Welcome to Wednesday Comics Pull-List, here on Tor.com! Every week we post short reviews of a select handful of this week’s comic releases.
This week’s batch includes:
- Amazing Spider-Man #639
- Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1
- Batman Confidential #46
- Kane & Lynch #1
- Hellboy: The Storm #2
- L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress #1
- Magnus: Robot Fighter #1
- Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher #1
- The Rage of Thor #1
- Starstruck #12
- Torchwood #1
- Whispers In The Walls #1
Batman fights zombies in a tale taken straight from Annie’s dreams, the Punisher makes sure the Marvel Universe gets theirs, and Captain Jack Harkness himself brings us the Torchwood comic series! (This week’s comics also feature Baltimore as a dramatic setting at least twice. Weird.)
Dive in to our coverage and feel free to post your own reviews and/or suggest books we should read next week. [Edited to add: We read three more mind-blowing titles and had them added to the post late in the day. Check them out!]
Amazing Spider-Man #639
Written by Joe Quesada
Art by Paulo Rivera and Joe Quesada
Chris says: Holy shit. Hey Quesada, why oh why did you not do this storyline right after Brand New Day? It would have shut the detractors up BIG TIME.
This was an amazing issue. (Coverage of the first part is here.) MJ's reason for not getting married to Peter is well played and Paolo Rivera's art is absolutely incredible. The panel reveal where Peter finds MJ after their non-wedding broke my cold, robot heart. Rivera continues to masterfully convey the emotion-heavy scenes through subtle changes in MJs face and posture. His attention to detail is to be lauded, as well. There was one small panel where I knew the exact spot that MJ was sitting in New York.
The twist at the end should really get fans of this book talking.
Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Christopher Golden
(Dark Horse Comics)
Annie says: It’s 1916 in VilleFranche and the plague has riddled the town virtually bare. The only people wandering the streets are zombies and Lord Baltimore, who apparently is some hybrid between a pirate and whatever a Lord is, and he’s hunting down a vampire named Haigus. This is another one of those equation comics. Take a concept that works, revamp and replace with new characters. This is just like Pirates of the Caribbean without the benefit of Johnny Depp.
There are parts of this comic I really liked. For example, the all too cliché strong female character, Vanessa Kalderas. Vanessa tells Baltimore that she’s seen the vampire he’s looking for but will only help find him if he takes her with him. You can tell she’s going to be the main source of entertainment in this comic because Baltimore is too dry and set in his ways to really make it worth reading otherwise. Vanessa is essentially set up as Baltimore’s sidekick. I wouldn’t be surprised if she also turned into a love interest.
I don’t want to turn you off from this comic entirely. It’s the first issue, there’s plenty of time for them to turn it around. Hopefully Mignola and Golden can breathe some uniqueness into the series.
Batman Confidential #47
Written by Kevin Vanhook
Art by Tom Mandrake
Annie says: So Superman, a werewolf, a vampire, Doctor Fate and Batman walk into the woods, stop me if you’ve heard this one, to combat Dr. Combs, who has an army of zombies doing his bidding.
After last week’s debacle with Kevin Smith, I was reluctant to pick up another Batman comic so soon. I don’t think you guys understand...Batman and I, we grew up together. It wasn’t until my mom forbade me from wearing my cape and mask out of the house (no, not yesterday, I was 6) that I realized there were other ways to appreciate the Caped Crusader.
For this particular story, I and the reader have to appreciate this story for its sheer opulence. Superman is here, Dr. Fate is floating around giving everyone vague advice about how to take down Combs, Dr. Combs himself is mixing people’s blood together and raising the dead out of their graves... There are so many mystical and fantastic things going on it’s hard to not to be drawn in along with it.
There are some really fantastic fight scenes marked with the quintessential WHA-CHAAAMs you expect from a Batman comic. It’s definitely entertaining and it’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever read. When you get to see Batman thrown into a pit of snakes and begin his transformation, you realize you’re really sold on the idea of Batman fighting zombies as a zombie.
Kane & Lynch #1
Written by Ian Edginton
Art by Christopher Mitten
(DC Comics / Wildstorm)
Annie says: You have to be careful with setting your expectations for a comic like this. Kane and Lynch already have an established gamer following and asking that fanbase to consider a different medium can overly complicate things. DC/Wildstorm was not joking around with making the transition from video game to comic book here, slating Ian Edginton and Chris Mitten to collaborate on the story and artwork. Edginton has previously worked on comic adaptations of Predator and Planet of the Apes, so DC/Wildstorm clearly knew what they were doing.
This issue rules. I sat in front of my computer screen for a solid ten minutes trying to think of a more eloquent way to phrase that, but there just isn’t a better way to say it. It. Rules. As soon as the required facts and appropriate backstories (Kane and his daughter Jenny don’t get along, there’s a price on Kane and Lynch’s head, etc., etc.) are distributed to the reader, you know what happens? Everybody starts getting gunned down. There is literally gunfire and bloodshed for eleven straight pages. I am not really sure why there is any dialogue aside from the obligatory stuff because, to be honest, I could just stare at the artwork all day long. Chris Mitten definitely brought his “A” game to this issue.
This comic has some potential. In my opinion, as long as they keep the action up, they should be able to keep the gamer fans happy while still catering to those of us who would rather read in depth about these two characters.
Hellboy: The Storm #2
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Duncan Fegredo
(Dark Horse Comics)
Annie says: Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo have reunited for what looks to be the final sweep of the Hellboy saga. As a farewell, this issue, from beginning to end, was perfect. The backstory was short and sweet, not overly complicated and not tough to understand if you haven’t picked up the prior issue. I love comics that don’t immediately discourage readers who might not be reading all of the books in a series.
There are a bunch of different themes circulating within this comic. Revenge is the first one that’s shoved down the reader’s throats. The dead are rising from their tombs, joining together because an act of revenge woke them. Revenge is also what motivates them. In some ways, this comic is framed by larger mythical issues. It could be because right and wrong are so clearly demonstrated throughout the text and the voice of the narrator. I almost expected to see a moral at the end of the story.
Hellboy is probably one of my favorite characters. There are so many different directions that these stories go in that you’re guaranteed to not be let down. In this issue alone, he fights the most manly looking hedgehog you’ve ever seen. Well worth the read.
L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress #1
Written by L.A. Banks with Jess Ruffner
Art by Brett Booth
Chris says: As Paranormal Romance month winds down here on Tor.com, it seemed all too appropriate to jump on the bandwagon and pick up the first issue of L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress comic mini-series. (Banks herself has a blog post on the site here.) SPOILER WARNING: If you’re still reading the book series, this review will contain spoilers.
The comic story, titled “The Hidden Darkness, Book One: Ashes to Ashes” serves an epilogue to Banks’ massive 12-volume book series involving these characters and the opening page delivers a good amount of preamble for new readers unfamiliar with the series itself. My favorite paragraph from that summary:
The Vampire Council was wiped out, the Anti-Christ was wounded—the Neterus and her Guardians are beat down and bloody, and half the team is pregnant...
Quite a party, that averted apocalypse!
In this issue, a mass murder in Baltimore catches the interest of Damali, Carlos, and their crew. A group of people has wandered into a vacant area and appear to have murdered themselves. They suspect the cause might be supernatural, instead of people just being plain crazy, and a small team is sent out to investigate that includes Yonnie, Val, Carlos, and Damali. What they find sends them back out on the demon hunt, although not without trepidation.
I read this wishing that Dynamite had taken another pass at this. Brett Booth’s art looks entirely wrong for this sort of story. It’s bright and misproportioned, in the style of Image Comics from the 90s, and the action from panel to panel is hard to follow. It looks amateurish and makes the story feel far too light. The panel composition itself is a little puzzling, including a double-page spread for a part of a scene that doesn’t dramatically or rhythmically warrant it.
Some of the panel composition might be due to Banks’ seeming inexperience with writing in a comic book format. The issue is very wordy, which is a common pitfall for novelists who tackle comics and/or adaptations. Since this issue is mostly set-up for the upcoming storyline, you feel this wordiness more than you normally would.
There are some interesting elements to the story itself, Carlos and Damali’s argument over pregnant team members in particular, but they don’t get the space they deserve. I’m not convinced the artist could pull off a talking heads scene, though, which may have influenced the writing somewhat.
Wait for the trade collection on this one. And only if you’re already a fan.
Magnus: Robot Fighter #1
Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Bill Reinhold
(Dark Horse Comics)
Chris says: Dark Horse’s rollout of the old Gold Key characters continues with the debut of the new Magnus: Robot Fighter series! (Our review of Doctor Solar is here and a loving summary of the old Magnus titles is here.)
This reboot is a great deal more fun than Doctor Solar. Magnus is captured here in broad, splashy strokes. He fights robots in a socialite’s bedroom, plays with his cat Tomato, wears his mini-skirt proudly, and even helps feed the homeless! (He is, as the story tells us, the perfect human being.)
The action is fun and the art is expressive and clean to match, harkening back to superhero comics of the late 70s and 80s. I did wish the action could be a little more insane than it was. So far the robots are the human-sized kind that you or I would imagine. Why not have Magnus fight a huge robot? Or an entire automated building? Or have him outsmart nanobots?
The issue does make it very clear how outmatched Magnus is, however, and how desperately the year 4000 needs counter-measures like him. I also really like the hints of class warfare lying beneath the surface of the future. If the book can tackle that kind of struggle while maintaining a lighthearted nature, then this will be a keeper.
Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher #1
Written by Jonathan Maberry
Art by Goran Parlov
Annie says: Welcome to post-apocalyptic New York City. The streets are empty, no tourists taking pictures in Rockefeller Center, no one ice skating in Bryant Park, no hot dog vendors anywhere. All of the things that help to identify New York City as the city that never sleeps have been murdered, mangled and in most cases, eaten.
After a freak scientific accident, all of your favorite super heroes have been turned into cannibal killers. All of them. Spider Man actually throws Rhino through Madison Square Garden in the middle of a Rangers games, screaming, “MINE! MINE! THIS MEAT IS MINE!” and rips Rhino’s throat out. The next day, the Blob goes into a Chinese restaurant and eats everyone. There is a panel where you see the Thing surrounded by skulls and wearing a necklace made out of human hands. Actually, all of your favorite Marvel superheroes get their own panel, explaining what horrible fate they’ve found themselves in. Due to a twist of fate, The Punisher is the only superhero left who hasn’t caught this virus, and it’s his job to hunt down each of the infected.
This issue is absolutely ridiculous. I, personally, love stories where the good guys turn bad, even if it’s temporarily. It gives the characters a more dynamic appeal, showing that deep down under all that spandex, they’re normal people too who fail at times and need to make amends. I think the Punisher is the best narrator for a series like this, because he’s straightforward and appropriately dark-humored. He doesn’t waste a lot of time with extensive explanations, which really allows the reader to absorb the story visually. It’s absolutely perfect. Highly recommended, so highly, I’m willing to commit to reading the next three issues in this series.
The Rage of Thor #1
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mico Suayan
Annie says: Anyone remember Beowulf from high school English? No? I might have been the only person who read it in its entirety. Probably the only person who saw the movie, too, right? Anyway, if you can remember how bored you might have been while reading Beowulf, just apply that to this comic because it’s EXACTLY THE SAME STORY.
I love Thor! I love Odin! I love most things mythology! But this was absolutely unbearable! It follows the exact same story line as Beowulf. Actually, no, Beowulf wasn’t related to the King, so there’s at least that differentiation. The artwork is detail-oriented and gorgeous. It’s just the story. Which would probably be okay if it wasn’t already Beowulf. Ican’t think of how, but there has to be a way for Marvel to pull themselves out of this one...
Written by Elaine Lee
Art by Michael William Kaluta and Lee Moyer
Chris says: I have no idea what the hell is going on in this deep space science fiction series, but it looks really good and everyone seems like they're having a lot of fun! This is definitely not a title you can dive into, but the story is so varied and hyperactive that it's a lot of fun to try. Recommended if you have the money.
Written by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards
Chris says: It’s a big week for comic book spin-offs! Torchwood #1 appears this week, written by Captain Jack Harkness himself!
In Glasgow, something...or someone...is eating the skin off of fishermen. (Ew.) Captain Jack Harkness goes up to investigate and discovers, very quickly, that he’s indirectly responsible for the bizarre murders.
Although really...it wouldn’t be Torchwood if he wasn’t. All the hallmarks of the show are present in this book. Fairy tales that turn out to be aliens, Captain Jack trying to solve a problem that his half-assery caused in the first place, science so shoddy it’s not even science, gruesome scenes... These aren’t the best hallmarks for a show to carry, but they’re undeniably Torchwood, and that’s carried over very faithfully in this comic.
(That often tends to be my reaction: I don’t like it, but it’s Torchwood.)
The story isn’t quite a keeper. It’s amusing to see Captain Jack with a harpoon gun, but the plot itself goes too quickly to really make an impact. The art is pretty good, however, and neatly captures the fogginess and repressive atmosphere of Scotland-when-raining. Tommy Lee Edwards gets a brief chance to sketch alien vistas, as well, and makes it immediately obvious where Captain Jack’s next tale should be set.
The comic also features a fantastic original back-up story by Gary Russell and Adrian Salmon that features the return of an old, favorite menace, some great banter between Jack, Ianto, and Gwen, and a surprise or two that made me wish it had been a genuine episode of the show.
Fans of the show should definitely give this a try.
Whispers in the Walls #1 (of 6)
Written by David Munoz
Art by Tirso
Chris says: Originally released in French, Whispers in the Walls is now finding its way to the U.S. courtesy of a new American arm of its publisher, Humanoids. And comics are MUCH better for it.
Have you seen this title? It is the creepiest thing. The story follows Sarah, a little Czech girl who's parents were murdered by a maniac infected with a Nazi-engineered virus (or so we're told). She comes to in a hospital and is told by her congenial doctors that she must take two pills to stave off the virus, as she was infected, as well.
Although she is told that she is the only child there, she soon finds out otherwise. There are hidden chambers in the walls, abandoned places, where forgotten children go to whisper.
Sarah soon spies her doctors carting off a dead child, which is followed shortly after by an apparent attack from an escaped werewolf. (We can't quite see for sure.) A voice appears in her head, guiding her to...well, we don't know. The issue ends there. Oh how I hate that it ended there. This issue had me utterly hooked.
Tirso's artistic style is fluid and cartoonish while remaining crisp and grim. (The cover is a great example of this.) The effect is gorgeous to behold and conveys the same tone one expects from a fable. I probably would have enjoyed reading this issue without any text just as much.
Niel Gaiman, you have some stiff competition.