If you’ve been reading your Marvel comics this year then you know that this was Marvel’s biggest year in quite a while, what with all the different events and major crossovers going on. I touched on this last night in my review of Jonathan Hickman’s 6-issue Infinity event. The next big phase for the Marvel universe involves the Inhumanity event, which is jumping off the events that happened in Infinity with the Terrigen bomb exploding at the moment that the Inhumans’ city Attilan was destroyed. The fallout of the bomb has spread all over the world, awakening powers and mutations in people everywhere. And that’s what the next big event is going to be about, all these newly-minted super-powered people adjusting and adapting to their powers.
Last week Marvel released a one-shot called Inhumanity which is a big tease leading up to the main event itself. There are going to be a lot of such one-shots until the event kicks off and Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel have been given charge of leading the brigade and getting the Marvel fanbase interested in what’s happening next. Since this event is a spin-off of Infinity, we see a fair bit of recap here, as well as some big truths are offered up about the Marvel universe, truths that have been kept a secret all this time. It was a fairly decent issue, definitely among Fraction and Coipel’s better issues, and I have to say that I’m very curious about it all.
Marvel recently relaunched its Marvel Knights brand of comics, with Matt Kindt’s Spider-Man and Brahm Revel’s X-Men. The latter is the only of the two that I have taken any interest in, and the first issue launched last month proved to be quite a decent opening issue that tells a low-key, low-stakes story where the focus is on the characters first and the action second. Like I remarked in my review for it, the current crop of X-Men books all seem to be focused on telling the grand stories that affect absolutely everything and Marvel Knights: X-Men fills a niche in the opposite side of the spectrum.
The first issue set the stage for all the characters and it gave us an intro to the primary characters: Wolverine, Kitty and Rogue, as they set out for a small town somewhere in West Virginia where Rachel has seen visions of a mutant kid being murdered in cold blood. The story wasn’t all that dark per se but it did have a pretty serious message to it, and the message was that the X-Men protect their own, even when that person is not actually a part of the team. Revel worked in some really interesting commentary from all the characters and that was part of the reason I liked it so much. The second issue proves to be more of the same.
Ever since I started reading SFF for good back in high school, what I like to call my formative years of reading genre fiction, I’ve read some quite thick books. That was around the time when the Harry Potter novels were extremely popular as well and were following the trend of each new book being thicker and bulkier than the one before, so it was truly an interesting time. In more recent years, I’ve stopped reading big fat SFF novels all that much because I don’t really want to spend all that much time reading a book now. When I was reading like 3-4 novels a year, it was fine to spend a couple weeks on these books, but these days my daily life is far too fast-paced for me to be that slow.
While Scott Lynch’s debut novel The Lies of Locke Lamora isn’t quite the thicket fantasy novel I’ve read to date, its certainly one that’s taken me the longest, almost an entire week during which I barely kept up with my comics reading and blogging. The novel was that much of a slog throughout. I started reading it since I’d gotten caught in all the excitement of the release of the third book in the series, and I kind of wanted to see what all the buzz was about. So I had some high expectations going in, but few of them ended up being met and the novel generally proved to be a poor one with a lackadaisical plot, some uninteresting and bland characters, and limited world-building.
After all the build-up in the previous issues of Justice League Dark and The Phantom Stranger, writer J. M. DeMatteis gets things into gear finally with this week’s issue of the latter series. We’ve seen how the manifestation of pure evil that crossed over from Earth 3 to Earth 1 with the Crime Syndicate has begun to effect the supernatural-oriented heroes of the DC Universe and we’ve seen how Constantine and his allies have tried to take the fight to this manifestation, Blight, and failed. Now, Constantine has rebounded from that defeat by doing the impossible: bringing the Trinity of Sin to his doorstep in chains in order to solicit their help, essentially at the point of a gun.
Ever since DeMatteis took over on the series he has been turning out one great issue after another and this new issue follows that trend. It is moody, it has character drama, it has tension, it has action. Its got everything, in short, and DeMatteis has been incredibly consistent with his writing along with Fernando Blanco and Brad Anderson on the artwork. Issue #14 is where the status quo for all these characters really shifts and where a new (temporary) Justice League Dark is born.
Last time I mentioned that Sleepy Hollow had become a surprise hit for me after watching the first few episodes. I’m not a big fan of the horror/supernatural genre, but I’ve seen a few shows and movies over the years that I’ve liked, and a few that I haven’t. If done right, they can be quite good. If handled badly, they can be really terrible. Sleepy Hollow is a straight up horror show that works because first and foremost the characters are excellent and second, the stories are all engaging and brilliantly told with a clear overall narrative. The last of those two is quite important for any show, more so for one that really depends so much on the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
The first three episodes of the show really hooked me in right from the start. I’d started watching the show on a whim because of a passing interest at best but after that pilot and then the next few episodes, I couldn’t get enough of the show. As of writing this review, I’ve caught up with all nine episodes of the show so far (the tenth airs tomorrow) and its great to see that the writers have kept the overall story on track despite taking an occasional detour to tell some side stories that build on the overall narrative. These three episodes, they did a great job of building on the overall mythology of Sleepy Hollow and giving some new perspectives on all the events that have been going on in the town.
If you are following my comics reviews since last year, then you know that I’ve read very few Spider-Man comics and that they’ve been all over the place. Bendis’ second run on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man with Peter Parker, his 5-issue mini-series involving Peter and Mike Morales, Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man #648-651 and then his Superior Spider-Man Volume 1. Extremely limited reading by all accounts. As such, as far as the comics are concerned, I don’t really have that much of an attachment to Peter Parker as the Spider-Man.
And yet, reading this new issue for the discontinued The Amazing Spider-Man series made me feel really nostalgic. Perhaps its because I watched The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield in the lead role just last week or that I saw the trailer for the sequel last night. Or maybe its because reading Slott’s Superior Spider-Man Volume 1 made me feel really emotional for Peter. Could be any of those I suppose, but this story was quite touching despite its very simplistic nature. And that, most of all, is the strength of it.
When I compiled my list of “51 Most Anticipated Novels of 2013“, I put Chris Wraight’s Blood of Asaheim on it because I had really liked his first full-length 40k novel, The Battle of the Fang for the Space Marines Battle series. He gave a really nice depth to the Space Wolves with that book, and he brought together the disparate portrayals of the 40k Space Wolves by William King’s classic novels and Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy piece, Prospero Burns. I love the former, but I detest the latter. Chris Wraight gave me a nice middle ground between the two and that’s what I hoped that Blood of Asaheim would be. It wasn’t.
Blood of Asaheim isn’t tied to Battle of the Fang in any direct way. They are both novels about the Space Wolves Chapter, but where the previous novel is set 1,000 years after the Horus Heresy, Blood of Asaheim is set in the current 40k timeline, one where Ragnar Blackmane is the Wolf Lord of his own Great Company, as per the character’s history as set in the tabletop lore. Chris Wraight offers up several new characters and the premise itself is an interesting one, but unfortunately the execution turned out to be pretty flawed because it was essentially repetitive material.
This week, to acknowledge that his Facebook page hit 400,000 likes, Arrow lead actor Stephen Amell posted a 14min Q&A video in which he answered some fan questions that he had taken on his page. In response to one of them, he said that he believes a show should get better, should improve, as it went along in the season. And he firmly believes that every episode this season has been better than the one before. And I agree. It so happened that right after I saw that video, I saw this week’s episode of the show, with a ton of excitement locked in because it was going to debut one of my favourite superheroes, Barry Allen, in a pre-origin role.
And it was good. Good. GOOD more like it. Aside from a few small things that I found problematic, this episode is true to the spirit of the show, particularly this season where Starling City is transformed into the City of Heroes. More great scenes on the Island, more character drama, more top-notch action, a commitment to the idea of superheroes, and supervillains, and more on the epic cliffhanger that we had with the previous episode, something that is going to become a much more intrinsic part of this season.
Note: this review contains some minor spoilers.
In the New 52, DC has tried to take a lot of gambles and few of them have paid off, if at all. Launched earlier this year, Gail Simone’s The Movement is one of those gambles and for me, it is one that has definitely worked enough to keep bringing me back every month and caring about the characters. Gail and artist Freddie Williams have done some great work on the series for its first arc and their second arc continues apace with the release of the seventh issue this week, which does one thing that the first arc was, of necessity, missing: consequences.
In any superhero story, there are always consequences for the powers that a hero has. And given that these stories are written to get us to identify with, associate with, and get invested in these characters, there need to be consequences for their actions and their nature. This is at the core of this new issue and once again the execution is pretty brilliant. For me, The Movement has been DC’s break-out hit of the year and there’s no stopping this train ride.