Welcome to The Pull List Comic Reviews! Get comfy as a few titles elected to go with short stories this week, meaning we’ve got a lot to cover. As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
PULL OF THE WEEK:
Deadpool #900 – Marvel Comics – $4.99 US
Writers: Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Mike Benson, Joe Kelly, Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, Charlie Huston Artists: Chris Staggs, Dalibor Talajic, Damion Scott, Rob Liefeld, Shawn Crystal, Sanford Greene, Kyle Baker
Has there been a hotter commodity in recent times than Deadpool? Hard to argue, but looking back you’ll find that the first issue of this title was launched last year amid much fanfare. Fast-forward twelve months and the character has starred in a one-shot (Deadpool: Games of Death), a mini-series (Deadpool: Suicide Kings), a second ongoing series (Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth) and an upcoming third ongoing (Deadpool Team-Up). What better way to hammer home his arrival in the spotlight – yeah, there was a Marvel Spotlight issue, too – than to give him a #900 issue, a first for comics?
The line-up of creators that contributed to this issue is ridiculous, so it’s no surprise that these seven short stories completely shine in their own right. Not a single dud in the mix. How could there be? He fights mimes in one short while staging a Vegas CSI scene in another, both with cataclysmic results. He gets abducted by aliens (poor aliens!) and spends quality time with his shrink (poor shrink!). He even puts the blinders on as he aims to collect on a childhood bet! Obviously, there’s no limits where ‘Pool is concerned.
Fourth walls be damned, in one memorable short he has a philosophical debate with his other inner-voices to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. Accompanied by Kyle Baker’s visually trippy art, said short doesn’t end well for one reader, and bodes nothing but ill tidings to the rest of the readers out there, yourself included. But fear not as Deadpool embarks on a vacation cruise, systematically infuriating the entire crew and guests, and ultimately settling his differences with a fierce battle against Doc Ock… in ping pong.
Only from the gifted mind of Victor Gischler could a scenario like that play out. Also included, as if all this wasn’t enough, is a reprint of 1998’s Deadpool Team-Up one-shot.
Here’s the thing: Deadpool is one of the most complex characters to ever grace the pages of a comic book. To attempt to make sense of him is no different than a dog chasing his tail, which ‘Pool himself has attempted to do, naturally. Having said all that, this monstrous-sized issue is about as close as you’ll ever get to unraveling the enigma that is Deadpool, and that is why this is the Pull of the Week.
Batgirl #3 – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller Artist: Lee Garbett
The new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, sets her sights on taking down Scarecrow and his latest drug concoction, Thrill. The original Batgirl and current Oracle, Barbara Gordon, attempts to be her wing-woman, but isn’t exactly happy about the situation. What culminates is a victory for the good guys, an understanding and promise between teammates, and a new costume…
Spoiler-detractors take note: this series is better than you think. Writer Bryan Q. Miller has done a good job of showing a strong female lead coping with doing the right thing, no matter who tells her otherwise. But instead of turning the story into a soap opera, Miller injects a healthy dose of action that really gives the title balance. I’m very interested to see where Miller takes Batgirl and us readers in the near future.
Art-wise, Lee Garbett made this issue come to life. He’s the perfect compliment to Miller’s juggling act as the touchy scenes are just as powerful as the action scenes, and that’s no easy feat. Putting his own stamp on the title, Garbett unveils the new Batgirl costume, and I for one think it’s great. Paying homage to the Batgirl ensembles that have come before, this new get-up also allows Stephanie to make her mark as well. After all, she always did look good in purple.
Blackest Night: Batman #3 (of 3) – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi Artist: Ardian Syaf
The throwdown begins as Dick-Batman and Tim-Red Robin face off against the Graysons and the Drakes in this final issue. As the undead bodies continue to pile on, enter the Demon, who is actually being controlled by Deadman. Will he save the day, or has the cemetery become that much more crowded?
Writer Peter J. Tomasi almost knocked this out of the park. His representation of the various emotions that Dick and Tim would naturally experience is spot on. His ability to bring new players onto the playing field without disrupting the flow of the issue is a work of art in itself. But, there’s one glaring problem I found with this tale, and the opportunity has now slipped by. All Tim had to do was ask Dick, “If Bruce really is dead, then how come he’s not here trying to kill us?” I guess that may be a plot point down the road, but Dick is too smart to not have figured that out. Still, a great story, and I’d be loony if I didn’t mention the Identity Crisis and Batman: Year 3 shout-outs. Nice.
Artist Ardian Syaf is, in a nutshell, electric. Here’s another example of an artist that can bring the adrenaline while also able to convey emotion, and as mentioned, that’s hard to find. Why this artist hasn’t nailed down an ongoing yet is outside my realm of comprehension, but really, that needs to be fixed. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Syaf has signed an exclusive with either Marvel or DC at some point soon.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #6 (of 6) – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Ivan Brandon Artist: Cliff Richards
Tom Tresser feels that he’s getting close to escaping wherever he is, if only he can find the missing piece to the puzzle. What Tom does eventually find, however, could change his perception… on everything.
Writer Ivan Brandon is one of those up-and-comers you hear about these days. A little here, a little there, then all of the sudden he’ll explode into the limelight and be one of the next, big creators. I foresee this, and I’m pretty sure the publishers-that-be do, too. Unfortunately, this is not the title that will catapult him to new heights. I’m not quite sure why this project didn’t work, but when you’re focusing on Agent Tresser, Brother Eye and the Global Peace Agency, you’re off to a slow start.
Cliff Richards did the best he could do. The first three issues of this mini-series was done by Marco Rudy, who really incorporated a style so disorienting that you wouldn’t need mind-altering drugs to view the impossible. As cool as that art was, again, the subject matter was more of a hindrance than anything. Richards stepped in and finished the mini-series, but a sinking ship is a sinking ship. I find it hard to believe that this will even be collected, but if it does, I’d recommend against it. In the meantime, DC, let’s see what these creators can really do, okay?
House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1 – DC Comics/Vertigo – $4.99 US
Writers: Matthew Sturges, Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Matt Wagner Artists: Luca Rossi, Mark Buckingham, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Michael Allred, Amy Reeder Hadley
How can an annual be spiced up? By making it a Halloween-themed annual, of course! With the Halloween party in sight, Fig goes in search of a costume. The mask she finds and dons takes her on a whirlwind trick or treating trip through various dimensions instead, which leads to a few familiar guest stars you’d never think would show up in this title.
Another roll call of some of comics’ finest equates to another treat for the readers. The House of Mystery and its tenants have seen their fair share of things that go bump in the night, but what they weren’t prepared for was Fig’s mask, which allows the wearer to see into other worlds and become other people. Using the usual framing sequence that has become a calling card for this series, these creators have fabricated four short stories that compliment the mask, but in decidedly different ways.
In one short Merv Pumpkinhead oversees the festive event and succeeds in getting his army of monsters drunk in the process, which leads to some hilarious scenes. Hellblazer John Constantine pops up in another short to deal with the ramifications of suicide, and Madame Xanadu rescues a young girl from losing herself, literally, in yet another. Not to be outdone, I, Zombie makes an appearance, and from the looks of it, gives us readers a sneak peek of a new project coming next year. All in all, a great issue that’s just in time for the upcoming scare season. Just beware that mask.
Punisher: Frank Castle MAX #75 – Marvel Comics/MAX – $4.99 US
Writers: Tom Piccirilli, Gregg Hurwitz, Duane Swierczynski, Peter Milligan, Charlie Huston Artists: Laurence Campbell, Das Pastoras, Tomm Coker, Goran Parlov, Ken Lashley
In this final issue of the Marvel MAX title, Punisher gets the anthology treatment with five wonderful short stories by some of the hardest-boiled creators today. Each of these shorts are designed to give the reader an inside look to what makes Frank Castle tick, and in some cases the results are heartbreaking. Punisher and “heartbreaking?” You bet.
First off, every short here is solid. The various writers did a bang-up job in getting to the heart of the matter, and the artists really went to varying degrees that produced some great tones for the stories. Having said that, I can’t tip my hat enough to writer Peter Milligan and artist Goran Parlov for their short, “Father’s Day.” We’ve all seen the Punisher’s origin played out in not only comics but films as well, so what happens isn’t a surprise; it’s the angle the creators focused on that really opened my eyes.
Despite the spoiler warning up top, I won’t go into detail about this particular short. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: pick up this issue – which also contains a preview of the new PunisherMAX title debuting in November from Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon – because if you’re a Punisher fan, you won’t want to miss it. If you’re not a Punisher fan, I think this collection of shorts is just the thing to get you past the “he shoots people and that’s it” hang-up that some readers have.
Secret Six #14 – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Gail Simone Artist: Nicola Scott
When we last saw our “heroes” they were split up, beaten down and running for their lives while an Amazon army waited for death and a knocked-out Wonder Woman slept. Up to speed? Good, because what happens in this issue will leave you saying “What?!?” followed by “This is awesome!” and “I love Ragdoll!” Okay, that last one might just be me. In either case, buckle up…
Writer Gail Simone has taken complete control of this mish-mash team and put them through more crazy moments than Amy Winehouse’s publicist, and she’s nowhere near done yet. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but is there a more interesting character in the DC Universe right now than Bane? Yes, that Bane. Is there a more interesting relationship in said universe than Bane and Scandal Savage? Yes, that Scandal Savage. Vandal Savage’s daughter and Bat-back-breaking Bane, two characters who won’t be appearing on The Newlywed Game any time soon, mind you.
As for Nicola Scott, her art is so pleasing to the eye that you won’t even be bothered with the copious amount of blood in this issue. Her ability to make any character portray their emotions visually, Bane included, is a wonder all on its own and finally, her rendition of Wonder Woman leaves little doubt that the Amazonian Princess is not to be trifled with. If you’re not reading this series, you should be, it’s as simple as that.
Uncanny X-Men #516 – Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Greg Land
Mutants have congregated to Utopia, the makeshift island off the coast of San Francisco that used to be Magneto’s Asteroid M. With this safe haven, Cyclops has provided the leadership that mutants need in a time when their species is slowly becoming extinct. But it’s not all puppies and rainbows as Magneto has just arrived on Utopia…
Matt Fraction, a writer who has been one of the architects of the current crop of X-titles, continues to push the “Nation X” storyline with this issue, and so far it’s been one beat after another. Easily managing a large cast, Fraction shows us just enough of certain interactions to keep everything humming along smoothly; especially the still-frosty nature of Scott Summers and Charles Xavier’s relationship.
Artist Greg Land, on the other hand, is still more of a distraction that an addition to this title, or any title for that matter. It’s no secret that the artist uses reference material, but unfortunately that results in a lot of posing, more so than you’d expect from your average comic. Until Land produces art that is more fluid, I feel that his talent is better served for covers, as this issue will indicate.
Walking Dead #66 – Image Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Charlie Adlard
Status quo, prepared to be slapped. This final chapter in the “Fear the Hunters” story arc has taken some pre-conceived notions and turned them on their ears. I guarantee you that no one was as surprised as the hunters themselves, but the real question is how will YOU take this issue?
Personally, I thought it was fantastic. Robert Kirkman has been writing this for a long time and yet he still manages to make it one of the more intriguing titles on the stands today. His handling of Rick is definitely the cream of the crop, especially after what Rick does in this issue. Not to be outdone, you won’t believe the exchange between Rick and his son, Carl, at the end. Really, incredible stuff, so I’m practically drooling for the next issue.
It’s hard to find new compliments for an artist like Charlie Adlard. Time and time again he’s put together issues that are a joy – mixed with the occasional shudder, in a good way – to read. In fact, I can’t imagine this title in anyone else’s hands, no disrespect to Tony Moore. As always, I’m looking forward to more art from Adlard as the continued “adventures” pan out.
Web of Spider-Man #1 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writers: JM DeMatteis, Tom DeFalco, Sean McKeever Artists: Val Semeiks, Ron Frenz, Stephanie Buscema
I was very disappointed by this new title from Marvel Comics. Initially, when this was announced, I was under the impression that it would tie into the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man in a way that was much more cohesive than previous titles like Spider-Man Family and Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! had done. Sadly, it’s the exact same.
The fault doesn’t lie on the shoulders of the creators, who crafted three short stories that are fine. The problem is that there’s a reason Family and Extra! are not being made anymore, and that is that most readers don’t care anymore about what happens to Kaine, Spider-Girl or… Frog-Man. Granted, Kaine will be a character popping up soon enough in Amazing Spider-Man, but trust me, that’s no reason to buy this issue. As fine as that story was, it’s not essential reading.
Likewise, if you’re one of the die-hard Spider-Girl fans that has actively lobbied for the continuing adventures of May Parker, then I think you’ll buy this no matter how its reviewed, but if you’re not, then move along. Lastly, the inclusion of Frog-Man was not necessary at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cute little story with cute art, but I can think of hundreds of obscure characters I’d rather read about. This title may target the fanatical out there, but I’m predicting this title’s longevity is already in question.