Singles Going Steady 3/13/2013: Trying to Make "Poink" Happen

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks, Daniel Elkin, Danny Djeljosevic, Jamil Scalese


Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.


Not everything gets covered in Singles, so here are the comics that got reviewed separately:

  • The latest Two for #1 Covered G.I. Joe #1, Uncanny X-Men #1 and Dia De Los Muertos #1
  • Steve Morris covered a bunch of X-Men comics for February's X-Wing and had some problems with the Pirate Eye one-shot.
  • Dylan Tano started a column about the month's Spider-Man comics. Here's the first.
  • Jamil, Shawn, Sean, Shaun and Shon took on Age of Ultron #1 in the first of what will probably be a grueling 12-part series on dealing with addiction to event comics.
  • 47 Ronin #3 and Hellboy in Hell #4 were five-star comics, pretty much.


Savage Dragon #185

(Erik Larsen; Image)


I know that Savage Dragon isn't cool or hip anymore and is well past its sell-by date at this point. We've all had our chance to spend time in Erik Larsen's fictional universe, and at this point many of us have turned away to embrace something different -- something newer, something maybe more innovative, something without more than fifteen years of backstory.



But that's a shame, because Dragon has been one of the most consistently interesting comics over its run. Larsen's comic has gone through tumultuous ups and downs over its entire history; this year has seen some typically dramatic events in the Dragon's life. His body has been taken over by an alien conqueror, thousands of people have been killed, and now Savage Dragon is on trial for those deaths.

It's an interesting question to ponder: is a hero guilty of murders committed by him if he wasn't in control of his body at the time? We've all read dozens of comics where the answer to that question is no; murders happen, cities are destroyed, and everybody just ignores the damage and devastation wreaked by super-beings. But Larsen, being Larsen, shows that actions do have consequences. Heroes and villains do have to suffer the impact of the actions they take; that touch of complexity is a big part of what's made Dragon such a compelling comic over the last 15 or so years.



So as this issue goes on, covering months in real time as the trial of the Dragon stretches for months, we see peoples' lives change. During that time there's romance and pregnancy and super-hero battles; shifting alliances and reversals of fortune and a very, very shocking ending.

Yeah, Savage Dragon may not be the hippest comic on the stands, but it's unique and interesting and has soul. Erik Larsen seldom disappoints.

- Jason Sacks


Shadowman #5

(Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher, Lee Garbett, Roberto De La Torre; Valiant)




Once again, I find myself jumping into a Valiant comic having no idea what is going on. I don't know the characters, I don't know the universe, and I don't really know much about the creators. Given all this, besides wondering why the hell CB is even letting me review this book, you may ask how I can say anything of any validity about it.

Because oooooo.... voodoo.

And also, isn't it the mark of a good issue #5 of a comic book if it is engaging to someone stepping into it for the first time?

Shadowman #5 is one of those books.



Shadowman #5 has been billed by Valiant as the first issue of an "all-new arc" and a great jumping-on point for new readers. One thing I like about the Valiant books I've read so far is that the creators give a quick synopsis of "Our Story So Far..." on the inside front cover. This is great for a neophyte who has wandered into this expansive universe without good hiking shoes (or one who has forgotten to pack a sandwich). Apparently a lot has happened in the first four issues of Shadowman and the synopsis is filled with names and places, all of which kinda got me a bit muddled.

But then the comic opens and none of this matters. 

Jordan and Zircher have made this book easy to fall into. Sure there's all these plots and characters. There's plenty of bullets flying and blood splattering. A character says, "Indamndeed." There's even a talking monkey in a top hat. And while I was lost in the minutia of who was who and why they were doing what they were doing, I never felt lost in the experience of reading this book.



And that's quite an accomplishment. Jordan and Zircher are juggling all sorts of plot lines and characters for a non-team book, and, at least in this issue, they seem to be able to do this with skill and finesse. Another thing that's pretty impressive is that this book is illustrated by three different artists, and at no point did the change in style become jarring or distracting. The art in the last scene of book is obviously different than the rest, but it works seamlessly given that it takes place in The Deadside and is all creepy and stuff -- comparatively.

The big news about issue number 5 of Valiant's Shadowman is the return of the character Doctor Mirage. For those of you who don't know much about the Valiant Universe past or present (like me), this is apparently kind of a big deal. Jordan and Zircher have recast this character as a woman, which in some circles earns them some kudos, but the fact that they chose to dress her in a costume that has to show that much cleavage is a subject for a longer debate -- recasting a character just to give it tits strikes me as missing the point entirely -- and choices like that kinda undermine the book as a whole. Still, misogyny aside, the scene with Doctor Mirage is pretty intense and ties her to the rest of the story while opening up even greater possibilities.



There is an evil afoot in this book and each of the disparate storylines seem to be pointed towards a confrontation between Shadowman and Master Darque. Based solely on this issue, that battle seems like  it may end up being pretty awesome.

Having Valiant Comics back into the mix of publishers seems to be a pretty good idea after all.

- Daniel Elkin


All-New X-Men #8 & Uncanny X-Men #2

(Brian Michael Bendis, Dave Marquez, Chris Bachalo, A Whole Lotta Inkers, Marte Gracia; Marvel)




Here's something that just occurred to me -- the appropriateness of Brian Michael Bendis guiding the direction of the X-Men franchise, given Chris Claremont. Claremont was doing franchise-defining work with the X-Men in a period at 18 pages an issue. Bendis has taken over the franchise in a period where the page count has been reduced to 20. Both write a lot of words. A LOT.

All-New X-Men #8 was pretty damn Claremontian -- character interaction drives the book, but there's also a fight scene with a random supervillain (this time, Hydra) to spice up the proceedings and give the Avengers a good reason to come into the book, have a look around and go "So what's all this about?" Which in turn allows Bendis to write a scene where Kitty Pryde and Iceman goof off and imagine what Captain America and Beast are talking about. It's a brilliant move because the conversation is pretty expected ("I'm concerned about what's going on here, and if I find out you mutants are lying…") and shifting the approach to that conversation gives this issue a much needed humanity and sense of humor. I'll always be pretty kind to a comic that can intentionally make me laugh.



Except here's one bit about this comic that really bugs me. This monologue:



I feel like every time a random villain shows up in comics these days they're spouting out Occupy Wall Street platitudes about "multinational corporations" and such and then a guy with a flag on his face punches them to death. I know it's just window dressing and flavor and Hydra Lady could have said just about anything in that panel ("Thor took the last doughnut! What a dick!"), but it seems like the only time we see activism in these comics it's portrayed as villainous, going all the way back to Peter Parker judging student protests in peak-era Amazing Spider-Man. It's interesting that the villains in the Marvel Universe have justifications beyond pure evil or greed (see: Magneto), but I feel like too often it sends the message of supervillains being devious hippies while the superheroes are these holier-than-thou dudes who only punch people that they decide really deserve it. Not too surprising for a comic that keeps telling me Cyclops is a bad guy despite him being the one going out and saving mutants like the X-Men used to do. The only comic I identify with ideologically is that time Marvel Boy used a giant laser to burn the words FUCK YOU into the face of Manhattan. Other than that, maybe that time in Uncanny X-Force #1 where Psylocke said, "The Avengers can go fuck themselves."

I feel good about that rant because it doesn't really involve quibbling over X-Men continuity or anything. I think I just became an adult except that I'm still writing things about superhero comics. I HATE MY LIFE.

But other than moments that exacerbate my descent into madness, All-New X-Men #8 is possibly the best single issue of the series so far -- Bendis' script feels like a complete issue instead of a third of one, Dave Marquez kills it on the action and comedy -- if he and Immonen are indeed trading arcs, they're a great fit for one another in terms of being great draftspeople capable of expressive, clean linework -- and the thing concludes with a surprise ending that offers a lot of vindication to my thoughts that the X-Men are pretty dumb for bringing their younger selves to the present. Judging by the last page, it seems like they're becoming aware of it too.



Uncanny X-Men #2, meanwhile, is a bit more Bendisian in that there's no fight scene and just talking. But there's an opening scene all about Emma Frost and Cyclops' strained relationship that's pretty Claremontian in that it's about people talking about their relationship -- albeit for nearly half of the damn issue, which, again, feels sinful for populist entertainment that costs four dollars a pop. Which is something more built into this franchise than it is in the Avengers comics. A lot of people weren't keen on Bendis' run on the Avengers titles, but maybe his interests as a writer make him a better fit for the X-Men.



Chris Bachalo takes relish where he can, drawing a panel with Magik approaching the pair with way more intensity and drama than it needs. She's decidedly the most fun part of this issue -- even though the script seems to think that the POINK! guy who produces McDonald's Playplace balls is the Designated Fun Character. She's constantly swinging her sword around and pointing it at people like a cosplayer who's getting too much into character and saying threatening things to children.

I'm also a really big fan of this close-up on Emma Frost's eye:



The next issue of Uncanny X-Men promises a fight with the Avengers, which Bachalo is going to draw the shit out of.

- Danny Djeljosevic


Glory #33

(Joe Keatinge, Ross Campbell; Image)




Here it is: the fight that we've been expecting since Keatinge and Campbell revived Glory; the pair deliver a straight-out, intense, action packed, balls-to-the-wall pitched battle that leaves everybody changed, with maimed bodies, devastating mental injuries, and -- most of all -- the memories of events in battle that will haunt everyone involved.



Ross Campbell's artwork has never appeared as gloriously unflinching as it is in this issue. Campbell doesn't pull any punches in depicting the events of this incredibly vicious war. Readers feel an almost overwhelming sense of pain at many of the events that happen in this story, in large part because Campbell is so effective at depicting the devastation wrought by the events in the battle. Characters lose arms, are chewed on by vicious tentacles demon creatures that look to have come straight from Hell, and are victims of horrible attacks by otherworldly creatures. Campbell draws all those events with an energy and eye for detail that makes them come alive on the page, but in a way that feels both true to comics and completely exciting.



The issue ends with a shocking moment that feels both totally wrong and totally right, at the same time. We don't want that dreaded event to actually happen, but we knew it would have to happen. It's great how Keatinge manages to make the inevitable feel poignant and impactful. 

As this comic fades into the sunset next issue, it's already provided a thoroughly enjoyable story. Now that we can see what Joe and Ross have been leading up to, everything falls into place in just the way it needed to be.

- Jason Sacks


Avengers #7

(Jonathan Hickman, Dustin Weaver, Justin Ponsor; Marvel)




Avengers #7 opens with one of Jonathan Hickman's favorite things: alternate universes being casually destroyed, featuring the colors Red and Blue, previously seen in early issues of The Manhattan Projects. Weird that Hickman got Marvel to approve their appearance, but I guess Invincible appearing in Marvel Team-Up set a precedent.



The issue also features the return of the Hickman/Dustin Weaver collabo, previously seen in the currently unfinished S.H.I.E.L.D. series, a surefire sign that this series is going to take a sharp turn into the territory that most people call "incomprehensible" because they read Grant Morrison comics too fast. So there's some talk about cosmic stuff and machines breaking, there's a bunch of loosely connected scenes that don't reveal their significance until the twist at the end and the cliffhanger seems to suggest that this current story arc is going to be "The Avengers vs. A Nerd." Because, nerds, you gotta realize that if they existed the Avengers probably would not like you.



Me, though, I'm tickled that Hickman is using daffy, mildly obscure stuff like Captain Universe and the New Universe characters from the '80s as part of a comic that just became one of the highest grossing movies of all time. If mainstream comics aren't interested in making money or growing their audience and instead choose to service weirdos like me who have read Final Crisis more times than they've read Watchmen, I'm cool with that. Who cares about other people when I can be entertained?

- Danny Djeljosevic


Red She-Hulk #63

(Jeff Parker, Wellington Alves, Carlo Pagulayan, Val Staples; Marvel)




With the main Hulk attempting to temper his greener side a diehard fan of smashing might find themselves wanting a bit more senseless destruction in the Marvel line. For that person I prescribe Red She-Hulk, a comic with plenty o' punchin'.



In some previous Singles Going Steady I mentioned my general disdain for the Hulk formula. Aside from a few brief patches Bruce Banner has been a whiny do-nothing, really bogging down stories in depression and melancholy struggle. Jeff Parker employs a polar opposite approach to Banner's on again off again lover -- Betty Ross loves going red and unleashes joyous hell when she does. 

That's about the best thing about Red She-Hulk #64. I grabbed this comic looking to jump on board "Route 616" since my other Parker fix, Dark Avengers, is on the way out. It's a pretty unspectacular issue, as it tries usher in new readers like myself, mix in the important plotlines of the first arc, and balance itself in both the Hulk books and the Marvel Universe as a whole.



I've really enjoyed Parker's Marvel work, and  it's as much about setting as it's about character. He skillfully utilities continuity, and revolves entire stories about places like Sharzad, King Arthur's Court  and dark mirror universes. Betty shares her book with SHIELD, Machine Man and a few guest stars. It's not a terrible thing, 'cause I love that aspect of his writing, but the main character suffers for it.

Pagulayan, Alves and Staples contribute to the mediocrity. The art overall is a little stagnant, although the action isn't bad at all. The main problem is that too little chances are taken , which hurts a title that needs to take every weird turn it can take to set it itself apart. 

Parker can produce a great single issue, so I have little worry that the series can improve quickly, but the pieces here, from Betty and Machine Man, to Bruce Banner's involvement and the pit stops along Route 616 are patchwork. Let's hope they cohere very soon.  

- Jamil Scalese




A+X #5



Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake #3



Green Lantern #18



Dial H #10



Mara #3


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