(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE: SECRET SOCIETY #23.4
X-FILES SEASON TEN #4
ACTION COMICS: LEX LUTHOR #23.3
BLOODSHOT & H.A.R.D. CORPS #14
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #13
Indie Jones presents BUGGED OGN
SWAMP THING: ARCANE #23.1
Advance Review: In stores today!
JUSTICE LEAGUE: SECRET SOCIETY #23.4Writer: Geoff Johns & Sterling Gates
Art: Simon Kudranski
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Opposites are hard to play. Anyone who has written an issue of BIZZARO has my deepest sympathies trying to keep the double negatives turned positives straight. SECRET SOCIETY takes us on a sojourn over to EARTH 3 so we can learn,, not necessarily the origin of The Outsider (aka Earth 3 Alfred Pennyworth) and Owl Man, but more how the two became inexorably intertwined.
I’ll be honest: I’m a skeptical man, so many of you will no doubt have a better time imbibing the “bad is good is, good is bad” flip-flop that Earth 3 presents us with in this issue. It’s more than just a shifting of East and West. There’s a definitive love between Alfred and Thomas Wayne, but I ask if love could even exist on such a world, and if so, wouldn’t you rather be hated than loved if all is opposite? See what I mean about this being hard?
Essentially, we learn that Alfred is the one responsible for killing the Wayne parents, and I think Thomas Wayne has a brother Bruce, but I’m not sure since he was really just a mention. Also, The Joker is a present force of…good…in the Owl-controlled Gotham. We find that Owl Man had a partner in Dick Grayson, but that partner has also been tidily chopped into tiny boxes wrapped in Christmas paper by The Joker in hopes to throw Owl Man off his omnipotent perch. My question becomes this: The joker is supposed to be a symbol of anarchy, but I guess on Earth 3 since anarchy is good a Joker is never wild, but simply a standard card like the 4 of clubs, right?
Confusion aside, the issue does close with a little peek into the fucked up dynamics of the Secret Society. This is a necessary book, simply for the fact we’ve been hit with over thirty issues over the last few weeks and we’ve only really seen the SS (hehe) in FOREVER EVIL #1. While certainly not the brunt of the issue, we do get some insight into the team dynamic. Towards the end of the issue, time flash forwards and Alfred takes us out of Gotham with his narration to show Owl Man and Super Woman getting busy behind Ultra Man’s broad back, plus we learn why the team is so interested in our Earth. Apparently Darkseid is a bad-ass invader on every known parallel earth.
While the issue would have been better served being called THE OUTSIDER or OWL MAN from a real-estate perspective, while I was confused in part by the nature of human emotions being played as opposites and while I was a little unsure how a Joker type would survive in a world where capital punishment is a matter of course, I really did enjoy this issue. My only complaint was that Gates and Johns were too constrained by page count to let some explanatory moments breathe a little bit. The art more than made up for it, though, as Kudranski shows some real chops setting a creepy pall of darkness without “smelling the glove” too much.
This is an essential for FOREVER EVIL and the entire villains month.
Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.
INFINITY #3Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist(s): Jerome Opena & Dustin Weaver
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
Lately, it seems big event books have been falling a little short. “Age of Ultron” and “Trinity War” felt more like preludes than complete stories, so can you blame me for being a bit skeptical of Marvel’s latest big event book INFINITY? Now having finished the third chapter and its subsequent side titles, my foreboding apprehension has been exchanged with utter enthusiasm.
INFINITY #3 picks up with things looking pretty bleak for The Avengers and their united front of alien allies. The cosmic race known as the Builders are subjugating planet after planet under their dominion; surrender seems the only sensible option. Too bad for the Builders, Captain America doesn’t do surrender. Meanwhile ,back on Earth, Thanos arrives in Atillan demanding his tribute from the Inhumans leader, King Black Bolt, who is more than willing to express his contempt for the mad titan.
Issue #3 may very well turn out to be the highlight in this story. Hickman’s dichotomous narratives blend seamlessly, with each serving to elevate the conflict while leaving readers in anticipation for even more. I’m really enjoying where this is heading, and hope Hickman does not break stride going forward.
Another thing INFINITY #3 has going for it is the superb artwork by both Opena and Weaver. More often than not, having multiple artists on a book leads to visuals that appear too contrasting. Not the case here. Both artists appear to have brought their A game with them, and honestly, I hadn’t even noticed the switch off at first glance.
If I were to have a problem with INFINITY, it would be the same concern I take with any cross over style event: the necessity of purchasing multiple books to acquire the full scope of the story. Yes, I’m aware that part of the stratagem of an event/crossover is to bolster sales--I get it. That being said, INFINTY appears to be able to stand on its own with its sidebar books contributing complementary perspective to the story without detracting from the whole.
There are still three more issues left in this saga. If Hickman and company can keep up the energy they’ve built thus far, INFINITY could turn out to be the modern archetype that sets the bar for other big events aspire to.
THE X-FILES: SEASON TEN #4Writers: Joe Harris and Chris Carter
Art: Michael Walsh
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
Chris Carter's return to the X-Files continues to roll on in its first story arc. Basically, a group of alien hybrid hooded thugs are looking to get their hands on Scully's sequestered son, William, in hopes of advancing their alien hybrid cause. Meanwhile Mulder, with help from a host of big name X-Files characters (seriously, just about everyone is in this first story), is unraveling the mystery of this group. As an X-Files fan, there's really no reason not to pick this title up.
Harris and Carter have been putting together a good read here. It has a lot of moving parts, with all the characters popping up, but the main plot remains simple enough to follow. For any new readers out there, you might have trouble with all these throwaway characters. But if this was the first episode of a new television season, well, all those characters wouldn't get much explanation either, so there ya go. As a first episode, it is starting off with a bang, getting Mulder and Scully back into form (as they always seem to get fired at the end of every season) and jumping head first into all the alien conspiracy goodness (though personally, I prefer the monster of the week eps).
**Spoiler time** This issue continues the fun as Mulder works with the Lone Gunmen (and seriously, I don't care how they are back from the dead--their series was pretty weak and their deaths were pointless). As usual, there isn't much explanation as to who these alien hybrid goons are, but the reveal of the cage has very interesting repercussions for their relationship with the government. Scully, meanwhile, is having a heck of a time with one alien hybrid. It seems he wants to keep William away from the other, which leads to the “holy crap!” moment of the issue. Maybe not as big as the one in the first issue, given the importance of the characters involved, but it still makes for some mighty fine drama.
Unfortunately, Walsh's art is still the weakest link. Now, I say this knowing fully well that there is no harder job in comics than drawing actor likenesses. To his credit, Walsh does manage good likenesses every other page or so, and his storytelling is pretty damn solid. But the bigger issue is, he's just dull. Jordie Bellaire isn't doing him any favors with the coloring, either, which is just as dull as the line work. It's like they are illustrating an informative pamphlet. For contrast I'll mention artists like Darwyn Cooke and Cliff Chiang or even the late great Alex Toth. Where Cooke, Chiang, and Toth all know how to tell a story with style and impact, Walsh still needs to do some work in that area, and Bellaire should try doing more than treating each page like a paint by numbers.
Still, I feel this has been the best X-Files comic I've read storywise. Steve Niles' 30 DAYS OF NIGHT crossover was really good until the lackluster ending, so my fingers are crossed that Harris and Carter can do a better job with the ending here. So far THE X-FILES: SEASON 10 has been a really nice return for our favorite ex-FBI agents.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book GOLD STAR, CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND and CAPAIN ROCKET at www.Toonocity.com
ACTION COMICS: LEX LUTHOR #23.3Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Raymund Bermudez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Another week and we’re on another journey through the brainspace of more of the DCU’s super villains.
In this part of the takeover, the Pee Wee’s Playhouse secret word is “megalomaniacal”, as human bottle rocket Charles Soule gets the duty of pulling us into Luthor’s well-polished dome. And it’s entertaining as shit. It’s also tiring after a full issue of “Lex does smart but borderline hilariously cruel shit to people”, but I do not blame the team for giving a full blast of the puffed up ego with nagging inadequacy that is Luthor.
Tortured past, while an important aspect of Luthor’s upbringing, is really not the draw of the character. Being the smartest man in the room with endless machinations and a complete disregard for those around him as long as they can be sacrificed to his own end is what makes that character alluring, despite his bastardry. And Soule brings that and his obsession with Superman to life in this one-shot quite well, and it plays off of Luthor’s shock and horror in the face of the events of FOREVER EVIL wonderfully.
So far I’m batting a really high percentage on these “Villain’s Month” books, and it’s because of the old equation that almost never fails: good writer plus interesting character equals quality read (minus however much editorial pisses in the math pool). Hopefully we get a stricter following on that calculation once this “Earth shattering!!!” event has run its course.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
DAREDEVIL #31Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Guest Reviewer: Joseph Wallace
“Never judge a Waid/Samnee DAREDEVIL book by its cover.”
This might not be a saying yet, but it damn well should be. Don’t get me wrong; Samnee always provides beautiful and interesting covers for DAREDEVIL, but their greatest quality to me is that they always underplay the drama that lies within. In the latest issue of DAREDEVIL, Waid/Samnee take a topical turn and channel inspiration from the George Zimmerman Trial (SPOILER: he was found not guilty) that happened in Sanford, FL over the summer.
Their choice of more relevant subject matter was a welcome surprise, and made sense for a savvy character like Daredevil. Beyond the contemporary hate crime main plot there is a compelling and shocking character-driven cliffhanger that’s better then anything you could hope to find in a crossover book coming out these days.
In DAREDEVIL #31, an innocent and bright black teenager is shot in New York City by an entitled female racist because she says he was suspicious looking. This entitled female racist is then acquitted of her crime. The prosecuting attorney appears (he is set up) to give out the names and addresses of the jurors from the case and asks outraged citizens to, “--show these repugnant cowards what justice is all about.” From here the city explodes into riots and DD swings to the rescue hoping to expose a conspiracy he believes to be orchestrated by that C-List fiend The Jester!!
It was a pretty bold move for the creative team of DAREDEVIL to take on a plotline that’s much more relevant and realistic then all of Marvel’s current library. This choice could have quickly fallen into melodrama, but Waid and Samnee are able to keep the plot moving and away from too much gloom and doom. Waid’s run on DAREDEVIL has used many lesser know (cheesy) villains to great success, and that’s been one of the funniest aspects of the book. It was a great touch that the issue was able to tie in The Sons of the Serpent, who Waid has used in DAREDEVIL before, as a suspect due to the racism plot device. Waid is a master at crafting A-list plots with C-list villains because, well, the man is a really damn good comic book writer. I was left at the end of the issue really excited as to where this DD/Jester plot is going, despite not being an overly big or familiar fan of the jester (I only really know him from Bendis’ “Decalogue” DAREDEVIL story arc).
Despite all the great heavy drama of the issue, Hank Pym is able to come in and steal the show. Waid has been able to use Pym in DAREDEVIL a few times, and always to my exploding laughter and thunderous applause, while I sit by myself, alone, in my living room reading it. Every time Waid uses Hank I can’t help but bend my knee and beg any comic God that Gorr hasn’t killed to please pair Waid with a great artist and get him putting out Pym/Ant-Man comics--but I digress.
Samnee’s art is, as always, everything it needs to be and more. When Paolo Rivera left Waid’s DAREDEVIL title I felt like he was leaving shoes that no one could fill. Samnee has been able to come in and apply his style and make the book his own without missing a beat from the momentum built by Rivera. He reminds me of Will Eisner in how much character expression he is able to convey and the cleanness of his cartoony aesthetic.
Issues like this and HAWKEYE #7’s Sandy storyline make me wish more comics would allow their heroes to straddle a slightly thinner line between high fantasy and reality. DAREDEVIL has been able to remain one of the best consistent comics being put on comic shelves today because it tells pretty out there stories that still remain grounded to morals, tragedies, and horrors that are not too dissimilar to those we all share.
BLOODSHOT & H.A.R.D. CORPS #14Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Emanuel Lupacchino
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Here I go getting all old man again. H.A.R.D. Corps back in the 90s felt like an afterthought; they had downloadable powers (a feat even more mystical before every dick with a cell phone knew what the hell a download was), which was cool, but they never felt wholly ingrained into the Valiant fold. They were a later title that seemed to come a little too late.
Now we stand firmly in year two of Valiant’s revival, where H.A.R.D. Corps’ new fresh coat of paint has been seamlessly melded with the rest of the Valiant body. Since we don’t have any future titles to muddy the waters (yet--ancient stalwarts like myself are still hoping Ray or Magnus rights get shaken loose), there’s less noise to compete with. Also, the gang at Valiant truly melded these techno psiots with the HARBINGER WARS story a couple months back. They are needed because basically Project Rising Spirit has no other options. That’s an organic introduction folks--take note. It happens rarely, as Villains Month so clearly shows us over at DC.
Watching Harada’s and Project Rising Spirit’s mantras unfold is like watching the great Google and Apple battle. Both claim to want to do good for the world, but both also engage in some nefarious activities that cross ethical boundaries in their pursuit. Harada is Google, the seeming open source of “do no evil.” Like Google, Harada gives the front appearance of wanting to help the next powered level of humanity; however, he also makes a shit ton of profit in the process that gets funneled back into controlling more Psiots. Google continues to control the Web through a perpetual commercialization of search. Remember that before you pick the search choices in the faintly yellowed box. PRS, like Apple wants to introduce a shit-ton of tech into the world at the lowest cost of production with nary a care for how this tech will affect humanity. I’m not saying TouchID on the 5S isn’t cool, but I also don’t buy for a second my print will stay solely on the device.
Basically, neither organization is good, which makes it hard to empathize with their minions. PRS really showed their cards during HARBINGER WARS, especially with the mandate they gave the reunited H.A.R.D. Corps team to control the renegade psiots using any means necessary. With the loss of two members I didn’t expect to hear any more from the group that were the go-to guys prior to the Bloodshot nanites getting perfected, but alas here they are again with grizzled Major Palmer and the other surviving member, the corporal Klinger-like (but for real) Maniac. Rounding out the team are new members bible thumper and single mom. Both characters bring a fresh element to the team dynamic I haven’t seen too many times before. The religious zealot has been done before, but not this well. The single mom was a moment I never saw coming. Her story is the most unique. I might be biased since she got the most airtime this issue, but she seems to truly break from pastiche. Their first mission is to recover the currently held captive BLOODSHOT from Harada’s clutches.
The thing that holds the team and our believability together is they know PRS isn’t all good, but they really don’t see them as worse than any other business out there. I can’t say I disagree. In my fifteen years of marketing I’ve learned one truism: I will always be evil, but I can control how evil through the organization I hitch myself to.
Also, PRS has a great spin machine. All four members know they are going in to secure Bloodshot, but they also believe it’s right for our favorite albino killing machine to work for PRS versus Harada.
H.A.R.D. Corps breaks the one power per one person dynamic with the fresh concept of “one power at a time.” Usually we see a new mutant, harbinger, hero or whatever you want to call them have to go through the Stan Lee arc of finding their power, training their power and then ultimately doing good. The members of H.A.R.D. Corps have 17 in their arsenal, and like kids in a candy store want to use them all. Thankfully the grizzled (a little too grizzled at times – ease up on the Danny Glover moments, guys) Major Palmer has the good sense to have the noobs hone two or three powers instead of all.
As much as I loved this issue and the cliffhanger with BLOODSHOT in H.A.R.D. Corps’ arms and Harada in possession of the nanites, I’m of two minds having the title stamped with its new moniker. BLOODSHOT was starting to become a very interesting title, especially after the zero issue. If anyone needs a tentpole to stay aloft right now it’s SHADOWMAN.
I will give this time, though, because it’s simply a great read in the already great and organically grown Valiant universe. I’m not asking for more titles, I’m simply asking for titles to make sense. If the writers can make BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS work without force I’ll stay on board, but I also don’t want anyone to fear letting H.A.R.D. Corps and Bloodshot find their own way.
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #13Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Review: The Kid Marvel
The first 12 issues of THOR: GOD OF THUNDER were nothing less than phenomenal. Jason Aaron did such a spectacular job of capturing Thor as the god of thunder and the epicness of his battle with Gorr. Aaron’s combination of writing and the artwork from Ribic was perfect for Thor, capturing and blending so many elements of the character and Norse mythology. With that said, it’s going to be hard for Aaron to keep up the sheer magnitude of “The God Butcher” without some kind of drop in the next arc.
In issue 12 of THOR: GOD OF THUNDER, Aaron presents us with the ancient scroll-like commentary to set the scene of the current story. The book begins with some Dark Elves travelling in Niffleheim, the frozen land of Hel. These Dark Elves have come to release Malekith The Accursed from the pit he is chained in, which is also guarded by giant spiders. After Malekith is released, he and the only surviving Dark Elf make their way out of Niffleheim in order for Malekith to seek his revenge on his enemies. Thor and the Asgardian posse get wind of an attack on the Dark Elves’ realm, Svatalfheim, only to discover Malekith has escaped his prison and is behind this attack.
Overall, if I had to give this a numbered rating I’d give it a six out of ten. Issue 13 is slightly above average, but doesn’t seem to hold a candle to the last arc. A drop off, as I said, is expected after such a large-scale and powerful enemy of Gorr. However, Malekith is more of a dive bomb than slight drop off. I know THOR: THE DARK WORLD is coming out in November, so this seems more like a way to increase some movie buzz through the comicverse of Thor than anything else. I still enjoyed Aaron’s writing plus Thor, Sif, and The Warriors Three are always good for character dynamics. But could a better character have been chosen to fight Thor, the god of thunder? Yes, definitely, especially after having to fight a character like Gorr who was only defeated by two Mjolnir and multiple battles with 3 different Thor. Gorr was “The God Killer”. He put the entire universe of gods at his mercy; how can Malekith even compare to that magnitude? He can’t--not even close. However, is Malekith the worst character to have chosen? No, not at all, but it definitely takes away the divine power and weight from the previous story. With this “Accursed” arc, it seems Aaron is going for a more small-scale mystical adventure, basing this story with Malekith more on ethical and political choices rather than the giant galaxy-shattering battles of the last story.
As for the art, I thought it was pretty good, although I much prefer Ribic over Garney. Ribic had a more detailed style with precise definitions of design, making very fine but bold pictures, while, Garney’s is more of a free flowing style, utilizing the colors and shading to mix and blend with the artwork. Garney’s art for THOR: GOD OF THUNDER was in no way bad, but Ribic’s was aesthetically more appealing for me personally.
I would still say THOR GOD OF THUNDER is one of Marvel’s best titles out right now, but this Malekith story seems like nothing more than a movie promotion. This story is going to need to heavily focus on story, since it no longer has the universal implications of the last arc. Without the huge battles and powerhouse fights, story and character interaction is literally all there is left if it doesn’t want to feel like a bust after Gorr. I’m hoping maybe after this lull in story, THOR GOD OF THUNDER will pick up after Aaron finishes with Malekith and “Thor: Dark World” releases.
BUGGED OGNWriter: Rich Bernatovech
Art: Facundo Teyo
Publisher: Drumfish Productions
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
You would think that a guy who is so easily creeped out by insects (me) would have a very low tolerance for the James Bond of bugs. I'm talking, of course, about the cockroach, who gets a good rap in old-school computer games like BAD MOJO and a bad rap in cheesy post-apocalyptic movies like DAMNATION ALLEY. I'm not sure if it's that rundown shit-hole I called home when I went to college in inner city Philadelphia, where they mention roaches right on the lease, but those little guys always looked so cute when they scampered across my dirty dishes after a 12-hour shift at Gamestop. That said, you can imagine my excitement when the Drumfish stork delivered a 96-page baby titled BUGGED, a story about a wimpy movie theater clerk who discovers a talking roach named Bob.
The fact that he discovers him while jerking off in the shower should give you a pretty good indication of what to expect from Rich Bernatovech, who cautions that his material is “suggested” (lolz) for mature readers. He's not kidding. There is some heavy-duty stuff in here, and it's not for the squeamish. The good news is, BUGGED is able to accomplish something quite rare these days, and that's build legitimate suspense. Most books are easy to figure out by page three, and at the very least, you can quickly categorize them as “Genre A meets Genre B.” Not the case here. Having a talking roach help you discover secret superpowers may come off as a bit barmy, but it's the execution – not the premise – that makes BUGGED so fun to read. Our hapless protagonist gets the standard nerd-in-trouble treatment including bullies, unattainable hot girl and single mom, but the payoff slices and dices that scaffolding to reveal a sick but ultimately satisfying conclusion. I think the subsequent information dump waters down the impact of a surprise character in the closing panels, but that's a minor gripe in an otherwise stellar book.
Part of that credit has to go to Facundo Teyo, who will probably box your ears for not referring to him simply as “Teyo,” but I'm an old dog and I struggle with learning new tricks. Another name for him would be “talented,” as he does a bang-up job of making this book feel dark, dingy and downright dirty, just the kind of place a cockroach would find itself at home. And there is something about the way he draws noses that I find completely unsettling. That's not a complaint, mind you, because I think his style is refreshing and I've seen enough cookie-cutter characters to last me a lifetime. Would I recommend BUGGED? I would for mature readers, particularly those unnerved by insects, Insecticons or Sectaurs. It's like being a big scaredy-cat and going to a horror movie. You know it's going to make you squirm, but you just can't help yourself. That's a pretty good way to sum up how I felt reading BUGGED.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
SWAMP THING: ARCANE #23.1Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Jesus Saiz
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Continuing this “Soule train” (oh god, that may be the most painful thing I’ve written in eight years here) this “Villains Month” issue takes us to a character of which I am just goddamn tired.
If I had to sum Anton Arcane up, I would say my distaste with the character comes from the essence of his sadistic ways being backed up by nothing but being a fuckbag without the charm. At least with a Joker there is a humor and charisma to his chaos, whereas Arcane has always just been an agent of putrefaction and perversion for the sake of promoting those two things. The character is just evil personified, and evil personified is pretty boring.
Alas, Soule and art companion Jesus Saiz hand in a solid issue given a character that really has no draw except to hate him. The issue at hand takes us back into a history that shows the character was always a fuck even before he became a full-fledged avatar of the Rot, and that at least makes Abigail Arcane’s past more tragic and haunted.
It’s a well-executed tale of bastardry (especially from the standpoint of Saiz’s art, which I have always been a big fan of and am pleased with how well it has worked with this type of storytelling), but given my predisposition to the character it was somewhat blunted for me, especially given how therein is a foreshadowing of Arcane’s possible return to the page of SWAMP THING past this diversion and in the near future, something that I was hoping would be years off given how tedious the “Rotworld” saga became near the end, mainly on the shoulders of how one-dimensional this villain is.
Still, Soule and Saiz make pretty good lemonade out of this lemon; maybe they’ll churn out an especially good batch if/when they bring about his return.
THUNDERBOLTS #15Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Jefte Palo (pencils), Terry Pallot (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
“That's Some Tasty Set Up There!”
Okay. I've dealt with my issues about THE HUNT. I can go back to INFINITY tie-ins with optimism, largely in part due to THUNDERBOLTS. Charles Soule writes an incredibly solid Thunderbolts team, and manages to write the best kind of tie-in; It does not go into the (incredibly distracting) detail about the event, but instead uses the broad strokes of the larger story to throw the characters into new situations, and it's surprisingly effective.
The Punisher's personal mission has already gone off the rails, with Ross and the Leader cut off from the squad and a bored Deadpool taking the train to the target. It frees up the cast for little character beats, giving most of the cast an opportunity to shine. The rising tension between Venom and Punisher continues to be intriguing, with Frank's sheer determination to kill criminals overwhelming both Flash's altruistic instincts and the sheer problems presented by "alien attack". Both ring true and bounce off one another well, with a snarky Elektra thrown in there for good measure. Meanwhile, Deadpool heads up the city, running into a little girl who, mistaking him for Spider-Man, gives him some money (it's a whole thing, and it's incredibly cute). It comes back around when, while on his way to a pizza place and avoiding laser blasts, Deadpool is again mistaken for Spider-Man and finds himself having to go try and save people. It's a wonderful little moment of Wade's tiny shred of humanity, and gives him something unique to do for the tie-in.
It's incredibly effective given Deadpool's characterization in this book, where he just doesn't matter. In other team-up books with Deadpool, he remains the loud talking idiot, just like he is here. But unlike in X-MEN, where Wolverine growls at him, or Spider-Man where they just try to out insult each other, Punisher just cold stone shuts him down. Deadpool makes jokes at Punisher, Punisher beats him. Deadpool tries to talk at all, Punisher shoots him. Deadpool likes Elektra, Punisher sleeps with Elektra. Deadpool tries to kill Punisher, Punisher beats the shit out of him. This entire series, Deadpool has been rendered moot by Punisher's presence, pathetically forced to take the train to get away from him. But it's Wade who's willing to help people, who puts his plans off to try and help someone. It's a surprisingly well-constructed character arc so far in the story, and just continues to get better.
The art is much more hit or miss than the writing, unfortunately. Which is not to say it's completely bad; at times, it's incredibly effective. Small moments like Wade talking to the little girl on the train and Elektra luring two young men into her van for interrogation are well constructed and very good human moments in a larger story. But other times, it becomes incredibly blocky and muddled, faces turned into two awkward lines right after great unspoken conversations. When everyone is clear enough to really appreciate, the character acting is wonderful. Palo is very good at times, but the issue does feel rushed as a result.
Again, it's mostly set up. But unlike THE HUNT, which become unreadable due to the overwhelming exposition and broad writing, THUNDERBOLTS has the confidence to let the characters propel the story forward while interleaving around the crossover deftly.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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