I hate to say it, but it does need to be said. Anything included within Marvels crossover titles like Civil War II and the upcoming Secret Empire has been met with a feeling of dread. No, not the suspenseful in your seat kind of dread. Yet hope does remain in some of the more independent titles: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Mighty Thor, etc. Then I heard about ResurrXion, an entire series of comics coming out of the wake of still running titles Uncanny X-Men and Extraordinary X-Men and heavily influenced by the events of Death of X and mutant war with the Inhumans. The one that caught most of my appeal is X-Men: Blue, which consists of the time displaced team of the five original mutant heroes: Jean Grey, Cyclopes, Beast, Iceman, and Angel.
I won’t lie—I’m a Jean Grey fanboy. From her great stories with the X-Men in the Silver Age of comics, to her many deaths (heh), her time as the Phoenix and many incarnations after. Though what really surprised me was that this time around, she’s leading the team. Now the critics will likely yell that we see too much of her from anything X-men related and my response would be: you know what? Good. Despite the overuse of the Phoenix arc she’s a very well written and conflicted character who can arise to many situations. I for one am excited to see her shine, especially when her solo run comes along in May. She’s basically what Barbara Gordon is for me with DC. Clearly I have a thing for gingers…
Jean’s team didn’t have too big of a role in the X-Men Prime one shot that launched ResurrXion, they were around just for Kitty Pryde to observe in the Danger Room only to find out that it was a hologram on loop. Not much was revealed as to why they left, only that it was a question in direction of the students attending Xavier’s school. Clearly the two had polarizing views of what the now deceased Charles Xavier saw in the world and what he wanted to do to fulfill his dream. Now I’ll say this just to get it out of the way. This comic was great. Compared to most of things Marvel has been turning over recently, it’s nice to see them triumph, even if they have to use nostalgia to create appeal.
New Team. Old Faces.
As mentioned previously, the old team is back after being caught in an anomaly several years ago but now they have their own thing going on and whether it is the original team or not, they are much different than they once were. If you read the Guardians of the Galaxy miniseries The Trial of Jean Grey, you’ll remember that it was revealed to a much younger Jean that her older self would one day commit a mass genocide. Though it was not the Phoenix at work, a power is unleashed within her that still instills a fear of just how powerful she really is. It even scares her. That makes her perfect for the leadership role in my opinion. Scott remains mostly the same only now he has to cope with everyone thinking that the elder (and now dead) Cyclopes is the same as he. Bobby on the other hand seems to be flourishing in his new identity, after it was revealed long ago by Jean that he was gay it messed with his mind that he couldn’t tell. Yet in this first issue he seems to melt back into old self, which shows he’s finally beginning to accept himself. (Though are fans after how poorly Bendis handled it?) Hank has apparently become a mystic and can open portals to hell and such now. Angel is of course as cocky as ever, a nice change in heart after his counterparts’ role in Uncanny X-Men.
Overall though, they worked well with one another. The ensuing fight against the Juggernaut was a tough one and they handled at as team should. Testing out all their signature moves to see which one worked best and when none did, they improvised, bringing the hulking giant to his knee, or rather sending him and his knees to Siberia. Seriously though Hank, portals through hell? The interaction between the team members during the fight on the yacht are hilarious but also serious; from Bobby charmingly annoying Scott to death to the caution they display, especially with Beasts new “powers” show us that Jean truly has learned to take on the leadership role.
So we all know that our favorite mutant supremacist turned over a new leaf, sort of. The previews for this comic didn’t leave out that Magneto was to become the new mentor of the rogue X-Men. The whole yacht incident playing out at the start of the comic is suspiciously random. No context was given as to why they were there in the first place but upon arrival it’s clear something was wrong with the scene. The question still burns there though, why were they there? It’s not till the end until we actually see Magneto, but all the points lead to one thing, even before he mentions it. The Hellfire Club. I mean Jean Grey kind of just says it when she calls out Black Tom Cassidy for his arrogant attitude and overall white collar demeanor. Yet, back to the point is we’ve been burned by Magneto before, we know him and what is always his motive for doing anything; the advancement of mutants over humans.
I see this playing out in three different ways. First, Magneto isn’t changed. He’s up to his old ways and using Jean Grey and the team in order to take out undesirables, aka the Hellfire Club, in order to establish himself as their superior. They’ve always butt heads in the past and what would change that? Second, Magneto was truly so overwhelmed by Charles’ death that he truly wants to take up the mantle for himself and that’s where the final one comes. Either this is him trying to remove mutants who would set a bad example for the world (as he has so ironically done for decades) or his mind has become so twisted that he feels the need to correct all his wrongs. We’ve seen the good in him in the current running Uncanny X-Men, but as I said; this is Magneto we’re talking about.
In this debut issue we were also given an interesting post scene in a very snowy landscape. A group of small town hunters trying to defend their hunting grounds from a beast plaguing the local game leads to a merry chase in the woods. When they are set upon by a Wendigo, a strange hooded man appears with three signature claws detracting from his fists. Before seeing his face I bet all of you were screaming Wolverine but oh no, it’s Jimmy Hudson! For those not familiar with him, in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, he’s Logan’s son. He possesses the same powers as his father with the added one of being able to coat his claws in a biological metal. While the purpose was clearly only to introduce him into the universe his purpose can’t really be deduced. We’ll have to wait next month for that one.
This was harder to judge than normal considering the way this comic is drawn changes from going from extremely cartoonish to slightly more realistic with really excellent shading. The fight scenes are incredibly well drawn whether it was too bright or dark. What did bother me a little was that some characters we’re given much more detail than others. For example, Juggernaut and Magneto looked amazing, you could see every scratch on Juggernauts costume while the well placed greys and blacks on Magneto made his character seem so dark, he was almost Batman. On the other hand, out of all the X-men the most standout one was Hank. Everyone else was very bland, even Iceman who on all accounts should be the best looking considering he’s the only one who can change his form anymore. Again it wasn’t terrible but it can definitely be improved.
An excellent start to what could be the start of a great run for Marvel, which we sorely need much more of. The character development and plot devices were used to their potentials and left us with questions we are eager to see answered. The return of these classic heroes and their multilayered and various personalities creates such a choice driven story in which readers will love to choose their favorite characters and stick by them to the very end. The ending was great and should be built upon in the next issue as well as the post credit scene. The art is not perfect, yet whatever is? Saying that is constructive criticism, my way of telling you that you’re doing well, but you can do so much better.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics
Saga: True Colours
It’s a fine line that which divides nature and a zone of comfort; so fine it’s sometimes too easy to confuse one with the other, or think them to be interchangeable terms. But the differences are there, however subtle. For one, a zone of comfort is often a treacherous foe against personal growth. It may even render you numb before coming adversities and leave you unprepared to resist them. Am I being obnoxiously specific yet? Well I can take it up a notch. A zone of comfort can also blind you, delude you into mistaking someone’s nature. Make you see a foe as a friend when the tide is calm.
But when the tide grows restless, leaving that zone of comfort is quite the rude awakening. Hope you like those, lovelies.
“Not when we were so close…”
The “Jetsam Holiday” arc has been a lovely time so far, comparatively speaking. For every dark development unfolding within or without Hazel’s immediate (and extended) family, there has been lots of sunshine and fucking. And of course, there has been plenty of wholesome entertainment for the whole family to enjoy also. If the image of Hazel waging sea war against Petrichor and Ghüs while atop Sir Robot’s shoulders isn’t heartwarming, her wishing Sir Robot didn’t have to leave absolutely is. And furthermore, Sir Robot even reciprocates it.
Old foes may turn dear friends in time – just like my dad used to say… not really, but let’s pretend he did.
In the meantime, Marko and Upsher have a thoughtful conversation while frying fishies. Beyond the perennial dynamic of the journey, one of Saga‘s thematic signatures is the encounter between worldviews. Sometimes this occurs through future Hazel’s introspection, and sometimes through calm moments like this. By learning of how Upsher and Doff learned about the fugitives and their daughter, Marko finally realises something we’d long known by now. There is no action that goes without consequence in this galaxy. Whether it’s some nameless mook who becomes a villain’s motive for revenge, or a grunt left behind who’s see too much.
Their conversation migrates then to the topic of accountability when it comes to one of the most traditional roles in war: killing. Having been a soldier, Marko has obviously taken on a very active role. But Upsher isn’t entirely clean either, despite never taking a life himself. Being a journalist, his business is all about information, but its reception always risks a response, which sometimes involves violence. This is, Marko argues, the reason he will be sticking to writing fiction. Nevertheless, Upsher’s response is a banquet for thought, and I’ll quote:
“Putting new ideas into another person’s head is an agggressive act, and aggressive acts have consequences. Face it, you can be a writer or a pacifist, but you can’t be both.” The written word, to communicate or to inspire, is necessarily a political act. We’ll take this morsel with us home to mull it over, as something else comes up, demanding all heads and hands. Alana enters the scene with the news: Squire is missing. The young Robot has followed through with his plan to leave.
Cut to Ianthe, wandering the wilderness of Jetsam, and adding a touch of danger to Squire’s stunt. Her concern over The Will, now free, angry and deadly, reaches a high point upon seeing a note pinned against a tree with a knife. Menacing even when written in cursive. The note proper says they’re even; him having killed her fiancé, and she having skinned his dog. I’d hardly call it even myself – Ianthe is still in debt, but I digress. We’d be delusional to think this warning would dissuade Ianthe – too proud a villain to heed common sense.
Meanwhile, the grownups at the beach camp find Squire’s farewell note, charmingly written in crayon. His message and how he addresses himself as Princeling make his intentions clear. Sir Robot’s son intends to return to the Robot Kingdom; maybe his ways of chivalry had an unexpected, unintended side effect on the kid. Overtaken by shame, Sir Robot insists on handling this himself, then declaring this to be his fault. He then reveals the ugly incident of hurting Squire last issue, earning Alana’s anger and Hazel’s disbelief. Before Alana can unleash a (well-deserved) fist upon Sir Robot’s face, Marko walks in full-clad in armour, bearing… mushrooms.
Ah, but these mushrooms are special mushrooms. They don’t grace soups with supreme delight or allow you to summon Frank Zappa in Bloodborne (which I’ve been playing a lot of lately). These mushrooms function as flares bright enough to see in daylight or when penetrating deep in the forest. Hazel demands to come with, but her mum won’t allow it for good reason. Upsher offers to stay with Hazel, as he’s also confident his partner Doff has already found Squire.
If only he knew…
The pinky oath between Alana and Hazel marks the beginning of the search.
The scene then changes to Squire/Princeling’s point of view. He has definitely taken a shine to Hazel’s Ponk Konk, who now accompanies him as a friend to “talk with”. And it’s just as well: Squire is terrified. He roams what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which is a creepy setting in any galaxy. According to a conversation he overheard between the grownups, the magical ingredients for the “body swap” are transported through pipes that run through these unsettling parts. Therefore, his course to take appears obvious, quite unlike the strange creatures following his movements, concealed in the overgrowth.
The worm-like creatures lunge forward, ensnaring Squire to be devoured by a nightmarish mouth spreading wide across the grass. Amidst the horror of the moment, he drops Ponk Konk, possibly into the maws of this hideous creature. Someone makes the save in the nick of time with a few well-aimed shots, however. Thankful, Squire hugs his unlikely saviour: Ianthe. Could it be he has managed to survive one beast only to end up in the maws of another?
Elsewhere, Sir Robot spots a strange jellyfish-like ship while searching for his son. The Will gets the drop on the former Prince, skewering his arm-cannon with his spear. Sir Robot doesn’t quite recognise his attacker, but The Will him well enough; not as the disgraced noble, but as the killer of his former love, Spider woman extraordinaire, The Stalk. A vengeful intent is clearly approaching. And though Sir Robot frets over being interrupted from his search and disarmed, he keeps his cool to talk with the reinstated Freelancer.
The Will is back on the job to catch the fugitives, but not before killing Sir Robot. Knowing that an ordinary, desperate plea won’t do the job, Sir Robot presents another possibility as a bargaining chip to secure his and his son’s safety: to surrender Hazel to The Will.
Seems old foes turn into friends dear when the tide is calm… otherwise, they’re only placated foes, only for so long. Treacherous asshole.
Saga Issue #52 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
All images are courtesy of Image Comics
Batgirl is Getting a New Direction And a New Look
Can I say that I, for one, am glad that we’re finally getting a new author for Batgirl? Because I am. Now this is no disrespect to Hope Larson; she is a competent writer who has told some really good stories over the last two years, but for me she just wasn’t a good fit for one of my favorite DC superheroes. Now I’ll probably get backlash from the community of fans who like to criticize the whole DC darkness thing for this but you know what? Yes, it should be dark and gritty, that’s always been associated with the “bat” name. Should it try to be a little more light hearted? Sure, but it’s a balance. My issue with Hope Larson’s run was that it was way too “tweeny” considering the kind of comics we’ve seen in the past with Barbara, Cass, and Stephanie.
Now, I also get that heroes need to evolve in order to meet their targeted audience. Hope Larson in retrospect did something that I very much like. Like the political nature of Green Arrow, Hope managed to construct her stories centered around the criticisms of overuse of technology, freedom of the internet, and the use of personal data. These are topics that remains very relevant this year and will be for some time to come. The fact that she was able to use this to tell stories that no matter what I say, were still entertaining, is a testament to the fact that she was a very good writer.
However, it is still time for a change. Despite the great motivations behind her stories, they were still cringe-y sometimes. Seeing Barbara juggle her nightlife with her student life is a common theme among younger heroes, and her friends in the LGBTQ community offered real understanding for audiences, but it still felt like a teen drama.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love her supporting cast, especially Alyssa who was created by Gail Simone in her well loved Batgirl New 52 run. The author was very outspoken for gender identity and the over sexualization of females in comic books. To see Hope Larson treat characters created by Simone with love and care was really something. By now I probably sound like I loved Hope’s run on Batgirl. As I said before, it wasn’t a bad run and I enjoyed reading it for the most part but I need something a bit more than that.
Starting with issue 24, we’ll be getting a plethora of new authors for the next few issues. Like with Green Arrow, finding a new permanent author takes time but with the Benson sisters spearheading that comic, Mairghread Scott will be taking over exclusively come August and issue 26. Now, I haven’t read anything by her save the most recent Green Arrow title, which I liked hell of a lot more than the previous two. So, I’ll be seeing her writing without bias and without former convictions. I’m really excited to see where she leads Barbara in her new adventures, but hopefully she focuses more on Batgirl and Barbara rather than love interests and overly cringe worthy situations. I get Barbara is awkward but that was just painful.
According to previews, we will see the return of Barbara to Gotham and of another character, or rather villain, created by Gail Simone called Grotesque. In this version, he plays a murderous art thief who moves to create his own vile art gallery with the pieces of his victims. He ends up getting the jump on Babs and setting the device in her spine off, effectively taking away her ability to walk again.
It looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more continuity from the Gail Simone days and either the nostalgia will hit long time fans or Scott will be taking us in a whole new direction. So many questions, the main one being: could this be the end for Barbara as Batgirl? As much as I love Babs, I am part of the group who feels she needs to pass on the cowl to someone new. But that’s a topic for another day.
Speaking of getting a new author, we also have a revamp of Batgirl’s look, which is also a huge plus for me. If you’ve read Batman: White Knight you’ll no doubt recognize this costume from it. Sean Murphy, the genius behind that story, must have allowed the costume to be used as main canon. I’m happy for this because I really, really like the new look. I was never a huge fan of the purple zip up jacket-like outfit she was sporting in “Burnside,” but that just comes down to aesthetics.
The new look is sleek and more “batty” adding more to her own persona. Batgirl and Nightwing were among the first to leave Bruce behind and create their own identity and damn if this is not screaming that she’s the best “bat” out there.
All Images Courtesy of DC Comics
DC Is Relaunching Vertigo, Doubling Down On Millennials
It’s been 25 years since DC Comics launched perhaps the most successful imprint in comics history: Vertigo. Since its foundation in 1993, some of the biggest graphic novels ever have come out under the Big V. Its initial run of titles made a splash on the shelves of comic stores and would cement their authors as comics royalty: Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughn, Brian Azzarello. Old properties (The Sandman) and old legends (Alan Moore) found new life at Vertigo. These new comics were no longer the whiff! bam! pow! of the past, but they also largely avoided the hyper-violence and darkness of the 90s. They handled adult themes like alienation, religion, feminism, and, yes, violence. But they handled these themes with more nuance and variety than ever before. For the first time in the medium’s history, comics were becoming literature.
But all of the original titles have ended, with Hellblazer being the last of the old guard, closing in 2013. After a few years on the down low, DC is planning a massive relaunch of the classic brand for a new generation. With it comes a clear emphasis on the political power of comics. They aim not for the Gen-Xers who made Preacher, iZombie, and Fables bestsellers, but for millennials. Titles will deal with the topics its readers care about: immigration, white supremacy, sex work.
Just like in 1993, the creators taking part in the relaunch are a vibrant mix of rising stars and new faces in the comics world. Eric M. Esquivel (Roberto Roberto) will bring us a tale of demons run amok in a border town while Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour) will spin a tale of brainwashed witches reclaiming their power. Bryan Hill (Postal, Batman) will put a biracial cop in harm’s way as he investigates a white supremacist group. Frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Rob Sheridan, is sending a smuggler on an impossible quest, and Mark Russel (God Is Disappointed In You) pits Jesus against “Superman”.
The group of writers and artists are a nice mix of diverse voices, with two women serving as writers their own titles, both of which will no doubt invite controversy. The first, Goddess Mode, takes place in a cyberpunk VR hellscape where tech support involves a huge neon sword. Its author will be video game developer Zoe Quinn, perhaps most famous for being the internet’s biggest scapegoat and the original source of the “Gamergate” controversy. The second comic, Safe Sex, will be a dystopian book focusing on sex workers who dare to love in a world where all sex is under government control. Its author is sex-work advocate and LGBTQ+ journalist Tina Horn, who will no doubt bring an expert opinion to a topic that comics really, REALLY has never handled very well.
The new books start in September of this year, with Border Town, and the rest will follow month by month right through into the new year. They will join the pre-existing raft of Vertigo titles, as well as Neil Gaiman’s brand new Sandman Universe line.