Fred Reads Comics! Week of October 31st
Winter Soldier # 12
Ed Brubaker has consistently kept the tension of the Winter Soldier series high, even amidst some of the sillier gags early on (Bucky vs. the Gorilla Soldier anyone?). Outsmarted at every turn by Leo Novokov, a Soviet sleeper agent rudely jolted out of stasis with amnesia and a serious hate-on for the now U.S.-aligned Winter Soldier, things looked grim for Bucky when we last saw him. With Natasha captured and reprogrammed by Leo, she’s become a relentless killing machine; not new in and of itself but being on the good side certainly restrained the tendencies she’s letting loose now. That is, when she’s not playing the part of sex kitten girlfriend to the man who captured her. Ugh, creepy.
Bucky has decided to bite the bullet and follow the terms set by Novokov: revive his old Winter Soldier programming and implant an unknown mission in his mind. Having been bested by Leo repeatedly, costing the lives of several agents and ending in Natasha’s capture, this is the only option. Issue #12 opens up with Wolverine’s point of view, an entirely new player in this story. It’s a great way to tell this chapter, as it really drives home that the Bucky we know and love is gone. At least for now.
Wolvie arrives just after Bucky wipes the mind of the doctor who reverted him to his old programming and breaks free from the SHIELD base. Cap sends him in to track and prevent Soviet Bucky from doing anything exceedingly terrible in his mission to free Natasha. Except that’s no easy task. In Wolverine’s words, “I forgot how good he was when he was bad.” It’s a chilling statement coming from the man who’s the best there is at what he does.
Without giving away too much more of the story, there’s some really great fight sequences, creepy interaction between Natasha and Leo, and some insight into what it’s like to have your mind tampered with. Wolverine has a little bit of experience with that sort of thing. It sets up the next issue really well, with the target of Bucky’s mission revealed and, oh, boy, will that be a great stand-off.
Guice, Thies and Breitweiser as penciler, inker and colorer make a killer team on this book. Simple but expressive lines bring the characters to life and though dark tones/shadows are used extensively, the pops of colour depict movement subtly but very effectively. This books has been a solid read the entire run and this issue is no exception.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #16.1
I hate the .1 concept. This is comics, not math. Why do we need to bring decimals into it?
Moving on (with spoilers ahead).
The relaunch of Ultimate Spider-Man brought a unique spin to everyone’s favourite web slinger, rejuvenating the series while passing the torch to some young blood. Miles Morales is a believable kid in an impossible situation, still trying to cope with his abilities while doing right by the world and the costume. Having to deal with his uncle turning into the big bad (The Prowler) a few issues ago obviously wasn’t traumatic enough. Their final confrontation, witnessed in front of a crowd (and of course, subsequently all over the world thanks to YouTube) ended with the Prowler’s battle-suit backfiring and killing him. Not an easy thing to witness or have any small part of, to be sure.
Somehow Miles keeps his chin up, though he’s barely in this issue and only really a sidenote. Instead we’re treated to reporter Betty Brant trying to pitch a connection between the Prowler and the new Spider-Man as a story for the Daily Bugle. She noticed some odd behavior during their last battle and believes it’s worth investigating. It turns out to be an unpopular concept at the round-table with J.Jonah Jameson and the other reporters. It seems the death of Peter Parker has made most New Yorkers a little more sentimental/protective of their hometown hero.
Not Betty though. Despite the idea being shut down for inconclusive information, she continues her investigation and before you can say THWIP, she’s worked out exactly what the connection is, who the new Spider-Man is and how he got his powers. It’s a heck of an investigative day for her and it falls into her lap so easily it seems unlikely Miles’ identity hasn’t been revealed sooner. She brings the information to J.Jonah but as this is the Ultimate universe, he’s a kinder, gentler moustachio’d man and he tells her he won’t print it. It’s actually a very touching scene where he stands up for justice instead of making quite a lot of money breaking the story.
There’s a huge cliffhanger ending, which I will not ruin, but let’s just say Miles’ meets a legend in the Spidey verse. Brian Michael Bendis continues to write this book as a great example of the Ultimates universe (unlike other titles that struggle) and David Marquez’s art is top notch, whether it’s regular folks going about their day or Spidey swinging about town.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as much as Peter Parker will always be THE Spider-Man, Miles Morales is the best thing to happen to the franchise in years.
Oh, Hit-Girl. The most adorable murderess you’ll ever meet is at it again. She’s literally tumbled into a bad situation at the beginning of this issue, with villains everywhere and the element of surprise ruined. Somehow though, she still manages to clear the room and save the innocent–and in this case, sexy, naked female–bystanders. All before racing home to play the innocent school girl again. Only this time Marcus isn’t falling for it. He’s on to her and intent on keeping her safe and at home from here on in.
It’s another foul mouthed chapter in our teeny heroine’s story, but it simply didn’t entertain me as much as I thought it would. Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are ultra-violent modern interpretations of the superhero concept. Real people training to take down gangs and murderers, with no qualms about using violence to do so. As much as it’s meant to feel like a current, real world universe, the over-use of pop culture references seemed more obvious than usual in this issue. Every other page has a quip about a movie, fictional character or another Millar World title. While they did make me giggle as I read it, it brought me out of the story and made me feel like I was listening to a pack of teenagers trying to one up each other’s nerd knowledge. Which may have been the point but doesn’t quite work for me.
It’s still an enjoyable series that I’ll read to its conclusion, but I worry that the more pop culture quips it has, the less timeless it’ll be. It’s a great take on the superhero genre and the first volume was very iconic. I don’t want to see it fall prey to the sequel curse.
Doctor Who #2
Minor spoilers in this review so beware.
When we last saw the Doctor, things were not going so well for Rory; a common occurrence when the Time Lord is around. A mysterious entity is struggling to make its way into their reality via a device the “psychic” couple built for the Great Exhibition that’s powered by the time energy of the TARDIS. Still with me? In the grand scheme of Doctor Who plots it’s pretty straightforward, if a mouthful to explain.
Amy and the Doctor have run off to investigate the source of the energy allowing this creature to slip between realities and find it’s the TARDIS being used as a battery. While they’re gone, Rory’s frozen in place after being touched by the mysterious entity. It’s a shadowy blank slate for a humanoid; no distinguishable species, just a basic body and hints of facial features. Though Emily and Charles have been misleading people to make money for their machine, she actually seems to have psychic abilities and somehow taps into this mysterious stranger’s mind. What she sees is nightmare fuel for any Doctor Who fan: Weeping Angels, the Silence, Sontarans and many more villains from all over the universe.
In an attempt to rescue Emily, Charles also ends up frozen while dangling off a balcony. Gravity does not seem to apply to this mysterious creature’s victims as Charles is suspended mid air. It adds a really unsettling detail to this already creepy villain. Unsatisfied by his time energy meal (Charles), the creature fades away again just before the Doctor and Amy return. Miss Pond is understandably frantic to find her husband in this state and is curt towards the Doctor with her instructions: “Don’t make any more promises you can’t keep. Just make it right.” It’s a surprisingly touching moment for a couple that barely manages any emotional believability on the show.
This is only a two issue story arc, but it sets up a potential ongoing threat for the Doctor other than the overused Daleks. Andy Diggle continues nailing the characters dialogue and interactions with each other, writing them the way they should sound without constantly reusing quips or catch phrases from the show – a danger for any comic spin-offs of TV shows, movies or games. Mark Buckingham does the same; capturing the actor’s likenesses in every panel without reusing the same facial expressions over and over again.
Great read and a solid start to this new ongoing partnership.