Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN! THE BLACK BEETLE! NON-HUMANS! X-FILES! & More!

Published at: Oct. 23, 2013, 2:44 a.m. CST

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Advance Review: THE UNWRITTEN #54
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19
THE BLACK BEETLE VOL. 1: NO WAY OUT HC
FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION #1
ZERO #2
UNCANNY X-MEN #13
NON-HUMANS VOL.1 TPB
FABLES #134
THE X-FILES: SEASON 10 #5
HAWKEYE #13


Advance Review: In stores today!

THE UNWRITTEN #54

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Bill Willingham & Peter Gross
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Carey continues to play with his audience like a cat with a ball of yarn. He uses UNWRITTEN to bat us in a certain direction, letting the story wind down through inertia until he comes once again to bat us in another direction.

Yes, this closing chapter “crossing over” into FABLES is a linear narrative for both parties. Make no mistake, this is truly another chapter in Tom Taylor’s travels and ultimately not even a footnote in FABLES canon.

I’ll spare my “for the uninitiated” spiel on this issue, because quite frankly, no new readers should be starting either series with this arc; it will simply confuse you. I will say, however, FABLES readers who have been itching for some Tommy time in UNWRITTEN could consider hopping in at the beginning of this….let’s just call it collaboration.

I’m averse to using the word crossover less for its negative connotation and more for the inaccuracy of the descriptor. This was more than a crossover; it was a state of transcendence for both titles, FABLES working from a fixed point that never was while pushing Tom and his companions deeper into the belly of the Leviathan beast.

Last issue Mister Dark (not master, since even the most lordly titles are beneath his evil) perfectly epitomized the trials of Tom Taylor and the entire UNWRITTEN crew with this paraphrase “the story worlds don’t live on a plane, they are a Gordian knot inexorably intertwined.” Tom’s trials and tribulations during UNWRITTEN can be summarized in the same way as current affairs. When I say FABLES fans could jump into UNWRITTEN with this arc, make no mistake: you’ll be caught up with the now, but will miss the twists or knots now buried beneath the new layers of story progression. On first blush UNWRITTEN was a tale of celebrity gone wrong, with Tom serving as a Harry Potter pastiche heralding the dangers of when child idols grow facial hair and their balls drop. Next came the bleeding of the story world into the “real” world as Tom’s companions took on their own magic separate from the wizarding books from whence they came. Finally, we saw Tom finally imbued with the magic as we learned his father was trying to play God not just with Tom’s life, but all life.

This FABLES event takes the concept one step further to show that there is no reality, or to speak more succinctly, reality is nothing but a story itself. Words define the world, not the other way around. Leviathan, the whale beast that consumes and holds stories, is the only reality, and even there I have my suspicions. With this closing chapter all makes sense now; nothing was “real” until Mister Dark transformed Tommy into Tom. The reason none of us remember any of the events in this series from our time during FABLES is because it was a piece of the knot simply hidden from our field of vision. It was a possibility in the battle against Dark that Willingham simply did not choose, but that lack of choice does not negate the existence of this story.

Now all of that is the meta, the overarching concepts that have transformed and driven the tale of UNWRITTEN. As for the story itself, it was a wonderful and glorious “what if” bloodbath that was many shades darker than the actual final battle with Dark in FABLES. Snow White as Dark’s bride was delectably evil, with the cherub-faced wolf cubs more eerie than the twins from THE SHINING. This was more than a mirror darkly; it was a mirror sadistic. This is a world, or a story where the only out is the end of all. Frau Totenkinder must kill millions of children to “power up” her siphoning energies of magic. Ozma serves as the voice of reason, a strange twist reflective of the dark times for anyone who knows the depths of debauchery she will stoop to in FABLES. Even Bigby, the great and noble wolf, must sacrifice his soul by committing infanticide in order to stop Dark’s onslaught in this and all stories. It’s the way Willingham could have written FABLES if he wanted the book to end after the Dark engagement.

The story ends with Tommy blowing Boy Blue’s horn and essentially obliterating what is and what never was in one fell swoop. Appropriately, Carey accompanies the masterful art with Walt Whitman’s poem THE MYSTIC TRUMPETER. Of course, poetry is open for interpretation, as is all art (after all, this review is merely my take on events), but common scholarly beliefs fall in line with what I gleaned from the story, so that’s what I’m sticking with. The poem speaks to the transcendence of music and, in turn, the transcendence of self. The need to escape from our plane of existence to greater reward. Given the time period I have no doubt Whitman was referring to the Pearly Gates; in today’s non-secular society UNWRITTEN #54 is the perfect new context for the piece. The obtuse will only believe the tangible, while dreamers blindly ignore what’s before their face. The truly wise will live between the two, never accepting either as gospel.

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.


SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


Unless you’ve been subject to a Haagen-Dazs induced coma, by now you know that Otto Octavius transplanted his mind into the body of his long time nemesis Spider-Man. Back in issue #8 of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, Octavius used a device to eradicate Peter Parker’s remaining persona, outraging the fans and granting Otto complete freedom as Spider-Man. Issue #19 is the final chapter in a three-part storyline that brings the Superior Spider-Man face to face with the Spider-Man from the year 2099.

Time is all jacked up. Unchecked chronons drift about, signaling impending doom for both Spider-Men and the staff of Horizon labs. With only 13 minutes until the big boom, in order to save the day, Otto must access Peter’s residual memories for an equation that can put a stop to this literal time bomb. Desperate for a resolution, Octavius digs deep into the recesses of Peter’s mind (perhaps a little too deep). When he is unsuccessful, Otto is treated to his first helping of humble pie in the stark realization that Peter was able to solve a problem that the not-so-good doctor himself could not. Oh and then, Horizon labs goes BOOM!

You have to hand it to Dan Slott. Just when you think you know what he’s up to, he throws in some curveballs. Now, I never thought for a minute that this story would bring the demise of Miguel O’Hara (Spidey 2099); however, I never expected him to end up stuck in the present, either. Nope, didn’t see that coming. Who knew Carlie Cooper and the new Wraith would make such a competent team? In fact, they may have discovered exactly what Carlie needs to prove her theory on Spider-Man’s new attitude.

About the only thing I didn’t care for was Mary Jane’s characterization. Sure, Peter (I mean Otto) has been dissing her left and right, but MJ herself already noticed how off Peter seems, so I found her professed “moving on” speech to be a little out of character. I dunno, maybe it was that time of the month.

There isn’t much I can say about Ryan Stegman’s panels that I haven’t said before. Stegman cranked out yet another superb-looking book. One thing I would like to bring attention to: about midway through the issue you’ll find a splash page of Spider-Otto probing Peter’s mind for the equation necessary to halt the aforementioned meltdown. These pages are not only striking to look at, they also provide a powerful hint of things to come. Just check the bottom panels of the page; you’ll get it.

The previous two parts in this story arc felt a little underwhelming. Part three, on the other hand, is a total game changer. It shakes up the status quo and provides new insight into what Slott and company may be planning for the book in the coming months. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN has certainly been one of the most contentious and risky Spider-Man stories of all time. With new glimmers of hope begging to emerge, I think it’s safe to say that when all the dust settles, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN may yet come to be known as one of the most interesting and entertaining chapters in the history of the character.


THE BLACK BEETLE VOL. 1: NO WAY OUT HC

Writer/Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Sometimes in this gig I feel like a unbridled sales/pitchman or something, like that used car guy you see in the local commercials or that cokehead dude who sells the super-absorbent jerk-off rags on the late night infomercials. My “job” for a thousand words a week ends up rolling like this: “Hey there, everybody--have I got a product for you!! Do you like dark and mysterious figures fighting crime from the shadows?! Do you want a comic so pulpy your house will smell like a thousand mashed up trees as soon as you bring it in the door? Like gunfights rendered by illustrations that ooze a thousand Jon Hamms worth of style? Then, ladies and gentlemen, THE BLACK BEETLE is the comic for you and can be had at the low, low price of just $19.95!!!”

Unfortunately, no second model is included if you act now, but it is indeed a spectacular product and operators are standing by…

Unabashedly, I’ve admitted before that, more often than not, I end up being a cheerleader so to speak for what I write here, because what I usually have in front of me is product I’m buying because I think it looks good for my tastes. Things definitely do not always work out this way, and I occasionally have to put on the critical hat and put forth a case for why a book may not be worth the time and money going forward or where the potential lies, but mostly I end up singing praises for material I like and hope others will as well. THE BLACK BEETLE is definitely one of those comics that speak volumes of praise on its own. It pipes up the case for forking over your hard-earned dollars as soon as you do one flip through its pages. It positively taunts you to “call this toll free number to order now!” once you get a sample of its wares.

Those wares, to finally get to some specifics, are some ridiculously cool and smooth pulp noir heroics. The Black Beetle himself is that smooth operator from the shadows type. This first volume gives us next to nothing to work with in regard to who the man behind the mask is or what his background is, but we don’t need it--that’s how well the book presents itself. Francavilla just drops us into the jaunts of what could easily be the old billionaire playboy by day who scourges the underworld by night because of some tortured moment in his past, but it doesn’t matter because the point is he’s an avatar of what the genre is known for: intelligent, determined, daredevil persons out for their own brand of “Justice!!!”™ Beetle’s got the moves. He’s no Batman, but he knows how to dispense some hurt with his fists and .45’s, the deductive skills, some gadgets, and some grit. He’s also got a freewheeling sense of it all that is an energy booster from the dour, self-important sense some of these books and characters have about themselves. It honestly may be that lighter touch of tone in a dark book, both atmospherically and visually, that leans it out amongst its brethren the most. Sometimes you just have to have fun, even when it comes to wading through a world of the dregs of society.

Harkening back to my pitch mode, THE BLACK BEETLE also loves to hand you those tropes this genre loves to dive into as well. Want some supernatural? BB’s got a bunch of hooded cult guys showing up in the first issue looking for “The Hollow Lizard,” an artifact they believe will lead them to dark powers and looks to be a thorn in BB’s side for stories to come. Want Nazis, particularly Nazis wearing helicopter jetpack gear? I know you do, and Francavilla sure as fuck does too, because they’re on page frickin’ three! And then the main story brings the criminal underworld into the mix with a tale of mob rule and interfamily feuding that puts Black Beetle on a cleverly setting-establishing adventure as he hunts down some mobsters through his new home, Colt City. What really makes this book tick is how deft it is while swaggering about its self-awareness. Francavilla is not trying to do anything new with this character or setting other than put his storytelling and artistic stamp on the genre. He’s throwing around his ability to tell a kickass rendition of pulp that fans of the stuff will eat up with a big ol’ fucking spoon, such as I did.

Let’s bring this pitch to an end, then. THE BLACK BEETLE is a fantastic package that should not be missed. The storytelling is just packed to the brim with action, atmosphere, and an art exhibition that makes a talentless hack like me weep at the skill involved. Everything is visually gorgeous to go with the pitch-perfect execution of the story itself. The layouts are creative, the flow is as kinetic as can be, the detail is extravagant and the coloring is uncannily vibrant despite keeping the palette range somewhat narrow, as Francavilla is wont to do. It’s as visually pleasing a piece of art as I have seen in comics this year (and there has been many a laud-worthy piece of art) as well as it is an exciting comic adventure. All for that aforementioned low, low price of $19.95. Inquire now; supplies are…probably in good quantity. But it’s just that fucking good so get it now, and maybe even spring for a second to hook someone else in with. ‘Tis almost the season, after all. Cheers…

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.


FOREVER EVIL: ROGUES REBELLION #1

Writer: Brian Buccellato
Art: Patrick Zircher, Scott Hepburn
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


The Rogues are great. The Flash has villains that, even if they don't have the versatility of Spider-Man or the twisted appeal of Batman, are incredibly fun and engaging. Even their NU52 iterations, while drastically "edgier" than the classic version, still retain a certain sense of silliness necessary for people named "Captain Cold".

The title is fast paced and interesting, if a little all over the place. It's the first issue of tie-in mini, forced to spend a good deal of time expositing the various plot points for the uninitiated. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but it still manages to be entertaining.


ZERO #2

Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Tradd Moore
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Joseph Wallace


ZERO #2 is a incredibly satisfying, well balanced comic feast that I devoured with relish. Unlike a lot of first issues ZERO #1 did not feel the need to leave off at a forced cliffhanger but instead took the high road and told a complete little chapter of what looks to be a very intriguing life story. Ales Kot has self proclaimed that he writes ‘Speculative Fiction’, and even though ZERO has thus far been a little out there, it still feels very real in how it portrays human agents that have been turned into drones.

In ZERO #1 we followed Edward Zero has he stalked a piece of stolen agency tech attached to a Palestinian terrorist’s chest. Its a great issue with some standout art work by Michael Walsh, who was able to capture the action of a super soldier brawl with incredible clarity and style. The whole first issue plays out like a sizzle reel for a insane action/spy film that feels like a organic blend of James Bond, John Le Carre, and Jason Bourne.

With ZERO #2 Ales Kot shows that this series is not a one trick pony and tells a equally compelling snippet of Edward Zero’s life: his childhood. I went in expecting another action scene oriented narrative following what I assumed would be the continuing clandestine adventures of Agent Zero; what I got was a exploration into Zero as a child that enriches the first issue while not trying to copy it or make its ideas redundant.

ZERO #2 not only switches gears in its narrative but also with its artist. Tradd Moore, the artist from THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHER STRODE and the soon to be released ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER, takes over this issue and is able to follow Ales Kot’s narrative switch with effortless ease. I got a chance to contact Tradd Moore and ask him how he was able to step into the issue and keep the narrative moving so effortlessly. He attributed it to he and Kot’s creative relationship saying about Kot, “he knows how to play to an artists strengths while still maintaining his own unique voice as a writer/storyteller.” For myself, I normally hate when there is a artist switch on a title but the way both stories are so complimented by their artists makes me love it here.

Tradd Moore gives the artwork a more surreal quality then Michael Walsh and it fits perfectly with the personal and nostalgic narrative. I loved how the artwork in this issue felt slightly more dreamy with lots of rounded, flowing lines, that seemed to convey that this is all taken from faded memories we as readers are gaining audience to.

Tradd explained his approach as wanting, “...to use imagery that would remind us of some of our most beloved children's tales, but repurpose them”, which is evident in the artwork as it weaves a heartbreaking account of lost innocence. The coloring is also worth note with Jordie Bellaire giving both issues of ZERO great ambiance and drama (although in this past weeks comics I preferred her superb work in INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK SPECIAL #1).

This issue focuses on Zero’s training as a youth and his first case of attempted murder. Issue #1 didn’t give the reader much of a sense for the character of Zero other then that he was cunning and duplicitous. In this issue we get a sense of the characters childhood, far removed from the man we have seen that he will become. Instead of going for more of the Jason Bourne action we get a John Le Carre introspective/spy cadet/tragedy. This issue does not read quite like a origin story but feels more akin to a drama/tragedy involving doomed impressionable kids; I go to the comic book store on the lookout for things that can capture that breathe of fiction so well. The ending of the comic has my favorite sequence of the series thus far, with child Edward Zero pursuing a hit on a IRA bomber. The entire scene is beautifully rendered, extremely atmospheric and told with minimal dialogue; the writing and art just merge perfectly and create a cinematic and heartbreaking scene.

If Ales Kot can keep up the standard he has set with the first two issues of this series I think we are all in for some incredible comics. The fact alone that this comic has no fat on it is enough to make me rave about it. Thats right- no ads, no wasted pages. Everything in this comic is lean, economical and has great story telling. The cover alone should tell you everything you need to know- this is something different. It is a standout comic.

I love it when a comic comes out that has the power to transcends its medium and I can feel confident about recommending it to those dregs of society that remain on the fringe of the comic world. ZERO #1 left me feeling immensely excited to have something to recommend to anyone tip toeing around the vast pool of comics and trying to decide where to dive in but issue #2 has me running the pool edge on the lookout for people to push it. Whether you are a old comic war horse or the new kid looking to experiment with the current marketplace of comics, this is a must read. Don’t be fooled by the title, this series is 100% quality.


UNCANNY X-MEN #13

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


“Battle of the Atom” continues to rage on as the real fighting kicks into high gear in this issue. We also get one more wrinkle in the time traveling shenanigans of the plot, though while I'm enjoying the story, I'm starting to get antsy for the motivations behind the two X-Men teams from the future.

First, let's talk about all the cool fighting. The Jean Grey-led X-Men from the future are a pretty psycho bunch. In their effort to send the past X-Men back to their proper time, they seem willing to kill as many present day X-Men or future X-Men as they need to. Makes me wonder why just killing the original X-Men isn't an option either (but with two more issues to go, maybe it is). Now while most of the X-Men are sitting inside the stomach of a giant monster called Krakoa, Magik and Colossus are doing most of the @$$ kicking, in fine fashion too--lots of back-stabbing.

The hand-off between this issue and the last (storywise, X-MEN #6) wasn't very smooth, though. Like how did they capture original Iceman and Beast? Did it happen when the North Tower fell out of the sky? And why was Raze taking on Psylocke's appearance? And didn't the real Psylocke just knock out the ice monster, who's now back on his feet, no trouble at all? And lest we forget Wolverine, who was bleeding to death (since he lost his healing factor), no mention of him at all this issue?! I suppose there are reasons for all this, but as it stands, the jump between chapter seven and chapter eight of “Battle of the Atom” is the sloppiest of all of them.

Now let's get into the story (i.e. spoilers): so future Jean Grey finally has her hands on all the past (original) X-Men, but for some reason she can't send them back in time. Future Beast has a guess why, and I sure hope he's wrong, because it's just dumb (in terms of comic book stories, this stuff happens all the frickin’ time). This gives all the other X-Men time to confront Jean Grey and her team--the set-up for the next issue. Question is, is it time to talk or just more punching? As much as I enjoy X-Men on X-Men violence, I'm hoping for a little talking. We are two issues past the big reveal that the future ain’t what Jean Grey and company made it out to be, so I'd really like to know what her (their) beef really is. It's getting dangerously close to a game of Geoff Johns' Hide the Plot, where you don't know characters' motivations or the possible consequences of characters' action, making you rapidly not care about anything the characters are doing. I feel Bendis should have given us this in this issue, so the scene of future Jean Grey tearing up over past Jean Grey would have had meaning.

Now let's be mean to Chris Bachalo. Actually, I'm kidding--mostly. Like most of the “Battle of the Atom” issues, this is a fine-looking book. I loved all the stabbing and figure work. Occasionally though, his style, which is strong, can take over a panel and I have little to no idea what is going on, like on page eight. It seems Bachalo has so much fun drawing funky stuff that he sometimes forgets our perspective isn't his perspective, and we won't just get everything he draws without his help.

So with two issues left to go, it is still a mystery how it will all end. Will the kids go back? Will we kill anymore future X-Men? And will this all just weaken the timeline more, so Bendis can write another time traveling storyline? I'm sure we were promised at some point that “nothing would ever be the same again!”, which really sucks if you enjoyed what was going on before. Still, any X-Men fan skipping out on “Battle of the Atom” is missing out on some good fun here.

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


NON HUMANS VOL.1 TPB

Writer: Glen Brunswick
Artist: While Portacio
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


“I am truly in awe of this book and hunger to understand this world more through the Aimes family. They are us, in a world that I would have never conceived possible.”

This is my quote from issue 1 of NON HUMANS that now adorns the back cover of the trade. Being a sci fi buff, it’s no doubt I was enamored with a world set the day after tomorrow where a virus empowers our imaginations with the ability to imbue toys and other inanimate objects with a life of their own.

I’ll be honest: this book, like so many of the other issue ones Image has been churning out since their twentieth anniversary, fell off my radar. My local store is sizeable, but they still don’t get every book on the market. Since I have a deathly aversion to Previews, I can’t put the full blame on my store, but whoever is at fault, it’s still a tragedy. I felt really bad when I met Brunswick at New York Comic Con and he remembered my review, but I had not completed the story. Problem rectified--Brunswick handed me a copy and said even if I don’t publish a review he still wants to know my thoughts. Well, Glen, here’s the best of both worlds.

My quote still stands. This world of Los Angeles circa 2041 is still an imaginative take on a dystopian tomorrow. Even without the coming alive of sadistic and angelic Babes in Toyland, I like how Brunswick paints what the world will be like when our children are running the show. The traffic sucks worse than it does now, forcing auto-driven cars to be a safety necessity. I also love, though, how he tore this world down in light of the disease. Since the disease that imbues life is spurred by imagination, to put controls on the non-human population all kids are given a drug that makes Adderall look like aspirin. From childhood to 19 kids’ imaginations are repressed by the drug forcing them into a catatonic state. Then at 19 kids are cut and dry and forced to live a life. Enter drug pushers like the Teddy Ruxpin gone bad who gives early twenty-somethings the mind freeze drug along with a little dose of extras for fun.

The focal point of the story is Detective Aimes, an LA cop who is divorced from his wife and has to watch his 14 year old son trying to score with a brought-to life-Victoria’s Secret mannequin. The toys are where Portacio shows some true mastery; they all needed to be alive, but never too alive. That’s easy with a teddy bear or the action figure that Aimes’ son and his gal pal bring to life as their child, much harder with the sex dolls and other “lifelike” creatures. Through it all, though, Portacio makes them wooden without ever making the characters topple over.

Now, I don’t know if the few problems I had with the book are because of the narrative or my predispositions. I made the mistake of reading the cover quotes as I sucked down two gin and tonics on the NYCC showroom floor. This, again, is why I don’t read Previews--I’m easily tainted. As soon as I saw a pull quote heralding NON HUMANS as a combination of Blade Runner and xxx, I knew there was a replicant in my future or a non human not believed to be a non human (fuck me, I feel like Bizarro writing this). So I was less than shocked when the identity was revealed.

My one other problem was how quickly everything was tied together. Brunswick teed up some deep topics about the nature of life (do non humans have rights?), the existence of us all and who should and should not play God. All of this was laid out wonderfully, but came with some easy answers at the end. Image would have been better served letting the book breathe for a few more issues so the end and the disease didn’t have to be so spoon-fed.

Nits aside, it’s nice to see Brunswick left the book open-ended. Nothing ends happily really for anyone, but there is resolution in a transformation of how Aimes views the non humans. It is heartwarming and endearing, especially for anyone middle aged.

NON HUMANS is a stellar concept that I think will play a little better in the second volume now that world-setting and introductions are out of the way.


FABLES #134

Writer: Bill Willingham
Art: Marc Buckingham
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


Oh, come on, Willingham, come on.

A quiet interlude from the worldbuilding of the main story, Willingham spends time with the recently deceased Bigby Wolf in his heaven - a massive forest. The opening pages center around Bigby traipsing around, and for once, just once, we get see Bigby at peace. What follows is an incredibly solid conversation between Bigby and Blue, two old soldiers talking about what it's like to be dead. It's a wonderful scene, Willingham dealing with two characters he knows by heart just talking. It takes up almost the entire book, before a heartbreaking moment that should be obvious to readers of the series.

As always, Buckingham's artwork is stellar, with beautiful lay outs and subtle changes in the banner. It's a wonderful issue of a near perfect series.


THE X-FILES: SEASON 10 #5

Writer: John Harris and Chris Carter
Artist: Michael Walsh
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man


So the first episode of a new season X-FILES wraps up—well, kinda. It was just the first story arc of a new comic book series overseen by series creator Chris Carter. With Carter’s help, I think it delivered a story most X-Files fans would be happy with.

Personally, I have a problem (ah, Jesus—okay, let's hear all about it). You see, this was a mythology 'episode', which usually leaves me more confused about the mythology than anything else. I'm never sure if I can blame the script for being too cryptic or myself for just being dumb. This is why I usually prefer the monster/mystery of the week episodes. The mythology, which Carter himself admitted to getting out of hand, just starts to eat itself at some point. I feel if Carter ever really wants to win back all his fans, he needs to nail down the mythology. I'd like to see him use this series to do that. Not necessarily explaining everything, but laying down the ground work. Then, fingers crossed, he can just kill a third movie that explains it all and pushes it all to new concise level.

So with that in mind, as this story arc comes to a close, I'm left scratching my head over (spoiler time, monkeys) who was on the spaceship? Why did the cult dude want to fake out Mulder? And seriously, what larger forces are at work? I'm not even sure I know what smaller forces are at work now! I get that they kidnapped Scully to get to her son William--very cool. But all the usual teasing at the end just befuddles me as always. Oddly enough, I don't damn Carter for doing this, because it's been his M.O. since day one. Kind of like that Cheetos commercial, where they make the robot that feeds you a Cheeto then slap you silly, but you're good with it. Carter has delivered so many cool things that when he slaps you with his wooden hand of mythology, you just go with it.

So with that in mind, I enjoyed this story arc. Harris and Carter put together a good yarn that brought out all the main characters, gave us lots of time with Mulder and Scully, and as confusing as it may be, it jumped right into the mythology (which, as I said, I want them to tackle here). They had fun with all the cliché X-FILES bits, even reinstating Mulder and Scully into the X-Files after they quit/got fired last season! I suppose the first story arc could have had more punch to it, but as kind of a set-up episode it was good, and it can easily be used to start digging into the mythology for real (okay, enough talk about mythology!). We still have yet to know what happened to John Doggett and Monica Reyes, or what the hell was going on in the last page. Unfortunately, I didn't think Walsh's art was helping me out either--just confusing.

Speaking of Michael Walsh's artwork, from the letters IDW publishes in the back, it seems some people just love him. Me not so much, or at least not on this book. The guy can draw, gets a decent sense of actor likeness and has good storytelling skill, but Walsh's bare-bones style is just a bit too empty. And as I've said before, so is Jordie Bellaire's coloring--just dullsville. Even watching the bad guy dissolving in acid was kinda dull to watch. The series was know for being very good looking, so I don't think this art team is a good match for it.

With this first story arc, I think we got a pretty good feel for how this tenth season is going to fare. As always, the mythology is a double-edged blade and the artwork did leave much to be desired. Still, the overall strength of the characters and love of this world wins out as this series is on the edge of being the best X-Files comic ever. I look forward to seeing what's in store for the next story and rate this first one FAIR.


HAWKEYE #13

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: David Aja
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Joseph Wallace


This issue looks good, right?

Is it weird to anyone else that a HAWKEYE comic is this good? This by all rights should be one of the dumbest comics out on the shelves, and yet, I find myself, issue, after excellent issue, marveling at what Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth are doing with this series.

I remember when this comic started coming out and it was right around when the current ongoing GAMBIT series began. ‘Past me’ picked both comics up and said, “I bet GAMBIT is gonna be way better then HAWKEYE. Sure the artwork is crazy appealing in HAWKEYE in a badass sort of Sean Phillips way, but Gambits kind of cool and I don’t really know anything about HAWKEYE.” Don’t you just wish you could go back in time and slap the hell out of this ‘past me’ until he has some sense (presuming you have been reading this comic and know anything about the ongoing Gambit series)?

This issue kind of summaries some of the events of the last issues and rings the bell for the start of the next round. One complaint I have about HAWKEYE is how the story has been in gridlock over the last few issues. We have kind of been circling the events of Grill’s death since issue #9 (plus HAWKEYE ANNUAL #1 which took place a little after the events of this last issue). As the frequency of issues has slowed the story has sort of lost momentum and has been a bit frustrating, but hey, this is HAWKEYE, and ya just can’t keep him down. This issue seems to be shaking off all of the looped over time stuff and looks to begin barreling ahead.

Clint finally gets around to attending Grill’s funeral in this issue which felt was way overdue. It was great to finally get to see Hawkeye in mourning for his friend and to feel like we ALL might be able to move past it. I really loved that Matt Fraction takes us back through a lot of the world he has been able to build in this series thus far. In the opening we get appearances by most of the woman in Clint’s life from this series and the scene where Clint is going to tell Grill’s father about Grill’s death brought me back to HAWKEYE #7 (the sandy issue) along with reminding me of the emotional depth that Fraction has been able to achieve with this character and series.

Kate Bishop and Clint’s limo ride to the funeral is a great, fresh scene, that helps to re-illustrate the tension that is driving these two characters apart. I give Matt Fraction credit for not going the easy route here and just summarizing that Kate was leaving and running to the West coast. Instead, he further explores her care for Clint and his sometimes lethargic companionship. In the middle of all of the great narrative stuff this comic even gets to sneak in a surreal nightmare sequence straight from the mind of Clint Barton.

Clint and Barney Barton’s scenes together are some of the most fun of the issue. Fraction keeps their dialogue brief and somber which gives the encounter a feeling of depth and intrigue. They are two men with a complicated history but they seem to kind of need each other in this moment and I found their vulnerability and brotherhood really appealing. It really works to take these characters out of the Superhero-Opera world they are normally shown in and giving them a more grounded humanity. Honestly, I would probably be fine reading a entire issue of just the two of them hanging out in Clint’s apartment. There wouldn’t even have to be any dialogue involved, see, thats how engaged with these characters this issue left me.

Despite a slow last few issues I think HAWKEYE is going to be getting very exciting again. David Aja’s artwork is as sharp as ever and left me anxious for more. The ending of this comic set a excellent stage for what I am sure will be a stunning conclusion to the ‘Hawkeye vs. “Bro” guys saga’. For me, this issue illustrated how far this series has been able to go so far and why it deserves to be one of the comics I am continually most excited about. If you are unfamiliar with HAWKEYE this would be a great jumping on point to a series that, more times then not, hits its mark.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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