When Marvel’s Avengers ended, it set a new standard for superhero movies. To the best of my knowledge, superhero team movies hadn’t happened before this movie, especially not when the movie in question was preceded by no less than four movies that set the stage for it. With Avengers, Marvel’s cinematic universe also moved into a new phase, a phase where we’ve seen some big changes in teh status quo for the various heroes and where we’ve also gotten to see lots of new characters, heroes and villains alike as well. And now, in just about half a year, we are going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, the next big Marvel money-maker.
Avengers: Age of Ultron does not have anything to do with last year’s Age of Ultron event in the comics, though they both share the same name. It is going to be a new story about the sentient robot built (most often in the comics) by Hank Pym, the Ant-Man, that then goes on a genocidal rampage against humanity. Of course, we haven’t seen Pym in the MCU as yet, though there is a movie coming out soon that deals with his successor as Ant-Man, Scott Lang, so it is all going to rest in the hands of the MCU’s go-to tech-serf, Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Last night, after a trailer of the upcoming movie leaked out, Marvel and Disney went ahead and released the official teaser, and by gods it is awesome!
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.
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.
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.
As I’ve mentioned before elsewhere, October 2014 is a big month for Marvel in that the publisher is launching its third big wave of new comics under the Marvel NOW! banner, Avengers NOW! The month sees the release of lots of new titles, such as this week’s Thor featuring a new Thor, a woman this time, among many others. With the end of the recent Original Sin event series, there have been some really big shake-ups in the Marvel universe, and the publisher is using the event to spring-launch lots of new books, alongside all of the new ones it launched previously in 2014.
Two other new titles this week are Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier and Guardians 3000, which are as different from Thor as you can get, and even with each other. The former sees Bucky taking on the role of the dead Nick Fury as the “Man on the Wall”, which was revealed in Original Sin, while the latter sees the Marvel NOW! debut of the original “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Both titles are quite fun to read with some interesting artwork, but they aren’t wholly consistent, in one way or another, so they are not as impressive as they could have been, but I do see some great potential in both of them, especially the former since it features a character I am much more aware of rather than the latter.
Note: This review contains major spoilers for Original Sin.
Games Workshop’s Space Hulk, a Warhammer 40,000 tabletop classic has recently seen a new lease on life. The game is being brought back for a new generation of players, and to accompany the release of the game itself, Black Library recently put out a quartet of short stories and even a novella focusing on the core concept of the game: Space Marine Terminators fighting off against a Tyranid infestation in space. From what I can tell, the re-release has been received very positively, as well as it should, given the place that Space Hulk has in Warhammer 40,000 tabletop gaming history.
Two of the stories released (so far) are The Black Pilgrims by Guy Haley and Sanguis Irae by Gav Thorpe. The former focuses on a small force of Black Templars led by Castellan Adelard, while the latter focuses on an equally small force of Blood Angels led by Brother-Librarian Calistarius. I didn’t quite like The Black Pilgrims as much as I did Sanguis Irae and I didn’t even really know about the whole shared theme thing until I read through them, but I will say that both stories are fun nonetheless, and they serve to highlight an aspect of Warhammer 40,000 that seems to not get as much narrative attention as it should, truly.