Friday 7 April 2017

Comic Reviews: Brave New(ish) Worlds

So, its a week of relaunches as the X-Men, Inhumans and Superman books give us our first taste of what their new directions are going to give us.

Superman #20
Contrary to my expectations, Hamilton County continues to be a thing. About the only thing that seems to have changed, status quo wise, is the Kents are now living under their real names. I don't expect this to last but its good that DC have commited to a slow filtering out of information on the new status quo rather than trying to infodump the whole thing in one go.

Anyway, story wise, Batman and Damian turn up to be paranoid, not eat pie (Batman, we are told, does not eat pie) and make some oblique references to events in Super Sons. Batman also, in a fit of paranoia, examines a prize winning dairy cow, which is the sort of left field weird I've come to expect from the Tomasi/Gleason dream team. Plus, Lois calmly puncturing Batman's dark and brrody act is a joy to watch.

Royals #1
I decided to buy this issue based purely on how much I loved Marvel Boy in Keiron Gillen's Young Avengers. As I've said, the Inhumans aren't character I care much about one way or another and I've only really encountered them in passing when they intersect with something else I like. Ultimately, they were a big and complicated and very densely populated corner of the Marvel Universe I didn't really feel like I had the time to get to know.

However, this series comes along with a lead character I really love (Marvel Boy) and a small cast of Inhumans joining him on a quest to somehow regain the secret of Terrigen and kickstart the birth of new Inhumans. Some I know of old like Medusa and Gorgon whilst others, like Flint and Swain, are new to me. I especially like Swain, who is a space pilot dressed like some sort of Regency buccanneer.

The only part of this issue I didn't like was that it had one of those “thousands of years in the future” portentous prologues that foreshadows that someone on the crew is going to die and you just know... you just know that somehow that future isn't actually going to happen. Not in the sense that the next creative team will ignore it but in the sense that you just know the current creative team has a way to wriggle out of it all planned. I could be wrong but, well, its not like this hasn't happened a lot of times.

Still and all, I think I might finally be getting into the Inhumans books.

All-New Wolverine #19
Like Superman, this is a pretty soft reboot of the “X-23 as Wolverine” concept. She has a new costume, her clone sister Gabby has graduated to being her proper sidekick and we get a lot of guest stars turning up to remind us that the X-books are properly part of the central Marvel Universe again.

Add to that the fact that this story has an angle on Wolverine that I don't think has been used as a hook before, not with either incarnation of the character: viral immunity. An virus is released on Roosevelt Island by a dying alien child whose last words are Laura's name and our All-New Wolverine is sent in to investigate as she's the only lead SHIELD has. Oh, and Ironheart is trapped on the island so maybe we get to see Laura and Riri team up next issue. Please?

X-Men Gold #1
This is such a damn good start. Look, I'm not going to lie, X-Men comics are what got me into this medium and watching the franchise lurch through the last couple of years in Fox-spiting exile from the grand sweep of the MCU hurt me deep in my soul. Hell, at this point I was even looking forward to an arc called “Back To Basics” with all the paint-by-numbers fan service that implied.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the end product. Yes, there's a lot of nostalgia here with all sorts of call backs to X-Men runs of the past and brief appearances by characters who haven't been seen in a terrible long count of years like Rockslide and Armor. However, writer Marc Guggenheim is careful to cut it all a commendable amount of new. The Xavier Institute is now an outreach centre located in Central Park, Rachel Grey finally has a superhero identity of her own instead of a hand me down from her mother, and most off all Kitty Pryde is now the boss. I mentioned with X-Men Prime that I loved having the Kitty Pryde I remembered from the later years of Excalibur back. She's older here, more confident and assured and we get a pretty good example early on in the issue of how much more experienced and powerful she is than the barely legal ingenue she's been portrayed as since about the Whedon run.

I genuinely expected this to be the part of the relaunch that would dissappoint me but I'm really impressed and can't wait to see what's in store for the Blue team.

Uncanny Avengers #22
and, comics being comics, a little unfinished business remains from before the big relaunch. Its actually a rather bittersweet affair as the whole Red Skull and Xavier's brain finds some closure. There's a lot of emotional moments for Rogue in this one, not least of which her telling Steve Rogers to shove off, which at the moment is a really cathartic thing.

And the cliffhanger promises to dust off one last piece of unfinished business that has been lingering since the run before the run before this. Now that's either long form storytelling or someone literally forgot about that whole damn plot. I ain't taking bets either way.

Spider-Man #15
Now, this feels like things are getting back on track, this is the Brian Michael Bendis I like spending money on. The issue is largely an epilogue to the Kissin' in a Tree crossover with Spider-Gwen (including an absolutely pointless reprise of that arc's linking device) with Miles and his dad talking over things, first with each other and then with Miles'mother Rio. Its got a nice emotional through line, some fun bits and some high emotional bits all of which guest artist Szymon Kudranski draws the hell out of. It rather reminded me of some of the Matt and Foggy two-handers from Bendis' Daredevil run, as much as I hate comparing a writer's work with something they put out over a decade ago (just seems mean...).

Batman #20
Once again, a master class in structuring each issue of a comic as a single episode with a consistent theme and its own flavour. Most of this issue is literally just a fist fight between Batman and Bane but Tom King writes an internal monologue for Bruce that goes to some very interesting psychological places.

King is definitely not one of those “Batman is the real identity, Bruce Wayne is the disguise” types, is all I'll say. 

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