Comics Round-up 02.02.2014

Red Sonja Vol.1 Queen of Plagues

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings welcome you to the first comics round-up for February.

“A mix of Marvel comics here, with All-New Invaders not being quite up to par but the latest chapter of Revolutionary War is indeed quite impressive. ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

Scott Lobdell misfires yet again with Teen Titans, proving that this series is deserving of its cancellation whilst Gail Simone works wonders with the first Volume of  Red Sonja.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

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Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk: All-New Invaders #1 by James Robinson and Steve Pugh (Marvel Comics), and, Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon #1 by Rob Williams and Will Sliney (Marvel Comics).

*****

All-New Invaders #1 by James Robinson and Steve Pugh

All-New Invaders 01

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this title, as I’m not familiar with either Bucky Barnes, Human Torch (the “original” Human Torch that is) or Namor. But, James Robinson is the writer so I was expecting to be entertained since I’ve loved his work on Earth 2 for DC and he’s a very talkative writer on podcasts as well (thanks for those sessions, Comic Vine!). This is one of the first titles to be launched under Marvel’s All-New Marvel NOW! banner which is the second big phase of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, and while it is not as good as Black Widow, it is not as bad as All-New X-Factor either. This title seems to have a lot of potential and I suspect that it is all a matter of me just learning more about these characters.

The story follows Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, as he becomes a target for some Kree looking for unspecified secrets. We start off by seeing a very normal life for Jim in the small town Blaketon, Illinois. He works as a mechanic and is on good terms with most of the people of the town. But life takes a downturn when his friends are killed by enemies he has had nothing to do with before and so starts the story of how the Invaders, a group of World War II superheroes, come back together for some new adventures.

Jim Hammond’s characterisation was really interesting, since he is a robot and not a human. There are a lot of issues that come with that, and James does a good job of exploring them and introducing them. Some of the dialogue felt a bit clunky and verbose at times, but I’m intrigued by the character. The mystery of what the Kree are looking for with regards to him is a bit of an uncertain thing for me since I can’t decide whether or not I like it, but this is all just the setup so I’m ok with giving it a pass for now.

Steve Pugh’s art is mostly decent. It is detailed and the characters are expressive, but there’s nothing here that really jumped out at me. The inking seems to be a bit off as well occasionally, mostly when it comes to the characters’ faces. Guru-eFX’s colours are good though, so that is something.

Overall, a promising title that I look forward to seeing more of, this month.

Rating: 7.5/10

*****

by Rob Williams and Will Sliney

Revolutionary War - Knights of Pendragon 01

Knights of Pendragon #1 is the third chapter of the Revolutionary War event that is reintroducing the Marvel UK line to the Marvel universe in its is Marvel NOW! incarnation. The first one, Alpha #1, was really good while the second one, Dark Angel #1, not so much. But, I did enjoy reading about all these characters since I didn’t really know about any of them, so in that respect Revolutionary War has been quite good. These are all one-shots that are being released, and that’s kind of a downside, since I’d love to read more about them.

But anyway, Knights of Pendragon. With Captain Britain going missing at the end of Alpha #1, it is up to MI6 agent Pete Wisdom to bring together Britain’s premier superheroes, and so he asks Union Jack for help, and together they head off through a mystical portal to Avalon, the heart of all the mystical and magical power in Britain. Pretty damn cool concept if I do say so myself. I loved the entire story here. This was has some great humour, British humour at that, and characters like Dai and Pete Wisdom really make this book a damn fun read. This issue gives a cross-section of most of the Knights of Pendragon, and its fun to see them all together. There are handy text boxouts that explain who each hero is, throughout the issue, and that was another great thing. You get introduced to the characters and then move on to the story itself.

The best thing here though was the whole Arthurian theme going on. Knights of Pendragon. Avalaon. Albion. The antagonist being Zombie Arthur with his Zombie Excalibur, which is like one of the trippiest things ever, and just so much damn fun.

I like how everything is brought together here in this issue, but I can’t help but think that the overall story of Revolutionary War really isn’t being told since all we are seeing are the heroes coming together and recognising the return of Mys-Tech. That’s where this issue suffers most, and that’s really it too.

Will Sliney’s art and Veronica Gandini’s colours really make this book come alive. All the characters are drawn and coloured just perfectly. With so much variety on display, I’d feared that some characters might/would get some short shrift, but that’s not the case. The characters are well-handled, whether we have just one of them in a panel or all of them. And Zombie Arthur was pretty hilarious as well.

A pretty damn good one-shot, I’ll say. Would love to read more about all of them.

Rating: 9/10

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Lobdell (DC Comics), and, Red Sonja Vol. 1:  Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani (Dynamite Entertainment).

*****

Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Lobdell

Story: Scott Lobdell | Art:  Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund (#15, #16), Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira (#17), Tyler Kirkham, Batt (#0) | Collects: Teen Titans #0, #15-17, Batman #17 & Red Hood and the Outlaws #16

The team is finally reunited in the wake of “DEATH OF THE FAMILY,” but something is very wrong with Red Robin! What did The Joker do? As Red Robin’s condition worsens, he and the team must face an even greater threat when thle new Dr. Light is sent for Solstice!

Teen Titans Volume 3

I mentioned in my review of Superman Vol.3: Fury At World’s End that I would do my best to stay clear of any Lobdell books in the future – and if you’re confused as to why this review is coming late then it is because I actually read this Volume before Superman Vol. 3, but was saving this review for a comics roundup so that was why it was delayed. The big news to come out of the April Solicits for DC Comics is that Teen Titans is actually getting cancelled so hopefully I won’t have to read anymore of this series written by Lobdell – which is a very good thing when you consider that this series is an absolute mess. Volume One was one of the first few trades that I actually brought due to being a relatively new reader which is why I kind of have a certain fondness for this title, but that fondness has pretty much been nonexistent to the point where I would quite happily rank Teen Titans as one of the worst series of the New 52, right down there with the likes of Catwoman by Ann Nocenti. Whilst Volume One was pretty good, this third volume shows just how far things have fallen, relying on crossovers within crossovers (literally, this is a Death of the Family crossover with the Batbooks due to the inclusion of Red Robin but also in the same event it crosses over with Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol.3) to attempt to keep it interesting. It’s almost as if Lobdell doesn’t think that the Teen Titans are interesting enough to tell stories without having crossovers that involve them – they’ve been dragged into messes with Superboy, the Ravagers and now Batman, and I hope that if DC do relaunch the Titans, they’ll leave Lobdell out of it so the book can stand on its own two feet.

 For this particular event, Lobdell drags the Teen Titans into the Death of the Family crossover putting the main focus on Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, and drags in Red Hood from Red Hood and the Outlaws into the mess as well, meaning as a result not only is Batman Vol. 3 required reading for you to get the full scope of what happens in the book, but also is Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3 – in my opinion, the issues collected in this volume are not enough to get the full scope of the crossover meaning that you’re forced to buy three trades even if you just want to stick with Teen Titans. It’s a way of selling books but just once would I like to see a Lobdell book that lasts for as long as Teen Titans had without a crossover. I mention this in every Lobdell review and I’m going to keep mentioning this until I see a book without one.

The best bits about Teen Titans Vol. 3, or at least issues #14 & #15 is easily the artwork. Brett Booth’s art is awesome and his work in respective titles like Nightwing and the first Teen Titans Volume was very good – and whilst it’s not worth buying for the artwork alone it’s certainly worth checking out in the store if you want to see it for yourself. However, be warned that Booth is only covering #14 & #15 – #16 sees Eddy Barrows step in with some artwork that doesn’t work and looks out of place as a result – I’d have been much happier if Barrows had remained on Nightwing and not taken over Teen Titans from Booth – who was doing a great job.

The book is short for a trade, collecting only three issues of the main Teen Titans series and two tie-ins so it’s probably not worth the admission price straight away. And it doesn’t help that the book in its short running time feels repetitive – there isn’t really anything new here and if you’ve already read Batman Vol. 3 and Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3 then most of this will feel redundant with only four issues providing new material.

The Death of the Family crossover isn’t as powerful as it was in any of the other books that I’ve read so far – his Joker is not as horrific as Tomasi’s nor as scary as Simone’s and as a result he comes off a little less threatening when we’ve seen such better portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime in other series. I would have been much happier to see this book disconnected from the events of Death of the Family – however sadly that is not the case here, and the end result is a mess – Teen Titans Vol. 3 is probably one of the worst collections of the event – if not the worst, and does not come recommended at all.

Rating: 1.5/5

*****

Red Sonja Vol. 1:  Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani

Story: Gail Simone | Art: Walter Geovani | Cover:  Jenny Frison

Gail Simone (Batgirl, Birds of Prey) gives the iconic fantasy heroine a fresh new attitude! Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, intends to pay back a blood debt owed to the one man who has gained her respect… even if it means leading a doomed army to their certain deaths! Who is Dark Annisia, and how has this fearsome warrior accomplished what no god nor demon has been able to do: force Sonja to her knees in surrender? An epic tale of blood, lust, and vengeance, Queen of the Plagues takes Red Sonja from the depths of her own grave to the heights of battlefield glory. Featuring Gail Simone’s Red Sonja #1 script!

Red Sonja Vol.1 Queen of Plagues

I’m a massive Gail Simone fan and regard her as one of the best current writers at DC Comics right now up there with the likes of Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and Charles Soule. I’ve loved her work on Batgirl and The Movement respectively and her Red Sonja is something that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while so when I saw this for review on NetGalley I’m so glad that I leapt at the chance, because the end result was a really fun fantasy volume – something that doesn’t happen a lot in comics nowadays with the last high fantasy comics series that I read being the terrific Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights.

Whilst I’m not familiar with the character of Red Sonja Gail Simone’s first volume of this new series served as a pretty good jumping on point for new readers, delivering a great kickass female heroine who leaves a memorable, bloody impression on the reader. Simone’s books are known for their powerful characters, case in point The Movement and Batgirl and there are no misfires here, with Red Sonja being awesome and well developed to boot. She’s someone who can quite easily carry a main ongoing series and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where she can take the character in the future.

Released on February 12 in trade paperback, this Volume is a great throwback to the sword and sorcery style of fantasy that is pure fun to read. There’s plenty of action and fights found within and an entertaining narrative but the best part of Red Sonja is how fun it is. I couldn’t put it down whilst I was reading it and I’m very glad that I decided to download this review copy when I had the chance – It’s certainly something that I can see myself sticking with in trade and it seems to be that Dynamite (along with Dark Horse to a certain extent with their titles like Captain Midnight) are among the best pulpy publishers in the comics business – The Spider was a lot of fun and the various Green Hornet comics that I’ve read from the publisher have been pretty enjoyable as well. Red Sonja is another one we can successfully add to that list – I don’t think I’ve been let down by a Dynamite book yet.

Before the events of this Volume, a King rescued Red Sonja from a deadly fate and didn’t offer any payment in return. Now – Queen of Plagues is about Red Sonja’s return to the city state where the King saved her in Corinthia – in order to lead the city in a fight for survival against impossible odds. And when you consider that the King is not the only person who has met Sonja before in the city state, there is plenty in store for the reader to enjoy, with the book being fun, action packed and awesome to read.

Red Sonja’s artist is Walter Geovani. Geovani brings some great art to the table here and really helps add to the atmospheric feel of the book. It’s proper sword and sorcery fantasy here – and if you’re a fan of not just sword and sorcery but fantasy in general the book is a must buy.  Simone is one great form here and I very much look forward to the next TBP as based on what I’ve read so far this is a series that certainly reads better as a trade paperback.

Rating: 4/5

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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