James Robinson’s deconstruction’s of Marvel’s First Family has seen the Fantastic Four go through some really troubled times of late. Old villains coming back. Interdimensional invasions. Getting thrown out of the Baxter Building by the Avengers and SHIELD. The children of the Future Foundation all being taken away from Sue and Richard. Sue taking on the Avengers by herself. The falling out between Ben and Johnny. And so much more. It has been a trying time for the family team of late, and with the Original Sin event these bad times certainly didn’t go away, especially not once James Robinson began to revisit the plot-threads he had introduced in the very first issue a few months back.
To be honest, this review is kind of me catching up to this massive backlog I built up for this series. As such, there are a ton of things to unpack here. But suffice to say that after laying down a lot of groundwork in the first seven issues, James Robinson finally moves forward with the “real” story progression as he touches on concepts that plots that were hinted at back when the series started and that we continue to see how the Fantastic Four are fracturing up, divided as they are because of various reasons like Johnny losing his powers, Ben arrested for murder and so on. Robinson’s writing gets ever more heart-breaking with each issue, even as the art teams switch in and out over the course of these four issues.
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.
Despite having a star-cast, Ridley Scott’s 2012 venture Prometheus was a complete dud for me, as I’ve mentioned in my review of the movie from more than two years back. It stands as one of the worst movies I saw that year, and does an incredible disservice to the the Alien franchise, more so than the later sequels of the same name. However, it cannot be denied that there are indeed some interesting narrative points in the movie worth a second look, and that’s what Dark Horse Comics is intending to focus on its new series, Prometheus: Fire and Stone, part of a new age of books in the Alien, Predator and Aliens vs Predator franchises.
Prometheus: Fire and Stone takes place many years after the end of the movie, some hundred and twenty-six years in the future, when one of the neighbouring worlds to the moon designated LV-223. It follows a new crew, following in the distant footsteps of the Prometheus, intending to recover some valuable salvage from LV-223. But what they find on the planetoid/moon surprises them, and they inevitable run into a horde of aliens, setting off a great story that is quite typical of the franchise. These two issues are really great and I liked the art as well, worth making a movie about, actually!
Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels is the first big production in the Star Wars franchise released after Disney acquired Lucasfilm a couple years ago. Set 14 years after the terrible events of Revenge of the Sith and just 5 years before A New Hope, it follows a group of do-good mercenaries as they rock it out with the Empire again and again. With (relatively) recent news that Disney has basically kicked out all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe canon in favour of a new canon centered around the six movies and The Clone Wars, it is an uncertain future at best for the franchise, and how Rebels performs in the coming weeks is going to be a big indicator of that uncertain future.
Disney kicked off the show with four shorts focused on the various characters, and then an hour-long special a little over two weeks ago. Titled “Spark of Rebellion“, it introduces the characters to the audiences and gets them all together after the (somewhat) scattered adventures of the shorts. It is a decent series opener, as such things go, with the characters being interesting all of them, though some of the hallmarks of Disney are prominently visible character-wise. And as for the animation, well, it is certainly problematic in many ways and nowhere near the smoothness of The Clone Wars.
After wrapping up the Armor Hunters event, Valiant is now dipping into origin tales for its many major books, starting with X-O Manowar #0 last week. While the ongoing X-O Manowar is firmly rooted in the present, last week’s zero issue showed us the man behind the armour as he was in his youth, an inexperienced and untested warrior. It was great, and I definitely enjoyed it. Matt Kindt’s Unity has been a relative mainstay of my comics reading since it debuted last year, and it has certainly been a very fun title, though there’ve been a few missteps here and there. But, it still remains as one of the best new series from 2013, by far.
This week’s Unity #0 takes us back to the closing stages of World War I as we meet up with Unit Y, a special forces team setup jointly by American and Britain to counter the Imperial Germany threat. The leader of this team is Gilad Anni-Padda aka Eternal Warrior, who is an immortal warrior and a mainstay of the current Unity team, and in this issue we get to see the final mission of Unit Y, in a tale full of deserved bluster and lots of action. This is a fairly decent issue, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite work as perhaps the creators expected it to, since it did have quite a few flaws.
Marvel’s last event, Original Sin was billed as one of the biggest events of recent times. And it certainly was, though it didn’t quite match up to the grand epicness of either Age of Ultron or even Infinity. It started off well enough, but towards the end it lost its way and became just another mandated event rather than something that felt natural and exciting. The only really good thing about the ending was that Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier was now Earth’s shadow protector instead of Nick Fury, who died during the event, with many of his biggest secrets and conspiracies exposed.
This week’s Original Sin Annual tells the tale of the man we saw die during Nick Fury’s flashbacks in the event, when he was the one to become the “Man on the Wall”. Writer-artist Jason Latour tells a rather moving story of Woodrow McCord as he comes to be the “Man on the Wall” himself and then later his final battle. Howard Stark also gets in some screen-time and his interactions with Nick Fury are rather interesting. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the issue when I found out that it had been released this week, and I’m quite happy with it, as the art is as good as the story is.
CW’s Arrow got off to an emotional start with its latest season when, at the end of the episode, Sara Lance aka Canary was ambushed and killed by a mysterious archer. Forget everything else that happened in the premiere, whether it is Ray Palmer’s spectacular entry or Roy and Ollie taking down bad guys together or anything else. Sara’s death is going to have some major repercussions, and for the showrunners to start off a new season with something like this, well, it is a hint of things to come, I’m sure. While I mourn Sara’s passing since I really loved the character, I’m also interested in what is going to follow after it.
And that’s what this week’s episode, “Sara” was all about. Laurel brings Sara’s body to the Arrow-cave, not knowing what else to do, and we get to watch the team’s reaction as they realize that a core part of their shared identity is gone. It is a very moving scene, and the rest of the episode is all about how the team tries to move on and hunt down Sara’s killer, which also confirms the first-ever live-action debut of the villain Simon Lacroix aka Komodo, introduced last year in Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s ongoing run on Green Arrow as part of a major arc. This is a non-stop action episode in the true sense of what that means on Arrow, and we also get to touch base once again with Ray Palmer, which is just too exciting really.
CW’s The Flash is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated shows of the season/year. Spinning out of the successful 2-season Arrow, The Flash brings to life one of DC’s greatest superheroes and it is pretty much tone-perfect. It has the right emotional beats, the right character beats, the right setting, the right stories, and some really hellish cliffhangers that blow your mind. Of course, the acting department isn’t slacking either, with the likes of Grant Gustin, Jesse Martin, Danielle Panabaker, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanagh. It is pretty much a great show, and that is going off only the pilot from the last week!
The second episode of The Flash brings to life another true-to-comics villain like Clyde Martin aka Weather Wizard from last week, Danton Black aka Multiplex (or, as Cisco first called him, Captain Clone, hah!). Alongside a memorable villain, we also have a slightly expanded roster of characters this week as we get to meet one of the most despicable industrialists/scientists in “Fastest Man Alive” and also get to see Barry suffer from some of the side-affects of his new powers. I thought the pilot last week was great, but it turns out that it was only the start, and that the trinity of Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns are just getting started!
Note: This review contains spoilers about the final minutes of the premiere and this week’s episode.
Valiant’s X-O Manowar series wasn’t on my radar until the publisher launched its Unity team-book last year. I’d seen some stuff here and there and heard that it was a great title, but I never really got the chance to pick up an issue and read it, not until recently at any rate, when I read X-O Manowar #23, some months back. It was a fun issue I’d say, and the subsequent couple issues I read were similarly good at the least, though I kind of fell off the whole thing unfortunately. But Aric of Dacia still remains a favourite character to read about, that I can say for sure.
With the end of the Armor Hunters crossover event, the publisher’s line-up is going to go through some changes, and all the existing titles are presumably all going to forge ahead with new arcs. Interestingly enough, writer Robert Venditti is using this… grace period to tell Aric’s origins as a Visigoth warrior in the 4th century AD, and I have to say that he crafts a really intriguing tale of a reluctant and young warrior who wants to be something that his father wants him to and his tribe needs him to. This is one of Robert’s best issues I’ve read to date, and the art by Clay and Seth Mann and Romulo Fajardo is just excellent here.
The White Scars are one of the Legiones Astartes that many fans of the Horus Heresy have been wanting to see in the series of the same name since the earliest days. One of the most mysterious chapters, and Legions, the White Scars haven’t received much attention from the writers at Black Library, though there has been the occasional novel or short story. When Black Library launched its limited edition novella products for the Horus Heresy in 2011, there were some expectations that we might get a novella finally, and such expectations came true in late 2012 when Brotherhood of the Storm was released, with the general release coming more than a year later.
Brotherhood of the Storm was described by author Chris Wraight as the White Scars novel that Heresy fans have been waiting for, and that irked me to no end since the vast majority of the fans wouldn’t be able to read the book until the general release. Thankfully, the wait for that wasn’t too long, and I myself finally got the chance to read it earlier this month, right after I listened to the Scars audiobook, which is the sequel to Brotherhood of the Storm and also Chris’ first Heresy novel. The novella itself is a damn good action story, focusing on three different personnel of the Legion, and it is quite the vital story in that it helps you understand something of the White Scars’ history on Chogoris, their legion culture, and how an outsider views them.
I’ve remarked before that DC is going pretty much all-out in its bid to develop more and more properties for television. First there was the (mostly) celebrated 10 season run of Smallville a few years back. Then came Arrow in 2012, quickly becoming a fan-favourite. And this year we are getting Gotham and The Flash (both already premiered!) and Constantine (coming soon). But in all of this, the modern DC stable of television definitely owes much to the incredible success of Arrow, both from a story and casting viewpoint, among others. And now CW’s hit superhero show is hitting its third season.
Arrow Season 3 has been a hotly debated topic in recent months, especially when news of all the new castings and everything began to filter out, such as the fact that the probable big-bad of the season is going to be none other than Ra’s al Ghul, one of the greatest villains in DC’s history. Last night, the new season got underway with the premiere, “The Calm“, and it was an incredible revisit with all the characters and Starling City. The new episode does a lot to set the new status quo and also delivers some big moments, especially the shocking cliffhanger ending which seems improbable given the character involved.