Friday, May 6, 2016

Weekly Comic Pull #4: Thunderstruck!

Welcome to this week's Weekly Comic Pull! This week, we have everything from punishers to gods to sadomasochists, and everything in between. We've also got a few new #1's to talk about this week in another quite long comic pull, so we might as well get started.

As a small bit of housekeeping, this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, so I'll probably be doing a post about this year's offerings, especially with the start of Civil War II coming out this year, as well as some other interesting Marvel offerings. Anywho, let's review some comics!

The Discipline #3

Written by Peter Mulligan
Art by Leonardo Fernandez

Let's start with something a little more off-beat. The Discipline is a Peter Mulligan mature readers Image series described as an erotic thriller, in a similar vein to another series I've been reading, Marguerite Bennett's Insexts, though much darker in tone with elements of noir thrown in. Unfortunately, it's also of significantly lower quality, and I've been considering dropping this book a lot, but I was curious enough to at least pick this issue up. It's somewhat better, but the narrative and pacing issues that have troubled this series are still here, making for a disappointingly flawed final product. This issue sees our protagonist, a bored young housewife, bring formally inducted into this sexual and mystical cabal of lethal creatures, called the Descipline. Their design is very odd, a slender design that fits with the art style, but unfortunately sorta defies description in a lot of ways. At times, when they're not moving, which is when they look the best, they look like weird praying mantises, which doesn't always come off as well as it sounds. Our protagonist and her mentor and lover, Orlando, are trying to survive being stalked by...well, Stalkers, creatures who, like the Discipline, change from human to monsters, the Stalkers being more akin to werewolves, bears, or bigfoot than the insect-like design of the Discipline. Whereas this series has always fallen back too heavily on the explicit nudity and sex in previous issues, here, that's toned down in favor of moving the plot forward more. Unfortunately, it also fails, like in previous issues, of explaining things. Why is a certain character all of a sudden one of the Stalkers? Who knows. Why did our main character keep going along with this, despite being shown time and time again that she'll probably end up getting killed over a war she didn't sign up for? Not important. It's frustrating, and the frenetic pace doesn't help. It's not as unbearable as in past issues, and I hope this is a sign that the series is starting to get good, but if it doesn't keep on this by next issue, I truly am done with this series.

Tony's Score: 6.5/10

Spider-Gwen #8

Written by Jason Latour
Art by Bengal

Don't let the title fool you, as much as it may say Spider-Gwen on the cover, this is a Silk-centric issue, and that's not a bad thing at all. In this, Part 5 of the Spider-Women crossover, we see the ramifications of the Earth-65 Silk coming into the mainstream Marvel universe and beginning to dismantle Silk's reputation piece-by-piece. The issue opens with probably one of the most heartbreaking parts of this entire crossover: J. Jonah Jameson seeing the superheroine he'd been supporting since day one, Silk, seemingly turning to a life of crime. Having read the previous issues of Silk, it was definitely a heartfelt moment between Cindy and JJJ. From there, we finally have our first meeting between the two Silk's as we not only get a sense of what Earth-65 Silk is up to, but get some kind of justification for this being an issue of Spider-Gwen rather than another Silk issue. Gwen basically serves as our eyes for the most part, until we get to key revelations about Spider-Gwen's origin that tie directly into Earth-65 Silk. Not having read everything Spider-Gwen, I couldn't tell you if this was all believable, but it's certainly interesting. While we don't get any Jessica Drew this issue, the confrontation between the good and evil Silk's more than makes up for it, giving us probably the best issue of this entire crossover so far.

Tony's Score: 9/10

The Wicked + the Divine #19

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKevlie

SPOILERS FOR THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-18. Seriously, this is one of those series that you HAVE to have read the previous issues to get, so if you want to know if it's good or not, it's good. It's great. Buy the trades. DO IT. Full review below.

In the Wicked + the Divine, there's no such thing as filler. But I guess this is as close as you get to it. Not that it's bad, oh, far from it. This issue is (sorta) an exposition break. There's a real cool fight scene, but the story advancement is what's the main selling point here. Laura, having somehow managed to return from the grave as Persephone (a point they don't fail to remind us will eventually be explained), is now trying to build up forces against Ananke, and her two latest additions are Minerva and Dionysus. Meanwhile, Ananke and the remaining members of the Pantheon are preparing to launch a "rescue" operation to get back Minerva. Why her specifically is revealed by the end of the issue, and sets the next issue up very nicely. The mission itself is a very well done and well drawn fight scene between many of the Pantheon members, and it flies off the page with McKevlie's trademark style. We get what would be considered something of an exposition dump, but it's kept relatively short for what it is, and it ties everything that's been happening before, from the murders of Laura and Tara to the framing of Luci, back to what's about to transpire and why Minerva is so important. It's about as mellow as Wicked + the Divine gets (i.e. no one's died yet), but it's every bit as tight, as exciting, and as good as the rest of the series.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

The Punisher #1

Written by Becky Cloonan
Art by Steve Dillon

With how popular the Punisher was in this last season of Daredevil, it's no surprise that we get a new series for the titular antihero, this time from writer, Becky Cloonan. For what it is, it's a fairly standard plot. The police are closing in on a drug ring run by a crime lord named the Condor, and they have to raid their heavily fortified warehouse to do it. Meanwhile, a mysterious man named the Face is working with Condor for unknown reasons. Then the Punisher shows up, and I think you can guess what happens next. It's a simple premise, but Cloonan nails it perfectly. The Punisher's level of ferocity, his unflinching attitude to all the hyperviolence, and his status as a one-man army perfectly captures who the Punisher is supposed to be, at least while in the heat of battle. We don't get any of Frank Castle outside of the firefight, or even a single word from him, but for an introductory issue, that's okay. Really, if there's anything to nitpick, it might actually be Steve Dillon's art. I might be in the minority, but it felt like there were moments where the art and the color felt too bright for its own good. Otherwise, it's a very promising first entry for a series I hope only gets better.

Tony's Score: 8/10

Moon Knight #2

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Greg Smallwood

Jeff Lemire was probably the perfect guy to pick for Moon Knight given how wild and imaginative he is, and this series has so far been absolutely fascinating. Starting immediately where the last issue ended, Marc Spector is being told by his doctors that his memories of being Moon Knight were all delusions, but he isn't buying it. The visions of the moon god he derived his powers from are still coming to him, though what's interesting is they're all presented with the idea that they COULD very well be just that, visions and delusions. Sure, given it's a superhero book, in all likelihood, Marc's right and he'll be out and about by the end of the series, or even by the end of the first arc, but Lemire is doing his damnedest to convince us it MIGHT go the other way and just reveal he's really insane. Greg Smallwood's art is impeccable, easily swapping from the grimy asylum look to the otherworldly atmosphere of the visions on the fly. As Marc plans to escape, we get to see some of the deeper parts of this hospital and what's happened to the people Marc remembers as his allies. How this will all end, I can't say, but if it's as engrossing as this, I can't wait for the next issue.

Tony's Score: 9/10

X-Men '92 #3

Written by Chad Bowers & Chris Sims
Art by Alti Firmansyah

X-Men '92 is the epitome of fun. It's silly, it's wacky, it's decidedly irreverent, and it's awesome. In this issue, we see the X-Men searching for a cure for Jubilee's vampirism, which is quickly spreading among the mutants in the mansion back home. Meanwhile, the villain who turned Jubilee has infiltrated the mansion in the hopes of attaining ultimate power. This issue is great for so many reasons. Firmansyah's art is light-hearted enough that you don't ever take the goings ons too seriously, especially given how they sound on paper. Really, there isn't a whole lot to say about this issue other than that. At this point, while there are some nods to the show, this is less a nostalgia trip and more just a fun romp in a sandbox using these characters, and I love that. Also, vampire Jubilee is the best thing.

Tony's Score: 9/10

The Legend of Wonder Woman #5

Written/Art by Renae de Liz

It's hard to talk about a series when they do just enough right and small enough wrong that you don't really have much to complain or praise. The Legend of Wonder Woman has, since moving off Paradise Island anyway, been something of that series. In this issue, Diana is adjusting to life in 1940's America and tracking down leads concerning an enemy using Amazonian magic in the war in Europe. Most of the issue is made up of Diana and her new friend, Etta Candy, wandering through an American town, giving Diana the opportunity to touch on issues that I'll bet my bottom dollar end up being main points by the end of it, namely issues of female empowerment/equality. Given the 1940's setting, it's not unexpected, though it sometimes feels a bit too bluntly handled, for my taste. Etta Candy is hit or miss, in general. She can be enjoyable, but at times is a bit obnoxious, and her story is fairly uninteresting, dealing with her dealing with her family and a generic mean girl character. There's also some things that just seem weirdly too easy. Conveniently, the U.S. Army is apparently not checking I.D.'s for volunteer nurses going to Europe, giving Diana the perfect in to get to France where her clues lead. Because, ya know, it's not like they're at war or anything. There are some fun moments. There's a great scene with Diana being introduced to movies (and popcorn) for the first time, which just so happened to be A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring a decidedly unwarrior-like Queen Hipollyta. There's also one or two cute cameos from other DC characters. Otherwise, the book's fairly, and at times painfully, average.

Tony's Score: 7/10

Invincible Iron Man #9

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art byMike Deodato

Right off the bat, this issue is somewhat confusing. Issue #8 ended with Spider-Man, Iron Man, and War Machine having both been stripped of their equipment and being caught in a massive explosion that seemingly may have killed them. While I obviously didn't think they were actually dead, this issue starts with Rhodey and Peter fine, and with no mention of the incident. Tony Stark's missing, granted, but the answer to that mystery ends up not having to do with that incident either. Honestly, it wouldn't even be that much of an issue if it wasn't addressed by someone. It's not uncommon for comics to do this kind of a jump, but as far as the story's concerned, it feels like it's been entirely forgotten. Otherwise, the issue's fairly standard. It's mostly trying to find out where Stark is, a search headed up by Rhodey for the most part. The only real notable thing is further introduction to a new character, who, as the cover suggests, has yet to pick her name. The character, 15-year-old Riri, has constructed her own Iron Man suit, likely serving for the lead up to Civil War II as a similar role Spider-Man filled in the lead up to the original Civil War. Riri is a fun character, though we got too little for her to really make a real impression. It's an okay issue, it's just an inconsistency of continuity that annoys me mostly.

Tony's Score: 7.5/10

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #0

Written by Christopher Hastings
Art by Danilo Beyruth & Gurihiru

How weird is it to get a #0 after the #1? Oh well, if DC can do it, why not Marvel? Gwenpool #0 is actually only partly a new issue. The first story is new, taking place before the current series, while the backup is the Gwenpool story from the Gwenpool Holiday Special reprinted. Talking quickly about the reprint, it's a fun story with not much depth to it. Really, the best part of the Holiday Special is the art by Gurihiru, who has quickly launched close to the top of my favorite currently working artists today. I would LOVE to see more of his work, his Gwen Stacy, and ESPECIALLY his Ms. Marvel, is adorable. The main story is a fun crossover between Gwenpool and Howard the Duck that nicely ties in their opposing comedy styles. Gwenpool is the irreverent, smiley psycho while Howard is the lovable curmudgeon, and Christopher Hastings gets some good material out of it. The nice thing about Gwenpool over Deadpool is that Gwenpool has a built in rationale for her insanity and her self-referential humor. Her backstory is she comes from a world where the Marvel heroes were fictional comic book heroes, i.e. our world, and she's well-read on the subject. This approach, as opposed to Deadpool's "he can break the fourth wall because Deadpool" approach is quite charming, especially when she makes cracks about Howard's absence from publication. All in all, it's a fun tale, seeing Gwen going up against both H.Y.D.R.A. and the Black Cat with Howard's help, letting us see the hapless heroine fenangle her way through some semi-serious superheroing. If you weren't sold on the character from the #1, this probably won't change your mind. If you enjoyed that, though, go ahead and pick this up. You won't be disappointed.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

Uncanny X-Men #7

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Ken Lashley

Uncanny X-Men's been quite interesting so far. Interesting can be good, and a team made up of the X-Men who are willing to take extreme measures to save their race is most certainly interesting. This issue continues the Apocalypse War storyline, which, I'll be honest, I have no idea what the overall narrative of that is at the moment since I haven't caught up on Extraordinary X-Men yet. For the Uncanny X-Men, however, we see Magneto and Psylock catching up to their old ally, Archangel, formally the Dark Angel controlled by Apocalypse. Archangel has seemingly become a messianic figure, offering salvation to his group of followers, and having severed his own wings. Meanwhile, Sabretooth and Monet are called by the New Morlocks in order to deal with a new threat to the mutant race. The Archangel story kinda gets derailed by the end, but it is something that could spell interesting development for this team, which is hardly functioning as a team. The answer to what's going on with him kinda feels like a cop-out to connect this with the Apocalypse War, though, and that's disappointing. Meanwhile, the Sabretooth/Monet story really doesn't go anywhere minus a revelation at the end that connects the two stories together. Everything going on is interesting, but this issue seems to have caught both storylines in their downtime, a mistake that I think will be mostly rectified next issue, which promises to finally explain why Fantom-X and Mystique were on the cover way back at issue #1. Here's hoping.

Tony's Score: 7.5/10

Thunderbolts #1

Written by Jim Zub
Art by Jon Malin

The one thing I did NOT expect from a Thunderbolts book is something akin to family drama. Yet, that's seemingly what we're at least partially getting by the time we hit the middle of the comic and get Atlas eating breakfast cereal and Moonstone in a bathrobe complaining about the showers at Thunderbolts HQ. That's not to say that the book is all silly humor. In fact, the majority of it seems to be action, but it's action that's perfectly balanced with good humor and a camaraderie that I really didn't expect to get from this book. In the aftermath of Avengers Standoff, Bucky Barnes A.K.A. the Winter Soldier has gathered a team of former inmates from Pleasant Hill as well as Kobik, the Cosmic Cube manifested as a 4 year old girl (it's a long story) in order to erase all evidence of the incident and make sure S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't have the capabilities to create anything like Pleasant Hill ever again. And what's more, it really really works. I absolutely loved this book. The Thunderbolts feel like a real team. Each member feels distinct, each feels like they have something to contribute, and when they do bicker, it feels like how a family or close friends would bicker instead of total strangers. These are people who've had a shared trauma, and while they don't get along, they stay together because they know they can do more together. Even Kobik, the little kid, works great. Having a little kid tag along, and one infused with the Cosmic Cube no less, COULD have been a disaster, but they manage to make her relationship to the other Thunderbolts endearing. Her relationship, especially with Winter Soldier, is even at times a little adorable. The issue even ends on a great note, an unexpected and yet great moment that puts the stakes high for this dysfunctional family for next issue. I can't even really think of anything I disliked about this issue, it hits every note right, and coming from a side-book like Thunderbolts of all things, that's absolutely fantastic. 

Tony's Score: 9.5/10

Empress #2

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Stuart Immonen

Empress #1 had some trouble thanks to some weird pacing issues, which I guess can be attributed to it having to introduce the world along with its characters. Issue #2 irons out all those issues, leaving us with a note perfect sci-fi romp from Mark Millar. After escaping the watchful eye of her despotic king-husband, the Empress, her children, and the captain of the guard make it to another planet, seeking passage to a planet where the empress' sister lives. The action is fast-paced, the art from Stuart Immonen is stylized in the best way possible, and the story is just fun. If I had any real complaints, it's that there's not much down-time for these characters to really get fleshed out. Hopefully, next issue will give them some room to breathe, though that cliffhanger doesn't bode well for that. We also get some interesting world building, getting to see this futuristic alien city that looks like a cross between Blade Runner and Mass Effect, as well as some of the races and civilizations that inhabit said city. Overall, it's a tight issue that uses its time well. I can't wait for the next one.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

Daredevil/Punisher #1

Written by Charles Soule
Art by Szymon Kudranski

Given how popular both seasons of Netflix's Daredevil have been, it's no surprise that these two should not only get their own solo series, but also a miniseries together. This series sees Frank Castle setting his sights on a criminal that Matt Murdock is trying to put away in his new role as a prosecutor. And, of course, while Matt wants to put them away in prison, Frank has different ideas. And so, Daredevil and Blindspot have to work together to keep the prisoner safe from the Punisher. This is a comic that wastes no time. We know these characters, we know what they're doing and why they do it, and it wastes no time trying to explain it. What we get instead is a pulse-pounding action sequence, pitting the Devil of Hell's Kitchen against the Punisher himself. Most of the book is an extended chase sequence, with the Punisher's van in pursuit of the truck carrying the prisoner, who himself turns out to have other plans. Blindspot is nicely integrated into the fight, being set up at the end to tangle with Castle himself, while Daredevil continually shows how capable he is, even when he's fighting on moving vehicles. It's a great joyride, and Kubranski's art looks beautiful, making not onlyDaredevil's world as stylized as it's always been, but also effectively making the Punisher look imposing as hell itself. It's a great set-up I look forward to seeing more of.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

Batman/Superman #32

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Doug Mahnke

This issue manages to do a few things correctly. First, it manages to spotlight a sorely underused part of the DC Universe. Secondly, it elegantly ties Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman together for a story that really should have Wonder Woman in the title as well. And lastly, it elegantly sets itself up as essentially a backdoor pilot for the upcoming New Super-Man book set to debut this summer as part of DC Rebirth. To that end, this issue seen Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman tracking the being that claims to be Clark Kent, tracking its energy signature to China, and inadvertantly attracting the attention of China's premiere superheroes, the Great 10 (short three members). On that front is where this issue makes its only real mistakes, I think. As much fun as it is to see the Trinity fighting the Great 10, getting them to fight is a bit contrived, as it momentarily has Superman and Wonder Woman a bit overly agrressive for their characters. Especially since they're trespassing onto Chinese soil, you'd think they'd be a bit more diplomatic on that front. Otherwise, it's a fun side story that sets up the New Super-Man well. What excites me is the idea of seeing more of the Great 10 in that series, as they would be PERFECT supporting characters. Seriously, they have great designs and power sets.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

A-Force #5

Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Ben Caldwell

This issue sees the writing reins being given fully to Kelly Thompson, who co-wrote the first four issues of this series with writer of the Secret Wars miniseries, G. Willow Wilson. This issue also sees new artist, Ben Caldwell, on this series, and it's really a match made in heaven on both counts. This issue starts out seeming to be a little too close to what the first arc was, but manages to expertly subvert expectations. What at first seems to be another "chase the monster across the globe" quest quickly turns into a great way to further tie this series into the original Secret Wars mini by bringing in the Dazzler-Thor from Battleworld, having accidentally found herself onto the mainstream Marvel universe. Seeing as this series features ACTUAL Dazzler, it's a tad awkward at first, especially when Dazzler-Thor tries to bring the team in to answer for their crimes against God-Doom, but after taking her to a viking themed restaurant and having her drink with She-Hulk (I'm not joking, it's amazing), she seems to hit it off well with the team. More than anything, it's a FUN issue. Kelly Thompson's humor is infectious, especially with Singularity ("It is both!"), and having She-Hulk become fast friends with this Dazzler-Thor is the best thing. The art reflects this light humor, resulting in some of the most memorable art in a while, in my opinion. It even managed to sneak in some genuine heart with the two Dazzlers towards the end, as well as a revelation about the villain for this arc that sets up Nico to have a very prominant role this arc. I liked the first arc a lot, and I feel like I'm going to LOVE this new one.

Tony's Score: 9/10

And with that, the Weekly Comic Pull comes to a close for this week. What have you been reading? Excited for Free Comic Book Day? What's your favorite book this past week? Be sure to join me next time as we review more comics as the Marvel Universe is split down the middle and the DC Universe comes closer to a spectacular Rebirth!

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