April 22, 2013

The Pull List: 17 April 2013

This week (okay, last week - I promise I am catching up) DC released the first issue of an ongoing Masters of the Universe comic book. There's a big market for this kind of book, capitalising on the popularity of a thirtysomething's childhood TV shows or toy lines. IDW have had a lot of success with their Transformers and G.I. Joe lines, so assuming they produce a decent product I see DC having similar success with He-Man, Skeletor and chums. Sure these are commercial, corporate products through and through, but surely there's a place to capitalise on nostalgia alongside more original, worthy works?

This got me thinking about what other franchises from my youth are sitting around, waiting to be adapted in comic book form. One that I think would have great creative opportunities is Ulysses 31, a Star Wars-inspired retelling of The Odyssey co-produced between France and Japan.

Then there's Astroboy. An American comic book based on Astroboy was produced some decades ago, but would fans accept an American adaptation now? Would Osamu Tezuka's estate be willing to approve such an adaptation?

Under the cut: reviews of Age of Ultron, Batwoman, Daredevil, Daredevil: End of Days, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, It Girl and the Atomics, Legion of Super-Heroes, Revival, Sword of Sorcery, Wonder Woman and X-Men Legacy.

Age of Ultron #6
Marvel Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis.
From here the storyline has split into two, as the bulk of the surviving Marvel heroes head into the future to find and defeat Ultron while Wolverine and Sue Storm head back into the past to stop Hank Pym from creating Ultron in the first place. There is an extraordinarily bold moment of storytelling in this issue that completely opens the door for anything to happen in the remaining story, and I love that I can't work out remotely where this will all be going. Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary have ducked out for this issue, with art provided by Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco - who are, to be honest, just as good. (5/5)

Batwoman #19
DC Comics. Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Art by Trevor McCarthy.
After a very long divergence (we're talking years, really, and to before the New 52) Batwoman finally returns to the matter of Kate's unhinged and villainous sister Alice. This was a storyline that this book was destined to revisit sooner rather than later, and I'm personally very happy that this time has come. This book is becoming all about family and rifts within them, which is a nice united theme and something Williams and Blackman are really building on in the writing. (4/5)

Daredevil #25
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Waid. Art by Chris Samnee.
Daredevil goes after the people who have replicated the accident that caused his superpowers, only to stumble face to face with a new enemy who's just as skilled as he is. This issue features a stand-out action sequence, as Daredevil and new nemesis Ikari face off in an evenly-matched balls-to-the-wall martial arts punch-out. I particularly liked the issue's concluding 'oh shit, oh shit, OH SHIT' moment as Matt Murdock discovers just how much he has underestimated Ikari's abilities. (5/5)

Daredevil: End of Days #7
Marvel Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack. Art by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz.
In this penultimate issue, Ben may finally discover who the mysterious new Daredevil is. Okay, stuff suspense - he does, and it's a plot development I completely did not expect. The combination of top-notch writers and artists on this book is going to make it one sensational trade paperback in a few months' time. If you haven't been reading this book, keep an eye out for the collection because it's been a wonderful story; not necessarily the Dark Knight Returns of Daredevil comics that they were aiming for, but independently damn good stuff. (5/5)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1
DC Comics. Written by Keith Giffen. Art by Pop Mahn.
After a bunch of one-shots and a miniseries, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe finally gets its own monthly comic again. The 'issue one' moniker seems a little inaccurate: the book begins with characters mourning the death of one of the more pivotal characters from the original cartoon and toy line, and there's a real sense that I'm supposed to have read the miniseries first. It annoys me when this happens: I grew up with Masters of the Universe, I bought the toys, I watched the cartoon, and I even upgraded my copy of the Dolph Lundgren-starring live-action film to blu-ray. I should be the target market for this book, yet I've come away irritated and confused. Not a good sign. Both Giffen and Mahn are capable of much more than this. (1/5)

It Girl and the Atomics #9
Image Comics. Written by Jamie S. Rich. Art by Mike Norton.
It was recently announced that It Girl and the Atomics will end with its 12th issue. While I've enjoyed this series, I can't say I'm entirely surprised. It's regularly a very slight comic, using broad retro art to tell fairly simple, retro stories. Here we follow wacky hijinks when it looks like Black Crystal has forgotten his and the Slug's anniversary. I can't imagine this is the last we'll see of these characters, but perhaps next time their chances will be improved with a bit more story per issue and a bit more depth. (2/5)

Legion of Super-Heroes #19
DC Comics. Written by Paul Levitz. Art by Scott Kolins and Jeff Johnson.
We pick up from last issue, where things were all falling apart, to find that - for the Legion - things continue to fall apart. Sadly Keith Giffen's brief sojourn into drawing this book has already come to an end, and he's been replaced by... Scott Kolins, about whose art I have repeatedly complained since I started this column. It really does drag the quality of the book down and turn what should have been a devastating climax into an incomprehensible mess. Not that Levitz gets off that easy: a character saying 'eye' instead of 'I' only makes sense when you read it, you fool! (2/5)

Revival #9
Image Comics. Written by Tim Seeley. Art by Mike Norton.
This issue, more than any before it, really brings home how much Revival is plotted like a television series. I don't recall the last time I read a comic book that felt so much like an extended pitch for TV: the scenes are mostly comprised of dialogue, each issue pushes the plot along while constantly introducing new complications, and there's a realism and maturity to the characterisation that you don't often get in a comic book format. Surely it can't be long before some cable network starts producing this on a weekly basis - and if they do I'll be in the front of queue to buy the DVD. (4/5)

Sword of Sorcery #7
DC Comics. Written by Christy Marx. Art by Aaron Lopresti.
It's quite sad that this book has only one issue left before cancellation, because it's finally hit its groove and plays an entertaining tune. The adoption of Eclipso into the mythos of Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld is a brilliant move, and is just the kind of energizing change that the New 52 should be doing more often. Lopresti's art is great, Marx's script is dramatic and enjoyable. If only DC had thought to remove the needless backup strip and drop the cover price down to $2.99 - then this book might have had a fighting chance. (4/5)

Wonder Woman #19
DC Comics. Written by Brian Azzarello. Art by Goran Sadzuka and Tony Akins.
Just when it seemed that the over-arching storyline was going to take a break for a while, Wonder Woman dives right back into its ongoing story of a baby destined to kill a god and the scramble by the gods it might kill to take him out of the picture. There's a wonderful moment in this issue between Diana and Orion - all I can say is 'ouch'. Guest artist Goran Sadzuka does a great job alongside Tony Akins with the art. (3/5)

X-Men Legacy #9
Marvel Comics. Written by Simon Spurrier. Art by Tan Eng Huat.
David takes Ruth on a date - only to reveal he has something else in mind entirely. Things take quite a disturbing turn in this issue, with David explaining - and demonstrating - that he's not going to commit the same mistakes as his father and wait for the enemies to attack him before retaliating. So far this has been a relatively light-hearted comic, all things considered. That just changed rather radically with this issue (although there are still some moments of levity - I loved the Watchmen reference for one). (4/5)

Winner of the Week: Age of Ultron.
Loser of the Week: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe


  1. Keith Giffen. Where did it all go so wrong?

    The man can't even make Doom Patrol work anymore. Surely the greatest gift to a nutbar superhero comics writer, and he couldn't make that work. It's time we put the curtain around him and called the vet...

    1. I think Grant Morrison did a run on Doom Patrol so definitive that no one's managed to drag it out from under his shadow ever since. Giffen failed. Pollack failed. John Byrne failed. It makes me think maybe they should stop wasting their time trying.


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