This month sees a new member join our pool of writers. Welcome aboard, Tom P!
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve McNiven
Matt C: Does Mark Millar really need any help selling his latest comic? Nope, I think he’s proved himself the master of self-promotion over the last few years so my opinion isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference when the hype machine goes into overdrive. Still, it’s a great high concept (“What if Bruce Wayne was the Joker?”) but whether there’s any substance behind it, well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Millar blows hot and cold for me: some of his work is terrific (Chosen, Superman: Red Son, The Ultimates), some of it just smacks of him coming up with a great idea and then doing as little as possible with it to guarantee his paycheck (Civil War, Old Man Logan, War Heroes). McNiven goes from strength to though, so I’ll definitely pick up this first issue in the hope that Millar can back up his hawking of the series and deliver something worthwhile.
THE MYSTIC HANDS OF DR STRANGE #1
Rob N: Now that’s an impressive array of talent for a single comic. Leaving aside Kieron Gillen (a bit of a lightweight compared to the other contributors), it seems to be a range of writers and artists who are all ideally suited to the weird and psychedelic world of Dr Strange. Frank Brunner (previously the artist on a classic early 70s run of the good Doctor’s title), Frazer Irving and TED MCKEEVER on art! Brilliant. And Mike Carey writing (he has a proven pedigree for all things mystical and fantastic through his excellent work for Vertigo that needs little introduction)… this does indeed promise to be a lovingly conceived package. In a tip of the hat to the classic line of Marvel black and white magazines of the early Seventies, this one shot is being rendered in B&W, though sadly not in the same format size. But still, Ted McKeever drawing Dr Strange… that has to be as inspired a choice as Paul Pope on Adam Strange, and Kyle Baker on Hawkman. Marvel normally knocks out their crappy ‘one shots’ like a carthorse shits dung, but in this case they seem to have redeemed themselves.
FIRST WAVE #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Rags Morales
Tom P: After reading the excellent Batman/Doc Savage Special last year its safe to say I had a strong interest in Azzarello’s First Wave universe. Looking at his behind the scenes sneak peek just confirmed for me that I had to pick this up. I love my pulp, so blend that with the DC Universe and hopefully throw some zeppelins and mad robots into the mix... that’s going to make me smile, and I can’t wait to see where he takes these pre-war super heroes. If he can match the fun of the special in this new title I can see no reason why this won’t find a place on my pull list. Hopefully this may become another great addition to the growing number of quality books DC have been putting out recently.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE RISE AND FALL SPECIAL #1
Writers: James Robinson & J.T. Krul
Art: Mike Mayhew
Matt T: Once Cry For Justice ends (which looks to have more far reaching consequences than I first thought) this one-shot picks up the story. The first cover doesn't reveal much, but looking at the cover ‘wall', which combines all four, it shows the world has gone to shit. Green Arrow is at the centre, and it seems like things are about to get a hell of a lot worse for the Emerald Archer and his former sidekick before they get better. Robinson crafted Cry For Justice superbly well and utilised some excellent twists along the way, so in spite of Cascioli only doing the cover I'm quite confident it will repeat that success.
GIRL COMICS #1
Writer: Various (but all female!)
Art: Various (but all female as well!)
Stewart R: With the House of Ideas reaching the grand old age of 70 this year gone, Marvel has also decided to show that in the rather male-dominated comics industry there are some highly skilled women who are proving month in, month out, that gender doesn’t mean squat when it comes to storytelling ability. Some may view this as something of a publicity stunt and question the need to try to sell already established writers and artists in this way but I like the idea of this themed special - it’ll give me a chance to get some idea of what these new (to me) creators can offer to the Marvel Universe in the year to come. Considering some of the tripe being pedalled by some of the elite ‘guys’ at Marvel these days this might be something of a breath of fresh air too.
THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #1
Art: Luc Jacamon
Matt C: Although the flow of the story in the single-issue format was hampered by extended delays, the first series of the English translation of The Killer was an effortlessly cool piece of crime fiction. Not only did it save me having to learn French to enable me to read it but, even taking into account its erratic scheduling, the story so far has been published in a shorter timeframe than the original books appeared (1998 to 2003 according to Wikipedia). Modus Vicendi appears to be the last story Matz and Jacamon have conjured up (thanks again Wiki!) and while I’d urge any fans of the genre to seek out previous stories as trades or back issues, I imagine this will work as a standalone for any newbies. If you like your comics hardboiled, how about trying something with a more European flavour? I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed.
SPARTA: USA #1
Writer: David Lapham
Art: Johnny Timmons
Matt T: This....is....Sparta!!! No really, it is. And it's written by David Lapham. Instead of being a vaguely homoerotic take on a historical event, this is a futuristic tale of a star quarterback returning from the world beyond the hills surrounding an American town. The fact that there's a Yeti out there, various magicks, and he looks a bit like Mad Max, means he hasn't returned to pick up his washing. Quite the opposite in fact, as the town seems to be something of a den of scum and villainy. And so the main character returns to kick the ass of a guy named 'The Maestro' and clean up the town. With Lapham at the helm I'm guessing there will be a few impressive horror tinges and the artwork from Timmons looks superb.
PRELUDE TO DEADPOOL CORPS #1
Writer: Victor Gischler
Stewart R: So it looks like Deadpool has caught the Wolverine bug (and I’m not talking about the Weapon X/healing factor/cancer thing here) in that every couple of months a new title is solicited to sit along the growing ranks of ‘Pool reading material. The bubble will no doubt burst quite soon – hopefully just leaving the awesome main title standing strong – but there’s still a ton of crazy fun to be had and just the character list here screams giggles aplenty. There’s everyone’s favourite funny freakshow himself alongside Lady Deadpool, Kidpool, Dogpool and finally, and by no means least, Headpool (the Zombiefied head!). Yes it has Liefeld onboard but it’s only for the first issue so I can ignore that and just go with the inevitable laughter-fest.
DONG XOAI, VIETNAM 1965 HC
Writer: Joe Kubert
Art: Joe Kubert
Rob N: ‘Graphic Novel’ is a term that is often slapped on any anthology reprint edition of five or six consecutive issues of a superhero series. As well as devaluing the term, it’s misleading, in the same way that compiling four episodes of Eastenders would not a major motion picture make. Dong Xoai however sounds like the real deal. Written and illustrated by one of the legendary industry names (so legendary he has his own comic book art school), it’s based on the first large-scale attack by the Viet Cong on the South Vietnamese. The US army had not yet entrenched itself in ‘Nam in all its Apocalypse Now/Jefferson Airplane glory, but it had supplied units of Special Forces troops as ‘military advisors’. Caught up in the ensuing firefight, it was one of the first clashes between US and Viet Cong forces and set the scene for what was to come. Joe Kubert of course is no stranger to war comics, with his tenure on DC’s Sergeant Rock, so the prospect of his lavish hardcover book set in one of my favourite historical war periods is too good to miss. It’s not cheap, but it’ll be worth its weight in X-Men trade paperbacks.
X-FACTOR FOREVER #1
Writer: Louise Simonson
Art: Dan Panosion
Andy H: Was having a slight dilemma with this one. Usual question, do I need another X-book? Especially when the current X-Factor is so good. Plus Marvel are pushing ever more product, including another X-crossover, and the fact I'm suffering a severe case of event fatigue…. can I justify even contemplating getting this book? Yes I can. In an industry bogged down by crossovers and events this is just what the doctor ordered: a standalone story not complicated by editors telling the creative team to shoehorn in some convoluted plot so it can tie in to some story I have zero interest in. Plus my - now jaded - memory tells me how much I enjoyed the returning Louise Simonson's original run on X-Factor. Continuing from where she left off in 1991's #64 means we also get to see the return of Ship, X-Factor's sentient base, which I just loved. The previews I've seen of Dan Panosian art look great but wouldn't it also be great to see Walt Simonson return for the odd issue?