Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Couchman Vs. Giant Stack of Comics!

Greetings citizens! Today is something special. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have seen a few tweets from me with the #CouchmanVSGiantStackOfComics label. Well, I haven’t been able to get up to the comic shop since the beginning of May, so my pull box was quite full. In addition, I found several issues on the shelves that I wanted to pick up for one reason or another. All in all, I ended up with a stack of around twenty-five comics or so. I decided that a fun thing for me to do, in order to try and get back into the rhythm of reviewing comics, would be to go through the whole thing as quickly as I could and give some brief thoughts on each one. Well, almost each one. I cut the stack down to about seventeen comics for the review, but hey, that’s still a big pile. So, let’s dive in and conquer this stack!

First up in the stack is Ms. Marvel #16. This is the beginning of the Secret Wars tie-ins, both for the issue, and for me personally, which makes me groan. I’m not a fan of Secret Wars. The concept has potential, excising stuff from various worlds that just doesn’t work, and trying to bring everything into the main continuity. But I detest that they’re “ending” everything. Sure, I can buy that the Ultimate Universe is dead. Hell, it was mostly dead already, so it’s not like they’re losing much, especially since Ultimate Spidey is now the main Spidey. But the 616 universe? Sure, they –might- kill that, but only if they keep the vast majority of stuff from it, which means it will only be technically dead. I also hate all the freaking drama about it. This goes back to what I wrote about the Death of Wolverine story; there is no tension to it, so stop trying to make us feel tension! We’ve already gotten some announcements of things that are going to be around in the NewMU, so trying to tell us that “everything ends” is just dumb. Also, NewMU is a terrible name. If it’s intentionally trying to rip-off the New52, I only have to ask why? While there was good stuff in the New52, it was pretty widely panned, so why are you trying to make people think about it? If it’s unintentional, then how far up your asses are your heads, Marvel?

Ugh, okay, rant over. Ms. Marvel #16 is pretty solid. People fleeing from Manhattan have traveled to Jersey City, and all hell has broken loose in the city. Kamala tries to make sure her loved ones are taken care of, but is still reeling from having her heart broken. The writing is, as always, good with G. Willow Wilson making Kamala very relatable in both word and deed.

Red Sonja #16 is next, and like with Ms. Marvel, it’s solid as usual. Sonja is dying, and as people are wont to do in fiction, she sees the Goddess of Death. Death offers Sonja the opportunity to be one of her personal guards, but Sonja decides to just try and kill death. Which works out for her, as she ends up living. Admittedly, that all could’ve just been a dream, since Sonja was saved by a miracle elixir concocted by a dead alchemist, but I like to think Sonja’s just that badass. Walter Giovanni’s artwork is beautiful as always, and Gail Simone’s writing hits all the right notes. It saddens me that I recall hearing she was no longer going to be writing the series.

Next up on the block is Thors #1, written by Jason Aaron. I was interested in this series, because I am a big fan of Aaron’s writing on Thor and Star Wars, and it was an intriguing idea. Thors serve as a police force on Battleworld, crossing between the domains and reporting to Doom. I’m not fond of the idea of them serving Doom (before Secret Wars #2, I thought that they kept order for the sake of keeping order), but it is what it is. The writing is good, which is to be expected, and the artwork is also solid. All the Thors have a different outfit, making them all stand out from one another, but with enough commonality to them to identify them as part of the same group. However, what irks me is that Aaron killed off Beta Ray Bill. Considering Bill isn’t exactly a big name character, his death may be a permanent one to come from this whole mess. So, yeah, not pleased with the issue, and not sure I want to pick up the following ones.

On to something less aggravating; Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman #10. I’ve been reading the series for awhile now, and it is always a delight. Wonder Woman is a great super hero, and before picking up these, I hadn’t gotten any exposure to her in the comics. I did pick up a couple of issues of the main Wonder Woman title, but… it just didn’t pull me in and didn’t show off how awesome Diana is. The stories in Sensation Comics though are all about showing off how awesome she is, instead of things like pathos or character development. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those things quite a bit, but sometimes you just want something fun and light. Issue 10’s stories focus on a singer/actress who’s branching into a less “feminine” kind of image, and Diana is brought on as extra security from a creep who’s threatening her. The second one is about a dragon who attacks a city to get revenge on Diana’s mother for killing all of his people. My love for dragons could easily fill up an entire review on it’s own, but suffice to say that seeing Diana take down a dragon is simultaneously awesome, but also a little sad.

Captain Marvel #15 is a solemn issue. Carol finally returns home from her grand space adventure to find out that her friend Tracy passed away not too long ago. Carol had known it was coming, but it was still a shock. The issue is spent hearing bits of her life, and mourning her. It’s a very well written issue, and spoke to me on an emotional level like little else has in a long while. I teared up a little, not gonna lie.

Alright, back to the Secret Wars, this time with Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps. We get introduced to Banshee Squadron, AKA the Carol Corps. The Corps serves as a fighter squadron for Hala Fields, one of the many domains of Battleworld, under the leadership of Captain Marvel. The Corps begin to question whether all of the “facts” of the world as told by Doom are truth or not. They get sent on a mission, ostensibly to take out some invading Ultron robots, but the ship they’re sent to destroy instead has people on it, though the revelation comes too late to save most of the people. Carol attempts to save them though, but she fails and is presumed dead. She later turns up at the squad’s barracks with the lone survivor. She declares that she’s going to find out the truth, and asks for her squad’s aid. It feels like a shorter issue than it is, but it’s well written and sets up the series well. I think I like this more than any of the other Secret Wars things I’ve read because it actually shows one of the heroes actually in opposition to Doom, questioning if he really is God or not. The writing by Kelly Sue DeConnick is good as always, and it makes me sad she’s not going to be writing Captain Marvel anymore. The artwork is also solid, evoking the same kind of feel as reels from World War Two and American propaganda posters. All in all, a good read, and so far the only Secret Wars title I want to follow.

Star Wars #5 and #6 continue to make me smile. Jason Aaron is great at capturing the voices of the characters, to the point where I hear them speaking in my head like the actors. The pacing feels a little on the slower side, but I tend to prefer that as it gives more time for everything to sink in and for the characters to interact. My only disappointment is that there’s no Chewie. I always liked Chewie, and am hoping to get more about him from these comics. Luke goes back to Tattoine to search Obi-Wan’s place for something – anything – to help guide him. Boba Fett is also on Tattoine looking for Luke, and the two find each other. Meanwhile, Han and Leia are scouting out possible new locations for the Rebel base, but end up having to lay low on a planet that Han’s used for such things before. Unfortunately, they get visited by a very unexpected guest; Han’s wife.

In the same galaxy far away, we’ve got Darth Vader issues 5 and 6 as well. These issues are more fast-paced, with some really nice action. It’s hard for me to describe what’s going on in these issues beyond that. It’s mostly about Vader trying to prove to the Emperor that he’s still a competent lieutenant, and him gaining a greater understanding of their relationship. I really like this series because it shows more of Vader than we’ve seen before. We see him as being more cunning, more devious, and all around more interesting than he was in the original trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I freaking love Vader, but in the movies he doesn’t have much of a repertoire. This takes what we’ve seen before and expands it, accentuates it. The artwork is really nice as well. There are a few panels of flashback to the events of Revenge of the Sith, and damn do they look good. They practically look like screenshots, they’re that good.

I’ve been trying to get into more independent comics lately, and whilst perusing that section at my comic shop, I found one that caught my eye; Lady Mechanika #3. They sadly didn’t have any prior issues, but I figured what the hell and grabbed it, flipping through it briefly. The artwork caught my eye immediately, with a high level of detail  in the pencils, along with well modeled everything. The colors, likewise, are excellent, capturing the mood of the scenes perfectly allowing everything to stand out as being distinct. Another neat touch is that some (but understandably not all) of the panel borders have neat flourishes, mainly being made of clockwork looking pieces. It’s a neat little touch to the pages to give them a little distinctiveness. The writing is also solid, with a feel not far off of Indiana Jones, but steampunk. The beginning is a bit slow, but it picks up quickly enough. A pair of archaeologists are searching for something in Sumerian ruins called the Tablet of Destiny. One of them is being coerced into searching because the villains (the German Empire) have his daughter. But the titular Lady Mechanika, along with a fringe acquaintance of the girl’s father, rescues his daughter, Winifred. Afterwards, they head off to Africa to find him, but they’re followed by the Germans, and the issue ends with Winifred and Lady Mechanika stranded in the Sahara. I really want to try and track down prior issues in order to find out what the deal is with Lady Mechanika. She says that she has metal limbs and ghoulish eyes, so I want to get the full story.

Next is Wonder Woman #41. Like I said, I tried reading the main Wonder Woman title before, but just couldn’t get into it. However, I am a firm believer in second chances, and since the cover was showing off her awesome new costume, I figured I’d give it another shot. Not a whole lot happens in the issue, but that’s fine. The previous issues I had seen featured a bunch of stuff going on with no explanation, which made me confused and disinclined to pick up future issues. That’s one thing that really bugs me about DC’s comics in comparison to Marvel’s. Marvel gives a recap page at the beginning of each issue, allowing new readers to get caught up on general plot details that are important to the issue, and to refresh the minds of those who need it. DC lacks such a thing, so if you pick up an issue, it’s very easy to get lost. For example, last time I had picked up Wonder Woman, she mentions being the God of War, and her mother has been turned into a statue. How and when did that happen? Not to mention I had no idea who some of the other people were in said issue, including the person who created Donna Troy. Is a recap page really such a hassle to include? Or is DC saying “If you want the full story, you’ll have to buy it to find out!”? Because if that’s the case, I’m more inclined to just try and find the issues online to spite them. But, whatever, let’s talk about this issue. Diana briefly visits with the incarcerated Donna, then goes to see… some woman with a baby who I guess is Zeus? Seriously DC, recap page! Then she goes to see Hephaestus who has her sweet new outfit, and then heads off to stop a tragedy. A kid has threatened to blow himself up if he doesn’t get to meet Wonder Woman, but it turns out he was just luring her there… to meet her I guess and get a few hits in. He escapes back to his layer, where’s he’s given a Pegasus, a bow and some arrows by a magical green pool in his floor. Overall, I’m still iffy on the series. It has elements I like, but on the whole it just feels a bit lacking. Not bad, but not good either. It just sort of exists, which is a shame considering how awesome Wonder Woman is. Wonder if there’s any chance of getting Gail Simone to write the series again. Or maybe Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Starfire #1. The vast majority of my exposure to Starfire has been from the Teen Titans animated series that used to run on Cartoon Network. The only other thing I’ve seen with her, was Linkara’s review of Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, which was… much less flattering. However, this seems to be more in line with the animated series, so I’m pleased. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, writers who I’m somewhat familiar with because of the writing on Harley Quinn, are writing the series, and I couldn’t be happier. Starfire is in Key West, with no money or place to live. The local sheriff helps her out with those two things, and the issue ends with a big storm hitting the area, and Starfire exclaiming “X’hal!” All in all, it’s a cute and fun issue, and I’ll be adding it to my pull list next time I get to the comic shop.

Continuing the parade of new stuff, we’ve got Black Canary #1. Black Canary is one of those characters I haven’t seen much of, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen. My primary exposure to her has been in the Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice cartoons, as well as a supporting cast member of Batgirl. Her solo book has her as part of a band also called Black Canary. For some reason, she’s going by D.D, and I’m wondering what that stands for (I know her name is Dinah, which is one of them, but what’s the other?). Anyway, the band is on tour, and has been plagued by problems, mostly involving Dinah busting some heads. Their show in Detroit is different though, because it’s attacked by aliens who are after the youngest member of the band, a girl called Ditto. The band all agree to stand by Ditto, in spite of not knowing why the aliens are after her. It’s an interesting opening to the series, with some solid writing. The artwork has a nice style to it, very gestural with lots of energy. It’s got kind of a punk feel to it, though I’m hard-pressed to explain why it feels that way. I’ll be picking up the next issue, and deciding if the title is worth adding to the ol’ pull list.

Last up is Doctor Fate #1. I have a soft spot for characters like Doctors Fate and Strange. The idea of a supreme sorcerer really speaks to the nerd in me, so when I saw this, I had to pick it up. There’s apparently a lead up to the issue on DC’s website, but I’m just going with this based on its own merits. It does surprisingly well. It’s established that Anubis is causing a great flood in the Brooklyn area. Khalid Nelson has been chosen to be the wielder of the Helm of Thoth to oppose Anubis. After some denying that this is happening, Khalid accepts his fate and dons the helm. There’s a bit more to it than that, but those are the basics. The writing is decent, though being a lover of mythology, I was picking apart some of the Egyptian deity stuff, like why Anubis is the villain. If Doctor Fate is supposed to be the supreme force of order, shouldn’t he be opposing Apep? Why does Bastet give him the Helm of Thoth? Shouldn’t Thoth do that? Also, I thought it was called the Helm of Nabu, but I may be wrong about that. The artwork is good, with no major hiccups, except for one instance where the panel layout is randomly different, which threw off my reading of it. Overall, a good beginning to the series, and another one I’ll be picking up the second issue of.

Well, that’s it for Couchman VS Giant Stack of Comics. Will I do this again? Maybe, depends on if I get behind on picking up my comics again, and how well this is received. Let me know what you guys think.


  1. When it comes to Black Canary going by "D.D.", I can imagine the second D stands for Drake. Dinah Drake.

    I wanted to give Starfire a try, but the one thing that kept me away was the idea that they were just going to transplant her Teen Titans personality full-on including a lack of knowledge of Earth's custom. I was hoping they would go with an older take on the particular characterization, still sweet open and friendly, but more understanding of Earth culture.

    1. I've never heard her called Dinah Drake before, but I've not had as much exposure to Black Canary as I'd like.

      Yeah, Starfire's pretty clueless about Earth customs, which I find a little odd considering how she has spent time on the planet with Roy Harper and Jason Todd (though I haven't read that series, so for all I know they kept her far away from people). However, I do find her fascination with Earth and it's customs endearing, and I'm looking forward to seeing her grow into that character you described.

    2. In the Golden Age of Comics, when Black Canary debuted, her name was Dinah Drake. She became Dinah Lance after marrying a Gotham City detective named Larry Lance. Lance was reintroduced recently as Kurt Lance.

      As for Starfire, I never read RHatO myself, so I can't say for sure. I do get the impression she did interact with people, as a lot of people criticized her characterization, which was described as a "mindless love doll".