(Click title to go directly to the review)
INHUMANS VS. X-MEN #2
GOD COUNTRY #1
THE AVENGERS #3
JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD #3-4
THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1
MOON KNIGHT #10
THE ASSIGNMENT #1
Raiders of the Long Box: ALPHA FLIGHT #1-6
INHUMANS VS X-MEN #2Writers: Jeff Lemire & Charles Soule
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
After an awesome set-up issue, Marvel's mutant writers Lemire and Soule get down to the dirty business. Joined by big time talent, Filipino artist Leinil Francis Yu (hey, he did conceptual art for SERENITY). Yup, this issue is all punching.
And now for your story recap, with spoilers: The X-Men have discovered the Inhuman's Terrigan Mist is making the planet uninhabitable for mutants (so much for homo-superior). As the Mist is the Inhuman's birthright to superpowers, the X-Men believe the Inhumans will oppose the Mist being destroyed. The fact that the mist already killed Cyclops is also giving them a mad on. So the X-men plan to preemptively attack the Inhumans, keep them busy and destroy the Mist. So this issue starts with the mutant army attacking the Inhumans' home, New Attilan (Note: Blackbolt and others were sidelined in issue #1). So far the plan is going down like clock work, as the X-Men are kicking Inhuman butt. Trying 'humane' about it all, many Inhumans are just teleported to Limbo. The fighting in general is all pretty good except, no way does Sabertooth take out the Human Torch. Queen Medusa, not sure what is going on, and why Black Bolt and company aren't coming to their aid, enacts fail-safe plan: Iso (why don't they explain who this is and what she can do (yeah I looked it up, but come on)) and Inferno (with his name, I at least get it) make a break for it. And with the help of the giant, Eldrac the Door, they teleport out of harms way. As Wolverine (X-23) and Angel were about to go medieval on them. Unfortunately, Eldrac drops them off right in front of Old Man Logan- duh-oh! Although, does this mean Logan could be the X-Men who is going to switch sides?
So as you can see, this issue is all brawling. And it's all pretty decent, as the Inhumans scramble around wondering if the X-Men have declared war or then why have they declared war. And I like that the X-Men are being clever and not just punching everyone into the ground. Since beating up the Inhumans is not the goal. Mind you, the plot doesn't move forward too much, which is ok, as this is a large scale fight. Although, the one thing I would have liked to have seen, is just what the X-Men are doing about the Mist itself. Since all this action is suppose to be happening at once. I suppose Soule and Lemire are holding that off for next issue.
As for Yu's art, it's all pretty cool, through out. The final inking is a bit too scratchy, but everything is well laid out and the action is all very nice. His works also has a nice epic feel to it. So handling something like the X-Men slugging it out, with the Inhumans, is a good fit for him.
While not as stellar as the first issue, INHUMANS VS X-MEN continues to be an impressive crossover event. I dig that the X-Men are as effective as hell (which seems rare for them) and I like the Inhumans being caught with their 'pants down'. I can't think of any reason why any superhero fan won't like this book.
GOD COUNTRY #1Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Sometimes you’re right on time to board the hype train, even if you didn’t know Hype Town was the destination at the time you bought the ticket. GOD COUNTRY was just a dynamic looking little ditty of a two or three page solicit with a intriguing write up when I told my Local Crack Shop I wanted a hit, now it is apparently one of those proverbial “smash hits” that are fetching five times cover price just days after it hit shelves. And the best part about hearing that bellowing “CHOO CHOO!” as the train pulls out of the station is when all the noise is justified, as is very much the case with this new Image Comics epic by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw.
What impressed me about this debut issue is that right from jump Cates and Shaw hit you with a heavy dose of heart in the heartland. As the title implies, there is a alpha and omega level of power to be reckoned with in the pages of GOD COUNTRY, but at its core is really just a man trying to take care of his Alzheimer’s riddled father and how that fight is tearing apart his own family from within. Roy Quinlan lost a mother and then lost his old life as he committed to move in and watch over his father, who has become a beast of a man in his senility. Cates very much makes you feel the extent to which Roy’s relationship with his own wife and daughter has become ever since he took on this burden and it gives the reader a great, humanized tether to hold onto as the excitement and stakes really ramp up. If this is any indication of the tonality of the series to come, it shows great promise in being as harrowing as it is exhilarating, just the way I like it.
That kind of gamut of emotion means a lot to me because sometimes these books that promise a sprawling epic tend to focus too much on once aspect of the story and ends up with a lack of balance. Cates and Shaw immediately show that they have a grasp on that right mix of grandeur and grounding with the material they present in this premiere. You immediately feel emotional body-blows just mere pages in as Roy’s father, Emmett, is coming apart at the seams with his violent outbursts. This frays what little sanity Roy’s family had left. Months of frustration are felt in just a few pages and you’re hooked into the drama of that figurative storm breaking as another – a large twister building in the region – starts gathering steam. So when this storm (and its hidden cause) breaks at the end of a twelve foot sword of legend, Emmett also regains some clarity. It is very palpable, even if those are obviously fleeting feelings given the way the book opened and the ominous way it ends.
GOD COUNTRY ends up being a thrilling debut not only because of the ups and downs I described above, but also because of the highs of seeing a new creative team coming out swinging with craftsmanship from the get go. While Cates script is dictating an emotional journey, Shaw is transcribing a hell of a vision one as well. There’s a ton being packed into each panel detail and energy wise it is the perfect mood-setter given the subject matter. Shaw’s got the range of facial expression to carry the emotional beats and then serves up a visual feast of destruction when nature’s answer to trailer park overpopulation whirls into the picture. These guys are just a one-two punch combo that already looks in prime shape after a couple collaborations together. I will now, of course, have to go back and run my eyes over those comics. Whatever foundation these gentlemen laid down working together before cements a hell of a house (that it later rends asunder with a big fucking magical sword) right here in GOD COUNTRY and I plan on paying rent to occupy this space for months to come.
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.
THE AVENGERS #3Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mike del Mundo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The Kang War rolls on, as the Vision, in hopes of taking Kang out permanently, has traveled forward in time to abduct Kang as a baby! This all started in the last AVENGERS re-launch, by Waid and artist Mahmud Asrar. But since Marvel wants to make sure none of their series goes over 20 issues, the Avengers have been re-launched again, mid-story. This time with the funky fresh artwork of Mike del Mundo. Del Mundo was last seen doing the Marvel Now ELEKTRA.
OK, let's talk spoilers. So, baby Kang was taken (insert Liam Neeson joke) by the Vision, preventing him from being Kang. But as the master of time, Kang got wise to this, he went on an all out attack. Traveling back in time to kill all the Avengers as babies (Avengers being: Captain (Falcon) America, Spider-Man, Wasp (Nadia), the Vision (was the Vision ever a baby?), Thor (Jane), and Hercules (who escaped Kang by being so damn old). This created a time paradox cacophony, which I'll admit to barely understanding myself. Hooking up with his former self, the Scarlet Centurion, Kang has discovered the Vision gave the baby to the Priests of Pama. While they fought Hercules for the baby, a time paradox version of Kang had rescued the Avengers- and then it was a free for all for the baby. The Vision figured the only way to fix all this, was to send the Wasp (the least likely to be missed in the fight) forward in time to return the baby. But Kang and the Scarlet Centurion are hot on her tail. Enter time paradox Priests of Pama. After a quick debate on whether or not to just kill the baby, the Wasp figures a way to save the Avengers, time and the baby. So all over, right- not quite. As Captain (Falcon) America now has his own idea on how to take Kang down for good.
Relatively speaking, this story started as an interesting 'what if', clever plot, that quickly turned into a crazy mess. I was hooked by the 'what if' angle of the Kang baby, but all the 'pull cr@p out of my @$$' time paradoxes leaves me a little cold. But I suppose that was just what Waid is showing us, which is basically how things really went wrong. And if you just roll with it, there is a bit of crazy fun to have. The next issue seems to be getting back to the clever and less of the chaos, so I am curious to hang around for it.
With del Mundo's art, I'm a little torn. It's kinda cool and interesting, but then it's kinda a pastel vomit too. His work on ELEKTRA was much stronger. Although, it maybe a factor of the story too. Del Mundo went a bit crazy because the story got crazy. But still, his color palette is just a bad Jell-O mold. I get the feeling that he should be working on something more in line with his style, opposed to a straight-up superhero title like THE AVENGERS.
Just as with Waid's last THE AVENGERS re-launch (some 13 months ago!), this storyline is hanging between cool and mundane. It's just not coming together for me, but then it has a lot going for it too. Anyone less judgmental than me will probably enjoy it just fine.
JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD #3-4Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Jesus Merino (#3), Fernando Pasarin (#4)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The battle of WB/DC's (hopefully) two biggest movie franchises continues under the pen of Joshua Williamson. Williamson has created titles like GHOSTED, BIRTHRIGHT and NAILBITER over at Image. This third issue, of the weekly series, is drawn by Spanish artist Jesus Merino. Merino, has worked on several comics for DC, starting with a really good run in the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA.
To bring you up to speed on the story, Batman wants to take out the Suicide Squad- for releasing super villains early from jail. They track down the squad on mission and fight. Just when it looked like the League was going to win, a 'Superman' charged Killer Frost, freezes both teams solid. The League is now the prisoners of Amanda Waller, the 'government (can I say) spook' who runs the Squad. Meanwhile, Maxwell Lord, has freed four of the most powerful super villains (and Rustam) to kill Waller.
Now for the spoilers in this issue. First off Amanda Waller frees the League (but not before the Squad gets a chance to make fun of them in their cells). Amanda captured them because she needs their help. She didn't shove bombs in their heads to prove what a good person she is (I guess that's how Amanda thinks these days). She tells the League and the Squad (big reveal time) that the five escaped super villains were the original Suicide Squad line-up. Which is why they all want her dead- they also seemingly want a super weapon stored in Belle Reve (the Squad's prison headquarters). Although Maxwell Lord is in another part of the world retrieving something (I'm guessing Eclipso). They also start sowing the seeds for Killer Frost to join the next upcoming JlofA book (damn, I missed the hardcore evil Killer Frost(Crystal Frost).
Williamson still plays pretty fast and loose with the logic here. But always manages to keep it together. Making Belle Reve the battle field, will prevent the Justice League from just doing this on their own. Although trying to get me to believe Waller once had control over the likes of Johnny Sorrow, Lobo and Dr. Polaris- yeah that's a hard pill to swallow. Or that she somehow got them to work as a team- that's an even bigger pill to swallow. But hey, it's the Rebirth-New 52, so who really knows anything about these characters anymore. Williamson even jokes about this, as Waller says this about Maxwell Lord, “...Lord's past is a bit of a mystery... even to me.” Yeah, no one knows anything about these characters anymore. Which is why I suppose someone pegged Rustam as one of the most bad@$$ super villains ever (even though un-super powered Rick Flag kicked his @$$ several times in the 80's).
Artwork wise, Merino does a fine good. It's just average work though, not as good as I've seen from him before. The only real bad things are Deadshot and Dr. Polaris' costumes, which aren't his fault.
We're halfway into the story and nothing particularly interesting has happened. I assume, the original Suicide Squad was supposed to add an element of cool to the story, but in this Rebirth-New 52 world, we don't know anything about them. It probably would have been cooler to create new characters, than confuse us long time readers with these new versions. But like Merino's art, it's not bad. It just is what it is, the Justice League and the Suicide Squad in the same book.
DC's epic weekly series rolls on with much more action this time. This week Joshua Williamson is joined by Spanish artist Fernando Pasarin. Pasarin has been sharing 'pencil' duties on the JUSTICE LEAGUE ever since it re-launched as a biweekly series.
Getting into the story (aka spoilers), when we last left everyone, the original Suicide Squad (Rustam, Dr. Polaris, Johnny Sorrow, Emerald Empress, and Lobo) were attacking Belle Reve, the headquarters of the Suicide Squad. Their new leader, Maxwell Lord, was left on a South Pacific Island. As this issue starts, he is somehow with everyone as they attack Belle Reve (huh). Facing them is the combined forces of the Justice League and the Suicide Squad. The League is there because the Squad got lucky and captured them. Waller freed them, because she needed their help to fight against Maxwell Lord and company (I'm not sure the timeline matches up there, but sure- oh and I'm curious what Amanda would have done if she didn't need their help. Keep the League locked up like she's some kinda a super villain?). Anyway, this is all fighting issue, which is fun enough. Though as usual I question the logic of some of the match-ups (So the brain bomb needle that Waller uses on the Squad is sharp enough to pierce Lobo's skin- really?). As the League and Squad manages to take down Lord's super villain gang, Lord himself manages to sneak off to their weapons vault, where the ultimate weapon is stored. What weapon? Eclipso's Diamond (aka these days, the Heart of Darkness). Using the rock, Maxwell Lord eclipses / mind-controls the League (except Batman, who was somewhere else at the time), so he can save the world- or so he keeps saying.
So the story continues to go down as you may expect. The League and Squad fight, then team-up, with certain degree of mind-control going on. And remember, some how this story will end with the League not completely dismantling the Squad. But to me, this is where Williamson is making a mistake. I get that he's trying to write a story that's just gonzo fun- for the most part. But since the Squad has no physical chance against the League, this story would have been more interesting as a cat and mouse story. Instead of the tired old, we fight / we team-up, model. Oh well, DC hasn't had a really good crossover since BLACKEST NIGHT, so why should this be any different.
As for the art, Pasarin is a guy who's just almost there for me. He has great attention to detail, good figures, cool backgrounds, and some nice faces. But under it all he's a bit clunky. Too often his compositions, figures, and or details just don't work as well as they should. But I suppose I'm being to harsh, because every close-up of a face here is pretty awesome.
With just two issues to go now, unless something amazing happens with the Eclipso Diamond, JUSTICE LEAGUE VS SUICIDE SQUAD is fast tracking itself to a Decent score on the Masked Man's scale.
THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt
Timing is everything when it comes to a comics’ release. It's usually in the best interest of a publisher to strike when the iron is hot, and release a book to coincide with a popular move or TV show. Marvel's timing with their releases has been confusing at best to me recently.
JESSICA JONES was a huge hit on Netflix when it was released in November of 2015, yet Jessica did not return to her own comic until October of 2016, almost a full year later. However, PATSY WALKER AKA HELLCAT had her own comic in December of 2015, so I guess that makes up for it? ANT-MAN was the 14th highest grossing movie of 2015 and the film surprised many, including myself, with just how entertaining it was. Until the film, I was never a big fan of the Ant-Man character, but I really enjoyed Paul Rudd’s take on Scott Lang.
My favorite part of Ant-Man however was Hope van Dyne, daughter of Hank Pym. I loved her character progression (I also have had a huge crush on Evangeline Lilly since LOST, but that’s a totally different story) and was excited at the end when she was shown the Wasp prototype suit.
I thought Marvel Comics would give Hope her own series this go-around but instead THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 is all about Nadia Pym, Hank’s daughter with his first wife, also featured recently in Mark Waid’s ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS series. When I first heard it was Nadia and not Hope, I was disappointed. However, after reading the story, I think it may actually have been for the better.
THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 written by Jeremy Whitley (PRINCELESS) with art by Elsa Charretier (STARFIRE) sees Nadia and Ms. Marvel together right from the start. Nadia, recently escaped from Russia’s notorious Red Room, is trying to gain her citizenship here in the United States. Mockingbird also happens to make an appearance in this issue, giving this book three strong heroines in one issue.
Science plays a HUGE role the story, including random “science facts from Nadia” in the panels. The science angle is refreshing to see, especially featuring an all-female cast. It’s no secret that women’s roles in science and mathematics have been overlooked throughout history. Whitley himself touches on the subject of sexism at the end of the book when he talks about the S.H.I.E.L.D. list of the smartest people in the world. It’s noted that the first woman on the list was all the way down at #27 and Wasp and Mockingbird talk about how there’s no way that can be correct.
Whitley now has a tough task on his hands for future issues. Given the comics industry’s notoriously fickle nature, I think it’s a bold move to do what he did with this first issue. From sexism to science, Whitely has said and done a lot already in just this one issue. I am very interested to see if he will continue this tone throughout the series. It's important to note however that none of this ever feels forced or preachy. It's a fun, good looking comic first and foremost, the rest really does just all fit the story.
There is also so much more to do in the future in regards to Nadia’s back story. There is way more to flush out here and develop than I think there would have been if it was Hope’s book and not Nadia’s. The new character angle gives you more freedom to explore, and that's exciting. I hope we find out more about Red Room, which also produced the Winter Solider and Black Widow, and its science division, because I think that could lead towards some interesting stories especially with today’s political climate.
The timing of this comic actually syncs up really nicely with the movie Hidden Figures, released this December 2016. Hidden Figures tells the story of three African-American mathematicians who helped NASA catch up in the space race. This issue also coincidentally has three women, including Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic, talking all about science.
The last page of the story has Nadia setting up her Genius In action Research Labs (G.I.R.L) which is then again featured on the following page which features interviews with two real life women of science. In addition to fan letters, this book looks like it will try to feature additional interviews from more women involved in the field of science, which is an awesome spin on the old fan letter section as well.
It’s also worth nothing that Charretier’s artwork here is fantastic. It really feels as if she knows just how important of a story is being told here, and you can truly feel she loves drawing it. Some day soon, if it hasn't happened already, there will be quite a few young female artists out there who count Elsa Charretier as one of their biggest inspirations.
When it comes down to timing, this book may actually be dropping at just the right time. During a time when the industry really needs more young readers, especially young female readers, this book is perfect. This is truly the type of book that a father could give to his daughter to get her into reading comics. It's also the type of book that a couple could read together and enjoy, and still have lots to talk about. This book should appeal to many different comic readers, for many different reasons. In the end this is a very good, fun premiere issue with loads of potential as a series.
FAITH #7Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Joe Eisma
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Jody Houser keeps the FAITH train rolling, joined by Joe Eisma for this issue. The issue is a bit of a time out issue, as Faith tries to come to grips with everything going on in her life: Watching a double of herself die and rejoining Harbinger. It's a pleasant enough story, but the art is what sticks out for me.
Can you say rush job? Or maybe Eisma is playing with a concept which I have thought of myself- just how detailed to pages need to be? While everyone likes to marvel over amazingly hyper detailed pages, your average comic book doesn't look like that, so is it even worth the time? Maybe an artist should just focus on the main characters in a panel and blow everything else off. Focusing on a backgrounds or props only if the story requires it. It almost looks like Eisma is kinda doing that here. Mind you, both the figures and backgrounds are very short hand, but the figures are usually more interesting to look at. The backgrounds are really sketchy. Andrew Dallhouse's coloring doesn’t help much either. With the background lines black and character lines colored, everything seems unworldly. The living characters look like they have about as much weight as the spirits in this issue do. At first glance, it has a pleasing factor to it, but once you start reading the story, it comes across as unfinished and not well thought out.
The story on the other hand is not like that at all. Faith is going through her day, an average day, and things start to fall apart for her. Mainly seeing zombies everywhere. She spends the bulk of the issue trying to convince herself it's just stress, but clearly it's something more (we are reading a comic book here). As always, Houser has a nice light touch to Faith's stories, yet keeps them interesting as well (although the horror movie talk was a bit too minutiae for me).
While in the same vein as MS. MARVEL or other young hip superheroes comics, FAITH does have this undying need to be funny and exciting. Instead of trying to keep it at '11', Houser lets FAITH float around at 7 and 8. So don't get me wrong, it's still fun and exciting, it just not trying so hard to be so. If they could only find a solid regular artist, I'd recommend the hell out of this book. For now it's just good, despite the lackluster art.
MOON KNIGHT #10Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Greg Smallwood
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Warning, there is a giant #1 on the cover, but that's just the marketing department trying to fool you. As it is actually issue #10 (printed on the bottom). It also claims this is the first issue of a new story. Wrong again, the story has been going for 10 issues now, with at least four more to go. Never sure who I hate more, the marketing department, or the stupid customers. As it's their fault for making the marketing department think this $h!t is a good way to sell more comics.
Aside from all that nonsense, this title rules! Lemire is just pulling this story apart like an onion. Each layer is unexpected and creative as hell. Moon Knight is deep into a 'what is reality' story, but it's not the fake-out cr@p, like in movies like INCEPTION. The focus is on Moon Knight trying to break free from it all, not trying to figure out which one is real. It kinda reminds me of an Image book, just a great out- there adventure story. Any fan of Image books should love this. The downside is, I don't recommend jumping into it at this point. Mind you, there's always something interesting in each issue to grab you, but there is a lot of mileage on this truck. So if you are faint of heart, I'd say pick-up the trades, rather than trying to piece the story together with this issue.
As for Smallwood's art, it's beautifully given life by Jordie Bellaire's coloring. Seriously, she takes Smallwood's 'simple' panels and fills them with a rich warmness. But back to Smallwood, this is some serious classic illustration going on here. With some very un-classic panel layout. So any art snob who can't stand the term classic will totally dig this. Then with Lemire's direction things get topsy-turvy in the last few pages. And it's just a great looking book.
What else, oh, spoilers. So Moon Knight is in a fight with his Egyptian god benefactor, Khonshu. And it's been one mind 'f' after another, as Moon Knight tries to figure out how to combat Khonshu. The issue starts with a really cool flash back of young Marc Spector (aka Moon Knight) meeting young Steven Grant (aka Moon Knight). It's even cooler than how I describe it. Back to the here and now (so to speak), Moon Knight figures he needs to go back to the beginning--the mental hospital he woke up in. Hoping to confront Khonshu and rescue his buddy Crawley from Anubis. Meeting with Anubis, Moon Knight strikes a deal with him to get back Crawley and leaps into the Overvoid. It's all pretty metaphysical, until we reach the land of 'Oz'.
As far as I can tell, everyone should be reading this book. It's a great read, and it's great to look at. I can understand it not being someone's cup of tea, but damn, it's a well made book. MOON KNIGHT is just one of Marvel's best books right now. If you've been hating on Marvel for what they've done to their 'A-listers', Lemire and Smallwood will give you something to love about Marvel again.
THE ASSIGNMENT #1Writers: Walter Hill, Matz.
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt
I’ve always been a huge film buff. My love of cinema includes everything from the classics to cult movies. I even enjoy “crappy B-movies” as well, my favorite being NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. While my love of cinema is still as strong as ever, I would say that I peaked in college in terms of the amount of movies that I watched.
I can remember one semester where in addition to working 30 hours a week at Blockbuster, I also was enrolled in two film and literature courses. I watched more movies during that semester than any other time of my life (and that’s saying something since I still watch quite a few these days). Working at Blockbuster was a dream college job for someone like me.
The weekly free rentals were one of the best perks of the job. In addition to seeing nearly every new movie that came into the store, these free rentals allowed me to dig deeper into cinema. From SEVEN SAMURAI to THE EDUKATORS, the film discoveries I made during this time were numerous and consequential. My favorite part of the job however was being able to talk to the customers about movies and recommend films.
One of the films I frequently recommended was Walter Hill’s THE WARRIORS. To this day, THE WARRIORS remains one of my favorite films and still one I recommend to those who haven’t seen it. Walter Hill also has had a hand in many other films I really enjoy (48 HOURS, ALIENS, BREWSTER’S MILLIONS, UNDISPUTED), so when I found out that he was trying his hand in the comic industry, I was excited.
His first comic, TRIGGERMAN, released through Titan Comics’ Hard Case Crime imprint, is a noir set in the 1930s that really feels like an old-fashioned crime story. So when he announced he would be doing a second comic, THE ASSIGNMENT (formally solicited as “(RE) ASSIGNMENT”), I quickly put the first issue on my pull list.
Like his first book, THE ASSIGNMENT is also from Titan Comics’ Hard Case Crime line. It also features the writer Matz (THE KILLER, HEADSHOT) and French artist Jef. The story is based off of a screenplay that Hill once purchased for himself. Hill changed the story and wrote up the project as a graphic novel which was previously only available in France. He also wrote and directed a film version called (RE) ASSIGNMENT starring Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver.
The film has had quite a bit of controversy surrounding it, including a boycott from many in the transgender community. The film hasn’t gotten a US release yet, but it did premiere at the Toronto Film Festival where the Hollywood Reporter called it, “a deliciously transgressive and smart classic B movie”. I won’t comment on the film as I haven’t seen it and who knows if it will ever be released here due to the controversy. I have however read the comic and since this is a comic book review will now get to it.
The story introduces us to contract killer Frank Kitchen. Frank takes an assignment to kill a fashion designer, which leads someone to seek revenge. Frank runs intro trouble and awakens a changed woman. Yes, you read that right, woman. Someone out for revenge puts Frank through involuntary gender reassignment surgery.
As far as controversy in regards to the story is concerned, not being a member of the Trans community, I really have no comment on the perceived transphobia. Hill however when asked by Rolling Stone about the movie’s boycott said, “I wouldn’t make a movie that hurt transgender people. Some of them have had a tough time of it, and the last thing I want to do is make anyone’s road harder… Is it lurid? Yes. Is it lowbrow? Well, maybe. Is it offensive? No. I’m just trying to honor the B movies that we grew up with.”
And I think Hill succeeds with his story because the book really does feel like a classic 80’s B movie. Were all B movies politically correct? Absolutely not, in fact to some people that was part of their charm. The story is a weird and bizarre take of a traditional noir, but in Hill’s hands, he makes it works. There is also an interesting twist towards the end as well. After reading the first issue I’m left wondering just where exactly Hill is going with this story, but I’m definitely interested in finding out.
The art by Jef this book is really on point. There is a panel featuring a full-page photo of Frank performing an execution that really pops and feels like it could be on a movie poster. Like Jef’s work in Triggerman, which really makes you feel like you were thrown into the 1930’s, the art in this book really engages the reader.
In my opinion Walter Hill is a solid 2 for 2 when it comes to comics so far. Titan also has a hit on their hands with their Hard Case Crime titles. If you haven’t dug into these yet you absolutely should, especially if you love crime/noir stories. The Hard Case Crimes imprint is one of the most underrated things in comics today.
The book features an interview with Hill where he mentions his plans for a third comic, a sci-fi book with Matz. Nothing has been announced yet, but once it does I’ll be including that first issue on my pull-list as well. Hill has quickly earned that respect in my book as a comic writer, just like he has as a movie writer/director.
ALPHA FLIGHT #1-6By Masked Man
Once upon a time, there was a most revered comic book artist and writer, John Byrne from Canada. For nearly three years he wowed fans by drawing the hottest book in town, The All-New, All-Different THE X-MEN. Then Marvel gave him the keys to draw and write The World's Greatest Comic Magazine! FANTASTIC FOUR. Two years into that, Marvel talked John Byrne into writing and drawing the first Canadian superhero team: ALPHA FLIGHT!
Alpha Flight was created by John and Chris Claremont, as a team to fight the X-Men. Their leader, Vindicator (aka Guardian) first appeared in X-MEN #109 and the rest of the team followed in #120. The plot involved the Canadian Government attempting to claim Wolverine, aka Weapon X, as their 'property' so to speak. Four years later, they got their own comic book, this time as the protagonists. After 28 issues Byrne walked, but Alpha Flight would rolled on for another 100 issues. Since then they have been re-launched three times, each time getting canceled quicker than the last time. It's funny to note that John often said he had a horrible time on the book, and didn't want to do it. Having no faith in such 2 dimensional characters. But it's his work that made the team the success, that it was / is. Reading the first six issues, you can see how hard Byrne was working to make each member of Alpha Flight a fully developed character. So much so, there's only one real villain in those issues, and he's quite lame. All the focus was on defining the heroes.
Issue #1- Being as clever as he could be, Byrne starts the series with shutting the team down. The Government is done with the 'Flight', aka Department H (there was an Alpha Flight, Beta Flight and Gama Flight). But when a whack job out in the frozen tundra becomes giant monster, called Tundra, Alpha Flight comes together like any good superhero team: Vindicator, Snowbird, Shaman, Northstar, Aurora and Sasquatch. Two members of the Beta Flight join in, thanks to Vindicator's wife thinking Alpha Flight wasn't going to show-up: Marrina and Puck. With the monster put down, the team decides to go it alone without the Government.
Issue #2- The character building really kicks in. Aurora is shown to be a split-personality, Northstar is flamboyant professional skier, using his superpowers to 'cheat', and Marrina well we aren't to sure what she is yet. But a rather lame villain called the Master believes he knows and kidnaps her. Vindicator also gets the idea to change his name to Guardian! This issue also starts a back-up feature: “In the Beginning” the origins of Alpha Flight. This story gives us the low-down on James Hudson, the man who would become Guardian.
Issue #3- The Alpha Flight, minus Puck, who was maimed by Marrina, goes searching for her. They all wind up in the alien space craft that brought Marrina to Earth thousands of years ago as an egg. The Master, who was at first victimized by the spacecrafts' A.I., has taken control of the ship and all it's advanced tech. Since Marrina and her mate, who has yet to be revealed (even to this day) were supposed to take over the world with their ship and tech, the Master feels he must kill them first. Just then, Susan Richards and Prince Namor appear.
Issue #4- This issue wraps up the first big story arc, as Alpha Flight, aided by the Invisible Woman and the Sub-Mariner, free Marrina and send the Master running back into his 'hole'. Hoping to learn more about herself (though a bit of a fool's errant), Marrina leaves with Namor to visit Atlantis.
Issue #5- This issue centers on Puck, the 'little person' dynamo. Despite his size, Puck is about as tough and agile as Daredevil or Batman. And in a Stan Lee way, Byrne has made everything about him a walking contradiction for Puck is “the most interesting man in the world”, and women love him. The plot though, is about Puck recovering from his injuries that Marrina inflected upon him. While at the hospital, his discovers some of the medical staff are involved with selling drugs to the black market. Puck makes short work of it all, despite his injuries. Over in the 'secret origin' back-up, we learn about Shaman (clearly not the most original name). A doctor who loses his wife to cancer and his young daughter Elizabeth to his grief. In this low period of his life (ala Dr. Strange), Michael Twoyoungmen comes to except his birthright and becomes the Shaman supreme (if you will).
Issue #6- A funny thing happened on the way to issue #6, Marvel's so called assistant editor's month. The joke went like this: As all of Marvel's editors were out of town, for the San Diego Comic Con, their assistants were in charge and anything could happen! Keep that in mind as we get a better look at Snowbird, a goddess in human form. Ala Captain America in the 1940's, her day job was as a Corporal in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police where she mostly gives grief to her superior. Since he is unaware she is the cold and aloft goddess/superhero Snowbird. Elsewhere, Kolomaq, an ancient snow beast starts causing trouble and Snowbird is off to the rescue. As a snow storm kicks up around the two fighting, John Byrne treats us to nearly six well thought out blank pages. That's what you get in assistant editor month!
Summing up these first six issues, it's easy to see how John Byrne managed to turn a bunch of nobodies into a beloved team that everyone wants to try and recapture the magic of. And as I mentioned, this was all done without one decent villain, although the monsters were very cool. So even though Byrne doesn't seem to see it, he did a pretty great job. Even making his job harder by adding two Beta Flight members to the team (as in more non-characters to try and develop). Though I'm not fond of all the characters. Marrina seems to get the most attention and I still don’t care too much about her. But the rest of the gang, even stereotypical Shaman, are all pretty cool. I also dig the concept of Beta Flight and Gamma Flight. Byrne sets them up here and uses them well later. I also really like the concept of Snowbird. How she is meant to protect the 'land' from all kinds of mythological beasties. I'd love to see that plotline expanded into something cool today. And I'll mention that even back then John Byrne planned to make Northstar gay. But Big Jim Shooter thought the comic book public of 1984 wasn't ready to handle that yet. It would be another eight more years until Marvel would let Jean-Paul out of the closet.
Another thing to talk about is John Byrne's art. At this time he was cranking out two full comic books a month (FANTASTIC FOUR and ALPHA FLIGHT). That is really f'n hard, I mean really f'n hard. And ALPHA FLIGHT was a great looking book too. From the awesome monsters, to the beauty of Aurora, to the acrobatics of Puck, and to Guardian, who pretty much always looks great. John Byrne, who was pretty much at the height of his popularity and talent, just crushed everything. Byrne was the king of the 80's. George Perez was his closest competition, but John was easily the better writer. Now if you thought that was great, just wait until next time and we'll talk about what happened in the next six issues!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
The next level of comic book excellence is a click away at BLACK MASK STUDIOS!
Want more in all things Geek?
Check out our friends at PoptardsGo for podcasts, reviews, and more!
And if you still need more geek in your life, check out Part-Time Fanboy for more geeky goodness on comics, movies, and more!
Finally, check out AICN COMICS on Facebook and Comixpedia!