The Secret Origins is one where each issue contains three short stories, each about a different superhero and supervillain in the DC universe and their respective origins. I’ve been fairly interested in the series for a while now, though I haven’t really gotten into it as yet. There’s already so many titles I want to read every month that just managing any more is a super-task. But still, the concept of the series is a good one and it really does seem to give you a brief taste of different characters and titles in a single package, so why not check it out yeah? Least, that’s what my thinking was when I picked up this week’s issue.
Secret Origins #6 is the origin stories of Wonder Woman, Deadman and Sinestro, from the respective creative teams of Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark and Sinestro, with some changes. Each story deals with the earliest days of the respective characters, and each story is executed well with enough callbacks to later events in the characters’ histories or even their respective ongoing titles. There is a right crazy mix of creators here, and I can definitely recommend this one, for it is a great standalone issue given you a great brief look at three of DC’s greatest characters.
Though Future’s End has been one of my favourite series of this year, some of the recent decisions story-wise have made me feel as if the writers are more intent on just prolonging the inevitable and also because the long run is kind of taking its toll on me. Except for an odd title here and there, especially Future’s End #22, the title has been great, but I think some cracks are beginning to show and I would love it if the writers got the series back on track with characters who’ve been missing for a while, and for the “proper” storylines to come back to the fore.
In Future’s End #23 and #24 we see the tale of the survivors of Stormwatch and the reluctant recruits of SHADE as they continue to battle against the power of Brainiac and his legions of robots. We also see, at the same time, the troubles that Tim Draka is having in his love life and how Madison is struggling to get over his past as a Teen Titan, a dead one no less. And in the midst of this we also get to touch base with some characters we haven’t seen in a while, like Fury, Scott Free, Constantine and Superman in some really amazing sequences, both in terms of the story and the art.
With the Fall 2014 Anime season upon us, it is time to get cracking on a whole bunch of new shows. I used to watch a lot of anime in my college days, but then I fell off and only got back to them last year, and it has been a fun ride, with some really good stuff coming out in the last year and a half, and some bad stuff too. But it is definitely a great time to be watching anime I think, given that each season sees upwards of 50 new and/or returning anime series on television. And one of the newest is Lord Marksman and Vanadis aka Madan no Ō to Vanadīsu, based on a Japanese light novel series of the same name.
Despite being a rather odd title, Lord Marksman and Vanadis is a decent enough story about a young noble archer who is taken prisoner before a big battle, and then must confront some of his prejudices and rethink on his loyalties and his ties to his nation. Tigrevurmud Vorn is a decent enough protagonist, if a bit generic, and the female lead Ellenora Viltaria is the same, though she is thankfully quite a bit more of a badass. The first two episodes look very promising, but the animation sure can be quite basic at times and some of the camera angle choices make this an odd uncomfortable experience as well.
I started reading Django Wexler earlier this year and he has quickly become one of my favourite authors to read, thanks to his first fantasy novel, The Thousand Names and his cyberpunk-urban fantasy novella John Golden: Freelance Debugger. The latter is about a tech-guy named John Golden who pulls out pixies and other urban fantasy junk out of computer systems. Freelance Debugger was one hell of a story with a winning premise, and I loved it from the get go. Which is why I wanted to read the follow-up as soon as it was available, which happened a few weeks back.
Heroes of Mazaroth sees John tackle the MMORPG of the same name, the most popular such game in the industry. And the premise is simple: due to some pixie magic-wrangling and some idiocy at some point, Heroes has a pixie problem in that one of its greatest villains, the current top-end raid boss, has become self-aware and has left the game for a place where he isn’t repeatedly killed and looted by bands of adventurers. But things aren’t always as they seem and John has a really tough fight ahead of him now, one that only his masterful duo with his friend and partner Sarah can help him get through.
Stjepan Sejic’s Death Vigil has been one of the most fun new comics to come out this year, by far and it is also a comic that I absolutely love. Characters or story or art, Death Vigil is like a masterclass in storytelling in comics, and it is something that everyone should be reading. In the first three issues we’ve seen Stjepan bring together his main cast and introduce their enemies. The extra-length first issue helped immensely in that regard, the size of two issues really, and the following two regular issues have done much to expand on all of that.
Death Vigil #4 continues Stjepan’s excellent worldbuilding as we begin to learn ever more about the necromancers who have been causing all sorts of problems for the Death Vigil, a group of immortal guardians of the Veil between worlds who are led by none other than the Grim Reaper herself, Bernadette, alternatively referred to as Bernie or Dette in the comic. Aside from all the stuff we see about the villains, we also get to meet some old friends of the Vigil, whom we’ve seen before in small cameos, and that subplot here lends itself to some great drama, in typical Stjepan Sejic style.
After two straight weeks of reading 38 singles and 2 graphic novels, this week saw me lagging behind, with only 36 singles read and no graphic novels at all. Makes me kind of sad since there were comics that I was really looking forward to reading in GN format, but I just couldn’t get the time, and I’m seriously behind on my novel reading as well.
The surprise hits of this week were Brides of Helheim #1 from Oni Press, The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Gotham Academy #1 from DC Comics. The disappointing comics of this week were Fantastic Four Annual #1 from Marvel Comics and Green Arrow #35 and Green Lantern & New Gods: Godhead #1 both from DC Comics. Titles like Death from Wolverine #3 from Marvel, Angel & Faith Season 10 #7 from Dark Horse Comics, and Grayson #3 from DC comics continued to rock it.
I find the Age of Vikings to be a great setting, with a lot of storytelling potential, no matter what kind of a story you tell with it. There’s something very intriguing about the entire era and the myths that have come out of it, and the entire Nordic culture as well. Whether it be the TV show Vikings or Marvel’s Thor or James Lovegrove’s Age of Odin, there’s something very… vivacious about the setting. Sure, there’s all the heroism and the adventure, but at its core, there’s something very involved about the age of Vikings that draws me in, probably one reason why I started writing a Norse mythology-based space opera last year!
One of my more recent run-ins with the Age of Vikings is this week’s Brides of Helheim #1 by Cullen Bunn and Joelle Jones, published by Oni Press. Apparently, this new series is a spin-off of an earlier mini-series by the same duo, Helheim, and carries the story forward of a warrior named Rikard, condemned to life as an undead even though his heroism in life could have seen him in Valhalla. Cullen writes a very involving story here as Rikard is approached by two young warriors Sigrid and Brand to help them defeat a monster, and the art by Joelle and Nick Filardi is just superb.
Thanks largely in part to Ron Marz and Laura Braga’s recent work on Witchblade, I’ve gotten into the groove of catching up on the back-issue trades of the series, from when Ron Marz started his run, and it has been a pretty damn good experience as well. But then, I expected that already since I’ve loved Ron’s recent work on Witchblade. Sara Pezzini is easily one of the best and most awesome female characters in comics, and while Laura’s art has been somewhat problematic, it has also been quite good, enough so that I keep coming back to the series for that.
After the end of the first arc, Ron Marz launched a brief interlude intended to catch up Rooney with Sara’s background, and also to tell some short stories such as the ones in Witchblade #175 which bring back characters like Patrick Gleason and also introduce new bearers of the Witchblade from years past. In Witchblade #176 Ron tells a straight-up horror story involving kidnapped children, and in Witchblade #177 he launches a new arc that sees Sara try to get some answers as to how Jackie Estacado’s wife came to be the current bearer of the Angelus. In both Witchblade #177 and #178, we see some of Ron’s best writing with his second run on the title, and also some great art by Laura Braga.
It has been clear since the start of the new Vampirella that creators Nancy A. Collins and Patrick Berkenkotter have had a strong direction for the series, as evidenced by the number and type of challenges that the titular character has faced. She is racing against the clock to find a cure for a curse that will see her eventually turn into Lady Umbra, Bride of the Apocalypse, and her world tour has led her to face up against all kinds of rare and powerful Vampires. As we close in on the end of the first arc, one of the key things is that the ending of it be a fitting one, given the epicness of the arc so far.
And if Vampirella #5 is any indication, then the arc is going to end on a high note. Having taken down the Krasue and the Lamira already, Vampirella travels to Serbia to face off against another of Lilith’s half-breeds, and then on to Kauzstadt to face off against a powerful foe, someone that I’ve been expecting for the last couple issues now. Nancy’s writing here is as strong as ever, though I felt that matters with the Leptirica were resolved too quickly, and Patrick’s art stands out once again because of his creature designs, which were just amazing here.
DC’s second weekly of New 52, Future’s End has been one of my favourite series all year. Week after week it has thrilled and wowed and amazed and boggled with everything that has been happening on Earth Prime five years from the present main DC timeline. After twenty issues of post-fact storytelling, we finally got the lowdown about the war with Earth 2 in last week’s issue in which Earth Prime’s Green Arrow and Earth 2’s Red Arrow explained it all to Big Barda, or rather, recounted events for the benefit of the reader. And it was glorious.
Coming off of all of that, I was ready for something momentous this issue. But it seems that the writers had something different planned, and I’ll admit that this is the first issue of this series where I feel cheated out and disappointed even. The writers muddle their way through various plotlines here, bringing back several lingering threads, and unfortunately only one of them left an impact on me, when it was fully revealed to Amethyst, Hawkman and Frankenstein who their tormentor was. However, while the writing was less than satisfactory, the art itself was pretty spectacular, as I’ve come to expect from Patrick Zircher and Hi-Fi.
One of my favourite reads of 2012 was Courtney Schafer’s debut novel The Whitefire Crossing (review). One of the unique things about it was how a significant portion of the novel focused on mountain-climbing and mountain-trekking, borne out of Courtney’s own fondness and hobby of such. Then again last year, when I read The Tainted City (review), I was similarly impressed. Courtney built upon the characters and the setting in a really nice way and she made both novels a worthy experience. For that reason she is one of my favourite authors in fantasy.
With Night Shade Books going under last year, the fate of her third novel, The Labyrinth of Flame was totally up in the air, since there was no word if the third novel would even be published. But it looks now that Courtney finally has her strategy ready, and next year will see the launch of a kickstarter for the novel, which I am very excited about.