Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 10/7

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #2
Story: Brian Clevinger
Art: Scott Wegener & Anthony Clark

Atomic Robo is back! Again! After the first issue of the current volume of Atomic Robo, where a few of the action scientists of Tesladyne were able to retrieve the head of Atomic Robo from a warehouse currently controlled by the international super-science secret police, Ultra, we get a return of everyone's favorite super genius robot. Well, his head in a box anyway. The first few volumes of Atomic Robo had our heroes with nearly unlimited resources, but now, on the run from Ultra, they have to make due. I've missed Robo himself all these months, and it was wonderful to see that, as much as I missed him, those who work with him miss him more. I can only imagine what a great boss Robo must be to inspire so much loyalty in his employees, and how much joy in  his return. But there's much more for the team to do, and so they set off for the Disputed Zone, a stretch of the South China Sea that has dubious political ownership, where sales the Vasilia, a ship with the international super science black market (God, I love writing sentences like that), which comes from the remnants of Department Zero, the Soviet Tesladyne-analogue, which just screams for a story of its own. While the team is working on getting together everything they'll need to restore Robo, Ultra continues to prepare for the Biomega threat, which I'm sure will have nothing to do with the plot going on involving Robo, nothing at all... And back with the Tesladyne crew, well, things go well and they're able to put together a temporary body for Robo, only to be raided by Project Zero's security guards, led by... Phil, one of their old coworkers! I love that we're slowly getting the band back together, and I love the genre awareness that Robo has, when he's told that Jenkins, his right hand man of butt-kicking's body wasn't found, and Robo is completely sure he's not dead. This scene also has a great Hackers reference, which every comic should have more of. Oh, and a Biomega attack. Biomega are naturally big scary kaiju things, which are designed incredibly by artist Scott Wegener; they feel right at home in the tradition of kaiju without looking like Godzilla knock offs.  So, two issues into the new volume, we've got more of Tesladyne together, Robo back (well, he doesn't have one, but he is anyway), and giant monsters. Yup, it's Atomic Robo, and it's wonderful.

Nailbiter #16
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson & Adam Guzowski

After declaring Nailbiter my favorite horror comic on the racks a couple weeks back, how could I not review this excellent one off issue this week? It's Halloween in Backaroo, and you'd think that a town filled with so many day to day horrors wouldn't celebrate Halloween, but I looks like they do it in spades. But being Backaroo, there are certain very specific traditions, as we follow a group of kids who plan to knock on the door of the current local boogeyman, Edward Charles Warren, the Nailbiter. There's a lot of typical and classic kids out on Halloween in a spooky story/urban legend, with the one kid who's kind of reticent and his friends who keep egging him on and teasing him. And when they arrive and knock on Warren's door, they find it... unlocked. And when they go in to investigate, well, they find more than they bargained for, but less than what they might have feared. Warren is such a complicated character. I know he's a monster, a killer of multiple people in the coldest of blood, but it's very hard not to like him. He has his principles, he's a monster with a very particular code, and his kindness to the kid left behind, like telling him how he did he same thing when younger at the home of another the Buckaroo Butcher, the Bookburner, is the kind of thing that makes you hope there's something in Backaroo making people monsters and there's a cure. Of course, Nailbiter is an ensemble book, and we spend a few pages off in the hospital with Sheriff Crane at the bedside of her daughter, Alice, recovering from her stabbing and talking with Morty the Mortician, and Agent Finch runs afoul of the FBI, finding out not only that Carroll, his fiend and the instigator of so much of what has happened, has awakened and disappeared under the auspices of FBI Agent Burke, who we know has been infected with some of Buckaroo's madness. Things aren't looking good for Carroll, and Finch's hot temper has once again gotten him into trouble, which is par for the course for him. But this issue is Warren's, further digging into his mindset, and setting him of on a roadtrip. The final pages look like they're setting up a new Butcher, and the title of the next arc, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," has me already haring fiddle music. Nailbiter is a comic perfect for a Halloween issue, and this one did not disappoint.

Paper Girls #1
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson

Credit where credit is due, Brian K. Vaughan has range. Paper Girls, his third series currently running through Image Comics, is a completely different animal than either his space opera/love story Saga or his revolutionary tale We Stand On Guard. Set in the '80s, Paper Girls starts on Halloween night, as Erin goes out to deliver her paper route, and quickly runs into three toughs who are scared off when three other paper girls, Mac, Tiffany, and KJ show up. Erin is taken in by this sisterhood so they all have cover on this particularly dangerous night, only to encounter weirdoes in robes who steal from them and lead them to a house with a device that looks alien in the basement, and once it goes off, they find themselves in a world with a strange sky. Even stranger, when they confront the berobed men again, they are something less than human underneath and drop a device with a version of a logo familiar to us but foreign to the 80s. This is Vaughan hearkening back to Runaways, his last teenager coming of age story, but adding in psychedelic prophetic dreams with elements of the Challenger disaster, fewer evil parents, and more weird alien languages. The first issue spends much of its time giving us a feeling for Erin and Mac, who interact the most, but still spends time making more Tiffany and KJ more than cardboard characters. As always, Vaughan is working with an impressive artist, in this case Cliff Chiang, who is a favorite of mine from his work on Wonder Woman, Zatanna, and Human Target. One of the important things about Chiang in relation to this title is when he draws teenage girls, they look like teenage girls, not shrunken adults. They are also wonderfully expressive. But along with the normal stuff, he also draws a great alien machine and freaky guys under robes. And Erin's bedroom has a movie poster from The Monster Squad up in it (Seriously folks, it's around Halloween, and if you haven't seen that movie, or seen it in a while, do yourself a favor and go out and watch it. It holds up). With a wealth of mysteries, well thought out characters, and excellent art, Paper Girls looks like it will sit nicely with Image's current crop of series.

Rowan's Ruin #1
Story: Mike Carey
Art: Mike Perkins & Andy Troy

Mike Carey's comics work usually has a touch of horror; Lucifer had it's share of monsters, as did The Unwritten, and even his run on X-Men had a giant consciousness eating monster. But Rowan's Ruin is the first time in a while Carey has dived in to pure horror. Opening with a young woman being pursued by some sort of revenant, we flash back to see the woman as Katie, who has just agreed to swap houses with a British girl, Emily, so Emily can see the States and Katie can see England. Arriving at Rowan's Rise, the house she will be living in, Katie gets a bad feeling, but she ignores it, and goes about seeing the local landscape. But things are off, and Katie's bad feelings about the house get worse; it seems to eat electricity, for one, and is old and lonely. Most of this first issue is dedicated to getting to know Katie. Narrated by her blog, we get inside her head, and even see her starting to get involved with a local constable, James Hallam. But there's a pall hanging over Rowan's Rise. Inside Emily's bedroom, locked but suddenly mysteriously opened after a fuse blows, we see the room of someone disturbed; not necessarily insane disturbed but haunted disturbed. Mike Perkins is a great artist, but the scene that really sent gooseflesh up my arms was Emily's room. Festooned in horseshoes hanging from the ceiling, with a circle of salt around her bed, and a booby trap of nails under the window, this is the room of someone who is trying to protect herself from something. More disturbed than ever by this, Kaie confides in Hallam that as a child she had feelings about places, and after years of therapy she got past it, but now those feelings are creeping back. Carey plays with atmosphere, contrasting the beautiful English countryside near Stratford with the dark foreboding of Rowan's Rise. Even without the opening flashforward this would all have the feeling of a classic haunted house tale, but with that it takes on the drumbeat of the inevitable, moving inexorably, horribly towards the monster's coming. Tension is the key to a good scary story, and Rowan's Ruin #1 sets up the tension for the remaining issues perfectly.

Southern Bastards #11
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour

One of the best parts of any of Jason Aaron's books, and especially his crime comics, is the depth and ambiguity of his characters even the blackest of villains has a side that is not so dark, and nearly all his heroes are far from spotless. The new issue of Aaron and Jason Latour's southern crime epic Southern Bastards introduces a new character, and one who I found absolutely fascinating, a character I couldn't take my eyes off of. Boone is a southern man, a woodsman. He is a bow hunter, but not for sport. He kills to eat. He's a self professed holy roller and snakehandler. He is a man of faith, who goes to church, but who kills a man because that man committed an unspeakable crime, and this is what God would want him to do. He might be the first character we've met in this entire series who can't stand football. And he hates Coach Boss, the series' principal antagonist. Listen, I'll be up front if you haven't figured it out yet: I'm about as much the stereotypical Yankee intellectual as you can get. But this issue so deeply dives into Boone's mind that I get a real feeling for the man. In one issue, Aaron has found a way to define a completely different southern man than any other we've seen, a study in contradictions in many ways, but a man who is confident in what he's doing, because he has his faith. Jason Latour's art is stellar as always, crafting the world of Craw County, and this issue really drew my attention to the colors he's using. I wouldn't say the color pallet is muted, but it's unique to the book, really setting it apart from everything else on the racks. The scenes of Boone in the woods, of him facing down some of Boss's men as they encounter each other on boats travelling along the river, and of snakes crawling all over him at his church are indelibly grafted onto my memory. Aaron and Latour are setting up a board with many different pieces in place, and this new one, Boone, strikes me as far more than a pawn. He's a knight, maybe a tarnished one, but an important piece that will be making his move against Coach Boss soon enough, and I can' wait to see what that move is.

And Dan Grote brings two reviews for two of this week's most anticipated launches...

Jughead #1
Story by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Erica Henderson
When I found out Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals) and Erica Henderson (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) were going to be teaming up on the all-new, all-different adventures of Archie’s be-crowned best friend, I pretty much yelled “Shut up and take my money” at my phone.
I was not wrong.
Jughead’s solo sojourn fits perfectly in the retooled Archieverse but also stands perfectly on its own. Whereas the main Archie book by Mark Waid and, until recently, Fiona Staples, is more teen soap, Jughead is quirky teen comedy, hence the creative team, which specializes in quirky characters and generally laugh-out-loud comics. There’ll be no talk of the Lipstick Incident here, but there will be plenty of talk about hamburgers.
With the new series comes a shakeup in Riverdale’s status quo. Longtime Principal Weatherbee is out, clearly not of his own volition, and a younger, leaner, angrier-looking Principal Stanger is in. Stanger is immediately positioned as Jughead’s nemesis when he changes the cafeteria menu, replacing lasagna Mondays with a high-nutrition gruel. As someone whose one true love is food, this will not stand.
This leads into a terrific parody of Game of Thrones, complete with a dragon, an incest reference and football player Moose in the Hodor role. Such dream sequences and other flights of fancy appear to be a regular part of the book, as next issue teases the return of Jughead’s Time Police.
The thing to remember about Jughead is that he appears lazy, but he can be quite resourceful when compelled to action (which we saw in Archie #1 when he set about his own plan to reunite Archie and Betty). The book opens with him spending an entire night killing people in a video game, then, upon arriving at school, mocking Betty for protesting the clear-cutting of trees by Veronica’s developer father. Once Stanger implements the new food policy, Jughead makes his own protest sign, has the home ec teacher show him how to make his own burgers, then bypasses Stanger’s rules by selling burgers for charity in the cafeteria, piggybacking on Betty’s open-space initiative and turning the new principal’s face new shades of red.
Also, he dispenses this nugget of wisdom by which I will now live my life: “Teach a man to fish, and he’ll bring home fish, which are gross. Teach a man to make burgers, and he’ll be the hero Gotham deserves, or something.”


Doctor Strange #1
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend

Stephen Strange has an odd place in Marvel’s pantheon. As the Sorcerer Supreme, he’s arguably one of the most powerful people in the universe. As a member of the Illuminati, he’s helped manipulate events over decades. Heck, in this summer’s Secret Wars, he was literally the right hand of God (till, you know, God killed him).
Yet the one thing he hasn’t been able to do, at least in the past few years, is carry his own book.
But with a movie coming out next year, Marvel can’t afford to let its top mystic ride the bench anymore. And so, in the first week of the All-New, All-Different age of Marvel, we get Doctor Strange by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo.
First of all, how has Chris Bachalo never drawn Doctor Strange before? His dark, psychedelic, heavily inked style is a perfect fit for the doctor. Artwise, this book is all giant-mouthed soul-eaters, tentacle porn, mystical bacteria, and floating teddy bears. Everything is in constant, swirling motion, even Strange’s cloak, which he can ride like a magic carpet or tie around his neck like a hipster scarf. (His tunic also transforms into a sleek denim jacket when he’s on the street).
Storywise, Aaron is creating a Doctor Strange for new readers, much the same as he’s done with Thor in the past couple years. An intro page quickly retells his origin, reprinting classic Steve Ditko art, but that’s all the continuity you need for this book. Baron Mordo, Clea, Dormammu, Wong and the rest of his normal supporting cast are all on the shelf, at least for now. This Strange is too busy making house calls, casting interdimensional bogeymen from children’s nightmares, wrestling soul-sucking leeches on the streets of Brooklyn, hitting on women of all planes of reality, and showing up late for drinks with his fellow Marvel mages.
Aaron’s Strange eschews shadowy meetings with Namor, Black Panther and Reed Richards in favor of pub crawling with Doctor Voodoo, Shaman of Alpha Flight, and the Scarlet Witch, all of whom take pot-shots at Strange as if he were their version of Andre from The League. I quite like this unexpected circle of friends, both for its diversity and the fact that no one is treating Wanda like the delicate continuity wormhole she’s been for the past decade.
The book’s long game appears to involve some sort of interdimensional migration (there should probably be a blanket ban on the word incursion after Hickman’s Avengers run/Secret Wars), with all sorts of be-fanged nasties fleeing other realms ahead of a coming slaughter (“Great. Another one of those,” Wanda says casually). There’s also some talk about keeping the cosmic balance by sacrificing a life for every life saved through magic. As of right now, I plan on sticking around to see how these themes play out.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Recommended Reading for 10/9: The Halloween Legion- The Great Goblin Invasion

Here's a funny little process story for this blog, because I know everyone loves blog process stories! I read and really enjoyed The Halloween Legion back in October of 2013, which if you go back and look, was the low ebb of my writing here, as I was in the process of moving. I really wanted to write this up as a Halloween season recommended reading, but I just didn't have the time. And last year, well, it slipped under the mental radar. But this week, I was looking over my shelves, trying to find something appropriately Halloween for today, and this bright yellow binding popped out at me, and I remembered how great this book was, and so... process story done, and recommendation begins here.

When talking about Coraline, Neil Gaiman has commented that kids can take the scary stuff better than adults can, and I think I may have made a comment similar somewhere on here at one point or another. Kids are mentally resilient, which is why kids horror like Goosebumps is a genre that is not going away. Today's recommended reading, The Halloween Legion, is another all ages monster comic, a hardcover graphic novel released by Dark Horse from writer Martin Powell (who wrote the classic Sherlock Holmes/Dracula comic Scarlet in Gaslight) and artists Diana Leto and Thomas Boatwright, with some legitimate scares and some heavier themes, where a team of monstrous heroes face down an invasion of goblins in flying saucers. And if that sentence doesn't at least pique your interest, I'm not doing my job right.

The opening page of the book gives a quick rundown of the team of monster heroes who defend the own of Woodland, a place where spooky stuff clearly happens regularly: The Devil, aka Molly Aldrich, who is a local girl who happens to be a fire elemental; The Skeleton, and immortal giant; The Witch Grimalkin, whose ugly exterior hides an internal beauty; Freddy, the ghost of a boy who now has amazing ghost powers; and Autumn, who is addressed as "THE black cat," with powers and who always knows what must be done. They're all very distinct character types, working together is a classic team dynamic: Molly is impetuous (hot-headed you might say), The Skeleton is somber, Grimalkin is motherly, Freddy is wide eyed innocent, and Autumn is, well, a cat. The fact that they click so well as a team immediately gets the readers to like them and let's their best traits shine through.

The story starts out with the team assembled and clearly having been working together for some time. Everyone has an established backstory that becomes apparent to the readers over the course of the beginning of the book. While a bit of internet research revealed that Powell has written a Halloween Legion novel that the comic serves as a sequel to, I never felt lost. Powell does a good job of establishing who everyone is and what their stories are without a ton of exposition, which is one of the signs of a strong writer.

The plot of the book sees a mysterious solar eclipse hit the town of Woodland, which it is quickly revealed is caused by goblins in flying saucers. Whether they're strictly alien, or some manner of supernatural and alien combined isn't made clear and doesn't really matter, as they begin to abduct townsfolk. The Halloween Legion springs into action, but he goblins not only have overwhelming numbers on their side, but science weapons that seem to counter many supernatural powers. The stakes are immediately established by having a little girl named Alexandria become the face of the people, as her mother is abducted and the Legion has to protect her. There's a reason why the waif in danger is a trope, as it gives immediate buy-in for a reader to hope she's protected, and to have her be a former classmate of ghost Freddy adds a layer to his character, letting him interact with someone his own age and learn a bit more about how he feels about being a ghost.

One of the major beats of the graphic novel involves the gremlins having technology that shuts down the Witch's powers, leaving her free of the curse that makes her appear as a witch and shows her true beautiful appearance, but leaves her unable to help in the battle. The only way to restore her power is for The Skeleton to transfer his life force to her, which might be the one death he will not return from. There's a lot of pathos in that situation, but I love the nobility of both characters, with the Witch willing to sacrifice her chance to not be a monster and The Skeleton willing to give his life with nary a second thought. We also get to go into The Skeleton's lab and meet his assistant, Huston the rag golem, who has a really great design.

The art in the book is stellar. Thomas Boatwright does the pencils, with design direction from Halloween Legion co-creator Diana Leto. The cover has a pull quote from Mike Mignola, and I can see an influence there, with some of the big, blocky characters and creepy atmosphere. But his humans have more realistic faces, which helps especially with Molly, who is a teenage girl, and needs that level of expression to show everything she's going through, especially as he reader's "in" to the world. I absolutely love the look of the goblins, and the scenes of them appearing en masse are absolutely creepy. Boatwright is listed as artist, so he colored his own work, and I was really impressed by the colors after the sun is blotted out and the alien crafts arrive. The weird, ugly green they shine from their ships is a perfect color choice, unnatural and otherworldly.

The book also has a fun little back-up story, "Once Upon a Halloween," which Powell says is a creepy experience he had on a Halloween as a kid that led to his creation of The Halloween Legion. Whether or not that's true, I don't know, but it's a neat story with art by Diana Leto, and a nice cap to the book.

I can see a lot of set up for future adventures, including Freddy's growing powers and he townsfolk distrust of the Halloween Legion, not to mention Molly's high school adventures, but as far as I can tell, there haven't been any other adventures for the Halloween Legion. I'd love to see some more spooky, exciting, and fun adventures from this team in the future, as either comics or novels.

The Halloween Legion graphic novel is sill in print and available at comic book shops and bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursdays With Wade: Joe Kelly's Deadpool Revisited Part 7

Today’s reading: Deadpool #8
Story: Joe Kelly
Art: Pete Woods, Ed McGuinness, Shannon Denton and John Fang

Mary, we’ve been together for a couple weeks now. Remember that time we broke you out of that mental-health facility and you hired a gender-fluid psychic monster to take us out? Or that time you tricked us into tagging along on your revenge spree across New York?

My point is, it’s time for us to break up.

Deadpool #8 wraps the book’s second big arc, revolving around that whirlwind of psychotic chaos otherwise known as Typhoid Mary. Mary turns the tables on Wade’s quest to help her face her demons by killing civilians to show Wade he can’t “fix” her. Two die, two get saved. All the while, she teases him by calling him hero, treating the term with all the disdain of the four-letter word it technically is. Finally, she tells him Siryn was wrong about him, and Wade beats the ever-loving crap out of her, leaving her bleeding and barely conscious on the floor of a dive bar in Queens. Because as funny as this book can be, it can also be just as violently dark.

Making a return appearance this issue are Zoe, Noah and Montgomery from the interdimensional firm of Landau, Luckman & Lake. The three spend a couple panels watching Wade and Mary fight, until Zoe decides she can take no more and leaves for Chicago, “to fix things.” It will take Zoe two issues to get there, as she does not show up again until issue #10.

Issue #8 also gives us another random scene of Gerry the Bum. This time, for seemingly no reason, San Francisco’s residence-less old hippie is in Paris, talking to a stranger on a park bench about the truth behind The X-Files, which was at the height of its popularity at the time. The scene is scripted in French, but a page at the back of the issue reprints the conversation in English. It has seemingly no bearing on the plot. Or does it?

Next week we’ll be tackling issues #9, a standalone face-off against a new villain, and #10, a romp with the Great Lakes Avengers. The week after will be devoted to what may be my favorite single Deadpool comic of all time.

For those of you reading along at home, issue #8 is the last in the Deadpool Classic Vol. 2 trade. If you want to keep reading and don’t have the single issues, you can find issues #9-17 in Deadpool Classic Vol. 3, which goes for $22.22 on Amazon. Or if you’ve got the dough, you can buy the entire Kelly run in one hardcover omnibus for $76.32. Or, you know, digital.
In addition to writing for The Matt Signal, Dan Grote is now the official comics blogger for The Press of Atlantic City. New posts appear Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com/Life. His new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He and Matt have been friends since the days when Onslaught was just a glimmer in Charles Xavier's eye. Follow @danielpgrote on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Greetings from Battleworld: Secret Wars Week 21

After a couple weeks away, and on the eve of All New, All Different Marvel, we return to Battleworld for some more Secret Wars reviews. Dan Grote looks at the final issues of MODOK: Assassin and X-Men '92, and I read the final issue of Inferno...

MODOK: Assassin #5
Story: Christopher Yost
Art: Amilcar Pinna, Terry Pallot, & Rachelle Rosenberg

The biggest drawback to living in Battleworld is that God Emperor Doom forbids most people from crossing the borders of their respective territories. As such, word appears to travel slowly from Doomgard to the rest of the world, even when you’re the baron of a domain.
Baron Mordo was convinced he could draw Sheriff Strange to Killville to, well, kill him and take his place at the right hand of Doom. What he failed to bank on was that a) Strange was busy at the moment with the plot of the main Secret Wars book, b) that Strange would be dead in a little bit anyway (this book takes place before Secret Wars #4), c) the reason his archnemesis is sheriff is that he was there when Doom re-created the multiverse in his image and d) Doom probably don’t give a f@&% about Baron Mordo.
Also, as MODOK rightly points out when Mordo finishes explaining his plan like a basic Bond villain, “This ‘plan,’ and note the sarcasm as I call it that, is filled with logic errors. >>>Stupidity.”
After dispatching so many notable characters with glee over the past five issues, MODOK tries defeating Mordo rather than killing him. His love for Angela-Thor makes him want to be something more than a killing machine, though even in describing her, his love appears to be based on her capacity for murder. Finally, though, he gets tired of hearing Mordo rant and rave and liquefies his brain, with the same eyeball-popping, lavender glow the art team has made its trademark in this series.
For uncovering Mordo’s plot and saving the life of a Thor, MODOK is made the new baron of Killville. And really, after these past five issues, who’s a better fit for the job? Forget Wolverine. MODOK is the best there is at what he does.
Does he get the girl? Oh, Hel, no. Angela whacks him across the face with her axe for even puckering his fat, split lips at her. But Battleworld’s greatest killing machine does have a sweet new job and an appreciation of his capacity for love. “For in the end, what else is there? Killing … and love. >>>Just those things.”
Marvel, if you’re listening, if a couple of your 60-some-odd All-New, All-Different titles don’t work out and you’re looking for a replacement, you could do worse than to make this an ongoing.

X-Men ’92 #4
Story: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims
Art: Scott Koblish & Matt Milla

I could not have been happier when I found out X-Men ’92 is returning as an ongoing series next year. Chad Bowers and Chris Sims have created a fantastic book around the premise that your favorite cartoon from 20 years ago was both amazing and terrible at the same time, and based on how this miniseries ends, they’ve barely scratched the surface. And while Scott Koblish proved himself the right man for the art job with his 10-headed Sentinels and chariots pulled by Warwolves, I’m very much looking forward to what the ongoing’s artist, Alti Firmansyah, brings to the table. Her work on Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde made that mini another of my favorite Secret Wars books, and we already know she draws a great, expressive, creepy Gambit.
Back to the issue at hand, though. To steal an expression from Saturday Night Live’s Stefon, this book has everything: a 10-headed Sentinel; multiple people in optic visors; gay subtext; telepaths who pass out after using their powers; a female superhero whose clothing is strategically ripped; old catchphrases (“Za’s Vid,” anyone?); someone ordering a falling character to go limp; Onslaught with Phoenix wings, a giant gun and a bloody huge scimitar; Jim Lee’s gatefold cover to X-Men #1; a kinetically charged motorcycle; new Horsemen that don’t make any sense; the sound effect “BRAKABRAKABRAKA”; jokes about lasers; and Joseph.
The issue’s three endings (a little Lord of the Rings-y, but who cares?) make it clear the creators are already planning for the future in glorious ways, re-introducing old characters from the cartoon and from the ’90s in general.
But I’m gonna ask again: Where’s Morph?

Story: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Javier Garron & Chris Sotomamayor
Last week I finished reading Essential X-Men Vol. 8, a massive collection that wraps up with the original "Inferno" crossover, so it seemed fortuitous that the final issue of the Secret Wars mini-series that tied into the crossover should come out this week as well. The Darkchylde now rules the Inferno Domain, both through force of arms and by decree of Doom, and all the forces who oppose her are gathered ion the Morlock tunnels: the X-Men, Goblyn Queen and her army of goblins, and Mr. Sinister and his army of Boom-Boom/demon hybrid clones (and only in comics would that statement appear and make perfect sense). But these three groups have their own axes to grind with each other, and pretty soon they're not only battling Darkchylde's demons but each other. I was hoping to see a grand last stand for our heroes, but mostly they fall under the onslaught, and it comes down to Colossus and Domino against Darkchylde. This whole series has been about Colossus coming to terms with the fact that he lost his sister, and even to the final battle, he is hoping that he can somehow save her. It's a great battle too, with swords drawn and no quarter given (at least by Darkchylde). The ending is at best bittersweet, as Colossus does finally accept that his sister is gone, and it's his love for Domino that allows him to finally do what must be done. But by the time this has happened, pretty much everyone else is dead, and so Colossus, Domino, and Boom-Boom, our core cast of heroes, use the Soulsword to teleport away from the crumbling Domain. It's interesting to see how many of the different Secret Wars tie-ins are ending with Domain hopping, and it makes me wonder if certain characters are being positioned for appearances in the finale of the core series. While I kind of doubt it, I would love to see these versions of the characters again. Colossus maintains his nobility while being haunted, and Dom and Boom-Boom are fun, balancing out the darkness of Colossus. Major kudos go to artist Javier Garron, who populated every fight scene with tons of cameos of mutants from various eras. His art was outstanding throughout the series, and I'd love to see on an ongoing soon. The final couple pages tie up one last loose end, dealing with Madelyne Pryor and her son, the ten year old Cable, who is still my absolutely favorite part of the series. Like Dan said above with MODOK, Marvel, if you're listening, a Goblyn Queen and young Cable mini-series or ongoing spinning out of this series would totally be a book I would buy.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 9/30

Batman Annual #4
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Roge Antonion & Daniel McCaig

Bruce Wayne has been a passenger in the book he's driven for most of seventy-five years since Jim Gordon took up the mantle of the Bat and Bruce got amnesia, but this annual returns Bruce to the spotlight. On the day Wayne Manor is being returned to the Wayne family, Bruce, his current lady love Julie Madison, Alfred, and CEO Geri Powers arrive a the manor to sign the papers that will officially make the house Bruce's again. But because this is Gotham, what should be a simple signature is anything but, as three of Batman's rogues crash the party to make a point. Hunted through the manor by Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Clayface, Bruce has to save himself and the others without his Batman skills. I really like Bruce Wayne, this likable, earnest, good guy who doesn't remember anything about his old life, but is trying to make a go of his new one. And as this little Riddler headed trio hunts for Bruce, he and Alfred do their best to make it through and save the others. It's interesting to see Bruce questioning everything about the house and his life, and moments where he sees something similar to an armory or the tunnels under the manor that Alfred covers up quickly. It's wonderful to see how Alfred wants Bruce to make a go of this new life he's been given. In the end, though, it comes to down everyone in the house in an office, and Riddler giving a speech about the madness of Bruce Wayne, both what is in him and what he's caused. And the speech has it's points, even though they're only accurate from Riddler's skewed point of view, in the same way the closing argument from the excellent Batman: The Animated Series episode, "The Trial" is. The final moment of the confrontation, Bruce does seem to channel some of his Batman muscle memory, and it makes me wonder exactly how much might still be under this calm new fa├žade. The art from Roge Antonion, a newcomer to me, has hints of Rafael Albuquerque, with the same realistic bodies, but dynamic style and hints of horror in his Clayface. Annuals are often throwaway stories, but DC has been doing a good job of making them matter, and as a character piece to flesh out the new Bruce Wayne, this issue is top notch.

Grayson Annual #2
Story: Tom King & Tim Seeley
Art: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, & Jeremy Cox

The other standout annual from DC this week was the second from Grayson, featuring the first meeting between superspy Dick Grayson and the recently outed and depowered Superman. Starting with a flashback to an early adventure of Batman, Robin, and Superman, the bulk of the story takes place right after he last issue of Grayson, with Dick saying goodbye to Gotham in the best way he knows how, jumping off a building to acrobat his way down, only to be grabbed by Superman, who thinks he's suicidal. What follows is what Grayson has proven time and again it does best: a fast paced adventure story, as the murder cult called The Fist of Cain come after Dick and Superman, along with Blockbuster, the Batman villain as their newest recruit, one who makes the flashback from the beginning of the story all the more key to the events unfolding. One of the things that really impressed me about this issue was how it did an excellent job of getting the readers up to speed on each character's status quo without making it feel forced; it was an infodump, sure, but when these are two old friends who haven't seen each other, it works. The dynamic between Superman and Dick Grayson has always been an interesting one, with Dick often acting towards Superman as if he were the fun uncle, but here, especially due to the vast weakening of Superman's powers, they are more on equal footing. The chase sequence, with them being pursued by the Fist of Cain and Blockbuster, is phenomenal, as he heroes try to get the cultists, who would revel in collateral damage, away from populated Gotham. They banter, they fight, it's charming, dashing, and fun, which is exactly when Grayson is at its best. But the Fist of Cain isn't a laughable threat, especially since they've weaponized Blockbuster's blood to make it a Venom knock off of sorts (and isn't that a freaky idea?), and so they have to ask from help from the one man who neither really wants to: Lex Luthor. Luthor's demeanor is the smug arrogance on has come to expect, and he's written perfectly, and with his help, the good guys win. Thematically, there's lot of talk of change, and the Kyptonian myth of Nightwing and Flamebird gets a new telling, one that makes Dick even more aligned with the mythical Kryptonian figure. All in all, if you've been curious to check out Dick Grayson's new spy adventures, or if you want to know more about Superman's status quo, this is an excellent place to start.

Sandman: Overture #6
Story: Neil Gaiman
Art: JH Williams III & Dave Stewart

"It begins..." Those are the last words of the main story in Sandman: Overture #6, and are words that are perfectly appropriate for a tale about the Endless, beings who never truly die but just begin again, and a story about the power of stories. Dream, on the ship with the beings gathered by his cat form and the ghost of the girl named Hope, must prepare to fix the problem he created by sparing the vortex that has become the mad star. It's cleverly done, tying in with one of the best Sandman single issues of all time, "A Dream of a Thousand Cats," making the appearance of the cat Dream throughout the series make all the more sense. I don't want to give too much away, because there are twists and turns throughout the issue that pay off events hat have happened earlier in the series, as well as some that make perfect sense in retrospect and make me want to go back and reread the series from the beginning, but the main story ends exactly where I expected it would. Gaiman has always been a writer who plays a long game, and little things are rarely little things. The Saeculum, the device that was a point of contention between Dream and his father, becomes an important aspect of the plot in this story, something I should have seen coming. Most members of the Endless appear in this issue, giving us Williams's visions of Delirium, Death, Desire, and Despair, all of which impressed, which shouldn't be shocking if you've ever seen his art. The pages with Delirium are particularly stunning, as his style morphs, becoming no less clean, but is now surreal. I usually have no problem telling how Williams two page spreads are meant to be read, but this one threw me for a second, simply because of how irregular and odd the borders are, which is perfectly befitting the subject of those pages. There are also two very clear hints at events that would come in the future of Sandman, evens that are important, and these nods to the future could have come off as twee or winking, but instead are natural fits to the way Gaiman tells stories. It's been two years since the first issue of Sandman: Overure was released, and a lo can change in two years. The quality and beauty of the words and pictures in this comic, though, have not, presenting a story that is a feast for the eyes and mind. If you've been waiting for the collection, I cannot recommend this highly enough, whether you're a fan of Sandman from old times, or have never tried it before.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #12
Story: Sholly Fisch
Art: Dario Bizuela & Franco Riesco

I've enjoyed the various issues of Scooby-Doo Team-Up that have paired Scooby and the gang with DC Universe characters, but this particular team-up, with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, along with appearances by a couple other of Gotham's lady defenders or villains, has to be a favorite. Mystery Inc. arrives in Gotham, assuming they have been called for help by an anonymous source who can only be Batman. Only it's not Batman, it's Harley and Ivy, who are having ghost problems. Having stolen the cursed Opal of Osiris, their luck has gone sour, and they need the best ghost hunters in the biz to find out what's happening. The issue plays it completely straight with the Scooby-Doo tropes: there's a fake ghost, an unmasking, a chase. But who is behind the ghost mask each time is great fun. Sholly Fisch has done a great job merging the DC Animated Universe with Scooby-Doo's, and I was excited to see the designs for Harley and Ivy, as well as the two other gust stars who don't appear on the cover, were the classic Batman: The Animated Series designs. I have nothing against the New Batman Adventures designs, or any other, but those designs are so iconic and so perfect for animation, that they work seamlessly with this comic. I know this is technically a two week old comic for those keeping track, but my store sold out in a couple hours and I had to wait for this week's reorder. It has sold out through Diamond now, but a second printing is on the way. I have to say, the only thing that would be better would be Scooby and the rest meeting real DCU ghosts. Oh, the next issue features The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre, and Deadman? Sign me up!

Friday, October 2, 2015

October Horrors Week 1: Best on the Racks Right Now

It's October again, my favorite month of the year, and not just because my birthday and wedding anniversary fall in it. It's because October is the spookiest of all months, where ghosts, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night are everywhere. I've usually tried to focus October recommended readings and some other posts on horror comics in the past, and hope to do some more of those over the next few weeks, but this week I'm in a time crunch thanks to real life, so I'm going to do a spotlight on the best horror comics I'm reading right now in single issues. I'm not making this a blanket statement, as there are plenty of horror comic I don't read, but if you're in the mood for something spooky, these are a great place to start. So, in no particular order, here we go, and you might want to read this with the lights on.

Afterlife With Archie

If you had said a couple years ago that two of the best horror comics currently being published (if published infrequently) would be coming from modern bastion of wholesome comics Archie Publishing, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed. But now, in 2015? Wow, but Archie knows how to do a scary comic. Afterlife With Archie is a zombie comic, where a failed attempt to resurrect Hot Dog, Jughead's dog, leads to a zombie plague ravaging Riverdale and possibly the world. I started reading it for the amazingly gorgeous art from Francesco Francavilla, and while that is as great as I would have expected, it's Robert Aguirre-Sacasa's  story that really keeps you coming back. After an initial heart rending arc where Archie and the gang watch many of their friends turned into flesh eating monsters, the series current second arc is much quieter in some respects. It's a very character focused story, where we see Betty's history through her journals, where Archie talks his problems out with the ghost of Jughead in a hotel suspiciously similar to the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, where Cheryl Blossom has secrets that are way more terrifying than whatever plan she might have had to steal Archie away from Betty and Veronica. There is still some of the classic Archie soap opera, as Veronica is angry a the fact that Archie has chosen Betty, and Mr. Lodge is still the imperious jerk he ever was, and I love that; the comic is still an Archie comic, even with the zombies tearing up Riverdale. I also love the various ties to folklore and literature that Aguirre-Sacasa works in, from the aforementioned Shining scenes, to pacts with the devil, and great Cthulhu himself. Zombies may be the monster du jour right now, in the same way that vampires were in the '90s, but it's the best zombie stories hat are about the people who are trying to survive, who thy really are and how they interact, and not just he people looking to kill the zombies (this is why The Walking Dead has become such a cross media sensation, and is still a title deserving of a look, although I'm not spotlighting it here because it's The Walking Dead and it doesn't need my recommendation). When you add in the fact that you're not only dealing with those themes and using characters like Archie, who have such a rich history, you get a scary comic that really has you invested in who these characters are from page one.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The companion title to Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is also written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and exists in its own continuity and takes the classic Sabrina the Teenage Witch character and her supporting cast and sets them in a world where witches are far closer to the classic horror icons they are, and he devil is right around the corner. Set in the 1960's, the comic has the feel of some of the classic horror movies of the time, Rosemary's Baby coming particularly to mind. Sabina is coming in to her own as a witch as the story begins, and has to choose between life as a mortal and life as a witch. There's a lot of the classic metaphor of teen angst/life as horror intrinsic in setting the book as a character is coming of age. Sabrina herself is a nice girl who just happens to worship Satan, and has no problem using witchcraft to make the boy she likes like her back. Her aunts, usually played for laughs, are here powerful witches in their own right who we see flashes behind their mortal guises to their true forms which are monstrous in their own right. And while Sabrina is navigating high school and trying to be a normal girl while deciding if she wants to be a normal girl, Madame Satan is looking to destroy her. Madame Satan is Sabrina's dad's old flame who recently escaped imprisonment in hell and finding the man she blames for her fate dead, she decides to take the revenge on the daughter. We get an elaborate plan from Madame Satan, as she makes her way into Sabrina's life as a teacher, and does everything she can to mess with Sabrina's life from behind the scenes. The most recent issue dealt with Harvey, Sabrina's boyfriend, wandering into the black mass in the woods where Sabrina was being confirmed as a bride of Satan, his death, and the ramifications of it all. It's slow burn horror, with moments of truly monstrous terror spaced out between the events that fallout from it, or are simply quiet, making those horror moments all the darker. Robert Hack, artist on the title, has a great style, at times very realistic, at times truly horrific, and that juxtaposition works very well. I don't know how much research he has done, but the book looks and feels authentically '60s. If you've tried Afterlife and haven't given Sabrina a shot, it's well worth your time, and if you are a fan of classic horror, Sabrina is a book that will work for you.

Colder: Toss the Bones

I wrote a full recommended reading on the original Colder in October a couple years ago, and as the final mini-series in the trilogy debuted this past Wednesday, I thought I'd toss it in here, even though I haven't read the first issue of Toss the Bones yet, on the strength of the original and its sequel, Bad Seed. Colder is the story of Declan and Rese, a couple with a most unusual met cute. You see Reese is a nurse, and Declan was a patient in a waking coma of sorts that she took care of, whose body temperature was unusually cold. Only eventually, Declan woke up, pursued by various evil entities hat feed on or grow or embrace madness, and Declan has to escape them, often by going into a supernatural world parallel our own called the Hungry World, where the things that people afflicted with mental illness's delusions are made real, or possible the world where what they see really exists. The main monsters of Colder, Nimble Jack from he first mini-series and Swivel from the second, aren't traditional monsters of any sort, unless you can view them as vampires of a kind, feeding on something that people produce. Jack is a vicious and cruel trickster figure, with a mad laugh, while Swivel looks like a farmer, and views the madness he sows in a similar way. There is a real hear o the series, as Declan and Reese have a wonderful relationship. But I ill say, as great as Paul Tobin's scripts are, it's Juan Ferreyra who steals the show over and over. While he can absolutely draw people looking like people and doing normal people things, he's a master of creatures and at things being just a bit off. Nimble Jack looks human, but the way he rests his body is a times just a bit off, making him look unsettling. The Hungry World is full of terrifying creatures, all of which I would call beautiful in design and execution if they weren't so hideous. The mythology and world building has been phenomenal, creating this fascinating world of madness unlike anything I've ever seen, and with the final mini-series having just started, it's a great time to catch up and be there for the finale.

Harrow County

The quiet country town is often the site of a murder mystery, where the town keeps its secrets. While urban horror is now more prevalent than country horror (except for the cabin in the woods kind, which is an old chestnut that never goes away), Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook's Harrow County is a country horror story in the grand tradition. Emmy is a girl who lives out on a remote farm with her father. But shortly after she reaches he age she is considered an adult (there's growing up and horror linked again), Emmy begins to display powers, and the local townsfolk start showing up with pitchforks and torches, and I'm not talking metaphorically. Soon, Emmy learns secrets of Harrow County, secrets involving witches, artificial people made real, all the "haints" that occupy the town and its surroundings, and her own origins, which are nothing like she expected. Cullen Bunn, who became a favorite writer of mine with his weird Western The Sixth Gun and Tyler Crook, whose work on B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth is some of the best Mignolaverse art not by Mignola himself, craft a moody story of skeletons, skinless bodies whose skin is still psychically connected to it, a good witch, and with the new arc, another witch who I have a feeling is not so good. When you add in some fun backmatter, like Bunn's tales of supernatural experiences in early letter columns, and a one page back up in most issues that tells another scary story of the supernatural in Harrow County, Harrow County is one of he best looking and best written new series of 2015.

Gotham by Midinght

A lot of comics mash up two genres: the weird Western is a good example, and a lot of times, superhero comics take on aspects of some other genre. But Gotham by Midnight finds a way to mash up three genres, superhero, horror, and police procedural, in a way that not only works, but works really well. Headlined by Jim Corrigan, better known as the human host for he wrathful angel called The Spectre, Gotham by Midnight follows the Midnight Shift, a group of police officers and related professionals brought together by Jim Gordon when he was commissioner to deal with Gotham's supernatural elements. The rest of the squad include Det. Lisa Drake, who is part fairy and has the abilities of a banshee to know when death is near, Dr. Szandor Tarr, forensics and a bit of a mad scientist, Sister Justine, who encountered rue demonic evil and now does her best to help stop it, and their commanding officer, Lt. Weaver. The cases the Midnight Shift have encountered have led them into Slaughter Swamp, to a pair of news pundits who made a deal with the devil, a haunting at Powers Coporation, and a powerful demon that has been working its claws into Gotham for a long time. The police aspect comes into play as Sgt. Rook from Internal Affairs arrives. Rook starts out in issue one as  the way in for the readers, meeting the different members of the Midnight Shift, and encountering the weird. But instead of becoming an ally, as this sort of thing usually goes in fiction, Internal Affairs comes down harder on he Midnight Shift after Rook's investigation, meaning another player is brought in, a lawyer to help the Shift, Kate Spencer, who was the final hero to bar the name Manhunter before Flashpoint, a favorite character of mine, who I'm excited to see back. The most recent issue, issue nine, has cast some doubts on what the Spectre is, and was a great jumping on point, filling you in on what you might not know while also setting up the series final issues, as it has sadly been caught in DC's most recent purge. The art has been great, starting out with Ben Templesmith and his utterly surreal, expressionistic style, and then followed up by Juan Ferreyra, whose work here is as impressive as his work on Colder is. Gotham City has always had a spooky side, and Gotham by Midnight shines a spotlight on those darker corners.


Now, I mentioned The Walking Dead before, and everyone out there has at least hard of it. What fewer people have heard of, at least for the moment, is Outcast, Robert Kirkman's other horror comic, this one with artist Paul Azaceta. Outcast is he story of Kyle Barnes, a man plagued by demons. Literally plagued by demons. His mother was possessed, his wife was possessed, and he demons have destroyed his life. At the beginning of the series he's living by himself as a virtual shut in when Reverend Anderson, the pastor who once tried to help Kyle's mother, comes to him for help. Because Anderson believes that Kyle has the power to cast out demons. And once Kyle starts, things begin to spin. Whether demons have been as prevalent in the world up til now, or if Kyle's presence is drawing them out, and exactly why they call him Outcast remain some of the series' mysteries. And then there's Sidney, better known as, well, the Devil. Sidney has entered Kyle's orbit, saving his niece, killing his neighbor and moving into the neighbor's house, and marking the Reverend with an inverted pentagram to scare him off, or at least slow him down. Again, Sidney's motivations are vague, but that's OK. One of the keys of Outcast is that mystery, something that Kirkman is slooooowly paying out. Twelve issues in, we know considerably more than what we did in issue one, but there's a lot left to learn. Kyle is a very sympathetic main character, someone who you feel for. He's a guy who not only can't see his daughter or ex-wife (she got a restraining order against him, since she can't remember being possessed and all she knows is she woke up bruised and beaten), and who fears for the people around him since most of the people he loves have been possessed. Kirkman has also spent time fleshing out the supporting cast, like Kyle's foster-sister, Megan, her husband, Mark, and their daughter, Holly, so you care about them too, and dread what you know is going to be the horrors coming their way. There are two kinds of horror, the kind where you root for the killer or monster and the kind where you fear for the victims. Outcast falls firmly in the latter, and I have a feeling there's only more dread to come.


OK, I'm going to be up front. I really enjoy all the comics on this list. But if I had to choose a favorite horror comic currently being published, it would be Nailbiter, from Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson. Nailbiter isn't supernatural horror like the other books on this list, but is in the model of the slasher film, although I wouldn't be surprised if something supernatural appears by the end. I've reviewed a bunch of issues of Nailbiter, so you can go check out those reviews, but here's the series in broad strokes. Buckaroo, Oregon has a particularly dubious claim to fame: over a dozen of is residents have become serial killers. And one of them, Edward Charles Warren, called the Nailbiter for his choice of victims being people who bite their nails, is found not guilty and returns home. But while Warren's return serves as the inciting incident of the series, it's when Agent Carroll of the FBI, the man who brought in Warren, calls his old friend Finch of army intelligence to tell him that he's fond the secret to Buckaroo's propensity for spawning murderers that he series begins. Finch arrives to find Carroll missing, and strikes up an alliance with local sheriff, Shannon Crane, to find his friend and maybe the secret of Buckaroo along the way. The entire cast are well written and varied, from Alice, an outsider girl who feels she's destined to be the next Buckaroo Butcher, to Reverend Fairgold, the local man of God who has his own set of issues, to Warren himself, who is one of those slick, charismatic killers. The characters and the story are phenomenal, and it's paced to perfection. Williamson and Henderson know how to lay out a sequence to absolutely ramp up the tension. Issue nine has a sequence in Crane's house that is so absolutely perfect, so perfectly laid out, that I can think of few scenes in a comic that sent more chills up my spine. The third arc of Nailbiter wrapped up a couple months ago, an arc that answered some questions about Buckaroo while opening up a bunch of others, and the new one starts this month, so there are three trades waiting to be read just in time or Halloween.

Oh, and before I go, something truly scary... This week is Banned Books Week. I'm a supporter of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and any other organization that champions free speech. Every idea may not be right for everyone, but everyone should have the right to share their ideas, and books, be they novels, comics, or anything else, are still my favorite way to dive into an idea. Comics are being banned constantly, partially because people don't understand that comics are for everyone, and partially because people generally like to ban things they themselves don't understandthis link over the CBLDF website. and come back here next week for more horror comics that I'm sure have been banned somewhere.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thursdays With Wade: Joe Kelly's Deadpool Revisited Part 6

This week’s reading: Daredevil/Deadpool Annual ’97
Story: Joe Kelly
Art: Bernard Chang

In 1997, Marvel teamed up Daredevil and Deadpool in a joint annual centered on Typhoid Mary, a character closely linked to the former who had recently begun working with the latter. The company liked the approach so much that the following year, a whole slew of team-up annuals came out, including Iron Man/Captain America, Alpha Flight/Inhumans, Ka-Zar/Daredevil, Machine Man/Bastion and Deadpool/Death, making today’s reading another Great Moment in ’Pool-o-vation!

In addition to sharing Typhoid Mary, DD and DP at the time shared a writer in Joe Kelly, who had taken over Marvel’s other man in the red pajamas from Karl Kesel in summer ’97. He would stay on until 1998’s issue #375, working predominantly with legendary Marvel artist Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula).

Handling Mary has proved a challenge for Deadpool, whose stance on killing has softened a bit since his story arc with Siryn in issues #3-5. He follows Mary to New York to help her get revenge on Daredevil (and because she owes DP money). He then gets pissed when he finds out she’s offing civilians whom she says also did her wrong. But then he goes and kills a bunch of generic mob goons, so Wade’s line is still very much blurry. That all said, DP clearly wants to help Mary resolve her issues.

“We monsters have our own way of doing things,” he tells Daredevil.

Wade’s arc in Kelly’s Deadpool is that of a heel becoming a (slightly less heel-y) hero, but at this point in the journey, he is by no means equipped to help others take the same turn. Of course, part of the problem is Mary doesn’t want to be helped. That said, by issue’s end, he’s not ready to give up, either.

“This quasi heroic stuff isn’t an exact science, you know,” he tells his roommate/prisoner, Blind Al, “but it’s a good thing.”

But this is as much Daredevil’s story as it is Deadpool’s, and so Kelly and Chang show us the first time Matt and Mary met. A flashback reveals young Daredevil knocked Mary out a window when he busted up a brothel trying to figure out who killed his father. Mary claims this one moment defines her and makes Daredevil responsible for every one of her kills, which of course is ridiculous.

As for Mary, she appears to have changed costumes and hair colors since Deadpool #7. Her red dreads are now jet black and stringy, her shoulder pads have spikes on them and she’s traded in pants for fishnets.

In other weird art choices, when Deadpool’s packing to leave for his trip, and upon his return, he is drawn dressed in a baseball cap and short-sleeved polo shirt, one issue after he freaks out at the Hellhouse because T-Ray burned his mask off in front of everybody. Maybe he clicks on the old image inducer as soon as he leaves the house, but this manner of casual dress seems odd for someone who, at least at the time, didn’t want anyone seeing what he really looked like.

Meanwhile, while the boys in red are running around the city trying to get a handle on Mary, an unlikely friendship forms between their silly-nicknamed sidekicks. Weasel and Foggy eat and drink their way across Manhattan, then retire to Foggy’s place for poker and PlayStation. As a result of Foggy’s poor poker skills, Weasel takes ownership of Matt Murdock’s service dog, Deuce, which Wade in turn gives to Blind Al.

The issue ends with Deadpool taking Mary away, which means this arc’s not over yet. Tune in next Thursday for the conclusion of all this Typhoid business in Deadpool #8.

Total side note: There are a lot of classic cartoon references in this annual, including Snagglepuss, the Smurfs, Pepe Le Pew and Scooby Doo. But my favorite may be to the 1995-2002 Comedy Central series Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, which featured some of the earliest voice work of H. Jon Benjamin (Home Movies, Archer, Bob’s Burgers).

In addition to writing for The Matt Signal, Dan Grote is now the official comics blogger for The Press of Atlantic City. New posts appear Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com/Life. His new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He and Matt have been friends since the days when Onslaught was just a glimmer in Charles Xavier's eye. Follow @danielpgrote on Twitter.