Category: Comics

“Invincible Volume 25: The End of All Things Part Two” by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker Review

invincible 25

Invincible Volume 25: The End of All Things Part Two

Writer:  Robert Kirkman

Artist:  Ryan Ottley & Cory Walker

Released:  2018

Publisher:  Image Comics

Reading the end of one of my all time favorite comic series reminded me a lot of watching the series finales for “Chuck,” “Six Feet Under,” or “Rescue Me.” Those were all shows I really enjoyed and was sad to end, however I also felt like they went out on great notes that provided enough closure that I didn’t walk away needing anything more from the stories. (Other finales like “Justified,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or “Twin Peaks: The Return” were also excellent, but when they were over I was just really depressed that there wasn’t more to return to the next week.)

Here Kirkman has said goodbye to his characters, let us know all of their fates, and basically shut the door on future Invincible stories. I should be very depressed that the series has ended but instead I’m happy with where he left the characters. Mark and Eve get plenty of closure on how their lives end up, as do characters like Allen, the Viltrumite empire, and everybody’s kids. The end of Robot’s storyline felt rushed to me. My only real complaint is that when Mark returned to Earth and Robot is ready for him, that felt like it should have been the start of another arc and instead it got handled in one issue.

The art in Invincible is always consistent, and here Ottley and Walker are are their seemless best, with it never taking you out of the story when one hands off art duties to the other. The colors in this series are always vibrant and fun, and with less blood than normal and a cheerful ending it’s very hard to walk away sad from this book. Still, over the 25 volume (I read this book exclusively in trade paperback format) story I always looked forward to the next six issue set showing up at my comic shop every 8 or 9 months.

Unlike many mainstream comics, independent comics can actually end. While Silver Surfer as told by Dan Slott and Mike Allred was my favorite book of the last two years, when it ended I knew the character would be showing up in other Marvel books and adventures before too long. Even a character like Jessica Jones who had only been written by one author will be returning before too long as part of the greater Marvel Universe. Independent books like “Bone,” “Strangers in Paradise” or “Cerebus” can return when the author wants them to, but for the most part the endings are much more final than anything else in comics. Nobody else can do “Savage Dragon” but Erik Larsen, and “Invincible” by somebody other than Kirkman and Ottley/Walker could never be the same thing that was told over the last 15 years of this book. Congrats to the creators on an amazing finish to a great series.

5-star

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“X-Factor Vol. 2” by Jeff Jensen and Arthur Ranson Review

X Factor vol 2X-Factor Vol. 2 1-4 (Complete Series)

Writer:  Jeff Jensen

Artist: Arthur Ranson

Colors:  Paul Mounts

Letterer: Paul Tutrone

Released:  2002

I’m continuing to go through my collection of back issues in search of series I either never read or don’t remember very well.  Much like with books, I’ve been known to sometimes buy comics at conventions or stores when they’re cheap and then forget to read them for several years.  While one of my all time favorite comic series is Peter David’s X-Factor Vol. 3, I’ve actually never sat down and read the first two volumes before.  Since Volume 1 is over 100 issues and Volume 2 is only four, I decided to continue working my backward and do the one I could read in a day.

X-Factor Volume 2 is one of those series that focuses on the normal people living in the superhero universe, much like Damage Control of Gotham Central.  Here, it follows two special government agents on a dedicated mutant task force.  Their duties seem to be in dealing with hate crimes against mutants, but the unofficial mission is more keeping tabs on extremists on both sides of the mutant agenda.  The two agents are a white male who has lost the use of his hand (though is getting a new cybernetic one) due to an incident with a mutant, and an African-American female who recently had an infant daughter whose mutation activated causing her to burn herself to death in her crib.  Needless to say, it’s not a laugh riot.

The four issues in the series tell  fairly unconnected stories, with each issue focusing on a separate case that is fairly well resolved by the end.  The first issue is the mystery of the murder of a man tied to the Hollywood sign with the word murder carved into him.  The second issue follows a baseball player who is planning to reveal to the world that he is a mutant.  The final two issues of the series focus more on the two agents finally beginning to trust one another and figure out who is pulling the strings on the anti-mutant agenda.

Throughout the series, the X-Men show up in brief cameos.  Jean Grey sends a mind message; Wolverine makes a threat, Nightcrawler captures a criminal.  If you’re here to read superheroes this isn’t the book for you.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the lead protagonists were particularly memorable.  The male in particular (I finished this series last night and I can’t recall either of their names) was bland, with his major character arc being the decision to be a more open-minded parent.  Likewise, the antagonists are in the shadows for most of the series so there’s not a lot of memorable moments with those guys either.

The artwork by Arthur Ranson was also inconsistent.  The bulk of the cast of characters are civilians in regular attire.  The two main characters are always easy to tell apart, but the supporting cast often melted into a shadowy white dude melange.  The superheroes that showed up don’t give me a better of idea of his ability, as Jean Grey and Wolverine were just OK, while Nightcrawler was fantastic.

Image result for x-factor ranson nightcrawlerI can’t decide if it’s just the Paul Mounts colors putting him over the top, or if Nightcrawler fits in better than the other heroes in the shadowy world of Ranson’s art.

My score indicates I didn’t enjoy this series, but really the series just felt very unnecessary and fairly forgettable.  I can’t imagine ever revisiting this book or recommending it to somebody, unless they’re just a huge fan of Sam and Twitch and are looking for a Marvel Universe watered down analog.

2-star

“Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” by Andrew Shaffer, Illustrated by Steven Lefcourt Review

Ain't Got Time to Bleed

Ain’t Got Time To Bleed

Writer:  Andrew Shaffer

Illustrator:  Steven Lefcourt

Published:  2017

The premise of “Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” is 29 action movie characters are examined by medical professionals to determine what effect the various injuries they sustain throughout the movie would have on them, and if they would survive or not. The characters include several individuals who are in more than one movie (Luke Skywalker, James Bond, John McClane etc.), however the author just selected one film for those characters to review (The Emperor Strikes Back, Skyfall, Die Hard). Along with each page recapping the injuries sustained during the movie, there are also “additional observations” which often include psychological diagnoses, and a prognosis section for recovery time (or permanent or fatal injuries). Finally, there are pictures by Steven Lefcourt of each character with the injured areas highlighted.

This book delivered fairly well on what was promised. It’s definitely a book you can finish in one sitting, coming in at less than 70 pages with half of those being illustrations. The best portions were the less obvious injuries I’d never considered before. My favorite was Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer from Predator (also the film the book takes its title from) whose additional observations section stated”Patient covered himself with mud to avoid detection… however, this could have caused his open wounds to become infected. Teanus, anthrax and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) are just a few of the main soil-related bacterial, fungal and viral infection possible.”

On the negative side, the idea can get a bit redundant, especially regarding the multiple fist fights (“Multiple fistfights. Superficial lacerations on face. Bruised knuckles possible.”), many of which are generalized. I think by stopping at one movie per character, the author missed a fun opportunity to see how some characters would survive over multiple films (Rambo, John McClane, James Bond, Bryan Mills, Ethan Hunt and others would lend themselves well for this). Still, for a 30 minute read this is good for several chuckles.

3-star

“Nailbiter, Volume 2: Bloody Hands” by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson Review

Nailbiter 2

Nailbiter, Vol. 2: Bloody Hands

Written by: Joshua Williamson

Art by: Mike Henderson

Published:  2015

Volume 2 of Nailbiter was a bit of a letdown from the first volume. The main culprit was story decompression as 2 of the 5 issues included featured what read like stand alone issues (featuring stories about a Beekeeper and a pregnant girl who wants her baby to be a killer). The issues that tied back into the main plot didn’t advance the overarching storyline much, with some further interrogations being teased and the Nailbiter acting creepier but not much else going on besides s religious guy rising as an antagonist. There’s also a weird Brian Michael Bendis cameo shoehorned in and a bus incident that would certainly be national news.

The art continued to be OK, but probably a step below most of the books I read on a month to month basis. The backup story at the end was certainly gross and shocking, but it also felt like a reveal that would have been better earned in the main storyline instead.

3-star

“Invincible Vol. 24: The End of All Things (Part 1)” by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley

Invincible 24

Invincible Vol. 24: The End of All Things (Part One)

Writer:  Robert Kirkman

Artists:  Ryan Ottley

Released:  2017

One of my favorite ongoing comic series is coming to an end. I assume this is the Penultimate Volume of the series, as I know the ongoing series is ending and the title is “The End of all Things: Part 1.” This installment is coming off one of my absolute favorites in the entire series, and it’s obviously setting up the final conclusion so it read as a bit of a letdown compared to what’s come before or will likely come afterwards.

**Spoilers for Invincible up until this point**

The main conflict in this volume arises out of Mark’s grief for the death of a family member in the last installment, and his subsequent return to the conflict against Thragg and the conquering Viltrumites. Along with Atom Eve, he enlists Allen, his dad, Space Racer and a female alien whose name I don’t remember to come up with a plan to combat Thragg. The plan is clever in drawing all the other big Invincible characters back into the story prior to the big conclusion, however it is also pretty hard to believe Mark would be willing to risk the battleground becoming the one he ends up selecting.

Another installment, another (apparent at this point) major character death, however along with Mark’s prior relative, this one was pretty predictable in terms of casualties (let’s just say it’s a fairly superheroic cliche at this point). The most interesting parts of the story going on at the moment are Thragg’s daughter’s reluctance to blindly follow him, and Robot’s dual plans involving Viltrumite children and getting involved with the space conflict. I’ve been wondering how our heroes would deal with the seeming thousands of Viltrumites when every one that they’ve encountered on their own has been a match for everybody except for Mark, and this volume explains it away in not entirely satisfying manner. Basically, Thragg’s offspring are not fully powered up, so they’re easier to kill in hand to hand combat.

I’m focusing on the negative here, because the rest of the story has been so wonderful for fifteen years now that I’m very eager to see how Kirkman decides to end it. At this point, even a total dud or ambiguous ending won’t take this one off my list of great series to reread or recommend to others. Grading the series as a whole, it’s one of the bests. Grading just this installment, this was just OK.

3-star

“Jim Lee’s C-23 1-8 (Complete Series)” by Jeff Mariotte and Alexander Lozano

Jim Lee's c-23

Jim Lee’s C-23 #1-8

Created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi

Written by Jeff Mariotte

Art by Alexander Lozano

Published in 1998

I had high hopes for this series because it came from an imprint that I loved (WildC.A.T.s, Backlash, Stormwatch, The Authority, Gen13 are all nostalgia filled trips down memory lane for me) and covers by Ryan Benjamin that fit right in with those other books.  What I didn’t know when starting the series though was that this series was created as a tie in for a card game.  I’m usually not big on media tie in series, as they seem to restrict the creative freedom of the writers or don’t have any real stakes taking place.

Once I got into the inside of the book I was immediately disappointed by the artwork.  Character anatomy is pretty much not in the realm of reality, but not even in the fun comic book way of 90’s image comics.  Torsos are a cross between the typical steroid visions of that era, but also have an affected by toxic waste vibe where they flow into necks, legs or breasts in weird ways.  It’s particularly apparent on the female characters (of which there are only two that have any speaking parts, both are wanting to have sex with the protagonist) who look way less humanoid than I’m sure was intended by the story.

Speaking of the story… there’s not much there.  The entire plot of eight issues can be summed up as an elevator pitch or back of a book summary for basically any heroes journey.  Two rival races are at war, and the only person who can win the war is the man born to both of them.  His father was killed by the leader of the evil race, and now he’s the secret heir to the kingdom for the good guys.  I was going to stretch it out another sentence but that pretty much sums up all eight issues.

The setting is a mix between Avatar and Cyberforce, with the good guys being the organic Navi-like race and the bad guys being the cybernetically enhanced humans.  So little happens in this series that it’s inexplicable that one of the only things that happens in the story (a prison break) takes place in between issues.  In addition to the cardboard hero (Corbin), there’s a bad guy (Hemlocke), Scarab (a jealous brother), and the two females (one from each race) who want to have sex with Corbin (whose names I have already forgot).

I’m trying to think of a redeeming quality about this series, but the bad art, cliche story and forgettable characters are leaving me drawing a blank.

1-star

“The Lone Ranger: Vindicated” from Dynamite Comics Review

Lone Ranger Vindicated

The Lone Ranger: Vindicated from Dynamite Comics

Writer:  Justin Gray

Artist:  Rey Villegas

Published:  2015

Vindicated is listed as a standalone Lone Ranger adventure, or at least it lacks the number on the side of the trade paperback to indicate where it should fall in the reading order.  I’ve read about all of the Dynamite line of this series, and I’d just recommend reading it after Vol. 8: The Long Road Home, which I believe is where it came out chronologically.

 The story of Vindicated is that a small town bank has been robbed, and then the insurance money sent to the town is also robbed, and it’s possible that some of the higher ups in the town are all in on it.  As far as originality, it’s fairly run of the mill and I have a feeling I’ll forget about it before I get around to reading the next Lone Ranger trade.  The most memorable aspect of this volume is the attractive woman that takes an interest in our title character.  The rest of the plot being go generic, the only place this book develops the characters in a meaningful way is showing how juvenile John is in his interactions with women.  Even Tonto has to point out to him both when a woman is interested in him, and when he should beware of one.

 Beyond those few scenes (which while funny, also have the negative result of making the hero seem less convincing as a credible threat to evil… maybe James Bond’s polyamory is on to something), the only parts of this book that really stood out were the fantastic art by Rey Villegas.  Dynamite has always done a great job with the art on this book, and several pages reminded me of the great Cassaday covers from earlier in this series.  There are some great pages in issue four involving a shooting display any a dramatic entry through a window that were as exciting visually as anything I’ve read this year. Unfortunately in the service of only a so-so story, it’s an overall forgettable installment.

3-star