The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Jonah Hex’, ‘Fall Of The Hulks’, ‘JSA All-Stars’ and More!

Welcome to another edition of The Pull List Comic Reviews! This week Jonah Hex takes top billing, a couple more Blackest Night mini-series debuts and a slew of over-sized annuals and one-shots invade your pull list. As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

PULL OF THE WEEK:

jonah-hex-50-coverJonah Hex #50
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Score: 9.5

The landmark 50th issue of Jonah Hex hits the stands, featuring a done-in-one tale of the scarred bounty hunter’s latest task: to locate and dispose of 50 various bad guys. The cost of victory, however, may prove to be too much to bear…

Jonah Hex is no stranger to violence. We’ve been exposed to his brand of “justice” for decades now, so it’s very easy to forget that, under all of that hatred, this killing machine does have a heart. Thankfully, writing team Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti weave a story that is sure to please the loyal Hex fans with plenty of merciless vengeance, while injecting a tragedy that goes to great lengths to humanize the central character.

Darwyn Cooke handles the art chores on this commemorative issue, further cementing how incredible a read this was. Gorgeous pencils accompany the artist’s usual cinematic flair, with numerous examples of how to kill a man mixed in with a few touching moments, and a final page that speaks volumes without the aid of dialogue. With the holidays around the corner, I’d gladly accept this final page in all of its original glory as a nifty Christmas gift.

All kidding aside, this is an issue that drives home three important points. First, this is the perfect time to jump on board to this consistently solid series. After all, did you think a western-themed comic would ever reach 50 issues in this day and age? There’s a reason for that. Secondly, writing duo Gray and Palmiotti are clearly at the top of their collective game.

Their run with this character has undoubtedly claimed a spot on the all-time best Jonah Hex list so when the accolades become stronger through the distance of time, you won’t be surprised. Lastly, Darwyn Cooke once again proves that he is one of the best artists to ever grace the pages of a comic book. Period. The Pull of the Week was never easier to pick.

OTHER PULLS:

blackest-night-flash-1-coverBlackest Night: The Flash #1 (of 3)
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Score: 8.0

Barry Allen, the original/dead/resurrected/senior Flash, has now realized just how bad Blackest Night has gotten, and sets out to warn as many people as possible while attempting to unify the heroes to make a stand. Even Gorilla City is under attack, and what he finds there persuades him to change course and head for Coast City instead. Meanwhile, the Rogues choose fight over flight and set their sights on Iron Heights Penitentiary.

The mastermind behind Blackest Night, Geoff Johns, pens this latest tie-in mini-series focusing on the speedsters of the DC Universe, and the Rogues that always seems to factor in somehow. An enjoyable first chapter that leaves virtually no character untouched, this issue has a few interesting turns on certain Flash-mythos characters that I’m anxious to see played out while setting up an unofficial sequel to Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge.

Artwise, I love Scott Kolins’ hyper-stylized pencils, and the horror theme here merges well with it. A lot of energy is displayed in these pages alongside a couple of beautiful full-page spreads, not to mention that cover paying homage to artist Ethan Van Sciver’s Flash: Rebirth work. Topped off with a great shot of the Rogues – making it very easy to cheer for them – this shows just how effective Kolins’ art can be in helping a story along.

blackest-night-wonder-woman-1-coverBlackest Night: Wonder Woman #1 (of 3)
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Score: 6.5

Wonder Woman is in Washington, DC to track down an old friend, Maxwell Lord. The last time these two met they had a simple misunderstanding that left Max’s head spinning and now he’d like to clear the air. Can the Amazon Princess let bygones be bygones?

It was bound to happen, but frankly it’s amazing that it took this long. I’m speaking of the inevitable big event tie-in that really didn’t need to be made. This isn’t a reflection of writer Greg Rucka and his body of work, far from it. Rucka has been one of the best writers for so many years now, but this story – at least the first issue – fails to answer why us readers needed this in the first place. The pairing of Wonder Woman and Maxwell Lord should have, in my eyes, been ripe for an emotional confrontation but instead had that dreaded “filler” feeling.

Artist Nicola Scott provides some great work here, which makes sense if you’ve seen any of her work on Secret Six for the past few years. Unfortunately, I feel that her talents weren’t given the opportunity to shine thanks to a story that, so far, could have been a whole lot better. This title falls under the “not essential reading” for the time being, here’s hoping that the more-than-capable creative team shows us readers what they’re really made of in the next installment.

dark-avengers-annual-1-coverDark Avengers Annual #1
Marvel Comics – $4.99 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Score: 7.5

The Dark Avengers’ version of Captain Marvel – Noh-Varr for the uninitiated – has seen the proverbial light, recognized that he’s been playing for the wrong team and hauls out of there faster than a Kree at a Skrull convention. That was then, this is now, where Noh continues to attempt communication with the Kree Empire’s Supreme Intelligence in hopes of finding out what his next purpose is.

Brian Michael Bendis does a great job in conveying just how fish-out-of-water-y Noh has become since fleeing from Avengers Tower. The writer deftly takes the character and shows us how alone he truly is, his continuous attempts and failures at getting the answers he needs as well as that spark of companionship – and possibly more – that he experiences, culminating in a real rollercoaster of a ride that ends with Noh’s new threads and re-focused direction.

I’ll be the first to say that I’ve always loved Chris Bachalo’s work, going as far back as when Generation X debuted in 1994. At times, however, his art in this issue was fairly muddy, leading to a bit of confusion as to what was going on. Still, it’s always a treat to see his version of Venom.

NOTE: I purposely left out that final full-page image reveal as, to my knowledge, it wasn’t supposed to have reached that point yet. It’ll make sense once you’ve read this, but be forewarned, it’s a doozy.

fall-of-the-hulks-alpha-coverFall Of The Hulks: Alpha one-shot
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Score: 7.5

First there were the Illuminati, followed by their evil counterparts, the Cabal. In this one-shot readers are about to find out that there’s also a sinister group operating in the shadows, calling themselves the Intelligencia. Searching for the Eternals’ vast collection of knowledge, this motley group of villains not only has had a hand in some of the universe’s biggest events, but also has a disturbing connection to the Red Hulk.

The lengths to which Jeff Parker goes to include these villains, lead by the Leader (naturally), into Marvel lore is a perfect example as to why he’s been one of Marvel’s up-and-comers. Tying in storylines like Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, World War Hulk and Civil War – my, that’s a lot of war! – Parker shows us why this works, and why this is a group to be reckoned with. I found myself giggling with delight when Dr. Doom pulled the double-cross, so obviously Parker has a good grasp of these characters.

Artist Paul Pelletier put together a great issue that contains tons of characters while making references to storylines that go back 20 years; no small feat. Every villain gets time in the spotlight, so having someone with Pelletier’s skills was a must. Throw in some beautiful layouts – honestly, I don’t think a single square inch of space was wasted – and you’ve got yourself a winning first salvo into the upcoming Fall Of The Hulks event.

iron-man-vs-whiplash-1-coverIron Man vs Whiplash #1 (of 4)
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writers: Marc Guggenheim, Brannon Braga
Artist: Phillippe Briones
Score: 7.0

Tony Stark, who moonlights “occasionally” as the Armored Avenger known as Iron Man, has been wrongfully accused of destroying a village called Volstok in Russia, along with its inhabitants. While Tony tries to clear his name, a young man named Anton stumbles across some of Iron Man’s tech from the devastated village, and swearing revenge, puts it to good use.

Writing this unofficial tie-in to next year’s feature film Iron Man 2, Marc Guggenheim and Brannon Braga ignore the usual set up and instead just bring the goods. Tony Stark is a powerful character in comicdom, but when he’s portrayed as not being perfect and making mistakes that’s when the character shines. In the hands of these two writers, Tony is just that, and more.

Similarly, artist Phillippe Briones doesn’t go over the top either, instead the art is about as “sound” as art can be. To me, it looks almost textbook in how the pages are laid out, how the characters are used and how the art doesn’t distract from the story but only enhances it. I’m not familiar with the artist’s work – and if I had seen it before it didn’t look like this – but I’m looking forward to seeing how he tackles the rest of this mini-series.

jsa-all-stars-1-coverJSA All-Stars #1
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Score: 8.0

Following the destruction of the Brownstone, the Justice Society of America have split into two teams. This team, led by Magog… or Power Girl… err, Mag… *ahem* someone, have set up their new headquarters in upstate New York, where they have begun training under Magog’s guidance. A new beginning, or will this lead to a new problem?

I absolutely love this new team’s roster, and in writer Matthew Sturges’ care, I’m practically foaming at the mouth. This issue has it all: lots of action, lots of in-cheek moments and even more bickering among the teammates. As far as first issues go, this one’s a keeper as the trials and tribulations, both on and off the battlefield, continue to shake this team up. The mystery of Stargirl’s “protector” also gets a huge boost as the final few pages reveal who it is that might be behind all of the JSA’s recent troubles.

Freddie Williams II put in some fantastic work in this issue. Sure, the action scenes and splash pages are incredible, no doubt about that, but it’s the facial expressions – I’m a stickler for those – that take home the prize. Touching moments sprinkled throughout the issue adds another level to an already impressive package. Not sure how long this series is planned for, but in the meantime I’ll be on it for the long haul.

siege-the-cabal-1-coverSiege: The Cabal one-shot
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Lark
Score: 8.5

Asgard has arrived on Earth – Oklahoma to be exact – making for one uncomfortable head of H.A.M.M.E.R., Norman Osborn. Having been turned down by the President in acting on Asgard’s arrival wasn’t bad enough for Normie, now he has to contend with the latest Cabal member to turn their back: Dr. Doom. Luckily for him, Osborn’s got one hell of an ace up his sleeve.

Brian Michael Bendis, arguably the head architect for the current status quo in the Marvel Universe, puts his latest plan into motion with this one-shot. Utilizing his gift for gab, Bendis paints a pretty clear picture of how everything around Norman Osborn starts to unravel, including his sanity. I’d go as far to say that, by the end of the issue, you’ll find yourself like me, wanting more. Always leave them wanting more, no?

The art by Michael Lark is practically pitch-perfect for this story. Readers of recent Daredevil issues know his style, and how pleasing on the eyes said style can be. The opening chunk of pages featuring only Osborn in a dark room really captures the chaos that seems to swim around the character’s head while the attack on Avengers Tower showcases the artist’s ability to handle intense action as well. If you plan on following the Siege arc in the coming months, you’ll not want to miss this.

spider-man-noir-eyes-without-a-face-1-coverSpider-Man Noir: Eyes Without A Face #1 (of 4)
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writers: David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Score: 7.0

It’s been eight months since Peter Parker successfully took down the Goblin, but now a new mysterious foe known only as the Crime Master has begun making his play for New York. Employing muscle like Sandman, this new villain is at the top of Peter’s list, but unfortunately Felicia Hardy is unwilling to help. Making matters worse, Doctor Octavius has begun experiments on human subjects…

David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky provide the script to this sequel of Spider-Man Noir, the mini-series they penned earlier this year. Now that this “world” has become more familiar, the writers wasted no time in expanding the playing field surrounding Peter Parker. They also, I should add, didn’t over do it with the expansion, which is a trap that many creators have fallen into over the years. Instead we’re left with a solid first act in the next chapter of this Spider-Man’s life.

Also coming back to the well is artist Carmine Di Giandomenico, who continues to put his spin on how these characters look, especially Doc Ock. Full of visuals from a different era, from architecture to attire, this issue is simply beautiful, and you’re heart will break once you see what happens to test monkeys. Judging by how good the previous series was and combining that with this first issue, I can’t see how anyone can pass on this.

x-force-annual-1-coverX-Force Annual #1
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writers: Robert Kirkman, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost
Artists: Jason Pearson, Carlo Barberi
Score: 7.0

While on a mission to retrieve an agent of Hydra to help save a little mutant girl, Wolverine gets a lesson on what “being hardcore” really means. Meanwhile, in a separate story, Deadpool continues to try and fit in with the X-Men on Utopia, with comically disastrous results.

Image Comics heavyweight Robert Kirkman did an amazing job with his story in this over-sized annual. There’s no extra frills, just everything you need to know to see this story through the end, and when something occurs that even sends Wolvie in awe, you know it’s got to be good. Creative duo Kyle and Yost also contributed to this annual with a humorous look at Deadpool’s settling in, which goes to show that there probably isn’t a character that these two scribes can’t handle.

Jason Pearson’s art took some getting used to, and while I’m a fan of his work, I don’t think it fit well here. When I think of the current X-Force, I think of sexy death wrapped in black leather (what?!?). Pearson’s art is pretty much the opposite of that. Barberi, on the other hand, continues to be one of Deadpool’s quintessential artists with his latest offering in the second story, so if you’ve seen his ‘Pool work, you know how great this looks.

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