The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘S.W.O.R.D.’, ‘Punishermax’, ‘Strange’ and More

Welcome to another edition of The Pull List Comic Reviews! We’ve got a lot off good issues to get through, so let’s get to it. As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

PULL OF THE WEEK:

sword-1-coverS.W.O.R.D. #1 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Steven Sanders, Jamie McKelvie
Score: 9.0

Spinning out of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s seminal Astonishing X-Men run, S.W.O.R.D. is the new title focusing on the organization entrusted to ensure that alien invasions are kept to a minimum. The Sentient World Observation and Response Department’s co-commander, Abigail Brand, has enough on her plate as it is, but having Henry Peter Gyrich – yes, THAT guy – as your co-commander simply can’t be a good thing.

After making a name for himself with the critically acclaimed Phonogram series, Marvel thought that writer Kieron Gillen would be able to handle the launch of a new, ongoing series that has a lot of ties to it, and boy were they right. The juggling parallels between what Agent Brand must endure and the various plot threads that Gillen must keep going wasn’t lost on me; in fact, I’d say it only added to the story’s flow. Imagine Men In Black done up right.

So new that he could be considered a rookie, artist Steven Sanders is anything but. Sharp, clean pencils fill this issue from cover to cover, and while his interpretation of how Beast looks takes a little getting used to, ultimately it’s nit picking on an otherwise near-perfect comic. His rendition of Gyrich, especially, should be noted, as the character has never looked more dick-ish.

About as entertaining as an issue can be, this first issue manages to draw you in with quirky moments – Beast’s lovesick commentary, Lockheed’s binge drinking – and stunning revelations – hello, Kitty! – made this an incredibly easy selection for our Pull of the Week.

OTHER PULLS:

Amazing Spider-Man #611 – Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Eric Canete
Score: 8.5

Poor Spidey. As per usual, that stunningly bad Parker luck stays on cruise control, resulting in an unexpected and maddening encounter with the Merc With a Mouth, Deadpool. Obvious shenanigans aside, the pieces of the upcoming “Gauntlet” story arc are coming together, which doesn’t bode well for our favorite Wall Crawler.

I could go on and on about the Spidey/Deadpool face-off, but any fan of either of these characters has a pretty good idea of what happens. Rest assured, it’s exactly like you’d expect: hilarious. What really caught my attention, however, is how off-the-wall the overall tone of the issue felt. Even the standard re-cap page was completely re-done, not to mention an “appearance” by Geoff Johns. Incredibly well done issue by Joe Kelly, who had me sold with the unintentionally hysterical exploits of Lady Stilt-Man. I’ll say it again: Lady Stilt-Man.

Not being familiar with artist Eric Canete’s art, the sketchy, dirty style reminded me of Skottie Young’s work, who happened to provide the cover for this issue. After a couple of pages though, I became a fan whole-heartedly. While his style might not be a perfect match for the Web-Head, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing more from him in the near future.

BMDSAV Cv1Batman/Doc Savage Special – DC Comics – $4.99 US
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Phil Noto
Score: 5.5

Batman has been fighting his war on crime for only a month, but his publicized appearances have caught the attention of Doc Savage, who comes to Gotham to find things out for himself. Can Batman accept him as an ally, or will he have to deal with him as a foe?

Brian Azzarello is one of the more consistently excellent writers today, so it’s truly crushing when a fan of his work has to read this. The moment Batman pulled out and used guns, I was done. Out. Finished. Yes, I realize that, historically, Batman used guns in his early stories, but thankfully the vast majority of scribes to tackle the Bat have “forgotten” about that little detail. Regardless of in-continuity or not, Batman shouldn’t use guns, period.

Last week I felt that Noto’s art on X-Men Origins: Iceman came across as flat, and while there was an improvement in this issue, I still feel that there’s something off with his more recent works. Perhaps he could benefit from a separate inker and/or colorist, but some sort of jump-start is in order. He’s much better than this. If you’re interested in the upcoming “First Wave” story, then this is for you. I’ll be passing on that storyline.

Booster Gold #26 – DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Dan Jurgens, Mike Norton
Score: 8.0

In this “Blackest Night” tie-in, Booster finds himself re-visiting his best friend’s funeral and lamenting on how everyone had failed Ted Kord, the previous Blue Beetle. The current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, has teamed up with Skeets to try and locate Booster, but an unexpected visitor has returned. I’ll give you three guesses as to whom.

Dan Jurgens pulls double duty in this issue, with an assist from Mike Norton, to bring us a reunion we’ve always wanted, just not in this way. Being the first issue in a two-parter, there’s plenty of set up, and all of it is important. I haven’t read an issue of Booster Gold in a while now, and yet the issue brought me up to speed with no problem. I really enjoyed the Booster/Wonder Woman scene as it really showed us the other side of these characters.

A big plus for me when looking at an artist’s work is facial expressions. The ability to do body language is one thing; the controlling of facial expressions is quite another. The art in this issue is a testament to what can be done with that talent, and how useful that is when progressing the story. A very solid issue, I’ll be grabbing the next as well, and who knows, I may stay on for a bit.

B.P.R.D. 1947 #5 (of 5) – Dark Horse Comics – $2.99 US
Writers: Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart
Artists: Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon
Score: 8.0

The origins of the B.P.R.D. – that’s the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense to you uninitiated – continue in this final chapter of the latest mini-series from the universe that Mike Mignola created. Still during the infancy of the program, the members are reminded that some battles can’t be won because even in victory there is defeat.

Another chapter from Mignola and Dysart comes to a close, and while the previous issue was full of energy, action and suspense, this issue was very reflective and somber, making for a nice cool-down before B.P.R.D. 1948 hits the stands next year. The occasional look-ins to a young Hellboy really works well as an outside look into the little instances that make up the character we know today. As always, it’s great to spend some time in this universe and soak everything in.

The artistic duo of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon fail to disappoint, especially since their style fits this universe so perfectly. Whether it was the attempted exorcism of powerful devils or the playful scene of Hellboy and his dog, the artists nailed every single nail on the head to ensure that we “got” the story. Here’s hoping they return with the aforementioned sequel.

dark-xmen-1-coverDark X-Men #1 (of 5) – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writers: Paul Cornell, Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Leonard Kirk, Steve Dillon
Score: 7.0

Norman Osborn decides to put a team together to show a little goodwill, although with Mimic, Omega, the Dark Beast and Mystique – posing as Jean Grey no less – on the squad, it looks like Normie’s forgotten to take his meds. In the back-up short, Hope has daddy issues. What a surprise.

Leave it to Paul Cornell to put this team together and make it good. The fact that these characters can’t help but to be themselves, even at the worst opportune moments, makes for good reading. He also has a good hold on their “voices,” meaning the dialogue is equally as good. Loved the surprise ending as well, even if it was a little telegraphed. As for the Hope short, I’m scratching my head as to why this needs to be told, but it’s fine regardless.

Leonard Kirk put in some solid work here, but it was also a little inconsistent. Some panels jumped off the page while others were left dangling, but overall it did the job. Dillon’s short provided the usual Dillon we’ve come to expect, so there’s no surprise there.

JSA vs Kobra #6 (of 6) – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Eric S Trautmann
Artist: Don Kramer
Score: 8.0

Kobra has managed to stay one step ahead of both the JSA and Checkmate, and now it’s time to put their endgame into play. As chaos erupts all over the world Mr. Terrific struggles to make a stand, or the decision that’s been put in front of him: when the chips are down, will he choose Checkmate or the JSA?

This mini-series has been a revelation for me as far as these two storied combatants are concerned. There’s been plenty of JSA and Kobra history to look back on, but that’s also the problem as well. To an inexperienced JSA/Kobra reader like myself, I had my doubts going into this series. Writer Eric Trautmann set me at ease from the first issue, and it’s been an enjoyable ride ever since. Check your lack of history at the door, the gang’s all here.

Artist Don Kramer has been fantastic in this series as well. There’s been a distinct feel of horror throughout the series, but it was never overplayed; instead, it gave the story just the right amount of underlying tension to give it that extra boost. Great work. Highly recommend the inevitable collected edition when it hits the shops.

Punishermax #1 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Steve Dillon
Score: 8.5

Mafia crime bosses are starting to fear the new player in the game: The Punisher. Believing a new strategy is in order, they aim to create a fictional boss of crime bosses to distract the Punisher. But will “Operation: Kingpin” be the answer, and more importantly, how does mob bodyguard Wilson Fisk factor into all of this?

A new Punisher title set under Marvel’s MAX line, the same ol’ Punisher. Which is a good thing. Jason Aaron really nails down the dialogue from the time during the Punisher’s early days, and even though he didn’t have too many speaking scenes, the future Kingpin is a force to be reckoned with. Consider me hooked since I’m anxious to see how this all plays out.

As mentioned previously, Steve Dillon brings it time and time again, and this is no different. It’s not fresh, it’s not new; it’s just rock-solid Dillon art, and that’s good enough for me. Even when things got disturbing visually – and yes, that’s a pun – the look on Joey’s face when he sees the Punisher had me laughing out loud.

strange-1-coverStrange #1 (of 4) – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Emma Rios
Score: 7.5

Batter up! The demon Tul’uth has possessed a baseball team in order to win the game, and the souls that contractually come with it. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, can Doctor Strange and the owner’s granddaughter save the day?

If that premise sounded absolutely ridiculous, there are two things you should know. First, IT IS that ridiculous and, secondly, it’s a great read. Mark Waid combines the former Master of the Mystic Arts with baseball and the results are more fun than expected. Once the issue wraps it’s difficult to see where the story is headed, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Casey Kinmont.

Emma Rios needs to come with a warning label for some of the more trippy visuals you are likely to see this year. There’s also an anime feel to it that isn’t overpowering, so it doesn’t become a distraction. I’m really hoping that more demonic battles with Rios at the helm are coming up in this mini-series.

Walking Dead #67 – Image Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Score: 7.5

Carl’s having a tough go of it, as of late; so a little father/son time might do some good. Meanwhile, Eugene’s not acting himself lately, which leads to some interesting reveals. Plus, who’s the new guy?

A simple issue by Robert Kirkman, but in some ways it spoke volumes. By the end of it, I couldn’t shake that “calm before the storm” feeling, especially with Washington not too far away. The conversation between Rick and Carl was a doozy, and Eugene’s breakdown means that they’re going into Washington blind. And now there’s the new guy, so consider the amp primed and humming.

Charlie Adlard gave us a whole lot of emotion in this issue, which was obviously warranted. Gripping to say the least since I could see the pain on the characters’ faces. Although I may be in the minority here, I’m excited to see how Adlard makes Washington look. So far, he’s knocked every backdrop out of the park.

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