Sam Wilson’s Reviews
Another short but sweet week with my top two picks being Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2 and Squadron Supreme. Another notable book this week is the new Martian Manhunter limited series, being reviewed by my esteemed colleague, Joe. I found a new love for that character within the Justice League animated series. Nothing really else to say, so sit back and let’s get on to the reviews…
The Red Line #1
Written by: Geoffrey Thorne
Drawn by: Todd Harris
Independent publishing has brought us some great and lasting characters; two that spring to mind are Matt Wagner’s “Mage” and “Grendel”, Eastman and Liard’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (hey, they weren’t always a kiddie cartoon, they got their start as a bad a$# black and white magazine sized comic). The question is, is the “Red Line” the next evolution in independent publishing? Quite possibly.
The principle character in “Red Line” is a young woman named Sudra Jones, like a lot of people Sudra has parents who love her and want to see her succeed (and maybe are a little to hard on her), but unlike a lot of people Sudra lives in a world where cyborg cops are a reality (these cops are dubbed the CHESS men). Apparently cyborg cops and superhumans, one of whom derived his powers from an alien jewel our heroine Sudra has gotten her hands on. I’m getting ahead of myself though. As I was saying, Sudra was an over-achieving high school senior waiting for the freedom of graduation and wondering what lay ahead, when her entire world is turn upside-down. A terrible tragedy befalls her, a tragedy that is unfortunately all too common. Using the alien jewel Sudra embarks on a quest of revenge, and thus a hero (well, maybe) is born.
“Red Line” is a straight up superhero tale and succeeds on all fronts as far as that is concerned. In fact, I really don’t have any problems with “Red Line”. Even though the lead character is a black woman, I don’t see why it wouldn’t appeal to a broad audience, the themes brought up are universal and have been tested tride and true in the superhero genre. The art is crisp, even though the coloring is a little flat it suits the tone of the book, and the writing is even and flows well from page to page. If you are looking for a change from the big two, check this book out. It could be the next big thing…
Squadron Supreme #6
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Drawn by: Gary Frank
Squadron Supreme is the Marvel Knights relaunch of JMS’s Marvel MAX series Supreme Power. Supreme Power is a modernization of Mark Gruewald’s Squadron Supreme, a story about an alternate Earth’s superhero’s and how they got tired of regular folk fu$#ing up the planet, so they decided to take it over and become it’s rulers. Kinda like JLA’s Earth 2 Justice League, another old story that was recently revisited in the JLU animated series. Yes, superheroes going nutty is a popular topic, such the thing being centerpiece to the Batman “Gang War” storyline, the current OMAC storyline and let’s not forget the classic Alan Moore story The Watchmen. Marvel Comics has kept its mainstream heroes under lock and key, for now. Anyway, enter J. Michael Stracynski, he had his own foray into the “superhero’s going crazy and taking over” genre with his Rising Stars series, which was chronically late and to my knowledge is still not really finished. Meh, it’s all for the best, because I believe JMS is getting the chance to tell the story he really wanted to tell with Marvel MAX’s Supreme Power (and now in Squadron Supreme under the Marvel Knights banner).
The team as Mark Gruewald introduced them is still there, kind of. JMS put his own twist on each character, and gave us a couple of new ones as well. We still have Mark Milton, Hyperion (a true child of the gov’t), the costumed vigilante Nighthawk, an extreme personality who makes Batman seem calm and rational. The Blur, a corporate superhero, Dr. Spectrum aka army corporal Joe Ledger and his strange fish lady friend (aka Amphibian) and finally Zarda. Zarda is like Wonder Woman after a few drinks and with no moral compass. In the new Squadron Supreme series, starting off where “Supreme Power” left off, we find out there are a lot of superhumans running around Earth, and the government has assembled them into two teams, one public and one covert. Both teams consist of a few new characters (Inertia, Tom Thumb) and characters that have been introduced in “Supreme Power” and the “Hyperion” limited series (Hyperion, Dr. Spectrum, Blur, Power Princess, Emil Burbank, Amphibian, Arcanna, Shape and Nuke). After the brutality of the last two story arcs, JMS decides to finally bring Nighthawk into the fold, who we last saw in the pages of “Supreme Power” and the Nighthawk limited series. The Squardron’s resident speedster, “Blur”, pays Nighthawk a visit, begging him to come over to the team to bring a much needed balance. After the way the team has been used to bring order to Africa and the Middle East, Blur sits uncomfortable and he hopes by bringing Nighthawk into the fold things will mellow out a little. Meanwhile the powers that be decide to enlist Emil to come up with counter measures to other countries super-soldier programs, and to share the info he already has on countermeasures for the Squardron. All this and Hyperion meets up with an old friend at the end…
Hands down, Squardron Suprmeme is the best Marvel book most people aren’t buying. So pick this book up, pick up some of the trades of Supreme Power for the backstory, there is an oversized HC collecting the first 12 issues, and a few other sc tpb’s collecting the same issues plus the Nighthawk and Hyperion tpbs. Damn if this isn’t a fine book and you are doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t reading it.
Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Drawn by: Mark Brooks
Last year Marvel made every effort to make its “Ultimate” annuals special events, not the dumping ground for old stories annuals had become in the recent past. They succeeded on all fronts, in Ultimate Spider-Man Spidey started dating Kitty Pryde, in the Ultimate’s Nick Fury showed us who is boss and in the Fantastic Four we caught a glimpse of the Ultimate U’s Inhumans. This year promises to be no less disappointing, and things are kicked off with “Ultimate Spider-Man Annual” #2. We have the Punisher, Daredevil, Foggy Nelson, Moon Knight, Captain Jean DeWolff and the Kangaroo? Yes. The Ultimate Kangaroo. Anyway…
Before you read “Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2” you may want to check out the recent USM storyline “Gang War”, when Spidey went head-to-head with the Hammerhead based on information he got from the Kingpin (which put Spidey in a moral quandary, but operating under the advice of Captain DeWolff, he figured as long as evil was thwarted it was all good). Moon Knight got stabbed by Elektra and put in a coma, Elektra got killed, and the Black Cat looked hot (as always). Flashing forward to USM Annual 2, Moon Knight wakes up, the Punisher breaks out of jail (last seen in “Ultimate Marvel Team Up”) and this time Jean DeWolff is feeding info to Spidey. Apparently some car is gunning for the Kingpin’s territory, DeWolff says she can’t really do anything about it without probable cause, so she convinces Spidey to get a little proactive. What Spidey doesn’t know is Capt. DeWolff works for the Kingpin. Yeah. Things get messy.
This is another outstanding annual and possibly one of the most entertaining stand-alone issues I’ve read in a long time. Each character gets a little bit of back-story, the Kangaroo, Punisher, Moon Knight, even Daredevil. Reality is starting to catch up to Peter Parker, and mixing it up with the “dark” side of the Ultimate Marvel U isn’t really what he’s about, but to get things done he has to throw down. This issue is a must have for regular readers of USM, and stands fine on it’s on for non-reader, definitely check it out.
Yet another slow week for me. The trades were more interesting than the comics, what with the Marvel Super Women trade and the third installment in the Ultimate Galactus trade collection. Still, of note in some Marvel comics (such as Beyond) is Tom Brevoort’s tribute to the wonderful, late Mark Gruenwald on the tenth anniversary of his passing. As far as my reviews, they’re a little truncated this time. A lot going on this week so less time to spend on them. Can any of you guess, however, what the three characters whose titles I’m reviewing and have in common with each other and with me?
The Incredible Hulk # 97
Written by: Greg Pak
Drawn by: Aaron Lopresti
With all the Civil War noise that’s going on in the Marvel Universe it’s good to know there’s one title out there that’ll give you a break from all that conflict with some ripe conflict of its own. Yep, I’m talking about The Incredible Hulk, whose “Planet Hulk” storyline has been selling out like crazy and generating rave reviews. And no wonder, this is a Hulk with attitude, a permanent mad-on, and out to do some serious smashing. Having crash landed on the far distant war planet of Sakaar (and, I think Namor was right, the Illuminati will have serious hell to pay for that one), he’s been subjugated, enslaved and forced into battle. The Hulk forced to battle? Poor guy, right? Joining forces with some familiar faces, including one of the Brook and a Stone Man from Saturn (one of the very same from Thor’s origin story), Hulk has defeated every obstacle in his path, escaped his captors, battled to save a small village, and come to be worshipped nearly as a god, certainly as an uber leader.
This issue takes a new twist for the Hulk in this story, which really is an old twist for the character as he himself references. And just as his followers expect more from him, after he wins in battle once again with an entire mountain supported on his massive back, just as he does what his followers consider unexpected (but, again, we loyal Hulk readers know better) he gets a surprise of his own from one of his troops. Really, this feels like an interim story in a long saga. But it’s true to the roots established for it to date. The Hulk’s a major bad-ass. The story’s fresh and captivating. Hulk can cut loose (sure, he’s cut loose before) with his savage friends in tow. This book’s become one of my favorites again.
She-Hulk 2 #10
Written by: Dan Slott
Drawn by: Rick Burchett
Yet another artist jumps into what’s been feeling like a revolving door of artists on this book, and Burchett does a yeoman’s job, slightly mimicking the Paul Smith style that recently departed. The effects of Starfox’s rape case are still being felt. The ice queen of She-Hulk’s law firm is still in love with Awesome Andy and Shulkie, newly married to John Jameson, is acting like she has a school girl crush. Only Pug, her law partner, seems wise to Starfox’s effect on her.
One thing Slott seems especially good at is combining old school Marvel characters with good old fashioned schlock, and this book is great evidence of that. The story’s title, “I
Married a Man-Wolf,” is cut from those really awful but fun 1950s horror films (remember Michael Landon in “I was a teen age Werewolf”?). We see the Hellcat, the Grey Gargoyle fresh from his battle with Thor Girl (um…okay, that battle was, like 3-4 years ago), Alistair Smythe (of the Spider Slayer [see last issue, no joke!] fame) and, of course, you know from the title that John is about to transform into that great ‘70s Marvel character, the Man-Wolf! Oh, yeah, the Recorder is here to but he gets a thoroughly modern twist put on him (and, as a result, the law firm of Goodman, Leiber, Kurtzburg, and Holliway [those first three names, at least, should tickle the fancy of any long-time comic book fan] is out its only copy of She-Hulk vol. 3 #7). This book, thanks to its whimsical nature, is not for everyone. But for those who like great storytelling, characterization, fun action and plenty of humor, this book’s for you.
Marian Manhunter #1 of 8
Written by: A.J. Lieberman
Drawn by: Al Barrionuevo
One thing that’s always defined The Martian Manhunter is his aloneness. In nearly every story that’s focused on him, from New Frontier to the JLU Animated Series, we get to experience his sadness and solitude at being the only survivor of his green Martian race. In the Brave New World one-shot we learn that, in fact, he may not be alone after all. A paradigm shift after all these decades! And, in this story, we learn that there’s a (are you ready?) some kind of government or secret society plot to keep and study J’onn’s brethren. The evil scientists and researchers are evil. J’onn’s gamut of emotions, as he trends more and more toward baser human emotions, is poignant but not unexpected for such an empathetic character. Actually the only thing that’s new and different here is his costume which has been retooled a bit.
So, sadly, for a character I really like, I’m finding little to interest me in this series. The art’s actually pretty good though the story seems a bit commonplace. The Manhunter may well be one of those characters who plays better as he always has, as a perennial supporting cast member of an ensemble book. Even so, for a limited series, he deserves the best DC can offer him. Perhaps this mini-series will trend that way but, for now, while not a bust in any way there’s simply nothing too terrible captivating going on, surprisingly, despite the complete 180 turnaround as the universe’s lone surviving green Martian.