Agents of SHIELD is a show that has had a rather roller coaster ride since it debuted in 2013. It got off to a really shaky start and didn’t get better until well into the first season, around the same time that the phenomenal Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie came out. The first season ended on a good note, and then the second season last year beat most of my expectations with how good it was and how it introduced the Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was an excellent move on the part of the showrunners.
And now, after Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten more dangerous, because people with powers are being feared all over the globe, and because the misguided actions of Skye’s mother have released the Terrigen mist to spread all over Earth. New powered people are popping up everywhere, and it is up to SHIELD to keep them safe, and perhaps even put them in the field against those who would harm them. That’s the basis for the new third season of the show, which steps up the action and intrigue to a whole new level, and is the better for it.
The previous issues of Black Widow have been pretty spectacular, as has been the norm on the title since its launch early last year. Natasha’s investigations into the organization CHAOS that has been causing all sorts of problems for SHIELD of late yielded some surprising results back in #15 and it made for a really interesting change of pace as far as the story was concerned. It also gave artist Phil Noto a chance to really go to town with the visuals and none of that seems to be headed for a slowdown in any way.
The two most recent issues, Black Widow #16 and Black Widow #17 are all about what CHAOS really is and what plans they have for Natasha and others like her all over the world. The reveal about CHAOS is something that really twists the head in ways you wouldn’t expect. Nathan manipulates the story in a really deft way and he shows some really mad skills as he has Natasha navigate the web of lies and half-truths being peddled by CHAOS. Supporting him, Phil also does a pretty incredible job and though some of the scenes were a bit more low-key than usual, his own mad skills were never in doubt I’d say.
Nathan Edmondson has been going full out with Black Widow of late, backing the SHIELD agent into a corner of hell and making her work doubly hard. Recently, she finally infiltrated a high-level meeting of CHAOS, the group that has been causing problems for SHIELD and for her right from the first issue of the series last year, and she didn’t exactly come out of it without a scratch. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far in this series, and with the addition of yet another guest star this past week, things look set to get even more crazy.
Black Widow #15 deals with the aftermath of Natasha’s infiltration of a high-level CHAOS meeting, a meeting that she forced to happen so that she could finally face her enemies. But things didn’t go according to plan since it turns out that CHAOS has hired soldiers who can, effectively, turn invisible. Problematic for sure, and much of this issue focuses on how Black Widow beats these guys, with some expert help of course. And that’s where the true fun of this book is, since each guest appearance so far has been handled artfully, and that looks set to continue with this one too.
DC’s Grayson has been very impressive since its debut, with only an odd issue along the way that didn’t exactly capture my attention, and that’s saying something since each issue has pushed boundaries. And last month Grayson #6 pushed even more boundaries by finally setting up a defining conflict between Agent 37 and Midnighter, one that proved to be really informative on how Dick sees himself, and how people constantly underestimate him, whether his allies or enemies. And you underestimate Dick Grayson aka Agent 37 only at cost to your own self.
Following the events of the previous issue where Dick came to blows for a third time against the Midnighter and finally met the Gardener finally Helena Bertinelli aka Matron figured out what the Fist of Cain was planning, this past week’s issue sees the hero try to set off a psychological bomb going off in Tel Aviv during a concert. There’s some really intricate stuff happening, and each is quite merited after all the cloak-and-dagger stuff of late, despite the occasional high-intensity action. But the ending, well that is indeed something different.
Recently writer Ales Kot turned Secret Avengers on its head when he revealed that Modok had actually been the one to have planned all the bad stuff that had been happening to the Secret Avengers and Maria Hill, and that at the same time his favoured henchman Snapper had also been quite actively involved in his master’s machinations. It was truly a head-twisting moment, as far as I’m concerned, and it helped put into perspective certain other things that the series had been developing of late. And all of that went hand-in-hand with the excellent art that the series art team had been putting out, especially of late.
In Secret Avengers #12 we see some more momentous things. The revelation about Modok has certainly been a game-changer, but events elsewhere have already gained steam and this issue deals largely with the fallout of such. If you are a fan of Secret Avengers in general or the characters found herein in particular, then this is an absolute must-read issue because we finally learn some of what goes on in Modok’s mind, and that’s more valuable than almost anything else.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.
Black Widow ended on a great note last month, with the ongoing storyline of what happens when the global media at large learns of Natasha’s various activities, both covert and otherwise, and then proceeds to vilify her and question what her role with SHIELD and the Avengers really is. This also then segued into some bread-crumbs that Nathan Edmondson had left behind in his early issues, and we saw more glimpses of the manipulators behind some of Natasha’s recent missions. All very spy-ish and all, which was fantastic.
Black Widow #14 continues Natasha’s search for answers and it is a tale of a vengeful superspy who is out for blood and damn the consequences. In a world where almost everyone she knows has a superpower, barring a very small handful of people, it would be easy to consider her nowhere near as proficient at them in getting things done, but that’s far from the reality. She has her own methodology and this issue shows just how effective that really is. And Phil Noto’s artwork is as pleasingly beautiful as always, a big plus as always.
The last week of comics of 2014, that is, the week of 31.12.2014, saw the release of SHIELD #1, a new comics series from Marvel that is presumably set in its own continuity and also contains characters from Agents of SHIELD, Marvel’s first live-action show that is currently in its second season. To see characters like Agents Simmons and Fitz, or Agent Melinda “The Cavalry” May among others is a great feeling, and the first issue two weeks back was a lot of fun indeed, with its focus on Phil Coulson and his particular strengths as a SHIELD agent.
In last week’s SHIELD #2, we got to see some different things than in the first issue, particularly since this issue starred Marvel’s biggest hit character of 2014, Kamala Khan aka Miss Marvel. And the best thing was that we got to see Kamala interact with Jemma Simmons and even bond. That’s pretty fantastic. The comics version of Jemma is of course quite different from her live-action counterpart, but that has little bearing on the matter here since she is so much more immediately awesome here. The art was different this time as the art team is different, but it was still pretty fun, and the final one-page backup with Fitz and May was hilarious.
On a list of 25 of the best new comics series to come out last year, Grayson by the creative team of Tim Seeley, Tom King and Mikel Janin scored 19. Now, that might seem like a low number, but the fact is that Grayson came out in a year filled to the brim with absolutely great stuff and competition sure was fierce. Only seven issues in, but this has become one of my most-anticipated titles each month and I’m loving what the team is doing, pushing the boundary with respect to where they can develop the character and his supporting cast, and just taking things from there.
Last month we got to see a great desert adventure in the ongoing while also getting to see Helena’s origins exposed in the Annual issue in the final week. Now, we are back to the main story as Dick and Helena’s search for superorgans continues and they finally come into conflict with none other than the Midnighter, the series antagonist introduced back in the debut issue last year and also a big threat to the two of them. The story has some great fun moments, packs a lot of great action, and also has a couple of neat twists to it that I really liked seeing. Plus the oh-so-gorgeous art.
By now, pretty much everyone knows that Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney and that the giant mega-corp is going to be putting out new Star Wars movies through its own studio and comics through its Marvel publishing arm. Since this whole thing kicked off, I’ve been very dead-set against what Disney is doing with the Star Wars franchise, especially once it was made known last year that pretty much the entirety of the Star Wars Expanded Universe was junked in favour of new continuities and new characters and so on. Very disheartening.
But, at the same time, I have to say that Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron reads a lot better than I expected it too. It is set just after the events of Star Wars (1977) and follows the new adventures of the Star Wars Trinity (Han, Leia, Luke) as they continue to further the goals of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. This is actually a fairly good story, and the art too is pretty good actually. John Cassaday, Laura Martin, and Chris Eliopoulos do right by the setting and the characters, which is all that can be asked at this stage and I hope that the series is consistently good, so that it takes some of the bitter sting away of the whole “reboot”.
Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!