Wolverine: Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em (2014) April Fool’s Review



Garth Ennis


Gabriele Dell’Otto

The issue begins with a splash page depiction of Armageddon showing Logan in a final showdown with Legion. This is apparently the result of an X Force operation gone horribly wrong. As Legion is incinerating Logan’s flesh and mind wiping his brain, Legion says, “Freud says once you experience a trauma you’re doomed to repeat it. Why do you keep coming back to life, Logan?” Jerome Otto cleverly fades the close up of Wolverine’s corpse and Legion out to a dark monochrome. Logan wakes up in a cell with who is quickly revealed to be the red-headed Typhoid Mary. After watching a feral Logan spring back to life, Wolverine’s claws pop out and leap for Mary before we can only assume Typhoid sets Wolverine on fire, for the panel shows only a close up of her eyes sparkling with fire and a scream coming from Wolverine. Otto and Ennis do an interesting job of using parallelism by showing the same awakening scene happen again. Except this time we see the close up of Mary’s eyes before Wolverine pops his claws. Instead of leaping towards her, he asks her where they are who she is and more importantly who he is. We discover this same scenario has been happening for weeks while his body has been healing.

As the story progresses, we learn that Logan’s memory only lasts as long as he is awake, and any recollections from the past are at best fading dreams or a sense of Deja vu. After Mary makes a remark about how people can’t remember their dreams in color, it begins to make sense why Ennis and Otto chose to let most of the story remain colorless except for fire and blood. Although Logan can’t remember his past, he can remember how to do the one thing he does best and they decide to use their skills together in order to escape their prison. There’s a beautiful and violent scene which perfectly illustrates this approach. As Wolverine quickly snkts and kills many guards with trained precision, Typhoid Mary begins dancing, singing, and wrapping the screaming guards in blankets of fire. Blood drips and splashes from one panel to the next sequential panel, while Mary’s burning chaos are wide blazing panels. Even the pacing of the panels shows the dichotomy between their killing rhythm. Logan’s being three slices of panels followed by Typhoid’s stretched blazing panel interconnected with Mary’s burning lyrics singing across the tops. It isn’t until Logan smells the singed hair and sizzling fat of the guards does he pause his rage to witness Typhoid Mary’s blood lust. The following splash page is practically glowing and dripping from their fire and carnage. What is also interesting about this fight is the finesse of Wolverine’s attacks and defense. Wolverine doesn’t have the option to lay unconscious from a sentinel blast and a few seconds later jump right back into the fight. Because being knocked unconscious would erase Logan’s memory, Logan no longer has the option of running at bullets and using himself as a meat shield. Instead, we’re seeing the primal as well as the trained instincts of an immortal warrior.

Although the story doesn’t have any extra layers of plot or drama, it’s stripped down make your escape has always been the most suitable for Wolverine. Unlike many other incarnations of Wolverine, this story does not apologize for Logan’s killer instinct. With the narrative and dialogues, we learn this is a story about different aspects of killers. There’s Legion who is the Righteous Killer and always believes it’s a justified or merciful kill. Or there’s Mary. Because of her abusive and tragic past, Typhoid Mary became a sociopath for catharsis and defense. Then, there’s Logan who is a Darwinian soldier who survives by drawing first blood. It isn’t nice, but Logan’s the best at it.

Furthermore, Ennis’ Max series with Punisher and Fury, Ennis has proven that he knows what grit and grime can be found underneath the killers trigger, and that’s why this issue is the antithesis of what Wolverine had become over the last decade or two. Because of Wolverine’s popularity, he has been shoved into every corner of Marvel Universe. Now, not only does Logan have a past, but also it’s a messy one. Although it was nice House of M allowed writers to dive into unexplored aspects of Wolverine, it’s about time for the genie to be put back in the bottle. Instead of turning him into some Pseudo Xavier or Nick Fury, it would be nice for writers to remember the original Wolverine archetype, the immortal unknown soldier who is the best at what he does. Hopefully, much like what Born did for Punisher, this new Wolverine one-shot could hopefully re-calibrate Wolverine for future writers.

All New Ghost Rider #1 (2014) Review

Felipe Smith
Tradd Moore
Nelson Daniel, Val Staples
Sadly, the All New Ghost Rider doesn’t feel very new or fresh in any way. This isn’t because the story is staying within the lines of an anti-hero Ghost Rider tale. Instead, this story uses the same tropes of many other action stories. We’re introduced to a young mechanic named Robbie Reyes who takes care of his developmentally challenged little brother. That is a warm and fuzzy hero trope used to establish Robbie Reyes being the altruistic type. This goes against the usual brooding Ghost Rider archetype we’ve become use to, and after all we want something fresh. Regardless, as the story continues the issue becomes a patchwork of other action movie tropes, and it begins to undermine the whole new take on Ghost Rider. For example, we’re quickly introduced to villainous gangbangers who are evil for evil’s sake such as robbing a little kids wheelchair at gunpoint. It doesn’t make any logistical sense other than to show a neighborhood being overrun by mean people. In fact, with the amount of death and gun violence shown in the first half of the book, it’s odd that the neighborhood is still populated.
By the time we get to the car, Felipe Smith undermines Robbie’s altruistic demeanor which he had previously established. First of all, instead of Robbie doing his job, he spends his time in the shop working on a car his boss doesn’t want him working on until next week. Then there’s a moment of confrontation which shows that Robbie doesn’t even trust his boss when it comes to his paycheck. Somehow this kid is earning money when he isn’t even doing his job and then gets upset at his boss if he wasn’t paid as much as he wanted. On top of that, it’s revealed Robbie was fixing up the car so he could take his girlfriend on a date and to the street races. In a scene ripped from other car movies, Robbie bets the car that he can win the street race. Of course he does. Why wouldn’t he? After all this is a car that Robbie stole and he has nothing to lose if he loses the race. Smith didn’t even bother using the trope of this being Robbie’s car that he saved up for and built with his own hands while trying to also provide for his brother. So, betting a strangers car on a race has no emotional impact other than Robbie being a jerk. In the middle of the race, it turns out that the car is actually loaded with drugs and a tracking device.
After a hot speed pursuit, Robbie and the car go up in a blaze while the police recover the drugs from the trunk. Then, at the moment of death, Robbie is turned into the Spirit of Vengeance. Vengeance, Vengeance for what? Is he going to take vengeance on the people who stole the wheelchair, the police for taking down a car they planted with drugs, his patient boss for accidentally withholding 23 dollars from his unearned paycheck? Why does Robbie have the Spirit of Vengeance? For a story which had very little exposition and plot and what it did have had been lifted from other stories, there are too many holes to make sense of what the writer was trying to accomplish.
With that being said. The art style also lacked cohesion. It isn’t really clear what happened, but the characters looked like melting rubber, from their drooping eyelids and cheeks to their stretched out arms and legs. Although the fighting and emotional expression had a manga feel, it’s hard not to get distracted by their rubber anatomy. However, the car race and chase was very beautiful and it was worth re reading those kinetic pages of action, and it’s a shame it was buried in the larger mess. Over all, the only impressive and fresh part of this story was the car chase.   

SIlver Surfer #1 (2014) Review

Dan Slott
Michael Allred

Let’s face it the Silver Surfer was a product of his time; therefore, it makes sense why the new Silver Surfer reboot is soaked with nostalgia. Regardless, with the amount of referential detail the creators have put into this issues, the creators clearly have reverence for this series. However, if they tried to recreate those cosmic stories for the modern times, that magic would get lost in translation. Instead, this story is a more tongue in cheek with a few winks and nods to the old series. Remember, during the silver age of comics and science fiction, many writers would model alien civilization after western culture, and we see this in the reboot. For example, watching aliens ski down large flower petals, the impossible palace which scientist can’t explain, or the tiny solar system as seen to the right definitely establishes this is the sort of world Silver Surfer is taking part in. Yet, Silver Surfer pointing out the ridiculousness of these types of instances assures the readers this isn’t somebody trying to parody the classic series.

In addition, the art style is reminiscent of the time as well. Although it takes a somewhat minimalist approach that was prevalent of the time, the amount of detail and creativity jammed into each world building panel would impress even Jack Kirby. This is a creative team who knows the material and is writing an updated and clever approach who aren’t afraid of making fun of the time. With a silver skinned hero in speedos who rides a surfboard through the cosmos, that’s perhaps the best way to approach this series. Never the less, this story still retains those warm empathetic moments which have always define the Silver alien with a heart of gold. Nostalgic readers shouldn’t be worried that the Silver Surfer and his far out adventures may be turned into a joke. It’s taking an approach much like the other Science fiction Doctor Who reboot. Yes, it will make fun of the hack and slapped together Sci-fi, but it will retain the core messages and themes of their cosmic journeys.

She-Hulk #1-2 (2014) Review

Charles Soule
Javier Pulido

She Hulk is a Marvel title much like Superior Foes and Hawkguy. Rather than go for broke over the top action and cliffhangers, this is Marvel’s situational comedy line up. After discovering she was being exploited by her bosses for her super connections, Jennifer “She Hulk” Walter decides it’s time for her to set up her own Law firm. Each scene is packed with clever and well paced humor. It’s fun watching Stark’s legal representative’s word balloon turn into legal jargon and fine print forcing the readers and witnesses nod their heads or walk away. Other creative choices for paneling which really make the humor pop out is the run around during phone conversations scene or getting the nickel tour of the Super’s office building. Just like Marvel’s other comedy line up, the art has a minimalist feel but they certainly demonstrated that doesn’t hold back the creative ways to deliver a punchline. It’s definitely nice to have series like this in the Marvel world. With all the epic and world ending crossovers, it’s nice that they are able to relax and have time to poke fun at themselves.

Uncanny Avengers Season 2 18.Now (2014) Review



Rick Remender


Daniel Acuña

Uncanny Avengers season 2 isn’t a very good jumping on point for new readers. Once again, Marvel Now’s accessibility idea of each number one being a great starting point isn’t realistic. Of course, after the phenomenal pull no punches Ragnarok Now, Remender never had a chance. This story takes place after Earth had been destroyed and all the surviving mutants created a Planet X utopia. See what I mean? The majority of this issue is a blockbuster chase scene between mutant Avenger Havok and the overly large mutant Blob which is set in a glossy futuristic utopia. However, Remender slowed the pacing down by mixing Havok’s letter to his daughter Katie with the poorly written word vomit of the Blob. Maybe it would have been better to world build Planet X with the letter before jumping into the action, especially since anyone who is trying to jump on may need a minute or two to find their bearings. This tonal inconsistency is distracting, and it’s better to ignore Blob although ignoring the pursuer in a chase scene defeats the needed tension to make it work. In fact, it’s also hard to digest how The Blob is even able to run and somehow keep up with Havok. Maybe Remender wanted to shake things up by adding new b list characters to the mix, but there are many others who would’ve worked better.

The artwork is computer glossy with cell shading. The artist really missed the chance of creating a mutant built world. Instead of keeping the sterile utopia look which has been used countless times, it would have been really interesting to see a world that represents the crazy powered mutants who inhabit the world. Then there’s the last three pages of the comic. The art took a more sketched and less polished approach complete with sloppy coloring. Instead of finishing the story at the end of the chase, they jammed three incomplete pages for a cliffhanger finish. The tonal inconsistency and the lack of plot progression or world building really made this first issue feel like a phone in. Hopefully, the next issue will have a little more focus. Until then I recommend new readers skip this one and pick up the trade or issues of the Uncanny Avengers: Apocalypse Twins saga.

Arrow: Season 2 (2013-2014) Review


Series Writing Credits

Greg Berlanti , Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg


Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey

Arrow Season 1 was about Oliver “Arrow” Queen transitioning from a killer with a kill list to becoming the protector of Starling City. Overtime, Oliver had to learn to trust others and their help, successfully creating a quasi Justice League / Teen Titans superhero group. Although many were skeptical about Arrow being weighted down by the romance and drama like CW’s other superhero series such as Smallville, Arrow had managed to keep those parts to a minimum and gave a lean and mean superhero epic. The same can’t be said for their follow up of season 2.

Although the second season still has the look and feel of the first, that is nothing the producers should be proud of. The set production is still set primarily in the same Office Buildings, Warehouses, Mansion, and the Island. Each scene looks like a duplicate of the last time they were in this type of area. Maybe it’s time for a road trip or some different types of lighting or a new paint job but something should change. Even if they don’t yet have the budget to go into the mountains or a road trip, they could at least fill the offices with some type of details to be able to tell the differences between the DEA, Queen Industries, or Police Departments buildings.

Each episode usually begins with Oliver and Diggle discovering a crime, then they wait for Felicity to tap her keyboard a few times before telling them where to go as she watches Arrow run off with sad puppy dog eyes. More about that later. First of all, the writers must have pulled Felicity straight from the smash hit Revenge of the Nerds. Yep, the writers haven’t updated their stereotypes in about 30 years. If her nerdy portrayal didn’t feel dated then her “hacking” ability certainly does, Felicity’s hacking is so grossly inaccurate that it makes the movie Hackers seem like a programmers technical manual. Finally, Oliver consistently needing Felicity to tell him where and how to fight crime insults and undermines the hero’s abilities. Thus, Season 2 has successfully turned Green Arrow into little more than a tool. Even if the writers wanted to give more spotlight to the side characters, they shouldn’t sacrifice the whole point of watching a eponymous superhero series.

Although it doesn’t make much sense for this to be the highlight of season two, much of this season focused on Laurel Lance and her pill popping and alcohol dependence. It seems this could have been a nod to the infamous 70’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow story which focused on Roy Harper’s heroin addiction. However, this side story carried on for so long that it trivialized the whole issue. In fact, the only reason she became an addict was to overcome her grief of losing her short lived romance with Tommy Merlin. Everyone’s favorite Sara Lance aka Black Canary wouldn’t even exist if she didn’t fall in love with Oliver Queen and follow him where ever he goes, even if it puts her family in grave danger. After Moira “Oliver’s mother” Queen became widowed, she married Collin Salmon who took care of the Queen estate and corporation after Mr Queen died. Then she took the blame for Malcom Merlyn’s, another one of her lovers, villainy. Apparently, Moira’s role is to be consistently subordinated by the men she lets into her life. In addition, Felicity carries a sad torch for Oliver Queen. Oliver admittedly will never have any romantic feelings for Felicity no matter how many times she taps her keyboard and reads the next part of the script from her computer screen for him and Diggle. In fact, in order to break away from her feelings for Oliver, Felicity began a short romance with Barry “The Flash” Allen. Uh huh, that is the origin of The Flash spin off series. Did you notice that every female character in this series has only existed because of their male counterparts? If we rip the men away, none of the females would have any depth, motivation, or history.

Yes, there is a lot of name dropping to this series. However, much of this is marketing ploys to sucker in people who are familiar with the source material. Ra’s Al Ghoul, Harley Quinn and other A list names are only used in passing. That isn’t to say that the B list names such as Blud, Vertigo, Dead Shot, Deathstroke aren’t used more completely. Yet, it feels that the writers are biting off more than they can chew. They keep adding more names to their rosters without successfully fleshing out or furthering the plot. For example, it’s pointless to bring in Deathstroke if the story is still focusing on Laurel’s drug addiction, especially when his sub-plot has nothing to do with hers. There are too many loose plot threads and now every announcement of a new character means there is going to be one more added to the knotted mess.

The only good thing to come out of season 2 is Roy “Speedy” Harper. His characterization has been the hidden and brilliant gem of this series. He starts off as a selfish jerk who has a life altering experience when he is saved by Arrow. We see Roy’s humbled realization that he was saved by a normal man just trying to help the people around him; therefore, Roy begins his crusade of trying to fight for justice and imitate the Arrow. Although he gets beat up many times, Roy refuses to give up the righteous fight. This causes his girlfriend Thea “Oliver’s sister” Queen to become worried for Roy’s safety and forces him to quit. This forces Roy to conceal his nights of being a vigilante from his girlfriend. This is a much more believable reason for having a secret identity. Harper eventually becomes empowered and we see a more believable story of a man learning how and when to control his abilities. This side story isn’t burdened by some weird “Love Hexagon” or any other romantic drama this network is known for. Instead, Roy “Speedy” Harper’s story is a trimmed down no nonsense hero’s journey. It is a perfect compliment to the transgressive hero story we saw from the first season. Overall, it’s a shame the writers decided to try and fit the Comic Book story into their more familiar territory of a teen drama.


PPF 3/26

This week, we discuss, Avengers AI, Infinity: Heist, Daredevil, Thor chapter 1, Iron Patriot, Conan the Barbarian, Thief, Final Fantasy X HD, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, Divergent, Nymphomaniac, Haunted House 2, X-Men, and more

The Courtyard (2003) Review


Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Jacen Burrows

Like many Lovecraft stories, Moore’s Lovecraftian Courtyard focuses on a racist paranoid who begins to experience reality shift away. The story’s protagonist is a federal agent who is an anomaly theorist, which is being able to find a pattern in anomalies. This ability has our agent tying together clues between a string of cases which involve unrelated serial killers cutting their victims into meaty tulips. Hey, what else would one expect from Alan Moore re-imagining Lovecraft for the modern-day?

From the start Moore laces the story with a lot of Lovecraftian nods. The long jawed, dark-haired, pale skinned agent looks like a hard-boiled H.P. Lovecraft doppelgänger. If that doesn’t convince the reader, then his heavy and superfluous internal monologues will. Since this is a short read it’s hard to mention much more of the references without spoiling the pleasure of reading this tale of madness. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that Moore also ties in other literature to expand upon the themes, like the Yellow King in Carcosa. Unlike many other writers of Lovecraftian literature who merely name drop, what Moore does well is craft a story which has the overall feel and tone of Lovecraft. Moore’s name dropping merely establishes the world; whereas, his paranoid and violent characterizations, the lengthy and macabre poetic narrative, as well as the mind-mending and reality breaking themes are what really make this a Lovecraftian homage. Jacen Burrows really nails down the rest of the look and feel of a Lovecraft story. Rather it be the black and white noir style, or the split panel framing which is reminiscent of reading the story out the old Weird Tales prints to the ending’s time and reality warping madness. For example, what do you see in the top right window panel in the second scene? With Courtyard, Moore and Burrows resurrected the madness us cultist mourn for.

Orphan Black Season 1 (2013) Review

orphan blackCreators:

Graeme MansonJohn Fawcett


Tatiana MaslanyKevin HanchardDylan Bruce

Like most good mysteries, the best way to describe the plot is the pitch. Orphan Black introduces us to a street girl named Sara. One day at a subway terminal, Sara sees a woman in distress when the woman turns to face Sara we briefly see that she’s an exact double of Sara before the double throws herself in front of a subway train. What follows is a multiple layered conspiracy about clones. Each character has depth and is uniquely defined. This says a lot considering Maslany plays seven different clones during the first season. It’s brilliant how she can completely morph into a different role in the same scene. Most cloned movies break the illusion and you begin to see only the actor and not the character; however, this is not the case. Maslany, Fawcett, and Manson work tirelessly to make sure the show never feels like a gimmick. For example, every clone scene is done twice with Tatiana and her acting double, Katheryn Alexandre. Not only is Tatiana trying to recreate each characters unique take, but also Alexandre is trying to act out the Tatiana’s body language, which really makes Alexandre more of an understudy than a double. There’s little wonder why Tatiana Maslany has won or has been nominated for several different awards for her performance in Orphan Black.

Because each character is unique and dynamic, it’s easy for the audience to become invested in each plot thread. However, because of the paranoid nature of the story, the creators do a great job of giving us enough to keep guessing who is behind what and why. Even when the audience correctly guesses who the antagonist is, this often just peels back another layer to their conspiracy and world. Another aspect of the creators genius is they don’t hold back on the ethical philosophies behind cloning technology. They dose it up with liberal amounts of nature versus nurture. For example, it shows dichotomies in the clones personalities. Each clone has a mixed bag of characteristics involving aggression, trust, neurosis, sexual orientation and so on. However, most of them share biological characteristics such as sterility and of course phenotypes. Also, the writers make sure to question the ethics behind cloning technology. Should there be trial tests like other medical inventions? Should scientists be able to patent the clones like one would with microchips?

Yes, this rabbit hole goes real deep. With the closing of the first season, Orphan Black has little interest in slowing down any time soon. Despite the heavy subject matter, the show’s pacing is kinetic and their momentum at the end of each episode rushes you to the next. Overall, this show has a great balance between being a thinking man’s adventure and escapist action.

Coffin HIll Vol. 1 (2014) Review

Caitlin Kittredge
Inaki Miranda
Eva de la Cruz
Coffin Hill is equal parts Southern Gothic and Supernatural Noir wrapped in a Neo Gothic style. The story focuses on Lacey Coffin. Lacey was a gothic and angsty teen who ran away from home to escape the witchcraft heritage of the Coffin family. After starting a successful career in law enforcement, she gets involved with an undercover shooting incident which gets her suspended. With no place else to go, she heads back to her home town to confront her bloody past, demented family, and the cursed lands of Coffin Hill.
First of all, writer Caitlin Kittredge wanted to base Coffin Hill off of real life locations known for their spooky histories, such as Salem. When visiting these places, Kittredge noticed it wasn’t the people who made these haunted places eery; rather, it was the location that created the creepy and malevolent ambiance to these locations. With the disembodied voices, the sacrificed children, the Gothic architecture, and the swampy forest, Coffin Hill is clearly the lurking antagonist of this story. In addition, Kittredge also does a great job of pacing out this slow burn mystery. Kittredge never lets the audience peek behind the curtain, but she still manages to give just enough clues at the end of each chapter to make you want to come back for the bigger reveal. She also applies this method towards each of her characters. Instead of shoving their past and motivation down our throats in the first few pages of the series, Kittredge shows glimpses of past actions or interactions between characters to slowly build up who they are and were. Also, it’s fascinating how Kittredge treats the witchcraft. The supernatural is always done in such a way that by the time it’s finished one starts questioning if any of it really happened.
The other half of this story is the art itself. Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz perfectly express the mood and theme of this witchcraftian mystery. The characters retain the neo gothic look that had become synonymous with gothic movies and music about vampires and witches, even the protagonist has Marilyn Manson’s colorless eye. Miranda’s creative use of paneling is something to be admired. Not only will Miranda do things like letting his characters spill over into the next sequential panel but also he uses the panels to match the mindset and pacing of the story. When the story is in the calm sunlight, the panels will usually be in an 8 grid format. However, once the darkness of the supernatural or violence begins, the panels become more abstract or twisted in order to match the delirium. Cruz’s coloring also punctuates this dichotomy. When the setting is tranquil, the colors are warm and brightly highlighted by rays of golden sunshine. When the setting becomes disturbing, the colors are dark and blanketed with blue moon beams.
Kittredge sums up the protagonist in Lacey’s soliloquy , “When in nightmares you fall from a high place, you fight and struggle to wake up to remember the dream isn’t real, but the only thing that will wake you up… is hitting the ground”. By the time this volume wraps up, we see our haunted protagonist finally wake up into the bright reality, and we’re left wondering where can we go from here?
Overall, this story is fresh and brilliantly put together. For fans of the gothic supernatural or are still grieving over the loss of Hellblazer, Coffin Hill is definitely worth the read.