13 Dec 2013

Ten Forward: February 2014

Every month we spend an evening scouring the pages of the latest issue of Previews and pick the ten titles we are looking forward to the most. This month it's the December issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in February 2014.

MS. MARVEL #1
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Adrian Alphona
Marvel $2.99

Kenny J: No sooner had Black Bolt detonated a Terrigen bomb over New York than a slew of Inhumanity-themed comics appeared. However, Kamala Khan is the first of these new super-powered beings to have their own title. Teased on the final page of Captain Marvel #17, Kamala has taken on the former mantle of the hero that she feels best represents her as life imitates art imitating life. The name Khan may or may not carry connotations of Kamala’s heritage, but that is a man-made ‘controversy’ you can read about elsewhere. It seems that comics over the past decade, instead of trailblazing, have been in the most part derivative of the geopolitical climate of that same ten years. This new initiative at Marvel, which seems so prevalent since Axel Alonso has taken over as Editor In Chief, can only lead to fresh characters in different and relevant stories. Air scribe G. Willow Wilson adds to this direction with not only her talent but also her own experience, making Ms. Marvel another don’t miss book from the House of Ideas.

THE BUNKER #1
Writer: Joshua Fialkov
Art: Joe Infurnari
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: There are plenty of folks out there who’ve yet to venture into the world of digital comics, and there are plenty of justified and understandable reasons why they haven’t, so it’s always good to see an opportunity arise for them to get their hands on one of the most acclaimed offerings that's previously only been viewable via tablet, monitor or some other such device. I gave The Bunker the thumbs up here, and subsequent chapters have done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the series. Fialkov brings real emotional depth to this tale of a group of teens discovering that their future choices lead to global catastrophe, and Infurnari’s art atmospherically captures moments of desolation and intimacy. Usually in this feature I talk about stuff I’m eager to try, always realising there’s a risk involved. There’ no risk here: I’m telling you in advance, The Bunker is really good.

THE WHITE SUITS #1
Writer: Frank Barbiere
Art: Toby Cypress
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: 'Violent Noir Action' says the Dark Horse solicitation, but from the look of the preview pages this series from Frank Barbiere and Toby Cypress could be a whole lot better than that. A group of mysterious assassins - all dressed in white suits - once savaged the Russian underworld, but now years later they have returned in New York. Who are they? Why are they going after the mob? The pitch alone sounds juicy, and Cypress' art looks impressive. I love a crime book, and this miniseries looks like it will have a nice mix of mystery, action, and a cat-and-mouse plot that will plug my 100 Bullets-sized hole very nicely for a while.

X-FORCE #1
Writer: Si Spurrier
Art: Rock-he Kim
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Following on from Rick Remender's unmissable run with the black ops mutant team we've had the strong Cable And X-Force from Dennis Hopeless and the less engrossing X-Force from Sam Humphries, both part of the Marvel NOW! initiative. With an X-Force movie in the early stages of development, the prime publisher has determined that it's time to reduce things down to one title in a soft relaunch as part of All-New Marvel NOW! The current creative teams are off to other projects and in comes Simon Spurrier and Rock-he Kim to guide this newly formed group. The line-up of Cable, Psylocke, Fantomex and Marrow (returning from the Marvel wilderness to some fan applause) looks to be focused and strong and Spurrier's run with X-Men Legacy demonstrated just how well he gets into the minds (literally) of his characters. With plenty of antagonism to be expected amongst these team members I'm anticipating some scintillating and scything dialogue as X-Force goes about its dark business.

THE ROYALS: MASTERS OF WARS #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Art: Simon Coleby
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Rob N: Vertigo is generally known for its original horror/fantasy/SF/crime titles, but in the past it has dabbled with (admittedly unconventional) superhero titles such as Doom Patrol and The Invisibles (originally touted as Vertigo's first home grown 'super team' – an example of stretching the term to its limits I think). Here then is something that, judging by the cover alone, reminds me very much of ‘Book One’ of Grant Morrison's Zenith, with aristocratic superheroes taking part in World War 2. Superheroes in WW2 is a long-standing sub-genre of its own, thanks in the main to the early 1940s being the Golden Age of Marvel and DC's publishing history. Originally these were jingoistic tales designed to keep the home front morale going, but in recent years we've seen a darker take on such stories. The byword here I think is that any new issue #1 from Vertigo warrants checking out, whatever the subject matter. As an imprint they score more hits than misses, and even some of their failures are, for want of a better word, glorious follies.

SHE-HULK #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Javier Pulido
Marvel $2.99

Kenny J: As one comic lawyer sadly steps down from cross examination, for the moment at least, another is set to take the stand in the seven-foot tall shape of the Hulk’s cousin, Jennifer Walters. Unlike the rest of her gamma-irradiated bloodline, She-Hulk has worn her green skin with pride as a member of the Avengers and more recently a stand-in FF, but it’s her practising professional life that will share focus with her powers in this all new series. Scripted by Letter 44 writer Charles Soule, She-Hulk is a nuanced hero deserving of a breakout book and now may be that time with the current climate at Marvel to leave smaller properties enough breathing room to find their audience. Hopefully Soule will succeed in the footsteps of legends like Dan Slott and Peter David and their underappreciated takes on the titular character. Either way, with Javier Pulido’s clean European line work, She-Hulk is bound to be smashing.

THE PUNISHER #1
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Art: Mitchell Thomas Gerads
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Frank Castle, rather than one of those characters I've simply not been fussed about, has predominantly been a character I've actively avoided when it comes to Marvel's canon of mercenaries and anti-heroes. The odd occasion when I've read material starring or featuring him, he's come across as a rather one-note, low-on-ethics, single-goal vigilante - a twisted, murderous Batman without the alter-ego to make it broad and interesting or even fun. Well it looks like February may be the month for me to see whether my opinion of the Punisher is justified as the writing and artistic reins are handed over to Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads. These guys have been delivering some superb, 'real life' military stories in The Activity for Image over the past two years, rich in believable character work and oozing realistic tension. The new Punisher plot they've come up with has Frank Castle relocating his war on crime to Los Angeles where he ends up being the one hunted as a result, and it sounds like a real blast. Who knows, my 2014 vote in the Paradoscars Best Character category could even end up being a real surprise...

THE FUSE #1
Writer: Antony Johnston
Art: Justin Greenwood
Image $3.50

James R: Part of me thought this comic was a little too high-concept, and almost had the feel of a Doctor Who episode to it, but given Image's recent run of form, I definitely think that issue #1 of The Fuse is worth a gamble. It's a SF murder-mystery set on board an Earth-orbiting power station that's home to half a million people. Described by Image as "equal parts crime procedural and gritty sci-fi tale" The Fuse has certainly got potential. One personal drawback is that given the ambitious and atmospheric nature suggested by the plot, Justin Greenwood's art in Previews doesn't seem to be a good fit. However, writer Antony Johnston has certainly caught my attention with a great concept and this falls into the 'worth a punt' category for February.

THE MERCENARY SEA #1
Writer: Kel Symons
Art: Mathew Reynolds
Image $2.99

Matt C: Another bunch of interesting books set for release in February from Image, but it was this one that sprang out of the pack for me. I’m rather partial to pulp adventuring when told with style, verve and just the right amount of reverence, and The Mercenary Sea looks like it will tick the right boxes. It focuses on a refitted U-Boat filled with treasure hunters getting involved precarious situations in the South Seas during 1938, and seeing as that’s veering very close to Indiana Jones territory in both genre and period, it’s something I’m not going to be able to say “no” to. Oh, and the bold, brightly coloured artwork is looking very persuasive too!

WINTER SOLDIER: THE BITTER MARCH #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Roland Boschi
Marvel $3.99

James R: I was pretty much done with the Winter Soldier following Ed Brubaker's epic run on Captain America, but then reading the words 'Written by Rick Remender' goes an awful long way to grabbing my interest on any title. What seals the deal is that Remender is writing this new incarnation of the adventures of Bucky Barnes as an unashamed ‘60s spy homage. A Cold War spy tale, but featuring Hydra, the Soviets and S.H.I.E.L.D.? This sounds like a massive amount of fun, and Remender claims that artist Andrew Boschi is "at the top of his game" on this. Without doubt, the definite must-have of the month for me!

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