Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Reviews of Comics for Wednesday 5/13

Abe Sapien #23
Story: Mike Mignola & Scott Allie
Art: Kevin Nowlan

The world of Hellboy has been getting exceedingly dark in recent years. This isn't a complaint; when monsters are rising all over the world and society is crumbling, that's to be expected. The B.P.R.D. is barely holding the line, Hellboy is dead, and probably hardest hit is Abe Sapien, wandering the highways of America, trying to find some indication he isn't the forerunner of a new race and encountering people who always seem to wind up hurt or worse. But this issue? This is a different thing. It's a flashback to 1992, and the world is a lighter place. Hellboy and Abe are on a mission for the B.P.R.D., investigating a death that is being attributed to Ogopogo, Canada's answer to the Loch Ness Monster. What might be a simple monster story turns into a story that has human greed at its center, as well as a worshipper of the old gods and creatures, something that's pretty standard for Hellboy and Abe. The thing that got me really excited for this issue was that it's a Hellboy and Abe story. When you look back on the publication history of the characters, you realize that they've been apart for more years than they were a team, but many of the most memorable Hellboy stories feature Abe. The two have that comfortable partnership that shows how good friends they are, and they play off each other perfectly; Hellboy is the bull in the china shop, while Abe tries to think things out more. And Kevin Nowlan's art is gorgeous as ever. While his stuff isn't as dark and foreboding as many of the other artists who work on Mignolaverse stories, he still captures the essence of the characters. If you've been away from Hellboy and his world for a while, or if you've been curious for a while to try it out, this is a great one-off to start with.

And Dan Grote hits us with a Marvel twofer this week...

Ms. Marvel 15
Story: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Takeshi Miyazawa and Ian Herring

Let’s take a minute to talk about Bruno, because if we don’t talk about Bruno, I’m gonna go on a rant about the Inhumans supplanting mutants that’s not fit for this blog.

(But seriously, there’s a scene in this issue in which Kitty Kamala turns the Danger Room New Attilan training salle on a N’Garai demon pair of Inhuman goons on Christmas Eve Mother’s Day).

As much as I’ve had problems with the current arc of Ms. Marvel based on my own biases against the Inhumans post-Infinity, no one can deny G. Willow Wilson writes characters worth giving a damn about. And I love the friendship/partnership between Kamala and Bruno. When Kamala finds herself caught by Inhuman insurrectionists, Bruno drops everything, runs out of his chemistry class, leaps – arms flapping – over giant dinosaur bones being transported down a hallway (props to Takeshi Miyazawa for this imagery), scrambles through the streets of Jersey City yelling at his phone, charters a water taxi to New Attilan, gets accosted by guards and, finally, jumps down a garbage chute with our hero and pulls her to safety. The only power at play here is friendship, and it’s extremely affirming.

Also, if you read any other book filled with Star Wars and Star Trek references this month, make it this one. In addition to the garbage chute scene, the main Inhuman baddie, Lineage (who totally looks like someone gave the Purple Man anime horns), effectively says, “There is another,” explaining that one of Kamala’s relatives is an Inhuman. As for the Star Trek reference, well, think about what Kamala’s last name is, and extrapolate from there.

Secret Wars #2
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina

Where the first issue of Secret Wars felt like an ending, issue 2 feels like the beginning, like we’ve joined a new story in media res. At long last, the reader has arrived at Marvel’s promised destination. Behold Battleworld.

It wouldn’t be a Jonathan Hickman story if there weren’t about 616 balls in the air at once, so here’s the laundry list of what we know so far:

Doctor Doom is God. He rules Battleworld from the trunk of Yggdrasil alongside a council that includes Doctor Strange and Susan and Valeria Richards. His castle is guarded by a Galactus that stands like a giant incinerator churning flames up into the sky, Franklin Richards meditating in the palm of his hand. Strange, the Sheriff of Agamatto, acts as Doom’s voice, speaking for him and meting out punishments on Doom’s behalf unless Doom wishes otherwise.

The world is policed by Thors, plural, and in fact the POV character for this issue is a rookie Thor on his first day on the job.

Battleworld is broken up into kingdoms runs by barons, including Higher Avalon, ruled by the Braddock family, and Bar Sinister, ruled by Mr. Sinister.

Sinister is one of the book’s best characters, showing a casual disdain for the authority of others while clearly benefitting from that authority’s largesse. When the Thors come to arrest him for discord, he is splayed spread-eagle on his throne being waited on by servants who fetch him hamburgers and attach his fringed cape. Even decapitated in battle, Sinister mocks those around him.

Those who displease Doom are tossed over the Shield, a giant wall protecting the rest of the kingdom from hordes of zombies, Ultrons, and the drones of Annihilus. Among the zombies shown in this issue is a Venom.

Reed Richards’ Raft – shown fleeing Earth 616 amid the incursion in the last issue – has been discovered crash-landed on a section of Battleworld called Utopolis populated with Moloids. At issue’s end, the hatch opens, in a reveal I won’t spoil.

The mixing and matching of characters adds fun to the book’s Game of Thrones-y tone. Watching Brian Braddock and Sinister joust for Doom’s benefit while characters like Apocalypse, Madelyn Pryor, Hyperion, Roma, and the Maestro (the Hulk of Future Imperfect) look on feels like something new, even if the characters are all known quantities and the book wears its inspirations on its sleeve.

Esad Ribic’s art is straight-up beautiful. Powerful imagery strafes this entire issue, from the Doom godhead to which the Thors pay tribute, to the smoking Galactus, to Baron Sinister’s kingdom of ruby quartz, to the sight of the Raft stuck in the ruins of an old statue of what appears to be Captain America.

So if issue 1 left you doubting the readability of Secret Wars, I’d still suggest trying issue 2, as it’s far more the jumping-on point issue 1 should have been.

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