In this issue, we supposedly meet a surviving Padme. Funny thing is, the character looks older in the interior art than Natalie Portman does in real life.

Later on, Vader tells someone that if she’d lived, Padme would have joined the Empire. I wonder if he means the Empire that would have existed had he overthrown Palpatine, or the Empire that actually came to pass. I can’t bring myself to believe that he believes the latter. Unless he’s deluded himself that much over the course of two decades.

TITLE: Superman #21
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oscar Albert (Inkers), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Bryan Hitch and Sinclair.
RELEASED: March 11, 2020

More Superman vs. Mongul here. Bendis turns the story horizontal and we get a series of slimmer top-to-bottom panels depicting various locations. It’s a nice little trick.

What I’m really liking about this “Truth” story is it illuminates the larger scope of what it means to be Superman. He’s not just some guy flying around in a cape punching things. The United Planets plotline emphasizes something that certain people never seem to understand. Superman is an idealist. Peace. Justice. Unity. Teamwork. Courage. These are the things he really stands for, and I love that Bendis gets that.

TITLE: Young Justice #14
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
John Timms, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Inker), Wes Abbott (Letterer).
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

I’m wondering what the deal is with all these alleged new members. Are we doing a Justice League Unlimited type thing, where characters rotate in and out depending on the mission? Either way, it’s great to see Jackson Hyde back.

Bendis’ old Powers colleague Michael Avon Oeming handles some of the art here. The work he does here is fine. But if he’s going to be on the book, I’d prefer he be the sole artist.

TITLE: Cable #1
AUTHOR: Gerry Duggan
ARTISTS:
Phil Noto, Joe Sabino (Letterer)
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

Well hey there, Phil Noto. Always good to see you.

Here we have the X-Men once again shamelessly tampering with the space time continuum as a younger Nathan Summers lives with present-day mutants on Krakoa.

Outside of a sparring session with Wolverine during the opening pages, and Noto’s art in general this issue didn’t do much for me. There’s something of a novelty in seeing this character in a jungle atmosphere he’s not normally associated with. But in the end, not much to write home about. Not yet at least.

TITLE: Shazam #11
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Dale Eaglesham and Atiyeh.
RELEASED:
February 26, 2020

Alright, let’s talk about it: Superboy-Prime is back. His next target? Shazam.

If it were somebody other than Geoff Johns writing this book, I’d be a little apprehensive. But because it’s him, I’m actually looking forward to their big showdown.

Superboy-Prime is pretty much the anti-Shazam. Billy Batson is a young man given great power who ultimately uses it for good. This version of Superboy? A young man whose power made him spoiled, bitter, and angry. These two have more in common than they’d ever admit.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Darth Vader, Batman, X-Men/Fantastic Four, and More!

***”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
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Darth Vader #1
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Variant cover by Chris Sprouse.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

After the events of Empire, Darth Vader starts investigating Luke’s birth/origins. He journeys back to Tatooine (again). He then goes to Padme’s old apartment on Coruscant, which remains more or less preserved after 20 years. As if it’s a crime scene or something. Based on the ending, I assume we’ll learn more next issue.

I understand it from a storytelling perspective. But in-universe, it’s always a little too convenient that these landmark places all essentially look the same no matter when we see them. That Lars Homestead will still be standing 30 years later

TITLE: Batman #88
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I wasn’t very nice to Guillem March last time. In fact, I’m rarely depict his work positively. But to his credit, he won me over with this issue. At least a little bit. His rendering of Catwoman in a graveyard on a rainy night is damn near beautiful. The scene with Batman, Penguin, Deathstroke, and the others is also very strong.

At more than one point, it seemed to me like this issue was laying the groundwork for the long-awaited Three Jokers book. Remember, we’re building toward a story in the pages of Batman called “Joker War.”

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson (Inker), Dexter Vines (Inking Assistant), Karl Story (Inking Assistant), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I’m terrified of X-Men comics. Specifically, the decades worth of continuity and characters. But to this book’s credit, it’s fairly accessible.

Franklin Richards, the mutant teenage son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, is summoned by Charles Xavier to live with Earth’s mutants on the island nation of Krakoa. This doesn’t sit well with Reed. Naturally, conflict and teen angst ensue.

I’ve been looking for a bridge back into the Marvel Universe. X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 might be it, as it does a nice job setting up both teams, and giving us a compelling main character in Franklin.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Alessio Zonno, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

We get a fight between Rita and Shredder in this issue. It’s a relatively lengthy battle. And you know what? I’m just going to come out and say it: I wanted this to be one of those fights where the guy and girl hook up at the end. You know how it goes. The passion overcomes them, etc. These two have a lot in common, after all.

What that says about me and these characters from my childhood, I’ll let you decide.

Oh my God. What if Shredder, not Zedd, was actually Thrax‘s father?!?!? Mind blown!!!

TITLE: Young Justice #13
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Grell, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

Well hey there, Mike Grell! It’s been too long! What’s more, Grell gets to once again draw a character he created in Warlord. Warlord and Superboy actually have a pretty nice dynamic in this issue. The experienced elder statesman offering calm words of wisdom to an upset Superboy.

For the moment at least, the Young Justice cast has expanded greatly. If these additional characters stick around, it’s a lot to balance. But it’s still damn good to see a couple of them.

TITLE: Lois Lane #8
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

As much as I’m enjoying having Greg Rucka back at DC, I’m wondering if this needed to be a 12-issue maxi-series. This entire issue felt mostly like filler.

For instance, there’s a scene in this issue where Superman shows up after an attempt on Lois’ life. We take four pages to see husband and wife re-united, and then to see the attention the Man of Steel gets from the local police.

Am I missing something? Why are we seeing this?

On the upside, the assassin that comes after Lois has a pretty cool look.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Panels of Awesomeness: All New X-Men #1 by Stuart Immonen

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

CREATORS: Brian Michael Bendis (Author), Stuart Immonen (Penciller), Wade von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer)

THE SCENE: Beast cries out in agony as his body undergoes yet another physical mutation.

WHY IT’S AWESOME: Lately, in making selections for “Panels of Awesomeness,” I’ve tried to think back on specific panels, pages, and images that have stuck with me. Things that, for whatever reason, I still remember after long periods. Great art does that, after all.

All-New X-Men #1 is more than five years old. And yet, this image of Beast breaking the fourth wall and reaching out at the reader is somehow burned into my cerebral cortex. It seems like a pretty simple trick, doesn’t it?. You just draw the hand going over the panel gutter. And yet it creates the most memorable moment in the issue.

Not that I should be the one to say whether a piece of art is “simple” or not. I’ve tried my hand at sketching before. But I’ve never been good at it. God only knows what I’d turn in if tasked with something like this.

I’m actually amazed that this whole “original X-Men come to the present” thing is still going on. Beyond the first several issues of Bendis and Immonen’s original All-New X-Men series, the concept never did much for me. Especially once the younger X-Men started branching out into different books, a la Champions, Jean Grey, etc. I always wondered if they left themselves an out for this whole thing when the story started. For everybody’s sake, I hope so…

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An X-Men Gold, Vol. 2 Review – Old Flames Reignited

TITLE: X-Men Gold, Vol. 2: Evil Empires
AUTHOR: Marc Guggenheim
PENCILLER: Ken Lashley, Lan Medina, Luke Ross
COLLECTS: X-Men Gold #712
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: November 15, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

X-Men Gold is a feel-good book in a lot of ways. It’s got a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feel to it while still having its feet planted in the modern era. That was the case in the first volume, and it continues here in the second.

Evil Empires sees our heroes face a mutant serial killer, Congress, and Russian gangsters backed up by Omega Red. That’s variety for you. All the while, romances old and new start to blossom. Rachel Grey discovers Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler’s feelings for her, as Kitty and Peter slowly move closer to resurrecting their relationship. Plus, what secrets lay in the journey that the alien Kologoth took to Earth? We saw him work with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But where does he go from here?

Kitty and Peter are the emotional core of Evil Empires as a reunion between the two becomes more and more tempting. It’s so obvious where they’re going that the romantic scenes between the two lose some of their edge. But there’s an obvious feel-good quality to it, considering these two have grown up together. That they joined the team so young and are now in leadership roles makes the book feel like the natural continuation of the X-Men legacy.

Kitty herself is the personification of that idea. In the span of a few issues, we see her delegate tasks for her team during a crisis, go one-on-one with a mutant serial killer in the school, and testify before Congress against an act that would deport all mutants. Not half bad. It also doesn’t hurt that Ken Lashley drew a hell of a fight scene in issue #8, with a sword-wielding Pryde facing our serial killer. Great dim lighting in that scene too, which is a credit to tremendous coloring by Frank Martin and Andrew Crossley.

Our killer is a new version of the X-Cutioner. He’s more or less a S.W.A.T. guy with a LOT of extra toys. But he’s got a fairly sympathetic backstory, and we find out he’s got a pretty good reason to dislike mutants. He’s simply taken it too far. The way Guggenheim writes his confrontation with Kitty is a great snapshot of the world the X-Men live in. The stigma that mutants live with isn’t always the result of blind prejudice. That doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t justify violence. But it’s not always as simple as people being afraid of people that are different.

Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about Rachel’s relationship with Kurt prior to X-Men Gold. But there’s a shy sweetness to it that’s, dare I say, cute. They approach the idea of being together with reasonable caution, but there’s obviously a good amount of chemistry there. Rachel and Kurt hardly have the spotlight in this book, but what we get is enough to make you want more. 

So we’ve got iconic and interesting characters who have a cozy, family-like dynamic with one another. We see them on the baseball field when we open the book, and then later playing cards. Again, it’s kind of cute. The problem is once we get past issue #9, we lose a lot of intrigue. Issues #10 and #11 are about Russian gangsters trying to resurrect Omega Red, using Peter’s sister Illyana (a.k.a. Magik) as a power source. Outside of the novelty of seeing Omega Red and Illyana, for the most part there’s not much to sink your teeth into.

I remember skipping out on issue #12 when I saw it at my local comic shop. The exploration of Kologoth’s backstory and this whole alien world felt like a sharp turn, despite a brief set-up for it early on. It’s all meant to pay off in later issues (#16 and #17 specifically). But for the time being I was struggling to care, and as such the book ends on a whimper.

All that being said, the book is very well illustrated. The art actually holds the book up in the second half as its story deteriorates. Ken Lashley is our cover artist, and does the pencils and inks for issues #7-9. Lashley excels in giving his work a sense of motion, which is why his fight sequences work so well. And not just the one with the X-Cutioner. Whiplash (see Iron Man 2) crashes Kitty’s appearance in front of Congress, which causes a brief but intense fight. He also gives us a pretty cool layout with Nightcrawler in issue #7 (shown left).

We shift to Chris Medina’s more detailed style for issues #10 and #11. While I was hardly enamored with the story about Peter’s uncle, Medina did give him a very distinct face. During his scenes you feel like you’re looking at a real person. The quieter, more intimate moments between Kitty and Peter also mean a bit more with Medina at the pencil. His style offers them a little more heart.

Luke Ross gets tagged in for issue #12. I’ll say this much: He draws a hell of a reptilian alien in Kologoth. Really nice texture on the skin and teeth, plus the ominous red eyes.  So little about the issue is memorable. But Ross’ rendering of the monster itself stands out. Frank Martin goes solo on the colors here, and gets to play with a pretty expansive palette. Especially early on, when we get a look at Kologoth’s home world.

X-Men Gold, Vol. 2 underperforms in its second volume, despite delivering some solid character work and good action early on. But as a reader, it still has my attention. There’s still a lot of value in this back to basics approach, and a great stories than can still be told.

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An X-Men Gold, Vol. 1 Review – Noobs Enter Here

TITLE: X-Men Gold, Vol. 1: Back to Basics
AUTHOR: Marc Guggenheim
PENCILLERS: Ardian Syaf, R.B. Silva
COLLECTS: X-Men Gold #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $15.99
RELEASED: August 23, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m a continuity buff. It’s a fool’s errand, considering how often timelines change in American superhero comics. But for me, half the fun of getting into superhero books was going back and reading all the major stories, seeing how things progressed, etc. That being said, I’ve long since given up on deciphering X-Men continuity. Between all the different characters that have come on and off the team, died and come back, travelled through time, the ones with dopplegangers from other time periods, and all such insanity, it’s just too much. Considering how amazing and iconic some of these characters are, getting tangled up in all the plot threads becomes horribly frustrating.

That’s why I’ve been waiting awhile for a series like X-Men Gold, a book that not only serves as a jumping on point for new readers, but as the title says, brings the concept “back to basics.” This title gives us heroes we recognize fighting for mutants and humans alike. In making Kitty Pryde the team leader, we’ve advanced to the next chapter in the story while remembering what so many loved about it in the first place. It acknowledges the X-Men mythology, but tells its own story. If you’re a new reader or someone looking to jump back into things (as I was), that’s what you want.

In addition to Kitty, our team consists of Old Man Logan, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Rachel Grey (now called Prestige), with Gambit being added in issue #4. The most glaring “Huh?” moment will likely involve Logan. The operative question being, “Why is Wolverine an old man?” The book lets us know this is a character from another world, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The dynamic between old flames Kitty and Peter (Colossus), which goes back decades, is also a focal point of the book. That’s obviously enhanced if you know their history. But what the book gives you is enough.

By making her the team leader, X-Men Gold shines a really nice spotlight on Kitty’s evolution as a character. In contrast to the younger version that more casual readers are familiar with. The Kity we see here is battle tested. She’s comfortable calling plays in the field. Her teammates, most of whom are older and more experienced, follow her lead without question. As the mutant community works to rebuild its image after the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, we see her step up and serve as an ambassador. She’s as much a main character here as she’s ever been.

Guggenheim was wise to spend quality time on Rachel Grey here. She’s the one on this team that most casual fans won’t know about. We get a subplot in issues #4-6 about her being afraid to use her powers to their fullest extent, for fear of losing control like her mother Jean Grey. Or worse, going bad like her father Cyclops. She even gets little scenes with psychic projections of both. It’s a nice character snapshot that sets the table for stories to come.

The bad guys in this book are classic X-Men villains with a new coat of paint. We see the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a group we’ve most notably seen led by Magneto. In the background, we have a political pundit trying to rally the public against mutants. She’s clearly an analogue for a Fox News type figure. Later on, Gambit is caught in the middle of an accident that sees a “smart swarm” of nanites mix with Sentinel tech. This creates an entirely new breed of mechanical menace for our heroes. None of this is terribly original or new. But it falls in line with the book’s “back to basics” approach. So it works.

Our penciller for the first three issues is Ardian Syaf. His art has a weight to it that fits the dramatic moments in this story very well. Whether it’s the two-page spread in issue #1 (shown above), or the understated “ra ra” moment at the end of issue #3 (partially shown below). Our opening action sequence with the team facing Terrax is also suitably epic.

I assume the plan was for Syaf to stick around after issue #3. One way or another, that didn’t happen. Subtle anti-Christian and anti-Semetic messages were found in the pencils for issue #1, and Syaf was fired. How ironic, in a series that’s ultimately meant to be about tolerance. I don’t want to dive into the politics of what Syaf did. But obviously this is the wrong forum, with the wrong audience.

R.B. Silva tags in for the remainder of the book. He and inker Adriano Di Benedetto give the book a softer aesthetic that objectively is fine. But being the second artist in a collection like this is always challenging. The tone has been set, and now you’re deviating from it. But Silva draws awesome Sentinels, and his Gambit isn’t too shabby either. Sadly, he doesn’t stick around for subsequent issues.

Occasionally someone will ask me, “Where should I start reading [insert character name]?” That’s always been a fairly hard question with the X-Men books. Historically, I’ve pointed people to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run. But X-Men Gold might just become my new answer. Or at least one of my answers. I won’t compare it to the Whedon/Cassaday stuff in terms of quality. But it’s about as accessible as any X-Men story I’ve read. It’s a great doorway into the saga’s modern era, while still advancing the characters for longtime readers.

Bottom line? Start here noobs.

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