Despite the near-total-silence on the graphic novel/comics side of things, I have continued to read a whole bunch of new and old collections. Generally speaking, though, I haven’t been overly impressed. Here are mini-reviews for ten stand-out collections I’ve read recently. [I’ll hopefully do a few more posts like this in the not-too-distant future, as I try to catch up with recent titles.]
Featuring: All-New X-Men, American Vampire, Black Magick, Daredevil, Extraordinary X-Men, Huck, Justice League, Lazarus, Lucifer, Sheriff of Babylon
ALL-NEW X-MEN, Vol.1: “Inevitable — Ghosts of Cyclops” (Marvel)
Writer: Dennis Hopeless | Art & Cover: Mark Bagley
More than ever, hatred and fear have made the world a dangerous place for mutants. But as the few remaining X-Men retreat into seclusion, a handful of mutant teenagers refuse to allow their destiny to be decided for them! And no one is more concerned about their fate than Scott Summers, whose young shoulders must bear the heavy weight of the terrible acts committed by his adult counterpart. Cyclops is joined by three of his time-torn teammates — Beast, Iceman and Angel — as well as the All-New Wolverine, Kid Apocalypse and Oya. Together, they’re heading out on the highway, looking for adventure, intent on writing their own futures! But when they encounter the baleful Blob, their road trip may end before it begins!
Collects: All-New X-Men #1-6
With this new series (and Extraordinary X-Men, below), I seem to have benefited from ignoring the “Event” that led to the latest Marvel re-boot. While reading, I couldn’t even think of what that Event was called, but big things happened, and all of the various X-teams seem to have been scattered. This title follows the original, time-displaced X-Men, accompanied by the new Wolverine (formerly X-23), Oya and Kid Apocalypse. It’s pretty fun and light, and tries to balance story-focus on what’s going on with the characters and action/fights. I much prefer the former (shaping up to be potentially interesting) to the latter (overblown and kind of pointless). Beast is struggling to catch up with modern technology — after all, his non-time-displaced version had decades to see tech develop and then supersede it, so he’s worried that he may never fulfill his potential. Iceman is avoiding discussing his sexuality, despite others trying to talk to him about it. Wolverine and Angel are getting used to their relationship, and Wolverine’s rather reckless approach to fights. Cyclops is (still) dealing with the fallout from his older version’s actions, terrorism, and other crimes. It’s… stressful for him. Which is legit. The others, I’m sure, will get greater attention in future issues/collections. I came into this series highly skeptical, but ended up liking it more than I expected. Which is nice.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE, Vols. 8 (Vertigo)
Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist & Cover: Rafael Albuquerque
It’s 1965. Pearl and Skinner escaped The Gray Trader with more questions than answers, and their search for clues leads them to… NASA! You’ve never seen vampires like this before…
Collects: American Vampire: Second Cycle #6-11
This series continues to entertain and build on the mythology/world Snyder and Albuquerque have been working on for years. If you have any interest in vampires and horror comics, then I can’t recommend it highly enough. There’s action, scary beasties, interesting and tenuous alliances, betrayal — all presented through great story-telling and artwork. Yes, that’s a very short review, but I don’t want to spoil anything. One thing, though: Vampires in space! If you’ve been following the series, then I’m sure you didn’t hesitate to pick this up. If you did? Well, what are you waiting for? American Vampire easily remains one of my favourite series. A must-read series and new volume.
BLACK MAGICK, Vol.1: “Awakening” (Image)
Writer: Greg Rucka | Artist: Nicola Scott
Rowan Black is a detective with the Portsmouth PD… and a witch, two aspects of her life she has struggled to keep separate. Now someone is targeting Rowan, someone who knows her secrets and means to expose her… or worse.
Collects: Black Magick #1-5
As long-time readers of CR may know, I have a very mixed relationship with urban fantasy. I enjoy UF comics, movies and TV, but frequently don’t get on with UF fiction. Black Magick continues that trend, as I really enjoyed this — far more than I expected. I very much liked the combination of police procedural/investigation and society’s magical underworld. There’s more of a classic style to the witches in the series, which was also a welcome choice. The black-and-white artwork is superb, too (I can’t remember if I’ve read anything else drawn by Nicola Scott, but I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes open for her work from now on). “Awakening” is clearly just a first chapter in a much larger story, but it does exactly what you want it to do: whet the appetite for more. I’m very much looking forward to volume two. A must for urban fantasy and horror fans.
DAREDEVIL, Vol.1: “Back in Black — Chinatown” (Marvel)
Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Ron Garney
Daredevil is back in black and back on his home turf, as Matt Murdock begins a fresh life once again! He may have returned to New York City, but Matt’s on a different side of the law now, with a job in the District Attorney’s office. And he’s finding his new career quite the challenge, as even his incredible skills aren’t enough to indict the local crime lord known as Tenfingers. Could this be a job for Daredevil? Fighting crime in the shadows, prosecuting bad guys in the light, it’s a whole new chapter for the Man Without Fear — and it comes with a protégé. Welcome to Hell, Blindspot – you’ll soon find that life with DD comes with more than its fair share of Hand ninjas out for your blood!
Collects: Daredevil #1-5; All-Different Point One #1 (DD story)
Mark Waid’s re-boot of the Daredevil series was fantastic and is, really, “my Daredevil”. They are the first Daredevil stories I read, and will therefore always have a special place in my library. Charles Soule, who worked on the art for Waid’s run, takes over writing duties and does an excellent job. We’re back in New York, Matt Murdoch has somehow managed to make everyone forget that he is Daredevil, and he’s working for the city. The story was pretty cool, and the artwork suited the tone perfectly. I liked that Daredevil has taken on a new protégé in Blindspot. Where Daredevil’s story is one of overcoming physical handicap, Blindspot’s adds a story that is quintessentially American — that of the immigrant. It’s a nice addition, and the villain is one who exploits the difficulties facing new arrivals in New York and America. It’s very well done, and not preachy. I’m looking forward to reading the next collection.
EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN, Vol.1: “Haven” (Marvel)
Writer: Jeff Lemire | Artist: Humberto Ramos
With the fate of mutantkind in the balance, it’s an All-New, All-Different beginning for the X-Men! Staring down a threat to her race like nothing seen before, Storm pulls together the group she’ll need to ensure mutants’ survival — including Iceman, Jean Grey, Colossus and Magik! But can Storm and Iceman protect the last remaining mutants from a demonic attack? As a new child of the atom discovers her terrifying power, an old foe compounds the horror: Mister Sinister will bring the team face-to-face with their greatest fear. But can anyone be ready for the very first meeting of Old Man Logan and young Jean Grey? Bring all the hate and fear you want, they will fight to their last breath to survive the experience. They’re the X-Men, they’re facing down extinction, and they will be Extraordinary!
Collects: Extraordinary X-Men #1-5
In this X-title, we follow the remaining mutants from the Jean Grey school, now displaced into Limbo — added dangers include demons… It’s a solid opening chapter, as the scattered cast are brought together by the end of the collection. I enjoyed it more than I expected, and I think it did a good job of moving the story forward and kind-of away from the events that preceded it (which, as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t read). Good characters, good writing, some good humour, and great artwork. It shows promise, I think. I think it’s clear that Marvel is trying to grow their audience to include more younger readers. In my experience, this has tended to weaken the stories, but Lemire does a good job of avoiding the “childish” feel that a lot of Marvel titles have had of late. I’ll likely be back for volume two.
HUCK, Vol.1: “All-American” (Image)
Writer: Mark Millar | Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
In a quiet seaside town, a gas station clerk named Huck secretly uses his special gifts to do a good deed each day. When his story leaks, a media firestorm erupts, bringing him uninvited fame. As pieces of Huck’s past begin to resurface, it’s no longer clear who his friends are — or whose lives may be in danger.
Collects: Huck #1-6
This book is great. An admitted reaction to the ever-bleaker direction of (super-hero) comics, Millar set out to write a heart-warming, positive story. He has certainly succeeded, as the titular hero spends much of the book helping others — he has a list of good deeds, and aims to do at least one per day. There is a larger story, about his origins, but it is an unconventional approach to this comic-classic, too: it’s secondary to Huck’s present, and only takes centre-stage in the latter parts of the book. Albuquerque’s artwork is superb, of course, and distinctive. Huck is a brilliant new character and series. I’ll definitely be back for volume two. Highly recommended.
JUSTICE LEAGUE, Vols.7&8: DARKSEID WAR, Parts 1 & 2 (DC Comics)
Writer: Geoff Johns | Art: Scott Williams, Scott Kolins, Kevin Maguire, Jerry Ordway, Phil Jimenez, Jim Lee, Jason Fabok, Francis Manapul | Cover: Jason Fabok
The Justice League came together to stop the forces of Darkseid from destroying Earth five years ago. Now the ruler of Apokolips returns, but this time he’s set his sights on the world-shattering Anti-Monitor. Will the combined might of the Justice League be enough to protect Earth from becoming collateral damage as gods fight?
Collects: Justice League #40-44
Darkseid is dead! And with the Lord of Apokolips slain by the Anti-Monitor, the Justice League has inherited the powers of gods! Batman, Superman, The Flash, Shazam and Green Lantern have been transformed into omnipotent deities—but will this new power help them in the battle against evil, or twist their personalities?
Collects: Justice League #45-50; Justice League: Darkseid War Special
Objectively, this is chaotic. It’s insanely fast-paced, giving readers little-to-no time to digest what happens, before another Big Crazy Event is thrown at us. There’s so much going on, as if Johns et al wanted to just get everything and everyone in there, throw a couple kitchen sinks at everyone involved, and hope nobody notices that this is so very much style over substance. Sure, the artwork is impressive and all of them do a great job at bringing Johns’s story to the page. But the story is just… meh. In some ways, it’s quintessentially American, or like American cinema and politics today: it’s relentless, everything is big, brash and seemingly designed to distract you from what is really going on. Ultimately, this was boring. Very disappointed. I won’t bother reading Justice League: Darkseid War, Power of the Gods.
LAZARUS, Vol.4: “Poison” (Image)
Writer: Greg Rucka | Artist: Michael Lark | Cover: Owen Freeman
“Poison,” the fourth arc in the critically-acclaimed New York Times best-selling series. The world is at war, and Family Carlyle must fight to defend itself. With Malcolm Carlyle hovering at death’s door, the siblings struggle to maintain control. But deception and war go hand in hand, culminating in a final revelation that will truly change everything for Forever Carlyle.
Collects: Lazarus #16-21
I wasn’t sure what I thought of this series to begin with — it took a couple of issues to really hook me, but I can definitely count myself as a fan. Each book has built wonderfully on the world and story. We’re learning more about the other families, and also the Lazari. “Poison” is pretty action-packed, following the surprising ending of volume three, “Conclave“. We see more of what Forever can actually do, and where her head is at. Another superb collection — great story and artwork, “Poison” is a must-read for any fan of the series. If you haven’t tried the series, yet, I would certainly recommend it.
LUCIFER, Book Two (Vertigo)
Writer: Mike Carey | Artist: Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Jon J. Muth, Peter Gross | Cover: Christopher Moeller
The Lightbringer is hard at work on a New Creation complete with a pair of inhabitants for his new Garden of Eden. But as he tries his hand at universe building, back on Earth (and in Hell) schemes and betrayals continue.
Collects: Lucifer #14-28; Lucifer: Nirvana
This is a pretty substantial book, with a hell* of a lot going on. The mythology is expanding wonderfully, with Lucifer’s new creation an interesting and well-thought-out development. We learn more of the politics of Hell, too, which I very much enjoyed. Some of what was shown in Hell reminded me of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s The Devil’s Detective (2015), which in turn made me wonder if Unsworth was a fan of this series… A few storylines from Book One are wrapped up, characters’ situations and allegiances change, and we get some hints of what is to come. It’s not always a perfect or gripping series, but as a whole this book is a great continuation of the story of a character created by Neil Gaiman. Carey really did a fantastic job of continuing Lucifer’s story.
SHERIFF OF BABYLON, Vol.1: “Bang. Bang. Bang.” (Vertigo)
Writer: Tom King | Artist: Mitch Gerads | Colours: John Paul Leon
Baghdad, 2003. In an effort to establish some semblance of order in the war-torn city, Florida cop-turned-military consultant Chris Henry has been assigned to train cadets in law enforcement. But good intentions are not immune to the chaos found in the post-9/11 Middle East. When one of Henry’s trainees is found dead, he’s forced to ally himself with Nassir, the last policeman in Baghdad, to unravel a bloody mystery. While Henry and Nassir search for answers, forces in the shadows are pulling strings that these men don’t even know they’re tied to.
Collects: Sheriff of Babylon #1-6
This book is superb. It’s a great mix of war story and crime mystery. Set in post-invasion Baghdad, we get a look at the local politics, the resistance, the US mismanagement, and the Americans caught in between. The story certainly benefits from distance from the invasion, and King has done a great job of writing a story that evokes so much of the situation: the politics, the mistrust, the conflicting agendas, and so forth. He does it all without preaching or hammering the reader over the head. The artwork is great, too, and reminded me a bit of DMZ. (There’s something about the style and approach to storytelling that reminds me of DMZ, actually.) It’s a perfectly balanced story, and I really can’t wait for volume two. A must-read of the year, I highly recommend it.
Others I’ve read recently, which I didn’t like enough to write a review of: Action Comics, Vols.7-8; All-New Captain America, Vol.1; Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, Vol.1; Buck Barnes: The Winter Soldier, Vols.1-2; Captain America: Sam Wilson, Vol.1; Superman: Doomed (terrible); Uncanny X-Men, Vols.5-6; Wonder Woman, Vol.8