Monday, March 31, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 3/26

All-New X-Factor #5
Story: Peter David
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico

We're five issues into All-New X-Factor, and I admit to feeling bad I haven't reviewed an issue yet. It's not for lack of quality. X-Factor was one of the consistently best books Marvel published for years, and the new version hasn't lost that quality. It's exactly for that reason that it's fallen below this radar; books this good regularly just sort of are expected to be good. But after talking about Peter David on Friday, I knew I had to discuss the new issue. The new team, the corporate X-Factor in the service of Serval Industries, has a very different dynamic than the previous one. The last X-Factor was a dysfunctional family; this one isn't there yet. There's a very funny dynamic here, with the two siblings sniping at each other, Gambit not trusting Quicksilver, the newly added Danger acting really weird, and the manipulative CEO of Serval Industries, Harrison Snow, clearly up to something. This issue begins the two issue arc that will round out the team's roster, with the first appearances in the series of Warlock and Cypher. Warlock is seemingly in league with his evil father, The Magus, who is hiding among humanity with the most conspicuous and evil sounding human name ever; clearly he doesn't get that there are no people with the last name Smaug. The action sequences are top not, with artist Carmine Di Giandomenico pulling out all the stops, but it's the smaller scenes that really grab. Danger's strange obsession with Gambit, after he helped reboot her in the previous issue, is interesting, building a different relationship between them, and fleshing out Danger. And I have to say, for everyone who rags on Cyclops, Havok once again proves to be the creepier Summers brother with his having Quicksilver hanging around X-Factor to spy on his ex, Polaris. This isn't going to come back to bite Havok on the ass when his occasionally unbalanced ex-girlfriend finds out. Not at all.

Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine #5
Story: Dan Jolley
Art: Leonard Kirk

The new Bloodhound mini-series wraps up in an issue that is intense final issue that ties up all the story points, but leaves the characters in a very dark place. Clev, the man who hunts super people, his partner, Agent Saffron Bell, and their erstwhile super powered ally, Terminus, confront Dr. Morgenstern, the man who has been giving everyday people superpowers. Morgenstern's reasoning behind his program is warped and sent chills up my spine, especially in its logic. But in pushing Clev's buttons, Morgenstern made a mistake, and the confrontation comes to a bloody conclusion. The core of the issue is not the action or violence, and there's plenty of both, but the emotion. Morgenstern's pain at the death of his son, that has not faded, parallels Clev's own loss, caused by Morgenstern, and we see Clev as a man who feels like he has nothing left to lose. He ends up in a place even worse than the one he was in when the series began, both literally and figuratively. While the ending is a downer, it works in the context of everything we've seen in the series; not everyone gets a happy ending. The final discussion of Morgenstern's plan furthers what I read as a comparison to super powers and firearms, dealing with some of today's most divisive political topics in a way that comics do so well. I hope that we get to see more Bloodhound in the future, so if you didn't try the series, a trade will be arriving shortly, so give it a shot.

Manhattan Projects #19
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Ryan Browne

After the past few issues, stories that have forwarded the main plot of the series, it's nice to go back a revisit the inner mindscape of Joseph Oppenheimer, where the war continues between Joseph and his brother, Robert, who he consumed and took his mind, especially after the shocking ending of the previous issue and the seeming death of Joseph. Hickman's story is exciting, with all sorts of crazy ideas that work because we're in a world completely controlled by the wills of the combatants, but artist Ryan Browne is the absolute star.  Having drawn the first "Finite Oppenheimers" story, returns to draw the bizarre world, with all the different versions of Oppenheimer in all of their different costumes, all the bizarre weapons, and all the chaos of massive battles of different versions of one guy massacring other versions of himself. I'm being cagey, because I don't want to give away all of the cool things that Hickman provides Browne to draw, because the joy of the issue is experiencing each page and all the detail worked into it. Browne's style works well with the series; his won but not so far from the work of series regular artist Nick Pitarra to be jarring. The issue ends with a resolution of the end of the previous issue, showing who it was who shot Oppenheimer in the real world, and it's the return of a character I have been waiting to return for some time. Every issue of Manhattan Projects is so stuffed with crazy ideas and twists that I keep thinking, "Nothing's left to surprise me," but every issue I'm proven wrong, and I love that.

Sandman: Overture #2
Story: Neil Gaiman
Art: JH Williams III

It's been five months since the first issue of Sandman: Overture, and I admit that I thought even my excitement, as an avid fan of all things Neil Gaiman, might have been dulled by the length of the wait. But by the end of the first page, I was enchanted again. The issue opens not directly where the first issue left off, but in the present, nearly a century after the events of the previous issue. Daniel, the current human incarnation of Dream, meets with Mad Hettie, an immortal bag lady from the original Sandman, and retrieves an item that I can only imagine will have importance in the future. With that, we return to the convocation of Dreams from the end of the last issue, with the different aspects of Dream having a conversation. Or is it a monologue? There is an amusing discussion of the semantics of dealing with an infinite number of the same being, all slightly different, speaking to each other, before events start to play out. The oldest Dream, the Dream of the first beings, talks to the others, and as each of the Dreams seems to be pulled away, Morpheus summons one who can answer his questions about the death of the Dream in the previous issue and what he was told about a coming end of all things. And in the end, Morpheus heads off with the Dream of Cats to go to a place the Endless should not walk and meet with a being whose description left me with my jaw on the floor. For an issue where there is next to no action in the strict sense of the word, an issue that is for all intents and purposes and extended monologue, a lot happens. The understanding of the cosmology of the universe the Endless exist in is expanded, and the threat is made more clear. And as ever, the art of JH Williams III is something to behold. It is literally breathtaking; there were some of his trademark double page spreads that made my breath catch in my throat. The different Dreams are all meticulously crafted, all different yet still clearly aspects of one being, and the dream house that Daniel and Hettie walk through is a twisted house that is part Escher, part Giger, but all the lush painted art of Williams. According to Gaiman, we won't be seeing issue three until July, another four months, and while I won't say I'm not disappointed, the quality of the first two issues makes it worth the wait.

No comments: