Sep 282011
 
The Pull List logo

My name is Jet Wolf, and I’m addicted to comic books. Since picking up my first issue of X-Men way back in the late 80s, comic books have been a focal point of my life. I can’t imagine a world without superheroes flying around in brightly coloured and impractical costumes, punching out bad guys and sometimes each other. May the Pull List be eternal. Here’s what was on it this week.


 
Short again on the new DC titles this week. Being a huge classic Titans and Starfire fan I considered picking up Red Hood and the Outlaws – flipping through it in-store quickly changed my mind on that one, and it’s not a decision I regret. Also, there is a hell of a lot of X-Men this week, oh DARN.

Batman #1    Generation Hope #11    The Guild: Clara    Legion of Super-Heroes #1    Ultimate Comics X-Men #1    Uncanny X-Men #543    X-Men #18    X-Men Legacy #255    X-Men Schism #4    
Batman #1 | Generation Hope #11 | The Guild: Clara | Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 | Uncanny X-Men #543 | X-Men #18 | X-Men Legacy #255 | X-Men: Schism #4

Batman #1 4 of 5 stars

Batman #1

Batman #1, cover by Greg Capullo


Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colourist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

This comic was such a stark difference from Detective Comics #1 that it’s difficult to believe they’re set in the same universe, let alone about the same character.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been a long-time fan of the idea of Batman, but have never consistently read any series about him; mostly I’ve just never found a good place to jump on. Being a lifelong superhero comics fan that’s not something that would typically dissuade me, but something about Batman in comics, it just never seemed the “right” time to start. For all its faults, The New 52 did finally give me the last nudge I needed to give Batman comics a try.

If Batman #1 is any indication, I’ll be sticking around for a good long while.

This issue hit every note just about perfectly. It plopped you right in the middle of the action, wasting no time in showing you just what Batman was all about. Which, you know, he’s the goddamned Batman, who doesn’t know what he’s all about, right? That’s part of what made this issue work so well – it all felt totally interesting and totally fresh. What drives Batman, what drives Bruce Wayne, his origin, his main supporting cast. All stuff that even a person who’s never read a comic book in their entire life knows backward and forward thanks to decades of Bat-sposure in TV and cartoons and movies. And yet it was completely interesting to watch it all unfold.

Clever, too. Scott Snyder employed some great narrative tricks in this issue to quickly and concisely convey information, from Batman’s “Gotham Is…” thought balloons to cut to the heart of some of his key villains, to his new computer system demoing its facial recognition software by identifying and quickly summarizing the key players in Bruce’s life. It may not seem like much, but it’s that perfect blend of exposition for the new readers and interesting delivery for the old.

Greg Capullo, too, does excellent work here. I was afraid it was going to be Jim Lee’d all over the place like so much of the relaunch titles, but I really didn’t get that feeling here. The lines are clean, the faces are distinctive, and there’s some fantastic character acting all around. Which isn’t to say it’s all perfect – Dick looks like someone sawed him off at the knees and dunked him in the Fountain of Youth. But this almost seems a nitpick in the face of the rest of the issue.

All that, plus it comes with a great cliffhanger ending that leaves me excited for the next issue. One of the best of DC’s relaunch titles, and one that could easily be used to hook anyone with a passing interest in either Batman specifically or comic books in general.

Generation Hope #11 4 of 5 stars

Generation Hope #11

Generation Hope #11, cover by Rodin Esquejo


Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Tim Seeley
Colourists: Val Staples & Sotocolor
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

The nature of comics today means that it’s pretty much impossible to keep the resolution of an event like Schism under wraps; if you’re going to restructure an entire franchise by canceling some books and relaunching others, that’s information that’s going to get out months before your story’s done. That changes the way a story is told. Traditionally the pay-off for a story is in its resolution. “What happens?” is the single biggest motivation for a reader to keep reading. So when it comes to a storyline like this, where “what happens?” was answered before it even started, the creative team have to get you to ask an entirely different set of questions. It isn’t about the “what”, it’s about the “why” and the “how”.

Generation Hope embodies the “why”.

The Lights are on the shore of Utopia, watching the giant Sentinel walk through the Bay, intent on destroying not just them but their home. They muse about what’s going to happen next and what they can possibly do to help. Hope – little soldier that she is – will fight, no question. But the others aren’t so sure. Laurie especially has had enough of all this, and wants to take Idie (still deeply, deeply messed up from the events of last issue) away from all this. Hope’s will is strong though, and perhaps something even more sinister? They’re finally joined by some of the other kids, and after discussing the grim reality of their situation, they decide to stay and fight.

Ironically, with time rapidly running out before the Sentinel makes landfall, this issue almost leisurely makes note of where each of its characters are, mentally and emotionally. Huge decisions are being made here, lines are being drawn, and Kieron Gillen knows it’s important that we understand them. Forget the schism out there, there’s one going on right in this title.

Laurie and Kenji have emerged as two complex and extremely interesting characters in this book, and while I have my doubts about everybody surviving intact, I find myself hoping they all do, just so I can see this fracture fully explored. I’ve mentioned before that Hope hasn’t sat too well with me, and I am totally hooked by the idea that the other characters are as put off by parts of her as I am; I love that Gillen is folding Hope’s unavoidable Sueishness into the plot.

Some of the other X-Kids also appear, approaching the Lights for what is likely the first time. They’re also joined by Pixie, and the way they all connect makes me sad that it took this long, and sadder that it probably won’t keep happening after this. They talk and come to the same conclusion: They’re ready to fight. They’re ready to die. Together, they offer themselves to Cyclops for the cause.

Child soldiers. This is our “why” of Schism.

The Guild: Clara 3 of 5 stars

The Guild: Clara

The Guild: Clara, cover by Howard Chaykin with Jesus Aburto


Writers: Felicia Day & Kim Evey
Artist: Ron Chan
Letterer: Nate Piekos

Each and every issue of The Guild has been a treat. It began with a three-issue mini centered around Cyd/Codex, and was soon followed by one-shots focusing on each main character and their lives before the first episode of the first season.

Before I start though: if you haven’t seen The Guild yet, go fix that immediately. The fifth season is currently airing and all of the four previous are available for free at The Guild website. So go do that. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay! So this particular issue is a look behind the keyboard at The Guild’s bubbly heart and distracted soul, Clara. If you’ve watched the show so far – and you totally just did right? – then you can already guess that any look at Clara’s home life is going to be hilariously terrifying. The premise is that Clara’s husband Wiggly (and the comic goes the extra mile to keep his name hidden so we may never, ever call him anything else) has once again come to the end of his rope with Clara’s gaming. He disconnects her Internet and runs out for the day, insisting that she finally clear their bedroom of the boxes that have been sitting there since they moved in ten months ago. Instead, she winds up leading her kids on a meandering trip down memory lane, revealing (and glossing over) several key details which, when you get right down to it, add absolutely nothing at all to the character.

That’s kind of what I love about The Guild comics. They’re all about things that happened to the characters, fleshing out their history, and yet not a single thing in a single issue makes any kind of difference. It’s an unexpected twist on the very notion of a backstory. We learn nothing outside of a few details that fill in unimportant gaps (such as how Bladezz became a model, or what happened on Clara and Wiggly’s first date). There are no epiphanies, no moments of insight. We learn nothing about why they are the way they are.

The message is clear: Each of the Guildies, severely damaged to varying degrees, are only able to change and grow when they finally, truly, connect with each other. That’s pretty bloody brilliant. I have no idea if it was something Felicia Day consciously set out to do with these comics, but I applaud the brilliance all the same.

So, the Clara comic itself. Clara’s one of my favourites in The Guild; the very dichotomy of her character cracks me up. The real standout of this issue was Ron Chan’s art, which perfectly captured Clara’s cartoonish over-the-top personality. Her joy and enthusiasm bursts from every panel. All the glimpses of her history were fantastic, each emphasizing some established element of her personality, even from birth. And of course there’s the sucker punch at the end, as we realize that despite all this reminiscing, despite Clara’s renewed vows and great sincerity, absolutely no lesson has been learned whatsoever. Poor put-upon long-suffering Wiggly.

I’m not sure if reading the comic when you’re not already a fan of the show would do much for you though. All of the characters are awful in their own way and Clara wears her awfulness on her sleeve, so it may be a bit much to get around without Robin Thorsen’s delivery to add the necessary charm that softens the edges. The good news is that if you’ve gotten this far, you’ve already watched The Guild, right?, so you have no excuses. You should definitely be reading The Guild too.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 2 of 5 stars

Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Legion of Super-Heroes #1, cover by Karl Kerschl


Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Francis Portela
Colourist: Javier Mena
Letterer: Pat Brosseau

Oh Legion. Why you gotta make it so hard for people to love you?

Seriously, for realsies. You know this is a #1, right? Like, the first issue in this whole big relaunch incentive to bring in new readers? And that it’s only by some crazy miracle that you didn’t get rebooted yet again? Because I saw the #1 on you and then I read you, and I’m pretty sure that you didn’t get the memo that the rest of the DC universe got.

I adore you, Legion, you know I do. I’ve loved you above all other DC books for decades. I know that part of why I love you is because of how deliciously messed up you are. You’re confusing and take active dedication to follow, and it’s sort of like a badge of geeky comic honour to be able to say “I GET YOU.” But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Trust me, you’re plenty confusing just by existing right now, you don’t have to try to make it worse.

Take this issue. You did your normal thing by IDing each member as they spoke, and don’t get me wrong, that’s huge. Even with shipping off some of your cast to Legion Lost, you’ve still got members out the wazoo and it’s important to let everyone know who they are. Great job with that. Never stop. But fifteen? And three storylines, two of which are cleaning up after the end of the previous series? While other major stuff happened to create Legion Lost but you don’t bother to tell us what? Then you talk about Dominators and Daxamites without even a hint of exposition so new readers know why those things are worrying?

I like your huge cast. I like you busy. And no, I don’t want yet another tired old retelling of foiled assassination plots. But all of the stuff in this issue just isn’t so cool without some kind of foundation, and you totally skipped on all that. Heck, by page two you’d introduced five characters and already had them disguising themselves to look like someone else! I’ve known Cham, Jo and Tinya since before there was a first reboot, and even I had to go back and reread several pages because I wasn’t sure who was doing what.

PAGE TWO, Legion!

You weren’t too bad, looking at you from my perspective. I am a huge fan of your reduced cast, and I think a more narrowed focus will be good for you. But remember, it’s not all about me. I’m in, you know that. It’s not me you have to convince. You have a lot to offer the world, Legion; make them want to see it.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 3 of 5 stars

Ultimate Comics X-Men #1

Ultimate Comics X-Men #1, cover by Kaare Andrews


Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciller: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Joe Sabino

This issue was wordy as hell and nothing actually happened and I loved it.

Setting things up was what this issue was all about. The mutant landscape has changed dramatically since we last saw the X-Men (or what remained of them). They’re being overtly hunted and killed now, rounded up into camps, and clandestinely tortured. They’re scattered, hiding and on the run. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve just learned that the one thing that comforted and united them – the idea that they were somehow special – turns out to be a lie. Mutants are no more than a manmade genetic mistake that somehow got loose.

I really like this idea.

For a comic universe that loves loves loves to play around with alternate dimensions and parallel universes, I’ve never seen one that says, “You know what? Genetics didn’t pick you. You aren’t the next phase of evolution. You’re just a virus we haven’t cured yet.” This is such a bleak and dismal world for mutants already, that taking away the one thing they could find some solace in is just brutal. Kudos to Nick Spencer for actually managing to make things worse for mutantkind.

As mentioned, there’s a lot of setting up in this issue, but so long as it’s interesting – and I found all of this very interesting – I have nothing against taking it slow. I read an interview with Spencer not too long ago where he talked about how he likes to aim far and plot long. I know that may not be everyone’s thing in this day of story immediacy and rapid staff changes, but I absolutely adore it. Claremont sowing the seeds for a story that may not pay off for another year or three is one of the things I miss most about him being on an X-title; to hear Spencer embrace that makes me deliriously happy.

When Ultimate X-Men first began, the book was one of my favourites. Not long after however it crumbled under the weight of its own grimdark before suffering near-irredeemable levels of bad where it had to be put down like a rabid badger. We haven’t seen an X-Men book in the Ultimate universe for the past few years, and I think the time off has been a good thing. The bitter taste is gone from my mouth. I’m all minty fresh and ready to see what comes next.

Uncanny X-Men #543 1 of 5 stars

Uncanny X-Men #543

Uncanny X-Men #543, cover by Greg Land


Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciller: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colourist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

I feel like I was just in a secret taste test. “We’ve replaced Jet Wolf’s regular X-Men with these brainless copies, let’s see if she notices.”

I noticed, okay? I noticed.

I find it near impossible to believe that the same Kieron Gillen that I’ve been praising for Generation Hope rolled out this tripe.

We have Emma being mind-controlled and trying to suffocate a child only to be shaken out of it by the kiss of a man (and that man would be Namor who basically appeared from nowhere and faded back to nowhere) and then admitting that like everything about herself is a “carefully constructed facade”. We have Scott using a telepath to basically mindrape the mayor of San Francisco, threatening that they could kill her with a thought at any time but that she totally shouldn’t be afraid of them and of course he wasn’t going to give them up, and not at all proving exactly why everyone is afraid of mutants in the first place. But it’s even better where the mayor, once released from the paralyzing grip of the totally unscrupulous telepath across the street, shows no sign whatsoever that anything has happened. She’s not visibly shaken, her speech has no indication of stress. She’s more concerned about fixing her hair; it’s like she was assaulted by a breeze coming through an open window and not struck immobile and helpless while the leader of all the mutants describes like 20 ways he can kill her without a trace.

And I’m not even getting into how Colossus is now also the Juggernaut (The Colossunaut? The Juggersus?) and overwhelmed with KILLMAIMDESTROY. Not only does this kind of spit in the face of the decades of characterization from, you know, the actual Juggernaut, but isn’t it sort of crappy how Peter has this power for all of two seconds and can barely control himself while Cain freakin’ Marko managed just fine? Sure the guy was running around and smashing stuff, but pretty much only because he seriously liked running around and smashing stuff. There was never any indication that he was compelled to do it, that he was out of control. He just really seriously liked running around and smashing stuff. Plus there’s this whole thing now where apparently the Juggerhelmet is like Spider-Man’s symbiote and Peter can summon and dismiss it at will from out of nothingness? Because I’m pretty sure I can go find you a dozen issues right now where removing Juggie’s helmet was key to defeating him. If the dude could just THINK it back on, the X-Men would’ve been smashed into a sticky paste forty years ago.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. So you remember how last issue I was all ticked that Cyclops assigned Peter and Kitty to keep Illyana in line as she went to talk to Cyttorak? Like if you really want the “stick to the plan or they’ll beat you up” threat to work you maybe shouldn’t send the two people who love her most in the entire world to enforce it? So get this. Scott’s all pissed that Peter’s the Coggersaut, but straight admits that he figured Illyana would become Cyttorak’s new agent but – seriously guys, get this – but he then says to Peter, “We knew you wouldn’t understand.”

BN@*#$GNMBKWAOMM YOU SENT HIM. WHY DID YOU SEND HIM IF YOU KNEW HE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND.

Gillen goes to such lengths – such amazingly extensive lengths – to show us what a brilliant tactician Cyclops is. Dude has over like fifty plans to stop Juggernaut, but he couldn’t figure out this one tiny little kink that Peter – the guy who lives and breathes to protect his little sister – wouldn’t maybe want to sacrifice himself to protect his little sister. It’s such a fundamental lack of understanding anything about this man who has been his friend and teammate for years that it immediately invalidates any glimmer of brilliance I was willing to grant Cyclops. It’s stupid.

Worse, it’s stupid for the sake of plot, and that’s the stupidest stupid of them all.

X-Men #18 1 of 5 stars

X-Men #18

X-Men #18, cover by Mike McKone & Rachelle Rosenberg


Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Mirco Pierfederici
Colourist: Guru eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

I started out being pretty excited about this storyline. It’s amazing how a few months of dragging heels can turn that around.

As with last time, our heroes are split into different teams. Wolverine, Thing and Pixie are checking out one warring tribe; Emma, Scott and Sue have been captured by another; Doom has done a heel turn in a move that surprises no one and will surprise us even less when it’s not real; and Reed and Nemesis are bickering like an old married couple while they try to figure out how to get everyone home. This is a summary of the storyline before this issue, and could accurately describe it after.

X-Men sits in a weird quasi-limbo state outside of regular continuity. It’s just stories with the X-Men and the rest of the Marvel Universe. Superheroes being superheroes. That should be an easy sell, right? Who wouldn’t want that?

Then why is that totally not what we’re doing? Why is this series trying to build up these overlong arcs with tension you can’t feel? It’s impossible to be concerned about whether the heroes will get home again when you know there are another 15 X-titles out next week. Nothing of any lasting impact is going to happen in this title, and that’s by design. Why is no one embracing that? Why are they trying desperately to convince us that we should care about anything happening here?

It’s basic, people. X-Men + Other Marvel Hero[es]. Mutants that aren’t always Cyclops + Emma + Wolverine. Short stories, two issues max. They are heroes and beat bad guys. I would read this every day. Why are we not doing this?

X-Men Legacy #255 3 of 5 stars

X-Men Legacy #255

X-Men Legacy #255, cover by Mico Suayan and Sonia Oback


Writer: Mike Carey
Penciller: Steve Kurth
Inkers: Craig Yeung with Jay Leisten
Colourist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Cory Petit

This issue continues our required Mutants in Space story that comes around every few years or so. The main team remains split at the moment, with Rogue vs. Pirates and Magneto, Gambit and Frenzy vs. everybody else. The action kicks up a notch this month and we delve a little deeper into conflict between the Shi’ar and the whoever-the-others-guys-are. Basically what we learn is that both sides suck and like to kill each other a lot.

Last issue delivered much of the rather plodding exposition, leaving Mike Carey a lot more room to spread out and have fun this issue. He does, too, with Rogue quickly wresting control of the pirate group and Magneto being suitably impressive in both his power and his speeches. I didn’t even (much) mind Havok and Polaris turning up again, though probably as much because I want to see Havok suffer as he realizes he just stood by and watched several dozen military prisoners get slaughtered and was totally fine with that.

Have I mentioned I don’t like Havok?

Rogue and Rachel teamed up, and even if they only had a couple pages together, I already love them. As apathetic-to-loathing I am about Alex and Lorna, I’m a beside myself thrilled for Rachel’s return; she’s been missing for far too long.

A few moments aside though, I’m still not quite feeling it with this storyline as I have with most of Mike Carey’s work on Legacy. Most times he kicks it into high gear almost immediately, yet this one is coughing and stuttering out of the gate; I’m still waiting for the hook.

The whole thing is kinda weird actually. It’s utterly bizarre to me that Gambit is still running around with less than nothing to do, when Carey is usually so quite on the character beats. Yet here he is, still just kinda there. Gambit isn’t and never has been a favourite of mine, but it’s an odd thing to see such a vibrant character languish, particularly under a hand as talented as this.

Decent enough, but by the exceptional standards of Legacy, I expect more. Hopefully we’ll get it soon.

X-Men: Schism #4 3 of 5 stars

X-Men Schism #4

X-Men Schism #4, cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez


Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Colourist: Jason Keith
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

I discussed above how Generation Hope is the “why” of the fissure between the X-Men teams. Schism is the “how”.

Generation Hope #11 occurs during the events of this issue, so if you read that one first and were wondering where the Sentinel was coming from, here’s your answer. The Hellfire Club has left behind a briefcase which houses a core. That core has activated and is now sucking up material from the area to build itself. Despite all attempts, it can’t be stopped and it can’t be controlled. But they are able to glean its target: Utopia.

The X-Men are either scattered or wounded. There’s no one but Cyclops and a handful of mutants, most children. The Sentinel will be there very soon. They can run or they can fight.

Scott chooses to fight.

Logan has a problem with that.

This issue brings about the moment that’s been building for months, for years: the final straw for Cyclops and Wolverine. They have tried to flex and compromise for the betterment of all, but on this they can’t agree. Scott believes that the kids have earned the right to defend their home if that’s their choice. Logan believes that Scott is so blinded by fear of extinction that there’s nothing he won’t sacrifice.

Both are right. That’s what makes it work so well.

I made my comparisons to Civil War last time so I won’t go into it much again, but it deserves repeating that this is exactly what that series should have been. It’s tough to say with 100% certainty who is more right, Cyclops or Wolverine. That has to stand as the ultimate judge of this series’ success.

In the end it’s Wolverine who resorts to threats, but it’s Cyclops who throws the first punch, both verbally and physically. It’s somehow perfect that when everything else is said, when the arguing is done and the sides have been chosen, that it all comes down to old wounds about a dead woman. There’s something so delightfully petty in it. And it’s this that will really be the thing neither can forgive. I think that once the dust had settled, both may have forgiven the actions of the other, understood they were doing what they thought was right. But these words about Jean, they were only to hurt, to verbally shred each man to the bone.

Which of course leads to physically trying to do just that. Once those floodgates are opened, there’s no stopping them. The remaining five pages are pure soundless violence; the time for talking is completely past.

It took some time for Schism to to build up, and while I’ve appreciated the chance to explore in Generation Hope, I’ve felt that Schism was just killing time. I think at the end an issue could’ve easily been chopped out of this series – but not from here. This one has it just about perfect.