One of the great mysteries of William King’s Space Wolves series was how the young Blood Claw Ragnar Blackmane, the protagonist of the series, became an elite of the Wolf Guard without ever attaining the rank of Grey Hunter, a seasoned warrior, in Wolf Lord Berek Thunderfist’s Great Company. This was especially teased in the novel Grey Hunter when in the prologue one of Ragnar’s warriors calls him out on it and the young Wolf Lord dissembles. While Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Ragnar Blackmane doesn’t answer that burning question (when will it happen!!??) what it does give us is a very thoughtful and introspective look at Ragnar when he was still new to the Wolf Guard and still making a name for himself in his Lord’s company. While not the finest of Aaron’s work nor his most subtle, it does come close and is a damn fine read.
The Warhammer 40,000 universe is incredibly vast in terms of its scope and the material it thus covers. From one edge of the galaxy to another, from current events to those ten thousand years ago, there is a lot of potential to explore. That is where Robbie MacNiven’s Carcharadons: Red Tithe is set. This first novel in what is hopefully going to be a series seeks to turn into fact some of the myths of the Carcharadons Astra Chapter of the Space Marines. Robbie’s tale is one of dour heroism matched against cruel barbarity and is a fantastic introduction to one of the most mysterious of the all the Space Marine Chapters.
Dynamite Entertainment is not a publisher to shy away from doing crossovers and events every now and then. Sometimes you have crossovers such as Tarzan and John Carter, or Red Sonja and Witchblade or even Sherlock Holmes and Red Sonja and Vampirella all together fighting against a Hyborean villain of all things. I love reading crossovers and event books, primarily for the reason that they always have an exciting cast of characters where I’m not really familiar with many of them. Tarzan? Nope. Witchblade? Not at first. Vampirella? Not really. And Dynamite has a good track record with these things, so it makes for a much better experience that way too.
And the latest crossover/event from the publisher is Swords of Sorrow, a massive event that brings together heroes and villains from across worlds and timelines in an all-out battle. You have characters such as Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, etc fighting to defend all of reality against Hel, Purgatori, Chastity and others. This could all be easily summed up as a feminist crossover given the incredible number of (great) female characters represented, and both the writing by Gail Simone and the art by Sergio Davila is absolutely top-notch.
DC’s He-Man: The Eternity War has been kicking butt since it started. Spinning out of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, this new book has really ramped up everything that was great about that series, and given it a new context, one that is grander and just generally more epic. While I loved the contributions from the early creative team on that series, the change of guard with Dan Abnett as writer made things so much better, and The Eternity War has pretty much delivered on everything that I could ask of it, month after month.
Issues #4 and #5 continue the tale of Hordak’s all-out invasion of Eternia as the big bad himself has come to the world now, intending on destroying his enemies in a final all-out conflict. He-Man and his sister She-Ra have done much to head him off, what with He-Man and She-Ra leading an army of Serpent Men against Hordak’s forces, even as the rest of the loyal Eternians do their own thing. But things are really heating up now, and even as one of He-Man’s oldest enemy returns, the future of the war to save Eternia is very, very uncertain, because if there’s one thing that defines this setting, it is the constant betrayal and deception that is employed by the villains.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
The first two installments of The Eternity War have been very impressive. Writer Dan Abnett did some great work in the now-cancelled ongoing and then he ported all of that to the new series, where he has finally pitched He-Man against Hordak in a mass epic war that is something straight out of a fantasy novel. And it is glorious. Utterly glorious. It also helps that artists Pop Mhan and Mark Roberts have given him ample support and have put out some really great visuals that perfectly capture the feel of the setting and the franchise at large.
The newest issue from this past week takes a break from all the He-Man stuff and instead focuses on a character I’ve dearly missed in the new series, She-Ra aka Princess Adora aka Despara aka He-Man’s sister. She has been conspicuous by her absence so far, but in this issue Dan Abnett deftly segues her arc into a mission for the new Sorceress, Teela, and shows what happens when She-Ra goes after her former Horde comrades. And along the way, we get more awesome visuals by Pop and Mark, who have a great handle on how to depict all the glory of She-Ra.
Matt Hawkins and Stjepan Sejic’s IXth Generation, the next phase in the future-set Aphrodite IX storyline, finally kicked off last month and proved to be one hell of a comic. In retrospect and time-context, it definitely beat most of my expectation. Which I’m honestly quite happy for, since I wanted this book to be good and the first issue did not disappoint me.Weaving in a story with the IXs and their fight against The Darkness with Aphrodite IX and Hephaestus IX leading the way, the first issue was an intense story about fighting ancient monsters and confronting your own weaknesses. Great concept that.
In this past week’s IXth Generation #2, we follow on from the events of the first issue as Aph and Heph break out from Sanctuary XIII to get back to Earth, while at the same time we also see the flashbacks that portray the life of the IXs following the Ascension, when they all took control of the Earth from the two warring states of Speros City and Genesis, establishing their own dominance over the world. The story here is much more intense this time and on several different levels too, and that makes for one hell of a read. Not to mention Stjepan’s amazing visuals as usual.
Last month, Dan Abnett kicked off the Eternity War event for He-Man, along with artists Pop Mhan and Mark Roberts. The new series is the successor to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and it features the full and final showdown between He-Man and Hordak as the two battle it out for the fate of Eternia. For his part, Prince Adam has the armies of the Masters and the Serpent-Men of the underworld realms who pay homage to their goddess Serpos. Hordak has his vast armies of Horde troopers and various lieutenants. And this is one absolutely crazy battle.
Gorged on the blood of Grayskull’s descendant, Hordak finally has the power to break out of the Fright Zone and invade Eternia physically. But of course, his various lieutenants and the massed power of his Horde troopers lead the way for him until then. And that’s where Adam and Teela’s massed army of Serpent-Men comes in. He-Man: The Eternity War #2 packs in much more action than the first issue and shows a pitched battle for Mount Zoar where the heroes make good on their promises and we see something rather emotional happen as well with one of the central Masters of the Universe, someone who has been around from the start.
No “Magic 40” in the first week of the new year, but the second week definitely sees me hit that landmark number, and with graphic novels mixed in to boot!
This week’s surprise hits were Angry Birds/Transformers #2 from IDW Publishing, Ares & Aphrodite #1 from Oni Press, Operation: S.I.N. #1 and Wolverines #1 from Marvel. The disappointments of the week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2 and Ant-Man #1 from Marvel and Future’s End #36 from DC. Ongoing greats like Swamp Thing #38 and Detective Comics #38 from DC, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3 from Marvel, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars #3 from Dynamite to name a few were just as I expected them to be: superb.
As mentioned above, the graphic novels for the week were Legends of Red Sonja Volume 1 from Dynamite and Quest: Age of Darkness Volume 1 from Zenescope. The former was a fun book where Gail Simone brought together several different female prose writers, paired them with different artists, and wrote a grand, sweeping Red Sonja story. The latter was part of the publisher’s Age of Darkness event and was more a prequel story.
If you’ve been following Top Cow’s various books for about a couple years now, then you know that IXth Generation has been a long time coming and that it has been setup for an equally long time. Of course, the origins are humble, spread out across books like The Darkness and Witchblade and CyberForce and Aphrodite IX among others, but then that’s the fun thing about Top Cow’s books: they are all clearly about superhero-like character, but are also so much more than just that. They are vibrant unlike what you find at the Big 2, competing only with the sterling work that Valiant Comics is doing of late.
In last week’s IXth Generation, we see what has happened to the world in the 25 years since the end of the recent Aphrodite IX series. At the end of that, there was a sort of global genocide by the IXs and now they are the undisputed masters of everything before them. And they’ve since fallen into infighting. Nothing serious of course, but when you have access to unlimited cloned cyborg bodies, conflict takes on a new dimension. And this is the setting for a major crossover between the various different franchises of Top Cow, leading to the eventual Darkness Falls crossover I believe. And it is off to a grand start too!
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!
In 2012 we saw the relaunch of the He-Man comics franchise under DC, with a limited series that was also supported by several digital one-shots, most of which have since then been collected into trades. While the relaunch got off to a rough start at first, it quickly picked up steam, leading to DC giving the franchise an ongoing series in mid-2013, a series that culminated a few weeks ago in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #19, though not before we got a new series that took the series forward, He-Man: The Eternity War.
This collection should actually be titled as Volume 2, but DC’s numbering counts the limited-series as volume 1 and volume 2 contains the various origin one-shots that have come out in the last couple years. So everything follows on from there, with Volume 3 containing the first six issues of the ongoing series. In this trade version, collecting issues #7 through #12 of writer Dan Abnett’s run on the title, we find out what happens to our heroes in the wake of the revelations about Despara really being Princess Adora of Eternia, and the fact that with the Sorceress’ death previously, Eternia needs a new guardian. This is where King Randor hits upon the idea of journeying to one of Eternia’s deepest and most mystical realms, and we get a great story about the heroes facing up to some really weird and fantastical challenges.
Note: The trade collection will be released in March this year.