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.
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Ardian Syaf
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colourist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Barbara Gordon, girl, you so rusty.
I’m not gonna lie, that’s probably the thing most keeping me turning the pages of Batgirl. No not watching Barbara fail, but watching her succeed despite herself. Or, at least, not catastrophically fail.
Babs has – as I think is slowing become clear to her – made a terrible mistake in getting back out there so soon. Her body isn’t ready, and as much as it may pain her to admit it, neither is her mind. If Barbara were as smart as she keeps reminding us she is, she’d just go home. The problem is, she’s got a stubborn streak that is at least equal to her brain, and it’s keeping her out there in a situation that could very realistically kill her before this is done.
I’m finding that interesting as hell. The uncertain hero, that’s not a new concept in superbooks, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a deck so stacked against the protagonist. There’s no one single thing that Batgirl needs to overcome to save the day, like her confidence or inexperience or a broken rib or the death of a loved one; Batgirl has so many problems that hip hop artists could write songs about how many problems she has.
Yet Barbara keeps pushing on, refusing to give up even for a second, and you can’t help but admire that.
Unfortunately the scenes out of the cowl were nowhere as good. The roommate – who while better this issue still reads like an awkward caricature – is clearly being staged as Barbara’s safe haven, but all she does for me is highlight the hole where Black Canary should be. The date with the physical therapist was flat and uninteresting, and that’s despite some teasing about how Babs was healed. Luckily both of these scenes were brief, but for the book to have any long term appeal, these kinks must be ironed out.
The main villain of this arc was able to carry more of his weight with this issue. He goes by the name of Mirror, and as inferred last issue, his thing is “correcting the mistake” of people who should’ve died but didn’t. The twist is that he thinks he’s doing them a favour. He gets a brief but intense backstory (those small moments of personal hell are something Gail Simone is perfect at creating) and while I’m still not completely sold on the cheese of his gimmick, I am more interested in him as a character, and that’s a step in the right direction.
Much like Batgirl herself, Batgirl isn’t perfect. She’s still finding her rhythm and so is this book. But also just like Batgirl, I want to see it overcome. I’m rooting for you, Barbara.
Writer: Andrew Chambliss
Penciller: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colourist: Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Richard Starkins and Jimmy Betancourt
Buffy wishes she were normal, her friends would like to be supportive but are wrapped up in their own lives, and weird things are happening. It’s pretty much any given episode of Buffy then.
This is my least favourite part in the endless cycle of misery that orbits Buffy Summers. We’re deep in the “my friends don’t understand me, I’m all alone” stage, and I can’t help but wonder what we have to be gained by being here. Again. Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar:
Buffy is feeling a little depressed and isolated. Willow is distant due to magick issues. Xander and Dawn have personal stuff going on that is apparently too important to set aside for the night, so they turn Buffy out in the street despite the fact that Bad Things are hunting her. Spike finds her, gives her a pep talk, and promises to make it better. With nothing else left, she throws herself into Slaying, then discovers someone with whom she might share the burden.
I’d be willing to lay real cash money that if you took a poll of everyone reading Buffy Season 9, the top comments would not be “Yeah, you know, I just wish there was more of all the really crappy stuff from Seasons 6 and 7! That would be perfect.”
I get it, you know. You have the falling out stuff so there’s the reconnecting stuff, but aren’t we all a little tired of that by now? Seriously? Because I know that I bloody well am. I can’t shake this crushing deja vu, and it just makes me tired. Buffy And Her Friends Fight Monsters And Save The World. It’s not hard, guys. Please.
Okay. I’ve got that off my chest and I feel better.
Buffy continues to do her thing in her new town, but there are some extra kinks with a world that is now aware of both vampires and Slayers. Before Buffy could always operate outside the law, but there are new wrinkles and possible consequences for her actions. Especially when bodies are turning up that have no apparent method of death and the missing persons reports that match the young corpses are 60-something years old. The cops are even more out of their league than usual, and the first thing they think of when they see unexplained dead stuff is “Slayer”. There’s a lot of questions and budding mysteries that may not leave me hanging off a cliff, but they are nudging me toward the edge.
I just wish all the interpersonal stuff wasn’t leaving me so cold.
And okay I’m just going to come out and say this: it’s making me crazy that nobody is talking about Giles. CRAZY. I know that our Scoobs are pretty much the masters of avoiding dealing with unpleasant stuff, but there’s not even the slightest indication that anything even happened to him and I mean, guys. It’s GILES. I still feel a little gun-shy after Season 8 and I’m just not confident right now that this huge thing will get the moment it’s due.
I want that confidence. You can do this guys, come on.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Barry Kitson
Colourist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
FF – the best book I don’t understand.
Seriously, I enjoy the heck out of this book every month, but there’s always at least one thing I do not get. In this instance, it’s absolutely everything to do with the Inhumans. I don’t know their deal and I’ve never been interested enough to learn. They live on the moon and Black Bolt can’t talk or he’ll destroy everything and Medusa has crazy hair and they have a giant bulldog with a moustache. In truth I feel the last is all anybody needs to know, but apparently Jonathan Hickman disagrees as he’s giving me some subplot about the Kree turning over all power to the Kree Inhuman dude for reasons I missed and I think he’s about to kill everybody in the entire universe but seems really sorry about it so I guess that’s okay. I don’t know what else is going on with this and I really don’t care.
Everything else in this title is phenomenal. I’ve ebbed and flowed from the Fantastic Four over the years, but I’ve always loved these guys. It’s those moments where they connect that shine so brightly in this title, particularly in a comic book landscape that these days feels more fractured than ever.
At the end of the last issue, Reed, Spider-Man and Nathaniel (Reed’s dad) go through a doorway that will take them where they either most want to go or most need to go. I had actually thought it would be a portal through time, but apparently we’re just dealing with space. Each winds up somewhere different, and it is indeed where they’re most needed, though not so much in the conflict as in their lives. It’s a clever device to refocus a storyline that’s had a hell of a lot going on; every moment that plays out does so in the most wonderfully understated and genuine way. That the Fantastic Four are a family first is something that Hickman understands so well.
And Barry Kitson. Can we all just agree to have Barry Kitson draw everything ever? What amazing heart and soul he puts into every panel. His range is incredible – his giant intimidating space fleets are indeed giant and intimidating. Then we leap to a simple scene of Sue pruning rose bushes, and everything becomes delicate and beautiful. Over to Ben, and his pain is a living breathing thing. Characters aren’t just drawn, they’re crafted.
This was a quiet issue, and a welcome breather from the chaos of the last several issues. Things aren’t resolved yet, not by a long shot; this feels like a gathering of forces before the final desperate charge. The Inhuman/Kree stuff continues to be the least interesting aspect of the book, but luckily this issue doesn’t spend more time than necessary dwelling on it. It’s a surprisingly accessible issue, all things considered, and a nice haven to catch our breath before things begin to get really messy.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciller: Steven Sanders
Inkers: Roland Paris and Norman Lee
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
This issue acts as a bridge between Schism and Regenesis, both events featuring the next generation of mutants pretty strongly. There have been casualties, one way or another, and as the X-Men fracture, so too is Hope’s team. If you couldn’t tell from the cover, she’s kind of having trouble with that.
There’s a lot that needs to be sorted for Hope and the Lights, and while this issue does its best to do that, I’m not convinced it succeeded. We jump around everywhere, touching everything, and resolving things that I didn’t even know were things to be resolved before this issue brought them up. This is Kieron Gillen’s last story for Generation Hope, and I get the sense that he’s rushing around his apartment on moving day, trying to make the place presentable for the next tenant who’s due to take the key in about an hour.
The romantic subplot between Hope, Gabriel and Pixie for example. When exactly did Hope do anything toward Gabriel regarding his massive crush? What prompted her feeling of extreme betrayal when he was kissing Pixie? And what of that crush anyway? It seemed symptomatic of Hope’s “influence” over the Lights, but then it seems unlikely he could break out of it so easily. And why even introduce this thing with Pixie at all, in this very issue, if it was going to be so resoundingly dismissed within pages of occurring? It feels like Gillen was planning something for the future but didn’t realize he wasn’t anywhere near as far ahead with it as he thought.
Laurie and Hope, there’s another sequence that doesn’t work for me. It’s lifted straight out of this week’s Regenesis one-shot, but as Gillen explains on the recap page, it’s a pretty important scene that belongs here too. I can see that, but it feels out of place, and not just because it’s a different art style smack in the middle of the book. The scene just doesn’t play out in any way that makes sense to me. Laurie is desperate to get Idie out of the group and out of Utopia, and that part rings true. But she comes to Hope with a gun and starts threatening her with it, and for a character as smart as Laurie it just doesn’t click with me. Her fistfight with Hope last issue, that part I get as it’s pure emotion. This though, it’s way too calculated. And, she must know, useless. But then Hope drops her origin story all over Laurie, and while I appreciate the glimpse of understanding, she doesn’t feel anywhere near emotionally taxed enough to be opening up about this, and Laurie’s “oh god how horrible how could I have done this” wall-slide in a darken corner is just absurdly melodramatic – but then I guess so was bringing a gun to this conversation in the first place. Even better, a few pages later Laurie’s still needling Hope like it never happened. I’d think it was a clash of writers, but Regenesis was ALSO written by Gillen, so you’d think if anybody would get these characters it’d be him. I just don’t get what happened here, but the inconsistency I’ve been getting from Kieron Gillen these past few months is beginning to make me nervous.
Which isn’t to say there’s nothing good here. I loved Rockslide quizzing Laurie about the status of her nakedness (but then when don’t I love Rockslide?), Kenji continues to be a delightful mindscrew, and the final page sent a chill up my spine. I loved those things, but I wanted to love the rest of the issue too and just couldn’t.
I’m kinda glad for the new start. There’s been a lot of great stuff in this book and a ton of promise. All the Schism issues felt tight and on-point, and were so vital in the event working as well as it did. But as Gillen crosses the finish line it’s falling apart in his hands like a ball of wet noodles. I’m willing to just take the necessary facts – Idie is out, Pixie is in, Hope’s hold over the Lights is creepy as shit – and give the new creative team a chance.
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Pete Woods
Colourist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Travis Lanham
I thought this issue of Legion Lost did a better job than the previous, but given how little I thought of the previous, I’m not sure how much that says.
#2 picks up a day or so after the close of the first issue. The stranded Legionnaires are at a public gathering of mourners for the people who were killed when things went bad with virus-carrying Future Guy. They’re trying to figure out what to do next when they become aware of someone in the crowd who appears to have been one of the deceased. He leaves the memorial, the Legionnaires confront him, and things don’t go so well.
This issue provides some important information. It touches a little on who the Legionnaires were chasing, the circumstances that led to them following him into the past, and just what the pathogen he was carrying does. You know, all stuff we should’ve found out about in the first issue. It does it all in a much more interesting way too, having Wildfire narrate the events and filling in backstory where appropriate. Wildfire’s a good choice to start: he’s the only one on this team from Earth and is an appropriately tragic character; the emotional hook is sorely lacking in this title.
Issue #1 Spoiler Warning
Speaking of emotional hook, remember Gates and Yera? The two Legionnaires who (apparently) died at the end of the first issue? It’s ridiculous that nobody even bothered to mention them. I won’t even get into how pissed I am that Gates was killed off (A: PISSED), but that it happened for no reason and to no effect is just insulting. I don’t even know how this is supposed to come across for new readers. Why should they care what happens to these characters when the other characters don’t even care?
So we have all this, and a ridiculously irritating writing tick that infects this issue. Every — other word…phrase — piece of dialogue is — riddled — with…dashes…pauses — punctuation that just — makes it…impossible…to get — any — sense of rhythm. It’s like Nicieza brought in William Shatner to do a line read of the script and transcribed it for us. Just terrible. Nothing has any emphasis if everything has emphasis. I don’t know what happened here but I hope like hell it never happens again.
This issue is better than the last, but I can’t get any more into it. We have important details, but still no sense that any of it matters. I don’t feel any more dread or pressing need. I get that these guys are in over their head and don’t know what to do, but at no point does it seem like anybody’s particularly concerned about it. There are occasional captions giving us a sense of time (“SEVENTY-SEVEN HOURS AFTER RELEASE.”) and these few captions carry more passion and urgency than any character in the book.
It hurts to say this, but I really can’t imagine why anybody would want to read this series. I adore the Legion, and I’m not even sure that I want to.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colourist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
I love Miles Morales as Ultimate Spider-Man.
I haven’t exactly made a secret of that, but as we gear up for Miles putting on a costume and having his first adventures, I’m deliriously excited for him. I don’t think he’d share my enthusiasm, but that’s part of his charm.
The previous issues have mostly been about establishing Miles’ as a character through the people around him. We’ve come to know his parents, his uncle, his best friend. Miles himself has almost seemed a secondary character in his own title, but this issue sees him step into the lead. Now he’s figured out what he is and some of what he does, but he’s not exactly enthusiastic about it. About the only thing he likes is when he’s able to save people from the standard issue burning building, but once the adrenaline has worn off he’s left shaken and throwing up in an alley. Never again, he says.
But we all know better than that. Weeks, perhaps months go by, as Miles and Ganke (and a new roommate who will surely cause trouble down the line) are relatively isolated in their new school. This is probably the most content we’ve seen Miles in fact, just learning and absorbing as much knowledge as he can. Until there’s a drill because there’s super-powered activity near by. And nobody’s sure, but they think Spider-Man has been shot.
Peter being Spider-Man was Miles’ safety net. “There’s already a Spider-Man and he seems to love it. I’m not that guy. Let him do it.” Take that net away and what else can Miles do but keep swinging? New York needs a Spider-Man, and whatever his reluctance, we’ve already seen that Miles will feel it’s his duty to fill that role. And when he has his doubts, and we know he will, he’s got Ganke around to be his #1 cheerleader.
Much as been said about Sara Pichelli’s art, and all of it is deserved. She has an incredible gift for drawing and populating cities. Even with the best artists sometimes background scenes can feel posed and static, like once the panel focus has changed, everything just stops. Pichelli puts such love and detail into her cities that you feel they’re living and breathing things. Her crowds are never filled with generic faces and identical body types. Every person in every scene has a story, which makes the one we’re reading feel that much more rich. She’s simply amazing.
This book is steadily becoming one of my favorites, and I only expect that feeling to grow as Miles fully becomes Spider-Man. I can’t wait.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Joe Sabino
The world knows that the government created the X-gene. Anti-mutant hysteria has ramped up to its highest levels yet, and people are dying. But that doesn’t mean Bobby and Johnny will stop snarking each other.
As of right now, Ultimate Comics X-Men is everything I wanted Ultimate X-Men to be but it never could.
It’s a dense read, heavy with the narration boxes and a lot of action packed into just a few pages. Particularly as compared to Ultimate Spider-Man this week, which is entirely dialogue and took all of about ten minutes to read, Ultimate X-Men is a chewy slab of meat.
I love it. That’s just the way I like my X-Men comics, with a hell of a lot going on with the characters that I adore. Nick Spencer – at this at this point – is shaping up to be exactly what I want in my mutant books, and I think this is the perfect venue for him to do it. The mainstream 616 titles have so many offshoots and characters to keep straight it can make long-term plot bunnies a tricky thing to pull off. How much easier (and awesome) was it for Claremont to do his thing when he only had Uncanny and like eight mutants at a time? That’s the exact feeling I’m getting from Nick Spencer right now, and it makes me more excited than I probably have a right to be.
So, this week’s events. While last issue was all establishing the new universe and the plots to come, this issue narrows the scope. The A-plot involves Kitty, Bobby and Johnny Storm rushing to rescue Rogue from the gang of Nimrod-style sentinels that are about ten seconds from killing her. It’s an important choice for Kitty and company, as all they wanted to do was hide and not be killed. Yet here they are, giving up one and courting the other. It’s a tough battle which they don’t so much win as escape from, but with this the new core of the team is formed. Even as Rogue says that God told her she had to do this so she could find them again and Johnny finds it hilarious that Bobby once dated a crazy chick.
But maybe Rogue’s not as crazy as it seems. The B-plot centers on William Stryker’s son, who has taken up his father’s calling after his own son was killed when Magneto flooded New York. Stryker also speaks of following God’s words, but when some of his phrases exactly mirror Rogue’s and we end the issue on a red glow coming from a cave somewhere in Egypt, you begin to think there might be something a bit more Apocalypsey in the works.
Both storylines are interesting enough on their own, but the idea that they’re even more deeply connected takes it to another level, and increases my confidence in Spencer’s ability to keep multiple plots spinning. It may be too early to tell, but this book could wind up being the perfect mutant alternative to the sometimes daunting world of the 616 X-Men. In other words, exactly what it should be. The Ultimate universe may again collapse under its own weight, but thus far I am loving everything about this next chapter.
Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Peter Gross with Vince Locke
Colourist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Todd Klein
Of all the books I’m currently reading, The Unwritten is probably the hardest to review. What can you say about it that doesn’t simply parrot what you said the issue before? That the series is brilliant is a given by this point, but each part is so connected to what’s gone before that they’re difficult to talk about independently.
This issue wraps up the most recent storyline. In it, Tom Taylor meets his half-brother and sees what is more likely than not the answers to many of his question about who – or what – he is. Not the details perhaps, those are still very much a mystery, but the line between Tom Taylor and Tommy Taylor is fading to nonexistent. Not that Tom has much time to deal with that. Richie discovers that nearly everyone Tom has ever spoken has been killed in the past 48 hours, and Tom has to decide if he’s going to keep running or take a stand.
Every issue of The Unwritten has been building to a confrontation. Each step brings answers, but more questions. It’s never frustrating though; at no point does it feel like Mike Carey is making stuff up as he goes along and hoping he’ll be able to pull it together at the end. (I’m looking at you, LOST.) He might turn down a road he didn’t plan to take, or spend more time exploring something he hadn’t considered, but he has a map and knows how to get us where he’s going. That’s also part of what makes this series work. It’s a story about stories and like any story, you know it’s got to have an ending. Again, that makes it harder to review any individual issue (how do you put a grade on a single chapter from the middle of a novel?), but then this isn’t your average comic book.
Things are ramping up for The Unwritten. The book is going biweekly for the next five months, with an assortment of “.5” issues that will provide backstory and stand-alones, which have been among some of the strongest moments in the series so far. If you’ve been debating starting this series, this sounds like the perfect time to jump on. I have no idea where we’re going, but the ride is guaranteed to be something else.
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciller: Khoi Pham
Inker: Tom Palmer
Colourist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Cory Petit
The Gul Damar space station is still falling into the sun, and time is rapidly running out. Rogue and Frenzy are racing to the gravity controls to try and save it and the millions of lives on-board, but it’s questionable if they’ll even survive the trip. The others meanwhile are trying to find some way to get off the station, not knowing that Friendless is still alive and he really, really doesn’t like them.
I’m so bittersweet on this storyarc. On the one hand, it would rank as one of my least favourite of Mike Carey’s run. On the other hand, once it’s finished, there’s no more Mike Carey. (The Regenesis-bridge issue aside anyway.) I want to get to the next story but knowing he won’t be there just makes me wish this one would keep going forever.
But kinda not really because I’m just not as into it as I’ve been into his others.
Part of it is the space stuff. The Shi’ar vs. Grad Nan Holt thing is hasn’t gripped me at all, and while the telepathic Friendless has decided that manipulating both sides against the mutants is better than pitting them against each other (which admittedly does make it more interesting), I still can’t get into him enough to see him as more than a plot device.
Given that he’s the root of the whole storyline, you can kind of see my problem.
Friendless has been the source of everything. He knocked Rachel into a coma for weeks, controlled Havok and Polaris into siding with the Grad Nan Holt, and has been responsible for countless (thousands, maybe more) deaths on both sides of the conflict. Yet despite showing us all this, I can’t get into him as a villain. I’m not sure what it is. We have origin enough to give him motivation, he’s certainly done enough despicable things to earn the title. But I just don’t feel him.
Leagues more interesting is the Shi’ar pirate Sovel Redhand. He’s opportunistic and cowardly and greedy as hell, and watching him throughout this storyline has been a joy. All of his band in fact; I loved Jat, ahem, “working” with the ships in this issue. I wouldn’t want them around all the time, but I hope we get to see these guys again, especially since Rogue seized leadership from Redhand a few issues ago.
Things are rapidly approaching critical, and Carey is doing a great job creating the tension. Every issue has that “uh oh how are they going to get out of this one?” feeling that makes for a good serial adventure story, which is really all this storyline is trying to be. Not every part is working for me, but there’s a lot here that does, particularly as the storyline approaches its conclusion. I wish this weren’t Carey’s last arc on Legacy but then I also wish I never had to say the phrase “Carey’s last arc on Legacy“.
Only two issues left. Dammit.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Billy Tan
Colourist: Andres Mossa
Letterer: Rob Steen
Schism is done and it’s time now for Regenesis. Cyclops and Wolverine are breaking apart, and the big question on everyone’s mind was, “Who’s on whose side?” The teaser images from months ago pretty well answered that question, so now it’s coming down to the whys. This issue exists to show us.
I’ve been really looking forward to this. I make no secret of the fact that characters are at the heart of what I love in comics, and there are none I love more than the X-Men. Sitting down to figure out who goes where and why only sounds like a conversation I would love to have every day. A book like this then was tailor-made for me.
For the most part, it pulled it off. I didn’t necessarily agree with everyone’s reasons, but then that’s part of the fun. And some of the ones I didn’t agree with, Kieron Gillen straight up addresses (Storm choosing Cyclops’s team, for example) in a way that has me nodding my head saying “Yeah, okay, I’ll allow it.” There are even a few surprises and fantastic moments. I particularly loved Emma calling Scott to task for just assuming she’d be on his side. Something Emma has been sorely needing of late is an affirmations that she is her own person. (Scott Summers is the worst partner in the history of everything, seriously.)
So why not four or even five stars? Because the things that are wrong in this book are seriously wrong. I’ll start with the art, which was passable at absolute best. Everything looks pasted on; there’s no life or energy in a single panel. There’s a scene where Rogue and Magneto are laughing, and they look like little wooden figures bowing at each other in a cuckoo clock. I don’t doubt it’s difficult to draw facial acting with Cyclops when you can’t ever see his eyes, but the dude walks around making these supposedly impassioned pleas and emoting like a cylon. The proportions are terrible from one panel to the next (at one point Bobby’s arm shrinks to the size of a dehydrated chicken leg), and then there’s the caveman stuff.
The caveman stuff failed miserably on every conceivable level.
I get what Gillen was going for; it’s not exactly high concept. But not only did it look stupid (like seriously, the art on it is terrible) but as a metaphor it completely trivialized everything that Schism was supposedly about. As each mutant picks a side, we cut to a scene where Caveman Wolverine beats down Caveman Cyclops and vice-versa while everyone around them is dressed in wardrobe cast-offs from Clan of the Cave Bear. It taints every argument Scott and Logan make, turning it from “Here’s why I want you on my side” to a petty schoolyard squabble aimed at nothing more than hurting the other team captain.
But if you ignore those parts – and trust me I do intend to – what’s left is a series of interesting vignettes that fill in some gaps on the way to the next chapter in the saga of the X-Men.