Welcome to Wednesday Comics Pull-List, here on Tor.com! Every week we post reviews of a select handful of this week’s comic releases. We might have gone a little nuts this week. It’s like Christmas out there!
This week’s batch includes:
- A Skeleton Story #1
- Air #24
- Authority #12 (of 12)
The Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet #1 (of 4)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley
- Ex Machina #50
- Hulk #24
- Ides of Blood #1
Light #5 (of 5)
- Star Wars: Legacy #50
- True Blood #2
This is a week for endings. Some big, beautiful titles are completing their runs today (for various reasons). But are we sorry to see them all go?
A Skeleton Story #1
Written by Alessandro Rak
Art by Alessandro Rak
Annie says: I was really looking forward to reading this comic, so much so that the manager of Jim Hanley’s Universe met me at the door with it in his hands this morning. I was thrilled. Thrilled to the point where I literally skipped all the way from 33rd St. back to my office. Skipped, people, all before 9 AM on a Wednesday.
I got to my desk, cuddled up with the comic and a cup of coffee and dug in. I wanted this comic to be good, I willed it so hard to be good but sometimes these things just don’t pan out the way you want them to. For a first issue, there are just way too many underdeveloped characters and too much going on in the plot for the reader to really gain any tread. I flipped through this comic three times, I still have no idea why some of the characters are relevant or why the last few pages include a sing-along outside of a prison. It was a bit like The Nightmare Before Christmas meets Wild Wild West and if you’ve ever seen Wild Wild West (or read the summary on IMDB) then you’ll avoid this comic like the plague.
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by M.K. Perker
(DC Comics / Vertigo)
Chris says: Apparently all the good stuff happened in issue #23, because I found the final issue of this recently canceled title lacking. Blythe and Lancaster’s confrontation is fairly straightforward and tries to bring to mind the theme of the series but instead seems only half-finished. This title was canceled a few months ago and the creators were given enough lead time to know that they had to wrap things up. Unfortunately, it feels like they didn’t really have all that much to wrap up in the first place. The resolutions feel skimpy and the art itself looks half-done. This issue should have made me regret the forthcoming absence of the book, but instead I feel grateful that I wasn’t strung along in the first place.
Authority: The Lost Year #12 (of 12)
Written by Keith Giffen & Grant Morrison
Art by Jerry Ordway, Kevin Nowlan & more
(DC Comics / Wildstorm)
Chris says: This issue serves as an epilogue to the events of this reality-hopping mini-series. The Authority are finally back in their home dimension, having encountered numerous alternate timelines where they abuse their powers to the point of lunacy or die before they get a chance to change the world for the better.
And although they’re home now, the trip haunts them immensely. It seems that this version of The Authority are the outlier, the relatively good guys in a multiverse full of evil versions of themselves. The team has a hard time dealing with the “why” of this. Are they truly unique, or are they also destined to abuse their power, their authority? Trying to find the answer to this yields nothing of comfort, so they go about their normal routine. Until one of them gets tired of being reactive and gets proactive with a corrupt African government, killing its generalissimo figurehead.
Was that the right thing? We don’t know and we’re not given the chance to know. It’s a maddening but brave point to come to in a superhero book. Heroism is of its own context. You decide who you’re going to be. It’s also a nicely mature ending to a mini-series that could have been content simply being a time-hopping romp.
The Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet #1 (of 4)
Written by Brian Clevinger
Art by Brian Churilla
Chris says: This one I picked up out of sheer curiosity, as the original Infinity Gauntlet series was one of the first comics I ever read.
This issue appears to be a lighter re-telling of that, aimed at readers 10 years old and under. For an older reader, this is an obnoxious book, and I would suggest just re-reading the original. I would even make the same suggestion for the audience this book is intended for (If I could tackle it in my single digits, so can anyone else.), as it is so superior to this title as to render it completely moot.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley
Written by Jane Espenson
Art by Karl Moline
Chris says: I feel like every time Riley should be treated the same way Ann from Arrested Development was treated: “Him?” Riley was a nice foil for showing how Buffy’s life unapologetically destroys quieter, normal lives, but it feels like he has no use beyond that.
And, unfortunately, it still feels that way. The Riley one-shot is written by Jane Espenson, so you know there’s a reliable standard of quality that you’re getting. The story is good. The dialogue is good. Karl Moline’s art is good. But the character still isn’t interesting.<p>
I’ve been loving the Buffy Season 8 comics, but this is the most skippable of the bunch.
Ex Machina #50
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Tony Harris
(DC Comics / Wildstorm)
Chris says: I’ve been waiting for this comic for a long while. Brian K. Vaughan seems to have vanished from the medium of comics (or the medium of anything, seriously, where did he go?), and this issue marks the end of his last existing title on the shelves.
Ex Machina has left a lot of lingering questions behind, but don’t expect to find answers for any of them in this issue save for one: Why Hundred starts the series drinking alone in the dark. The final issue of this series mirrors Vaughan’s approach for the finale of Y: The Last Man. We get sped up highlights of the ensuing years that let us know where everyone and the world end up. Although, in this case, where everyone ends up is the story. There are still a couple of surprises left in store for regular readers, as well as one jaw-droppingly bleak moment. Vaughan can still tell a story with the best of them, and when you’re finished with this issue, you’ll be wondering if the entire series was just prologue to the real story.
This isn’t as momentous an issue as I’d hoped, having followed the series for years, and I’m very sad that the series couldn’t shake off the nihilism that marked the latter issues in the run, but what I’ve read will stay in my head, flipping around and over, for the rest of the day. Maybe even the rest of the week. It’s certainly going to make re-reading the series interesting.
Ex Machina #50 didn’t end up giving me the story I want, but it gave me something just as good.
Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1
Written by Mike Mignola & John Bryne
Art by Mike Mignola
Annie says: You know why Hellboy remains a readable comic? Because Mike Mignola knows exactly what he’s doing. After re-reading this first issue, I was pleasantly reminded of the fact that this story, from the very beginning, was perfectly constructed. It’s full of ONLY necessary characters, ones that are pertinent to understanding of the rest of the series. It’s not overly complicated or trying too hard. It successfully takes relevant bits of history and manipulates them in a way that doesn’t sound totally unfeasible. Mignola is a capable of getting you to believe in ghosts, mutant frogs and Hellboy.
On top of everything else, the fact that Dark Horse reissued the beginning of this series and is basically GIVING IT AWAY for only a buck? Stop wasting your time, forget picking up that bagel on the corner of 26th and Madison and buy this reprint. You will not regret it.
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Ed McGuinness
Chris says: Jeph Loeb seems intent on bringing a sense of fun back to Marvel books, and while he’s had a pretty bad run of late, Hulk #24 is a solid, entertaining read. Here, you have both the Red Hulk and our usual Hulk going toe to toe with both brains and brawn, with brains winning in a precise and unlabored storytelling moment. I haven’t read a Hulk in roughly forever, but I had no trouble picking up the action here.
A fun tale, and well told. (And damn can Ed McGuinness draw superheroes bleeding with power…) My 12 year old self can’t wait for the next issue.
Ides of Blood #1
Written by Stuart C. Paul
Art by Christian Duce
(DC Comics / Wildstorm)
Annie says: The appeal to this comic was that there was going to be some fusion between Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and vampires, which at first didn’t seem like such a bad idea. I really like Shakespeare and seeing it played out in a comic was kind of exciting. But then I started reading and it became apparent pretty quickly that not only was this not what I had expected but it was far worse than I could imagine. I got to the middle of the comic, flipped through the rest of it and decided to pull a Brutus on this. It went from making a sliver of sense to absolutely none very quickly. Too many characters, too much information being thrown at you at once and not enough sense being made.
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Brett Weldele
Chris says: Here’s the pitch. A mini-series, done in watercolor, about an abusive father and his daughter caught in a struggle with the people come to revenge his wrongdoings. The art is murky and nearly line-less, drawing your eye to those moments when light appears in the story.
Doesn’t sound fun? It’s not an issue (or a mini-series) for everyone, but the attempt is very respectable. Light as a metaphysical and emotional carrier in your story is difficult to pull off without becoming boring or overly pretentious. I think Light succeeds in avoiding those pitfalls, but I couldn’t say I was especially moved by it. The book is not to my tastes, but the art is really interesting, and it’s an important effort for someone who’s looking for this kind of storytelling.
Star Wars Legacy #50
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema
Chris says: For those unaware, Star Wars: Legacy takes place 137 years after the events of the movies. It follows the story of Cade Skywalker, descendent of you-know-who and Jedi vigilante. In this frame of time, the ultimate fates of the heroes we’re familiar with is unknown and the Sith wreak havoc across the galaxy. Cade stands in between. But how is a Jedi who has renounced the Force and its way of life supposed to fight overwhelming darkness?
Although #50 is the final issue of the ongoing series, there is a mini that will appear later. This has allowed the creators to save their climactic denouement for the forthcoming mini, so we really only get the resolution to the immediate story here. (That story being one of princess-rescuing and planet-poisoning.) Despite Cade’s practiced efforts at avoiding what the Force tries to tell him, he ends up having a vision of his own future. One that involves the return of his nemesis, Darth Krayt. (And a pretty gnarly looking suit of bone armor.)
This is a definite pick-up for fans of the series, but if you’re looking to jump on to this title, save your money for the next title.
True Blood #2
Written by Mariah Huehner & David Tischman
Art by David Messina
Annie says: Issue #2 literally picks up where the first issue of True Blood left off. We’re still in Merlotte’s, Ted the demon is still there but instead of killing off main characters he’s now insisting they air their deepest, dirtiest secrets aloud. Sookie goes first, her secret is about as whitebread as it could possibly get. Then Eric Northman starts to talk about his time in the 1500s, and we’re just getting to the meat of his secret when we’re hit with a “To Be Continued…” It’s a little bit frustrating.
I would really like to see this series take a different turn. I understand stretching out a story to accommodate more issues but with Sookie’s secret being so, for a lack of a better word, lame they really should have shortened it and let Eric’s secret out in this issue. The faster this Ted guy goes away the better these comics will be.
Usagi Yojimbo #1
Written by Stan Sakai
Art by Stan Sakai
Annie says: According to Stan Sakai, Japan in the 16th century was ruled by bears, panthers, pigs and rabbits. There was great unrest and lots of civil war until a very important rabbit, Usagi Yojimbo, came around, kicked butt and was proclaimed shogun.
There isn’t much to this story. I’m not sure what Dark Horse is trying to do in re-releasing it during their 1 for $1 campaign because I certainly didn’t feel like something was missing in the comic book realm by not knowing this series existed. I’m also a bit biased because I have a real issue when animals are the main characters of a story and use other animals in ways that humans would. Case in point, why does Usagi get to ride a horse? Bears, panthers and rabbits are capable of walking upright and being shoguns but horses continue to serve as a means of transportation? It just doesn’t sit well with me.
I also couldn’t help pretending that the dialogue in this book was dubbed. Like a Godzilla movie where the actor’s mouths move a million miles a minute but they only say “hi.” I know it sounds unreasonable considering some of my favorite characters from comics are vigilantes and also capable of things like flying, morphing into other objects, becoming invisible, etc. but something about a rabbit being shogun just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s just more difficult to get caught up in the story when the main character is something I’d rather eat than read about.
Chris Greenland only just realized that most of this week’s comics made him want to go back and re-read older comics.
Annie Gala works for Macmillan, reads a lot, writes a little and loves Batman.