Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Wolverine’, ‘Green Lantern’, ‘The Stand: American Nightmare’, And More!

Due to the holiday, this week’s books were out yesterday and the publishers treated us to a huge week of new top titles. Choosing this week’s Pull of the Week wasn’t an easy choice.

Pull of the Week:

Wolverine #72 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 9.0

This is the Wolverine we know and love. Despite being fifty years down the line and having lived through one of the most traumatic experiences ever when he was tricked into killing his own teammates years ago by Mysterio, this issue of the “Old Man Logan” story proves that some people never really change. Logan is the best at what he does and this issue proves that even as an old man, he will still be the best.

The issue starts with a grim flashback of the day the villains won as the Red Skull explains to Captain America how he united the world’s super-villains in an effort to finally take over. There’s something very eerie about the Red Skull as he stands over the fallen Bucky-Cap, knowing that in this world, he has taken out both Steve Rogers and his successor successfully. Now, fifty years later, Skull stands in his trophy room surrounded by weapons and pieces of costume from various iconic heroes (including the costume and cape of the Sentry, giving me hope that he can be killed off and never brought back), reflecting on his successes as his minions bring him the corpse of Hawkeye and what they believe to be a dead Logan.

What comes next is one of the best fight one on one fight scenes in recent memory as Logan and the Skull take to each other using the weapons of the fallen heroes. Even knowing that this is an alternate reality, it’s still somewhat heart wrenching to see Logan forced to fight for his life and that of his family around the trophies the Red Skull had claimed off his former comrades. But like much of the rest of Logan’s life, the issue ends in tragic fashion before a very stark and powerful two page spread. Never before have two pages with literally no illustration on them been as meaningful as they are in this issue.

It’s going to be a shame when Mark Millar’s run with this character comes to an end in the Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Sized Special comes out. Not only does Millar have a knack for writing this character, but he has done something most writers only attempt the opposite of. Every writer who has gotten their hands on Wolverine has attempted to put their own spin on his origin. At the same time, artist Steve McNiven gives the reader a truly horrifying vision of the future in this issue.

Much like the cover with the Red Skull wearing the fallen Captain America’s costume, the rest of the issue has a terrifying vision of the future as an utterly bleak possibility that has been done so well through the story arc. The amazing thing about McNiven’s art is how well he captures who Logan is without any of the signature pieces of the character. The pointed mask nor the awkward haircut see the light of day in the series, yet still, just by looking at him the reader can easily tell, this is Logan. Just an older version of him.

Other Pulls:

Dark Reign: The Hood #1 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 7.5

Marvel’s newest top baddie on the block, the Hood, gets his own Dark Reign tie-in series starting this month. Like much of the Dark Reign, this issue can be read by itself and isn’t required reading. But, being a member of Osborn’s Cabal, the Hood gets his spotlight in this first of a five issue mini-series. Unlike much of the Dark Reign banner, this issue only has a subtle mention of the Hood’s involvement in the Cabal and at no point even features or mentions the former Green Goblin by name. Instead of the normal super-hero story, this book comes across in a style similar to Goodfellas as the reader sees the Hood and his criminal associates before, during and after a heist in more than just than their villainous ways.

In a recent interview, writer Jeff Parker ironically said that the character of the Hood, whose real name is Parker Robbins, was made for him to write. After reading this issue, one would have to agree with him. The dialogue shifts flawlessly for the Hood going through his four personas in the issue from powerful criminal leader to scared loner in over his head, from lover to caring husband and father.

The interesting part of the character comes from the fact that despite his “evil” actions, he is hard to hate. Unlike a villain like Bullseye who will kill for the simple enjoyment of it, this issue shows that the Hood reflects on any action he is taking and does so because of his main motivation in his life, his daughter. Much like the Cabal one-shot a few weeks back, the Hood doesn’t believe he is a bad person. He is just doing what he does in an effort to protect his family at any cost.

While Spider-Man’s story revolves around “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”, the tale of the Hood instead poses a question. “Do the ends justify the means?” Maybe one day the redemption of the Hood will be the great tale of a man turning his life on villainy to become a great hero but until then, with every appearance in the New Avengers, the Cabal and the Punisher, the Hood just pulls himself deeper and deeper in to a hole that may be impossible to one day dig his way out of.

Green Lantern #41 – DC – $2.99
Score: 8.5

What’s the difference between Hope and Avarice? That’s a question that Geoff Johns explores as he continues the march towards Blackest Night. Now possessing two of the Guardian rings, both Green and Blue, Hal Jordan confronts Agent Orange, the sole possessor of the power of the Orange Lantern Corps.  Since being gifted with a second ring, Hal has been asked over and over again by the Blue ring what he hopes for but has yet to ever give an answer.

Still building steam heading towards Blackest Night, Johns continues the story of the twisted creature of Agent Orange. Unlike Hal who was sought out to be a bearer of the ring by the Corps, Agent Orange’s lifestyle is what brought him to possession of the only ring of power that would fit him. While some characters have heroes have their tragic flaws, often many villains have redeeming qualities behind their motivations.

John’s made sure to give Agent Orange nothing of the sort. The most anyone could feel for a character such as this is pity. But because everything that has happened to Agent Orange has come from his own selfish actions, he becomes a pathetic and despicable character worthy only of the reader’s disgust. It will be great to see how Johns is able to sculpt a character even more unlikeable and evil than Agent Orange when the Black Lanterns come in to play as the story continues.

Artists Philip Tan and Eddy Barrows do a great job penciling the issue with contrasting styles even taking place on the same page at times. Some panels have a raw comic book appear while others look like paintings come to life. One of the most spectacular panels comes from a blurry Hal Jordan and Agent Orange squaring off in the background as the foreground is a detailed floor covered in the Orange rings of power.  With the floor covered in these rings of power, Agent Orange declares them basically worthless as he claims all the power of his entire Corps rests in his single ring.

Along with the great pencils comes the fantastic coloring. The issue basically illuminates itself with power. The light from the rings can almost be felt when flipping through the pages of the issue. As Blackest Night gets closer, Johns continues to put all the players in to place. He makes the reader question who will be on which side, what alliances will be forged, and if certain characters will be changed at the core by the end of the event. With solicits already beginning to reveal who some of the members of the Black Lanterns are, it looks as though DC is ready for some major changes in their world.

New Avengers #53 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 8.0

If all $3.99 comics were this good, no one would be complaining about the price increases. New Avengers #53 continues with the Avengers team in New Orleans attempting to beat the Hood from finding the new Sorcerer Supreme. The Hood has put a target on the head of Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, who unlike his father is actually one of the good guys.

Interesting enough, Hellstrom and the Hood are also crossing paths in Marvel Zombies 4 as well, though their battle in this series definitely kicks it up a notch with the levels of power they are using. The Avengers deal with Madame Masque, the Hood’s girlfriend, until the Hood’s battle with Hellstrom spills in to the streets. By the end of the issue, it is revealed who has been granted the Eye of Ogomoto and the likely the title of the new Sorcerer Surpreme.

As always Billy Tan delivers tremendous artwork on the New Avengers as it seems to be the book he was made to draw. The highlight for Tan comes from his one page fight scene between Spider-Woman and Madame Masque where the two slug it out in the haze of a smoke grenade. Utterly simplistic in its style, Tan nails the form and motion of the two femme fatales.

Further more, New Avengers continues to deliver consistently. Each month since the flashbacks of the Secret Invasion have ended, it has brought out the best in the Bendis and Tan combination. Where the team will go next after dealing with the current Sorcerer Supreme situation remains to be seen but with the Dark Reign in effect and the tease from Free Comic Book Day, a New Avengers vs. Dark Avengers square off can’t be too far away.

The Stand: American Nightmares #3 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 8.0

It’s hard for The Stand’s comic adaptation to not receive a positive review, considering the source material behind it. While the ABC mini-series may have lost some of the “charm” of Steven King’s end of the world epic because it had to be toned done and shortened for network television, the comic version takes all of King’s gripping visual descriptions and brings them to life.

With the limits only on the artists and script writers’ understanding of King’s masterpiece, American Nightmares is the second five issue limited series taking the dooms day scenario to task. This issue focuses on the journey of former rock sensation Larry Underwood and his companion Rita Underwood making their way out of New York through the Holland Tunnel.

Imagine if you will, being told you must walk through a two and a half mile long tunnel in total darkness with only a Bic lighter to help you through. Not something many people would sign up for. Now imagine that tunnel is filled with cars that have effectively become four wheeled caskets for victims of the “Captain Trips” super flu epidemic. This is what Stu must endure to simply make his way out of New York City. And of course to help matters, on his way to the tunnel, Stu witnesses the effects of a world without law and authority as he passes by the mutilated bodies of two men who had been killed by someone other than “Captain Trips”.  With most pieces of literature, the scariest thing to deal with is often what is unseen.

With many of the pages covered in only darkness and caption boxes, Stu’s mind begins to wander, giving the reader witness to the terrifying images of what he may encounter. Stu must think to himself, “None of this can happen to me. None of this is real. It doesn’t exist.” Until a few weeks ago, Stu also thought that a super flu that could kill of ninety-nine percent of the world’s population was fake too. After living through it, almost anything could still be on the table as he and Rita make their terrifying trek.

Mike Perkins does a astonishing job of bringing this bleak look at the future of New York to life, going as far as trying to exactly replicate as many actual locations of the novel as possible. Like the rest of The Stand series, this issue includes commentary and script page breakdowns. Perkins explains the level of detail he took to keep the book authentic to the source material, including keeping everything accurate to the early nineties when it was originally written.

After the eight issues that have already come out, there still appears to be tons left for the series to ultimately cover. Upon completion, the stack of books containing the entire Stand collection will likely be an impressive stack. Not only will it contain one of the best book to comic adaptations done if things continue the current trend, but it will contain one of the most genuinely frightening tales told by Steven King. If you are a Steven King fan, this series is for you. If you want something other than a standard super-hero tale, this series is for you. And if you want something that has been a solid read since the very first issue of The Stand: Captain Trips with great content, both story and artwork, this series is definitely for you.

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