25th Jun2013

Panel Discussion #011 with Jack and Mark

by Mark Allen

JandM-Comics

19th June 2013

Jack

Saga Volume 2, trade paperback, Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Image Comics

This is the first of two trade paperbacks I splurged on this week, though technically I’ve saved money by choosing to follow Saga in trades rather than monthly books. Saga is the uh, saga of a couple from opposing races in a galactic war who have eloped and made a baby. Word of Marko and Alana’s marriage has gotten out and mightily pissed off the leaders of both sides, who have sent various assassins to deal with what they see as an abominable union. The book is narrated from the future by the couple’s child, Hazel and kicks off with Marko’s parents teleporting themselves into the lives of the refugee family.

Brian K Vaughan is a brilliantly talented writer; Runaways is probably my favourite comic series and Y: The Last Man is similarly superlative stuff. Saga too, is as engaging, touching and delightfully inventive as both of those series. Its unashamed sense of romance, amid the sex, violence and bizzarro space adventures, is perhaps key to the book’s appeal. The deftly characterised leads feel knowable and real (despite the fact that one has wings and the other horns) and as such you root for them as a family. Similarly, the supporting cast, a number of whom are made up of ruthless guns for hire, are also written sympathetically. Everyone gets a chance to stake their claim for your support which is good storytelling in my book.

Fiona Staples also brings to life the many strange and wacky characters and monsters in the story beautifully. Expect giant nude monstrosities, trees that double as spaceships and star-nosed mole gangsters. The level of invention is very high and each chapter promises something you weren’t quite expecting to see. In short, get Saga in your life if you haven’t already.

Mark’s Take: I wholeheartedly recommend Saga too, having read the series in single issues so far along with picking up the fairly-priced trades. Each format has its merits, though I would encourage collection enthusiasts to pick up the floppies if only to get to experience Brian K. Vaughan’s delightful letters pages, filled as they are with delirious nonsense, fan sketches and the occasional disturbing script excerpt.

Adventure Time presents Marceline and the Scream Queens, trade paperback, Meredith Gran, Titan Comics

Perhaps slightly against my better judgement, I’ve recently allowed myself to become a massive Adventure Time fan. Scratch that, you’re never too old to enjoy cartoons, right? Either way, after consuming the television series through a series of disgustingly indulgent binges over the last couple of weeks, my eye was caught by this Marceline the Vampire Queen spin off trade. For the uninitiated, Adventure Time follows the exploits of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog in the post-apocalyptic land of Ooo, as they encounter weird and wonderful characters along the way. Marceline (along with cutesy robot BMO) is my favourite character on the show and a book about her taking her band on tour across Ooo proved too much for me to resist.

The prim Princess Bubblegum signs up as Marceline’s manager and the band happen across strange beasts, shape-shifting keyboardists and unflattering reviews as their adventure progresses. Finn and Jake barely feature, but that’s not a problem. In fact it’s pretty cool that Titan had enough confidence in the appeal the show’s secondary characters to put the series out in the first place. You also get a number of backup stories by various creators snuck in and a genuinely impressive covers gallery, which more obviously pays homage to a number of the rock references made in the main narrative.

I un-ironically loved this book. Like the TV series, it’s both fun and funny and manages to smuggle in a little streak of pathos amidst the zany surrealism. It’s also nice to see some female-led comic action too, especially in an all-ages book. The only downsides are that you don’t get a CD of Marceline’s music included and there isn’t enough BMO. Other than that, this was easily my most enjoyed comic read this week.

Age of Ultron #10, Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco & Roger Bonet w/Tom Palmer, David Marquez, Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics

Some minor spoilers

I’ve been keeping an eye on the much-hyped Age of Ultron series over the past couple of months and the lure of black shrink wrap and Marvel’s presumably sincere description of the book on its site made me choose to have a look see what all the fuss was about. To quote that description: “THE FINALE! The biggest secret in comics will be revealed to you! An ending so confidential…even the artists of this book don’t know what lies on the final pages…! A surprise so big that comic book legend Joe Quesada himself returns to the pages of Marvel Comics to draw a sequence that people will be talking about for years.” Which is some pretty impressive hyperbole. To be clear, I wasn’t actually expecting it live up to this, but I was curious to see how near it’d get to these pretty high standards.

It gets nowhere near. I was left with a sense of confusion, the questions ‘who is Angela and why should I care?’ and an advert for four other comics, where the fallout from the time-space continuum shattering events will take place. Which is fairly inconclusive for something that bills itself as a ten book miniseries.

The whole thing has been pretty lacklustre in my opinion, never really seeming sure of what it actually wants to do and in no real hurry to do it. The defeat of Ultron happens very quickly and offers no surprise or twist to what we were led to expect would happen from book eight or nine. Which seems silly. Arguably, if you’re a mega-fan, steeped and fully versed in the lore of the various Marvel universes, then I guess this conclusion will mean a lot more to you than I, the casual Marvel fan. I’m vaguely curious to know how long for and how seriously the repercussions of the book will play out in across the Marvel Universe, but that’s about it. Age of Ultron? More like Age of Dull-tron, am I right?!

Batman and Batgirl #21, Peter J Tomasi, Cliff Richards, DC Comics

I enjoyed the previous two Batman and… mash-up books starring Red Robin and Red Hood to varying degrees and being a fan of Batgirl in the New 52 universe, saw no reason not to give this title a try. Batgirl, recently responsible for the death of her own brother, is the latest member of the Bat Family to acknowledge that Bruce is going too far since the death of Damian Wayne and have a big shouting match in the Batcave about it. To be fair, there’s also a drug bust and a hostage situation in the book, but they’re fairly incidental.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Tomasi’s work lately and the Batgirl character, this issue doesn’t really work for me as we learn nothing that we don’t already know: Batman is really cross about Damian dying, Batgirl is concerned by this and also feels guilty and sad about her brother. Batman’s anger and ‘extreme response’ is getting a bit one note and I don’t really buy Batgirl’s emotional turmoil for a couple of reasons. Firstly, her responsibility for her brother’s death is limited as she was acting both in self-defence and to save her mother’s life and his demise was still accidental. If Batgirl’s such a genius she should recognise this or if she was feeling that guilty she should turn herself in. Secondly, this is comics – he’s probably not dead anyway. Heck, we’ve not even seen a body.

As such, this feels like a disappointingly incidental addition to what has otherwise been a reasonably interesting series thus far. The artwork is also fairly sub-standard.

Mark

Wild Blue Yonder #1, Mike Raicht, Zach Howard, Austin Harrison, IDW

Picking this up purely because of the cool premise – pollution and nuclear war force humanity to take to the skies on skiffs and planes in order to survive – I was pleasantly surprised to find it chock-full of gorgeous, rich art, believable characters and a world with depth (–must resist…urge to make…ironic joke–).

We get a glimpse of the book’s protagonist, a female pilot named Cola, as she refuels at a mountaintop bar and picks up a new gunner, Tug, through whose eyes we’re introduced to WBY‘s world by. There’s a dogfight featuring jetpacks and axes to defend Cola’s mothership, the Dawn, beautifully rendered by artist Howard in a totally worthy two-page spread, and despite not a whole lot happening plotwise in the comic’s 27 page it still makes for a full read.

Though the whole team does a bang-up job, special mention should go to colourist Nelson Daniel, who brings such detail and dimension to every speck of blood and dirty propeller that he gives the book that 1970s film grain feel that I’m always a sucker for.

Definitely joining my pull list, this one.

100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Vertigo

I have to confess: I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I bought Brother Lono. I saw Azzarello and Risso on the cover and assumed the “100 Bullets” between their names was just suppposed to be marketing – “FROM THE CREATORS OF A HIGH-SELLING BOOK!” – not, er, a designation that this comic existed in the same universe and centred on the titular Lono, a character from said series, apparently. You’ll have figured out by now that I’ve never read 100 Bullets (it’s on my list, promise).

So if say I found the story a little too dense, you’ll understand why. There are some pretty gruesome – yet inventive – scenes of mutilation at the beginning and Azzarello and Risso work well together to create a dirty, extremely dangerous tone for the book, and this first issue’s content succeeded in making me more scared of ever visiting Mexico than I already was.

Um, good job?

X-Men Legacy #12, Simon Spurrier, Paul Davidson, Marvel Comics

You’ve all seen me go on about how great this book is. Just buy it already. It’s the X-Men comic for people who don’t like the X-Men (a trait shared by its troubled but drippingly sardonic anti-hero David Haller), and throws just enough bones toward including continuity jokes and asides to keep the more loyal fanbase happy.

The conclusion of the ‘Invasive Exotic’ storyline sees Spurrier deftly weave together several of the threads introduced in the book’s year as Haller faces off against the Red Skull, who’s in possession of his father Charles Xavier’s brain (see what I mean about throwing them a bone?) and is using it to create a “popular uprising” against mutantkind. There’s a whole lot of bait-and-switching with David’s advanced precognition giving him the foresight to prepare for everything that goes wrong and use it to his advantage, but it’s steeped enough in great characterisation and results in such genuinely progressive payoffs that you don’t resent being fooled for a second.

Just as an aside: though this was a three-part story, each issue felt like a completely different comic and (more importantly) a self-contained story while still accomplishing to tell an overarching story. A great end to the first year of X-Men Legacy, and a wonderful promise for the next. If you’re not reading this yet, issue #13 looks to be an excellent jumping-on point.

[Oh, and Paul Davidson should be the regular artist on this book. I much prefer his clean, cinematic style to Tan Eng Huat's sketchy shenanigans - while not bad, it's just not exactly my cup of tea when he's not drawing messed-up shit like dudes without skin or floating eyeballs. And he draws all women in a way that makes them look like they're all balding. Seriously, what's that about?]

Fantastic Four #9, Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley, Marvel Comics

Another confession: while reading this comic in bed the other night, I fell asleep halfway through and woke up the next morning to find the comic missing. I searched high and low, honestly, and short of sticking a kitchen knife into my mattress and finding it stuffed inside, I doubt I’m going to find it again.

The half I did read concerned Ben Grimm and Reed Richards travelling back in time to their Animal House days to see if The Thing was responsible for Victor Von Doom becoming just plain ol’ Dr. D. I’ve never been particularly compelled by Doom, I must say – he’s not nearly as sympathetic as Magneto or insane as the Green Goblin – but it was interesting to witness a gathering of multi-dimensional Dooms assembled to witness their ‘Nativity’, i.e. the birth of Doom Prime at the hands of shoddy calculations…and possibly Grimm?

Unfortunately this is the time I chose to pass out, so I can’t tell you if the book has a happy ending or not. The FF probably all die and the Baxter Building becomes a 30-story KFC or something.

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