Sunday 4 January 2015

The Comics Ramble Holiday Hangover

Light week to start off being the comics between Christmas and New Year. This week: the beginning of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tie-in comic as well as their first Miracleman annual and an issue of Sonic Universe that turned up a week late.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Perfect Bullets
writer: Mark Waid; pencils: Carlos Pacheco; inks: Mariano Taibo w/ Jason Paz; colours; Dono Almara; letters: Joe Caramagna

Interesting experiment this: a tie-in series for a Cinematic Universe project set in the Marvel Universe proper. Nice idea: there are a lot of things the TV series can't do due to expense or legal issues. Here we get to the see the familiar characters playing with all the toys...

sort of.

The focus here is firmly on Coulson and we get an extended set of flashbacks setting up his past in the Marvel Universe. He's a nerd, basically, who grew up fascinated by the Golden Age superheroes and then entered adulthood as the current superheroes got their start. He knows everything there is to know about the Avengers, the X-Men and the rest and SHIELD uses him to assign those heroes to jobs for them. That's our set-up.

We get a nice flashy bit of business for him to deal with as Asgardian baddies pop up all over the world and he has to sort it out. Cue him flying in to one of the many hotspots with his team, here consisting of Fitz, Simmons and a barely-present May. All-in-all the team doesn't get much chance to shine between the flashbacks and superhero guest stars, the later of which I expect to be the format of the series: the team plus guest stars fight the threat of the week.

Its certainly not an uninteresting set-up and I'm in for issue two, at least, but I feel fans of the series (I'm just barely halfway through Season One) might end up a little disappointed since this isn't really the team and especially the Coulson from the series. Not surprising given the differing circumstances of the two settings. Oddly, I wouldn't say he was the Coulson from Secret Avengers either but that could change considering where the current arc in that title's going.

So fun but probably of more interest to the casual viewer than the committed fan of its parent series.

All-New Miracleman Annual #1
The Priest & The Dragon: The October Incident: 1966
story: Grant Morrison; art: Joe Quesada; colours: Richard Isanove; letters: Chris Eliopoulos

The Miracleman Family: Seriously Miraculous
story: Peter Milligan; art: Mike Allred; colours: Laura Allred; letters; Travis Lanham

I rather missed the boat on Marvel's Miracleman relaunch, mainly because I'd never heard of the property. I got caught up thanks to Movie Bob of The Escapist's videos on the subject and went looking for an in. Granted, annuals aren't often the perfect done-in-one taste tests they used to be in the old days but they do still tend to include a series' A-game. I certainly got the A-game stories but I highly doubt they're a good sample of the series. Both stories are great, don't get me wrong, but...

The Grant Morrison story is very Grant Morrison, by which I mean its obscure as hell and as closed off as narratives get. Its a short piece from the point-of-view of a priest confronting a Miracleman supporting character recast, for some reason, as the Anti-Christ. Its the sort of thing that feels like a great beginning but according to the behind the scenes notes at the end of the book this is an unused script from the 80s, coupled with Morrison's recent declaration he's swearing off monthly comics means this probably isn't going anywhere.

The real pity of it through is the striking but simple artwork from Joe Quesada which makes me wish the man had more time to be an artist.

The Milligan/Allreds story is again, very emblematic of the creative team: a very solidly and slightly meta romp through the colourful cast of heroes and villains from Mick Anglo's original 1950s stories. There a villain called Young Nastyman, there are dolphins with spears, “Russkie” nuclear tests, death rays and all sorts of other bonkers tropes and ideas. Its actually a pretty cool rejoiner to the dark and violent Miracleman of the 80s Morrison was writing for and the general comicbook industry of the time.

If nothing else the Annual has given me more of an idea of Miracleman/Marvelman's varied history and I'll probably pick up the trades of the new series when they come out.

Sonic Universe #71
The Spark Of Life part one
story: Ian Flynn; script: Aleah Baker; pencils: Tracy Yardley; inks: Jim Amash; colours: Matt Herms; letters: Jack Morelli

You know, I think I'm finally getting used to this new rebooted continuity now its finally starting to explain itself. True, I'm not sure I like Nicole's new origin as much as her old one but we'll see how I feel about it come the end of the arc.

Speaking of the arc, I do so like it when Universe does a Freedom Fighters story, second only in my affections to Knuckles-based stories. Here we have Sally, Tails and Big the Cat chasing after Nicole when she rushes off to answer a distress call from her creator, Doctor Ellidy. The issue is mainly set-up and doesn't really stand up as a very satisfying story on its own but I'm willing to forgive that for the promise of an arc exploring Nicole's development (if her artificial sentience is the “Spark Of Life” of the title) since that was one of my favourite subplots before the Worlds Collide reboot.

The only bum note and a thing that bugs me in general about the post-Worlds Collide status quo, is Big the Cat. I've never really liked the character. It was okay when Team Freedom were the also-rans guarding New Mobotropolis in back-up strips but now he's wandering round the A-plot being a lovable idiot and I greatly dislike lovable idiots, a personal bias, I know.

Still, more than good enough for comfort food which is the main reason I still buy Sonic comics. 

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