As I’ve mentioned in several places this year, Zenescope’s Age of Darkness crossover event has been really good from all that I’ve read and it continues to be so as the event progresses. Going on for almost a year now, with a lot of prep before that, we’ve seen how the Realms have come under attack from all sides and how the heroes have been tested by their before enemies and how, for the moment, that villains have gained the upper hand. I jumped into the story in the middle of everything back in with the Grimm Fairy Tales #0 FCBD issue, and then carried on with some of the specials that came along, but I didn’t go back to read the whole story from the beginning until much later.
Age of Darkness Volume 1 collects issues 94-98 of Grimm Fairy Tales and also the Dark Queen: Age of Darkness one-shot that preceded the first of those, back in January. While the lead-up to the event had been happening before that, it wasn’t until the Dark Queen: Age of Darkness one-shot that things really kicked off when the Dark Queen made herself known to the Realm Knights. What followed after that in the flagship Grimm Fairy Tales was basically a bunch of one-shots that touched on many of the different things happening in the Realms as the heroes and villains made their moves and countermoves against each other. And in all of this, one thing was a constant: Lucinda is an insane evil queen and she wants what she wants, no matter who or what she has to destroy. Kind of fun!
DC’s Supergirl is one of the first titles I started reading when I got back into comics some two and a half years ago, having kicked things off with the newly-launched New 52 titles like Batman and Superman. Since those early days, the title has seen a lot of turnover of creators and along the way, I think that Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves made the best collaborators on the title by far, giving the title what it needed most at the time: stability and awesomeness, though sadly they were soon replaced by another creative team.
And now, just last month, Supergirl received another creative team change in the form of K. Perkins, Mike Johnson, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy and Hi-Fi. I gave up reading Supergirl following last year’s Krypton Returns crossover, and only just came back to the title last month, but I’m already feeling as if the old magic from Michael and Diogenes’ run is back. The new team is taking things in a very different direction for the character than previously established, and the art also seems to have taken an uptick, which is good.
Almost a month after the last time, I finally had a Magic 40 week! And not just any plan Magic 40 week, but one where I managed to read three graphic novels as well!
For this week, the surprise hits were Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1 from Vertigo Comics, Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #6 and Spider-Man & The X-Men #1 from Marvel Comics, Justice League #32-36 from DC Comics and The Valiant #1 from Valiant Comics. The comic (yes, the only one!) that proved to be rather disappointing, even unexpectedly so, was New Suicide Squad #5 from DC. Apart from that, a good run continued on several other titles like Hexed, John Carter: Warlord of Mars, Batman: Eternal, Birthright, Prometheus: Fire and Stone and others.
The three graphic novels for this week were: Grimm Fairy Tales: Code Red Volume 1, which is set during the recent Age of Darkness crossover event from Zenescope Entertainment, Mighty Avengers Volume 2 from Marvel, which is an effort by me to catch up on this mostly-good title, and Supergirl Volume 1, which is an older Supergirl title, pre-New 52.
Starting in the early Spring of 2012 with The Hunger Games, we’ve seen a new sensation in Hollywood, the adaptation of post-apocalyptic dystopian YA fiction, or thereabouts. It is the same kind of wave that happened in the wake of the incredible success of the Twilight movie adaptations, and as then, many such movies have come and gone with little in the way of any significant success. The Hunger Games made a star of its lead Jennifer Lawrence and the entire crew came back last year with Catching Fire, the sequel that really turned some heads and while it revisited some of the same concepts as its predecessor, the movie also promised a whole lot more, especially a war with the Capitol and President Snow.
This year’s Mockingjay Part 1 is the penultimate movie in the franchise. In a departure from the previous movies, it is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, though the adaptation is split into two movies, a decision I’m perfectly fine with, given the quality of the franchise. In this movie, we see how the rebellion against the Capitol really takes off as Katniss and the heretofore missing District 13 come together to oppose President Snow and the people of the Capitol and wage a war of intense propaganda. And in the middle of it all, the characters remain the focus as ever and we see some truly great scenes as the writers and the director explore what it is to live in this particular world, from both sides.
Jim Zub and Max Dunbar have kicked off IDW’s new Dungeons & Dragons series, Legends of Baldur’s Gate in great style recently, with a story that ties in to the setting’s newest lore-gaming expansion, Tyranny of Dragons. The first two issues have proven to be rather spectacular, focusing on characters old and new alike, and presenting readers with a pretty damn fantastic mystery as well, one that draws the characters into a much larger story than it at first apparent, and all I can say that it is a blast right now.
Legends of Baldur’s Gate #3, out last week,sees the characters take the next step in their search for Delina’s twin brother Deniak, who went missing in Baldur’s Gate some time back. With the help of the Beloved Ranger and social outcasts Krydle and Shandie, Delina has faced up to some interesting adventures of late, and the latest is a roof-top chase across the city that brings her face-to-face against someone she didn’t expect, even as the other characters face up to their own unique challenges and predicaments in a most fun way.
I’ve long wanted to play EVE Online, a game that many friends over the years have recommended to me on various levels, but I’ve never been able to get around to it. The expansive scope of the game, the concept, the visuals, the mechanics, everything is very intriguing and compelling, and any time I come across something to do with EVE Online, I get a hankering to play the game. But sadly, no time for a game requiring as much investment in time and effort as EVE. That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped playing World of WarCraft a few years back, to my continuing regret since I still have a great amount of nostalgia for that game, which I try to get around by reading the books that are published, which is where EVE: The Empyrean Age comes in.
From a bit of googling I did a while back, EVE: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales is a tie-in to the EVE Online expansion The Empyrean Age. In it, the writer covers the rise of the Caldari Providence Directorate, the return of the Minmitari Elders, the return of Jamyl Sarum to the Amarr Empire, the fall of CONCORD (in a way), and several other things besides. Since I know very little of the world of EVE Online, I was initially wrong-footed by the novel, but as the pages went by, I discovered a riveting tale of interstellar politics and wars and economics that really drew me in and instilled in me a fascination for all sorts of EVE lore, making it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, even though it wasn’t published in 2014.
After the end of a first arc involving an evil Genie released in Arcane Acre courtesy of the silly curiosity of Wulf and Hailey, last month writer Pat Shand kicked off a new arc, a 2-parter that delved into Hailey’s origins in Neverland and explored why and how she came to study at Arcane Acre with the new Realm Knights-in-training. It was a fairly good issue since while I’m familiar with most of the other characters, Hailey and Wulf are among those I know nothing about and the new arc helped me get familiar with them.
At the end of last month’s issue we saw that Sela managed to intervene on Neverland and get the kids back to Arcane Acre, all except Wulf who got left behind, through no fault of his or Sela’s or anyone else. Pat Shand picks up the story from the get go after that and launches straight into the action after that. This one is quite the action-packed issue, by a good margin, and we get to see Wulf become a badass hero, even as Hailey’s life is completely turned around once again. Pat Shand certainly doesn’t relent on the narrative front and Andrea Meloni’s art fares pretty well under the pressure too, not as much as I’d hoped for.
Top Cow has been running a Talent Hunt for two years running now, and this is the third year of them doing it yet again. They’ve found some really incredible creators in the last two years as a result of this search, as evidenced by the fact that the winners have had their stories and their art printed in Artifacts series, which kind of started off as a long-ish mini-series or such, but then went on to become a mammoth ongoing that has seen some big moments since Jackie Estacado and Sara Pezzini changed the whole world.
And now, this past week, we had The Magdalena: Seventh Sacrament #1, which is written and drawn by creators found during last year’s talent hunt, Tini Howard and Aileen Oracion. What this issue, which I think might be a one-off actually, does is explore the origins of the warriors known as The Magdalena, daughters of Christ who are chosen to become guardian angels over the Earth and fight the dark enemies of the Church everywhere. It is a fairly interesting story in most respects, with some good art, but it is also a bit too “freshman” at times, with some rather rough edges.
A couple weeks back the awesome writing/artist team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman came together to do the current three-part arc on Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman. After somewhat of a glut of good stories on the title, the pair told a really fun story that had Diana travel to Apokolips to exfiltrate two Amazons who had gone missing on a mission to the death world. Corinna and Gabriel are among two of my favourite creators and to see them do a Wonder Woman story proved to be as exciting and satisfying as I expected, probably a bit more too.
In the first issue of the arc, we saw Diana travel to Apokolips, face off against some of Darkseid’s Furies, lose, and then get tossed into the inner fires of the death world. In issues #17 and #18, we see how she gets out of that particular mess, and how she ends up completing the mission, with a fair few complications and twists involved along the way. With these two issues, Corinna and Gabriel bring their three-parter to a close, and they do it in really great style, showing off how Darkseid and Diana interact in particular and what this can mean for the “relationship” between Apokolips and Themiscyra, moving forward.
As with The Flash last week, we got to see some incredible things happen on Arrow as well when Team Flash came calling and ended up helping Team Arrow with apprehending a villain, Digger Harkness (future Captain Boomerang). It was quite a solemn and sombre episode broken up with the occasional humour from Team Flash, and I loved it to bits, especially the ending when the two heroes decide to do a friendly rematch of their fight in Central City from the eighth episode of The Flash, to see who really could win a fight between the two of them. No conclusions either way, but still a damn good episode.
And now, this week’s Arrow was the winter finale that finally saw Sara’s killer revealed and brought Oliver into direct confrontation with the League of Assassins, specifically the Demon’s Head Ra’s al Ghul himself. After some of the lightness of the last week, this time there is no such thing and it is Mood Serious all the way as the tension between all the characters got ramped up over and over. And Oliver didn’t have a good time over in the flashbacks either since we learn a rather game-changing revelation about his time in Hong Kong, one that I’m hoping isn’t directly carried over, personally speaking.
A third straight week this time without me hitting my magic 40 number, which I really regret since a ton of comics have been coming out these last two weeks, but no matter.
Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, Dredd Uprise #1 from 200AD, and Swamp Thing #35-37 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and Hulk #9 from Marvel Comics. Comics which continued on with a good run yet again were Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #3 , Aliens: Fire and Stone #3, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #5 , Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program #3, Inhuman #9, Gotham Academy #3 and Vampirella v2 #7 among others.
No graphic novels this past week unfortunately.
James Lovegrove’s Pantheon novels have been quite unlike other novels that I’ve read to date, irrespective of whether or not I like them. Starting with Age of Zeus and then Age of Aztec, these novels explore various religious mythologies from around the world and do an interesting contemporary science-fiction spin with them, trying to explain the existence of these gods in a way that you really can’t predict. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve only read the two books so far, though there are many more in the series, and reading James’ latest makes me really want to go back and read the ones I haven’t.
Age of Shiva, as the name implies, takes its cues from Hindu mythology. Specifically, the many Avatars of the God Vishnu, who is one of the Hindu Trinity of Supreme Gods. For me, Age of Shiva is like a culmination of everything that James has done with the series so far, being a perfect commentary on some key topics that have cropped up in the series again and again. It has a much better gist, much better characters, much better story, and much better pacing of the books I’ve read, and I think it is a great example of “Godpunk” as James has come to define the term through his works.