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. This was a really good week for comics and there were too many we wanted to review. Ultimately we decided to focus on titles featuring the supernatural. (Well, and Deadpool.)
This week’s batch includes:
- 1 Month 2 Live #1
- Batman Confidential #48
- Deadpool Pulp #1
- Freedom Fighters #1
- Five Ways To Die #1
- House of Mystery #29
- iZombie #5
- Kane & Lynch #2
- Strange Science Fantasy #3
- Wolverine #1
1 Month 2 Live #1 (of 5)
Written by Stuart Moore, John Ostrander, Rick Remender, Rob Williams
Art by Mike Del Mundo, Andrea Mutti, Koi Turnbull
Annie says: Meet Dennis Sykes, typical paper pusher who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets medical waste poured down his throat (so, so gross). Out of nowhere, literally, Ben Grimm shows up to save the day and takes Dennis to the Fantastic Four’s headquarters where Reed explains that to him that not only does he have cancer all over his body but that he only has about a month left to live. This unleashes Dennis’s new lease on life.
This comic is too formulaic for my taste. The overarching story has been done so many times over that know what’s going to happen even before it does. One of the only perks is that this issue is basically a turnstile for Marvel heroes, which at least keeps it interesting. The other thing is, we’re watching a superhero in the making and it’s always fun to see where their newfound powers will take them.
Pull?: Sure, why not? It features the Fantastic Four and Spider Man.
Chris says: This used to be titled Heroic Age: One Month To Live and I have no idea why they changed it. (Easier tweeting?) Perhaps this is Marvel’s way of reaching out to the ever-growing market segment of tweens who love stories about businessmen finding out they’re going to die? (Saying that makes me curious as to how Marvel would adapt one of Lurlene McDaniel’s increasingly bizarre “how teen was my cancer victim” books. Just so it exists. If this ever really happens, feel free to blame me.)
All kidding aside, this is a neat concept told very soberly and I’m interested to see where it goes. Dennis Sykes tries to be heroic in his real life, before and after getting his powers, but finds that real world concerns are constantly at odds with that. I love exploring this theme, so I’m not sure melding the main character’s story with the larger Marvel Universe is the best idea. The greatest appeal of this story, for me, was its small scope. I care a lot more about the main character and the world around him than I do about Spider-Man or Reed Richards showing up. The concept is really strong, the characters engaging and relatable (and not always likable, which works very well here), so I hope the five-issue mini keeps this core throughout its weekly run.
Pull?: Yes. It’s one of the few $3 books that Marvel has left, and it’s running weekly throughout September. The story is definitely worth following. (It’s also pretty telling that both Annie and I liked completely opposite aspects of this story, but recommend it anyway.)
Batman Confidential #48
Written by Kevin Vanhook
Art by Tom Mandrake
Annie says: When we last left Batman, he had just been thrown into a pit of snakes and was slowly becoming a zombie. Caught up now? Good.
This issue is captivating. Tom Mandrake’s artwork is so dark and so fluid that it’s easy to get sucked into the story, even if it’s more outlandish than anything you’ve ever read before. It’s like an episode of True Blood on steroids. There are zombies, mummies, mad scientists; almost anything you can imagine. The best part about this comic is that it is such a tremendously heroic story and when you see how it ends you’re reminded why you read these types of comics in the first place. There are actual surprises in this comic. Personally, I had no idea how it was going to end or how all of the ingredients that Vanhook combined were going to play out. It’s refreshing to see good triumph over evil in the way that it does because so often we’re left with cliffhangers or with the bad guys having the upper hand.
Pull?: Definitely, without question.
Deadpool Pulp #1 (of 4)
Written by Mike Benson and Adam Glass
Art by Laurence Campbell
Chris says: Can Marvel just declare this issue as Deadpool’s in-continuity origin? Because it’s perfect.
I’ve always had a problem with the concept of Deadpool. A boundary-less, funny psychopath can be really entertaining to read, but you can only hit that one note for so long. Deadpool Pulp, by placing the character in a pulp setting and having him take it seriously, gives the character a serious context and stylistic boundaries that successfully nullify that problem and elevate the character as a whole.
Laurence Campbell’s art is gritty, dark, and dials you in to the mood immediately, grounding the story while writers Mike Benson and Adam Glass introduce some short, sharp humor. (Think Warren Ellis but without any mentions of rectums or bacterial stacks.) Nothing in the story feels sacrificial or skippable, but at the same time the plot is thin enough to let Deadpool shine in whatever situation he’s in. This book is decidedly less crazed than other Deadpool titles, but that’s what makes it work. Toning Deadpool down magnifies the best things about him.
Pull?: YES. I can’t say enough good things about this book.
Freedom Fighters #1
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Travis Moore and Trevor Scott
Chris says: One should expect some topicality when reading an issue starring the spiritual embodiment of this country (Uncle Sam), but Freedom Fighters #1 starts off a little on the nose. A superpowered White Power quartet are busting up a casino in Arizona and are about to start killing anyone of color when Black Condor (Navajo and SUPER PISSED) and Firebrand show up to take them out.
The motivating factor behind the baddies is Arizona’s recent no-ID-equals-deportation law, and while the law itself is cartoonishly evil, I’m not sure a cartoonishly violent response is… appropriate? Beating up embodiments of racism scratches an itch, but it doesn’t address the actual issues from which the law was made possible. Thus, using it as a topical excuse for violence feels weird, even if artist Travis Moore really sells it with a powerful two-page punching spread. (The stupid side of me is also just disappointed that the racist supervillian group didn’t contain a character called “White Power.” When are you going to get another chance to make that joke?)
This sequence is followed by a two-page intro for The Human Bomb, who finds himself landing on an asteroid that’s about to destroy Earth… only to find that it’s inhabited! This moral quandary dovetails with a further story about a sixth-dimensional bacteria eating a town, then segues into a kidnapping of the vice president and the revelation of a secret Confederate weapon of mass destruction. And there’s more after that!
All of this is exciting, but the concepts make the issue feel really off balance as they jostle against each other. The myriad plots also don’t help us get a sense of who these heroes are as characters, why they’re a team, and why they’re following Uncle Sam. The plots are all intriguing, but there’s a lot of them, so the book feels awkward.
Pull?: Yes, if you’re already a fan of these characters or the book. If you’re not, wait and see.
Five Ways To Die #1 (of 5)
Written by Andy Schmidt
Art by Chee
Annie says: If you read my review for 1 Month 2 Live #1 above, just subtract the Marvel heroes and consider yourself informed. It’s the exact same formula with slight tweaks. The main character is a cop, who finds out he has five days left to live, he doesn’t gain any super powers from the accident that occurs but has to make the choice between good and evil. Cop – family + vendetta = done before.
The artwork is a saving grace for this comic. Grey tones and dark shadows keep the intensity going but, in my opinion, this comic needs a lot more than good art.
Pull?: Don’t bother.
House of Mystery #29
Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Luca Rossi and Phil Noto
(DC Comics / Vertigo)
Chris says: I picked this issue up in the middle of its “Safe as Houses” story arc, which is never a great way to introduce yourself to a book. However, the cover was just too damn spooky to resist.
I’ll most likely be trying again with this book once the current arc is over, but for the moment I can’t recommend this title. Readers of Fables will find a lot that resonates with them in House of Mystery, though the latter is more direct. However, the issue itself was pretty thin on story, going so far as to pad itself in the middle with an amusing (and nicely painted by Esao Andrews) goblin fairy tale. If I was a regular reader of this title I’d be a little peeved at having purchased an issue that is only half-concerned with resolving its current arc.
Pull?: Nope. Great covers, though. We’ll revisit down the line.
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael and Laura Allred
(DC Comics / Vertigo)
Chris says: The fifth issue of the opening story arc of iZombie is its weakest, unfortunately. After the big revelations in issue #4, this is all decompression and comedown. Everyone talks about the secrets that they’ve (sometimes literally) unearthed, but no conclusions are forthcoming, which makes this issue a bit frustrating to deal with. Our hero, young zombie Gwen, does stumble into a potential Romeo & Juliet-esque situation, but this begins and ends over the course of three pages, so its impact is minimal. The book, overall, is a good deal more bubbly than one would expect from a book about zombies and other supernatural beings (think early Buffy), and Michael and Laura Allred’s art sells that relative lightheartedness very well.
Pull?: No, but wait for the first volume trade collection. We might all be talking about this series in a year’s time.
Kane & Lynch #2
Written by Ian Edginton
Art by Christopher Mitten
Annie says: After reading Kane & Lynch #1, the bar had been raised—as far as my expectations were concerned—for issue two of this series. The first issue was so packed with action, I had to hope I wouldn’t be disappointed with number two.
It started off a little slow but still maintains some promise. Kane and Lynch are in Cuba, involved in a high speed car chase from members of the 7. They’ve arranged to have a boat take them from Cuba to Miami but something goes awry and… yawn. This issue was sort of boring, to be honest. Lots of things are happening all at once but no one is explaining them so unless you’ve played the video game, you’re bound to get a little lost. Too many characters are introduced all at once, too many different stories are unsuccessfully blended together and it becomes the type of potluck dinner you wouldn’t bring a box of donuts to.
Pull?: Eh, save yourself the $4 and get something really good.
Strange Science Fantasy #3
Words and Art by Scott Morse
Chris says: Strange Science Fantasy is as close as comics (and current science fiction prose, for that matter) get to telling a current story in actual sci-fi pulp style without irony. Every issue tells a single story, three wide panels per page, each panel with a short sentence describing the action. The effect is very filmic and successfully apes production limitations of actual sci-fi pulp. Here’s your rocket on a string and your extra in a rubber suit, kid, now give me the entirety of outer space!
This issue tells a tale of a world where someone is trying to kill all film projectionists in a bid to take down the film industry. All the players are known only by their job titles, and their heads or hands tend to be whatever instrument they utilize. Essentially, you’re reading a noir story about a guy with a film reel projector for a head. But it works.
Pull?: Absolutely. This should be on your monthly list. $4 for a complete story. You never know what you’re going to get, but it’ll always be interesting.
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Renato Guedes
Annie says: I have a gripe, ya’ll. This issue is such a tease. I know, I know, first issue of a new series but it was so good that I wish they had left out the “Last Stand of the Silver Samurai” feature and built out this story a little more.
This issue is one that will set up what, I think, looks to be a promising series. It’s fairly religiously themed, which may or may not turn some readers off, but the story is so good I really suggest giving it a chance. Wolverine is taken into the depths of Hell while his soul, sent by the Devil, is running amok on Earth slicing people up and causing chaos.
The dialogue is absolutely perfect. Wraith and Wolverine’s discourse about where they come from and who they truly are gives an insight into their constant inner conflict. The delicate balance between who they are and what they have chosen to stand for is exposed like a freshly scraped knee. Even the Devil himself has this inner conflict! He’s bored with the monotony of his wretched acts but knows that he must continue to serve evil. His passion for iniquity is recharged with Wolverine, though, and he especially looks forward to trying some new things. These are the last few panels of the comic and they absolutely left me wanting more.
Pull?: Definitely. And then keep pulling because this series is going to rock.
Chris says: For a story where Wolverine literally goes to Hell there is an awful lot of talking here. I have to keep in mind that Jason Aaron is setting up a new series here and can’t jump right into the action, but still… there should be some action! (And threatening Wolverine’s journalist girlfriend with nameless heavies doesn’t count.) Renato Guedes’s art is detailed and tense, so let him draw Wolverine going to town on various insane-looking demons! Don’t make me wait until next issue!
Pull?: No. Wait until issue #2, when presumably the fracas will begin.
Chris Greenland is the best there is at what he eats.
Annie Gala believes people might be better than Wolverine but no one trumps Batman.