Singles Going Steady 2/18/2014: The New Crew

A comic review article by: CW Cooke, Lance Paul, Kevin Reilly, Ra’Chaun Rogers, John Yohe
singles going steady
Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup. 

Superior Spider-Man #27

(Dan Slott / Giuseppe Camuncoli; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

727 issues in the making, “Goblin Nation” has risen. Long live the Goblin King! With such a possibly amazing/spectacular/superior story arc starting, the Superior Spider-Man #27 takes premise as my featured write-up this week.

Marvel's HALLOWEEN.

Marvel’s HALLOWEEN.

Through Dan Slott’s (Ren & Stimpy) capable writing and the works of numerous artists, currently beautifully illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli (Avengers Academy), Doctor Spider-Pus has had his hands full in recent months. Although his egotistical self has taken precedence over most spider duties, Otto has also went web-for-web with Agent Venom, found defeat through the loss of his Superior 6 teammates, and teamed up with Punisher/Daredevil. All this– while losing control over the city unbeknownst to him by the Goblin.

“Goblin Nation” has been brewing for some time — ever since Octo-Spidey took down several criminal families — but it’s this issue that may very well be the pinnacle third arc of Slott’s well-planned run. If you have been following the Green glimpses that have been popping up over the last year, you know that “Norman” has been building an army of leftovers ever since the Arachnid started tightening his webbed fist on NYC.

Superior Spider-Man

Not without moments of excitement, this issue does more to set-up a likely dramatic battle for island domination than anything else.

The Goblin King makes his initial assault on Superior, amassing quite the list of generals to get his back. After a shocking turn — that attempts to ”make love, not war” — Part 1 offers a double-page climatic ending that even rivals Marvel’s recent big events for chaos and panel work, with the Green Goblin finally able to put the ringer on ole’ Webhead.

As an avid Spider-fan and Slotts’s run, I loved this issue. And thank God! I have been waiting for “Goblin Nation” ever since it was hinted at Comic-Con. Plus, when you throw in the additional subplot of Friendly Neighborhood Peter Parker’s inevitable return (to which you can thank the new Spidey film for), this issue actually makes a a great jumping-on point for new readers and all fans of the web-slinger alike. I look forward to where this story goes and how the it ends.

- Lance Paul


The Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #1

(Rick Remender / Roland Boshi; Marvel Comics) 

3.5 stars
Rick Remender and Roland Boshi unite this spring to give us Marvel's latest rush-to-the-trade-to-catch-moviegoers miniseries, The Winter Soldier: The Bitter March. What they give us in this first issue is a spy story which totally works, I suppose, but it's got a lot of the same problems that superhero series, big or small--particularly, issue ones of high-profile books-- have had for years: not much happens.
Winter Solder
 
Fans of Captain America who aren't digging Remender's high-concept, long-form stories like last year's "Dimension Z" should feel at home here. There's an effort made, an effort that works for the book, to throw back to a time not long ago where 'Captain America' meant 'neato Spy story' Those movie fans who are rabidly anticipating the next Cap flick will also dig that the Winter Soldier's design is closer than ever to the one used in the film.
 
This first part concerns Nick Fury, Sr. (a title difficult as difficult to write as it is to read, I'm sure, even this far away from Battle Scars) and Ran Shen, a pairing we've grown accustomed to, infiltrate Hyydra and get in way too deep. Introduced here is a new Hydra agent, Chancellor Cassandra, who's got a wicked secret power that's worth the surprise. One thing leads to another, and the two agents are made. I'll let you find out what happens next.
Winter Solder
 
Like I alluded to before, though, Bitter March #1 suffers from the same decompressed narrative pacing that people would expect from a book by Brian Bendis or Geoff Johns. Collected together, I'm sure that this will be a fantastic, exciting read. However, I can't let this go: no spoilers, of course, but it's important to mention that the Winter Soldier appears on page fifteen of what will be a one-hundred page graphic novel devoted to him.
 
Granted, I haven't read the solicitations, or any reviews with Rick Remender. And I really love and trust him as a writer. Hell, right now I'm rabidly anticipating the next issue of Deadly Class coming out in a few weeks. But if I were Joe Sixpack on the street walking into a comic book store, would I care? Probably not.
Winter Soldier
 
Overall, this is a pretty fun spy story, and I'm super excited to super excited to see how the miniseries turns out. With my luck regarding fortune-telling in comics, Bitter March #2 will probably deliver on everything immediately. But I just wish we got what the front of this book was advertising up front. 
 
- Kevin Reilly

White Suits # 1

(Frank Barbiere / Toby Cypress; Dark Horse Comics)

4 stars

Amid a number of books released this year, very few have a style that quickly sets the tone of the book. While style is not everything, it can be the difference between a fully immersive experience and something you leave on the subway when you're done with it. White Suits, Dark Horse's newest offering from the team of Frank Barbiere and Toby Cypress, brings us a wonderfully violent, noir thrill ride.

White Suits #1

We find ourselves in a bar, bathed in black, white and gray, with an unnamed main character who is suffering from lead-induced retrograde amnesia, meaning his mind is basically a paint by numbers. As he explains ever so poetically about his patchwork memory, he notices he's being tailed by a lovely young woman attempting to hide in plain sight. From there we are taken to a gang's hideout and shown just how marvelously brutal and horribly effective the book's namesake truly is. The close of the first issue was abrupt and not at all predictable.

The first thing I thought of when I read White Suits was a Richard Starkings Parker. The tone gives the reader the notion that they've been inserted into an illustrated Tarantino film. The cool drips off this book like the sweat off of a martini. The story itself is sparse on many details but this works perfectly; firstly since it creates an air of a hungry mystery (like the curling scent of a delicious, yet far away meal) in that it fills you in on the larger picture but leaves out the juicy details.

White Suits #1

The first of those mysteries is how the white suits became so powerful. What does our main character have to do with them and why was he made to lose his memory? The second thing it does, whether on purpose or by accident, is that it simulates the character's state of mind, and that works perfectly for the stories narrative.

The art reminds me of both Darwyn Cooke's rendition of the aforementioned Parker and Riley Rossmo's exquisite art on Bedlam. The book's lettering is also something to talk about, because this is the first time I've seen Daft Punk used as a sound effect and I hope it won't be the last. The splashes of color with the introduction of new characters and key events is also reminiscent of Matt Wagner's Grendel (a personal favorite). The art does become a bit busy at times, and a few panels are downright confusing, though that doesn't ruin the piece as a whole

White Suits #1

I feel like this book is off to a good start though I must say that it feels suspiciously like a pitch for a film. But I look forward to the mysteries that unfold with this.

- Ra'Chaun Rogers


She-Hulk #1

(Charles Soule / Javier Pulido; Marvel Comics)

5 stars

First off, Kevin Wada’s cover is incredible. It’s a perfect cover to grab you and shake you and tell you to buy the damn thing. This “All-New” She-Hulk #1 is also my favorite book of the week, an incredible piece of work that I can only hope will last.

It should, because while I’ve enjoyed some of Charles Soule’s work to this point, nothing has “touched” me quite like this piece of sweet awesome wrapped in (high quality) paper. It plays with the past, it includes huge swaths of continuity and tells a tale about a put-upon widow who was screwed over by one of Marvel’s biggest guns right now played by RDJ in films.

My (oh so green, voluptuous) Valentine.

My (oh so green, voluptuous) Valentine.

And it’s just so damn fun. I loved Dan Slott’s run on the book years ago and I still loved it when Peter David (a favorite writer of our entire comic-reviewing staff) took it over. I followed that entire run, and I will gladly stand by and follow this one to the end.

So what happens? She-Hulk loses her job and loses her cool a bit in the process, and while drinking at a lawyer bar, takes a case for Jonas Harrow’s widow. Some of his tech was stolen in the past by Tony Stark and she needs help getting her just desserts.

She-Hulk #1

This is what you want in comics, people. It’s fun, it’s fresh, it’s written the way people talk. It has action (She-Hulk unloads on some of Tony Stark’s robot bodyguards in a scene that isn’t seen but shown later on), she drinks, she lawyers, she does everything — even gets some of her own just desserts.

As for yummy, this is one of the best first issues Marvel has published in recent memory. Soule has created a living, breathing, lovely version of She-Hulk that feels right at home in the Marvel universe. She discusses her time as part of the FF, Stark’s legal aide discusses the entire sordid history of Stark Enterprises, and we get a book that just feels like all of the creative team was having fun doing it.

She-Hulk #1

And let’s not forget Javier Pulido. The guy is a titan of comics art. If you like pop art in your comics, if you like fluid movement and boisterous, fun, Kirby-esque art and backgrounds, Pulido is the artist for you. Some of his best work can be found on books like Robin: Year One or Human Target, but here, he’s just swinging for the fences. He should be a big name artist, and I’m so glad he found his way to this book. I’ve been following his incredible art for years, and he is a sensational artist to take the reins here. Seriously, just top notch work all around.

Wow, nothing more to say really except: GO AND BUY THIS BOOK! Go. Now. You’d do better to spend $3 on this than some dumpy chocolates that won’t be appreciated. Hell, I got a digital copy and a physical copy. Tastes better than heart-shaped candy. Promise!

- CW Cooke


The Fuse #1

(Antony Johnston / Justin Greenwood / Shari Chankhamma / Ed Brisson; Image)

3 stars

Image continues to be the company that encourages interesting creator-owned stories, that are usually mash-ups of genres. In The Fuse, the time is either the near dystopian-ish future, or an alternative present. The place is "The Fuse," a huge Russian-built (and maybe owned? unclear) space station which seems to act as Free Town/Fredonia type city (or city-state) to where anyone in trouble with the law, or in trouble with anything, back on Earth can immigrate. And though it feels, and looks, pretty lawless, The Fuse does have a police force.

The Fuse #1

The so-far-unnamed protagonist is a young, black, German, homicide detective who has volunteered (maybe) to work on the Fuse. His new veteran partner is Klem (short for Klementina), a white woman "old enough to retire" and tough and cynical as heck (though she would use the F word). The banter between the two, as they humorously crack jokes about their mutual assumptions about each other, is the best part of the story.

The artwork and coloring are not exciting. I like how Klem is drawn, and I wonder if her character being so interesting made artist Justin Greenwood want to put more time into drawing her. But the other characters sometimes come off as looking more like caricatures.

The Fuse #1

One extremely bothersome thing is the lettering. I never thought I’d say anything about lettering ever, but there’s some weirdness with words in the middle of sentences being capitalized. Examples from page 4: "And what does a handsome young man like you do For money?" and "Please Fasten your seat belts..." And it goes on, with no seeming consistency. Since our Man With No Name is German, I at first wondered if writer Johnston was, and that this was some kind of translation problem. But no, Johnston is British. I’m surprised the Image editing team let this slip by. Makes me appreciate letterers a little more: their ‘art’ is to not be noticed.

The Fuse #1

There are other odd details that also take me out of the story. For example, when our new detective arrives at the space station, he goes into a telephone booth to call and tell his supervisor that he’s arrived. And the detective office looks like it’s from the 1970s: no computers, paperwork, and a touch tone phone on the (wood desk). Which is why I said that maybe this is supposed to be an alternative present? But if they have the technology to build a space station, I’d think they’d have computers and cellphones. Or radios.

The Fuse #1

I’m not a fan of detective/cop stories by themselves, but I like them when mashed up with other genres, like a lot of the work of another Image writer/creator, Ed Brubaker. The buddy movie formula works here, and I really really like Klem. I also like seeing a plethora of people of color in a comic story. The world of The Fuse world is visually interesting, and the murders are intriguing: the cliffhanger at the end of issue #1 works well, leaving me curious to see what happens next, and impatient, once again, that I have to wait a month. I guess that’s a good sign, but I’ll say again that a lot of Image’s stories lend themselves to collected volumes. I guess that’s true of any good ongoing story though.

- John Yohe


Skyman # 2

(Joshua Hale Fialkov / Manuel Garcia / Marta Martinez Garcia; Dark Horse Comics)

4 stars

Recently Dark Horse Comics has been making a concerted effort to introduce a somewhat cohesive superhero universe using its own Dark Horse Heroes characters and a number of public domain heroes, one of which was Skyman. This classic hero was modernized recently after the Skyman suit's original owner in an act of "patriotism" blew up a building in the Big Apple. In an act of ham-handed PR salvaging, the Skyman program selected severely injured Afghani war veteran Eric Reid to be the suits next wearer and the program's new face, its "Black Face."

Skyman #2

In this issue we open up with Eric suited up and taking on a group of fighter planes as a part of an air show performance. Here we get to see some of the sadness of Eric's life and the toll that past events have taken on him. We also get a tone setting exchange between he and his commanding officer Lt. Sharp. We quickly shift gears and get some answers to two questions; one of which is why is Skyman performing at an airshow, and two, why isn't Skyman out saving lives?

We also get a bit of military/industrial politics and ethics being critiqued here. When a fire breaks out in the city Reid is stationed in, he proves that though he's crippled he doesn't need a suit to prove his heroism or his compassion for his fellow man. During this rescue Eric makes a startling discovery, which leads to a heated moral and ethical debate between himself and his commanding officer, as well as a brief physical confrontation that screams foreshadowing. The ending of the issue isn't surprising, but the speed in which it happened caught this reviewer off guard and in the process provided a bit of relief.

Skyman #2

Skyman continues to address hot-button issues such as affirmative action, what acceptable losses truly are, and to a deeper extent the notion of the eternal other as it relates to the lives of Americans. The comic does a great job of having fun with the idea of "diversity for diversity's sake" that has everyone in an uproar.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it approaches these issues without pointing fingers but instead it makes the reader think. The art in this book is the standard fare you'd find at the Big Two, though that is not to say it's a bad thing. Manuel Garcia's pencils do a great job of creating facial expressions, which seem unique to each character and Marta Martinez Garcia's colors, while not groundbreaking add just the right pallet for the job.

Skyman #2

I enjoyed this book and hope to see more of Eric's interactions with his wife and what he hopes to accomplish as the new Skyman.

- Ra'Chaun Rogers


X-Force #1

(Si Spurrier / Rock-He Kim; Marvel Comics)

2 stars

Hmm. I loved Cable and X-Force by Dennis Hopeless and enjoyed Sam Humphries’ Uncanny X-Force and, of course, Remender’s absolute timeless version before him. Hell, I loved X-Force by Yost and Kyle and quite a large chunk of the 90s-00s versions of the X-Force book. I’ve been a fan, reading X-Force for a very long time.

With all of that said, we’re somehow back to the Yost and Kyle version in a way. With Rock-He Kim, an artist who is a manga version of Clayton Crain, we’re playing with characters from more recent runs like Psylocke and Fantomex and…Marrow.

You read that right. Marrow.

I just don’t understand the appeal of the character, but I’ll review the book anyway.

This isn't a new G.I. Joe comic. I SWEAR!

This isn’t a new G.I. Joe comic. I SWEAR!

I also don’t understand the necessity of this version. The killer crew back again and it just seems like the work done to make the two books separate and awesome has been washed away. Fantomex is still pompous (as is Dr. Nemesis), but everything else is a mixture of the old.

Cable as a grizzled war veteran with daddy and daughter issues, Psylocke as a kinda Japanese British Assassin who kills but doesn’t want to (seriously, 20+ years of this by this point, right?).

I don’t know. I don’t get it. The idea behind the book is to have them do covert missions and pick up weapons and stuff like that. I’ve seen it before. That’s how this all feels. Been there, done that.

That’s what this is telling you. What’s old is new is old is new again. A remake/reboot/remix/sequel of all the others that have come before it, I’m not sure what else is coming next. I’m not sure what to expect from the rest of the series but I hope it’s more than this. Si Spurrier is a talented writer (one of our Top 10 Writers of the 2013), so I hope it’s not a rehash of the millionth fight with Stryfe or the billionth fight with Apocalypse.

One can only hope.

- CW Cooke


Batman #28

(Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV/Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs; DC Comics)

3.5 stars

Batman #28

Really this is just a teaser book. Is it good? Sure it’s good. You come to expect that from this cast of creators (Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV/Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs). Spoilers abound: Harper Row has suited up as Bluebird, there’s a new Oracle-esque figure in the cave (apparently a female based on the body shape), Catwoman has suited down to just plain Selina and the boss of bosses, and Stephanie Brown makes her first New 52 appearance as…well…Spoiler. That’s pretty much it. Is it good? Yeah, it’s still pretty good. Just an appetizer though, and it seems a bit like No Man’s Land, Contagion, Knightfall, and countless other Batman crossovers.

- CW Cooke


Royals: Masters of War #1

(Rob Williams / Simon Coleby; DC Comics)

5 stars

So, this is Vertigo… The following review of this exceptional comic rests sourly on the shoulders of a particular friend.

This Week: Royal Victory.

This Week: Royal Victory.

Having not read anything from DC’s creator-owned imprint for some time, my pal Moody — out of left field, perhaps — asked this Apostle to review this comic. Whether Royals has to do with the entire “war” theme of our 3 books, or just to change things up from being straight Marvel, I’m not sure. I’m just thankful I got the opportunity to read a title that harkens back to the greatness of early Fables and Y: The Last Man.

Royal‘s opening pages could be the opening for any pre-credits successful big budget movie, with louder-than-life action but realistically executed panel work by Simon Coleby (The Authority). This is also a beautiful piece of comic literature gold thanks to Rob Williams (Daken: Dark Wolverine, Star Wars Rebellion). For someone who nearly blew up within the ranks of Marvel, it’s odd it took this long to hear from him.

And, boy, do we hear him loudly now…

Set during the beginning years of WWII, Royals finds Prince Henry of England going against his father’s wishes to enter the war on the side of humanity — instead of sitting it out. In this world, being part of royalty means more than just having gold-plated toilet seats and crowns; royalty here, means having superhero blood. The higher your placement on the thrown (yes; cue Jigga & Yeezy), the more powerful you are.

Although Royals: The Masters of War #1 makes this three 5-star comics in a row (joining the likes of She-Hulk and Punisher), only time will tell whether the next five issues will make this limited series a certifiable classic. And that time should absolutely be worth the wait for a reiteration of the tried and true super-hero story.

- Lance Paul

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