Hulk #34 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Hulk

Issue #34

Written by Jeff Parker, Art by Carlo Pagulayan

Published: August 2011

Ignoring the fact that Hulk #34 is yet another deliberate callback to the wildly successful Planet Hulk(going so far as to be called “Red Planet Hulk”), this issue is actually quite a bit of fun. Thunderbolt Ross finds himself accidentally exiled from Earth to a red planet where he is quickly enslaved and forced to fight in gladiatorial battle.

Or at least it seems like an accident. Ross himself isn’t so sure that it is. He hypothesizes that Banner somehow betrayed him or that the Avengers hatched a plan to get rid of him, but he doesn’t really have much in the way of evidence to support that. All he has is the old Ross paranoia, his overconfidence as the red Hulk, and his mean attitude.

Planet Hulk was done in 14 parts plus an annual. Red Planet Hulk is handled in just two. As you can imagine, things are sped up quite a bit. Ross doesn’t get interesting allies, and the world that he finds himself on is not nearly as fleshed out as Sakaar was. That said, the pacing doesn’t feel overly rushed. If anything, the comparisons to a more epic and more popular storyline hurt this story, since if it’s taken by itself the first part of this tale is pretty entertaining.

Held prisoner by a mind-controlling plant aptly known as the mindroot, Ross quickly breaks out when he strikes a deal with the scientist who controls the plant. When he’s scheduled to die in gladiatorial combat, he instead takes his shot at the king of the planet, easily taking him down. Following that victory, he is named the Red King, apparently against his will.

This story is not nearly as epic or interesting as Planet Hulk, but it stands well on its own merits. Heroes being exiled to alien planets and forced to fight is nothing new in the Marvel Universe, and this story is one of the more fun examples of that happening. The one area that the comic does benefit from being paralleled to the Hulk classic rather than just standing on its own merits is the return of Planet Hulk artist Carlo Pagulayan, who provides the same stellar artwork that he always does. Even in a more compressed storytelling environment, Pagulayan manages to give an alien world a feeling of uniqueness and consistency that makes it almost feel alive.

I highly recommend checking out Hulk #34 if you can hunt down a copy. It might not be Planet Hulk, but it has its own charms and is a nice next step for the progression of the red Hulk, who is learning more and more what the real Hulk went through all the time.

Uncanny X-Men #6 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Uncanny X-Men

Issue #6

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Frazer Irving

Published: July 2013

I can be difficult. I like what I like and I constantly find myself battling change. With the new Uncanny X-Men title, despite my undying love for Brian Michael Bendis, it’s taking me a while to get onboard with the new characters. I certainly understand why they introduced new characters; it’s necessary to sustain so many X-titles. There’s only so many X-Men to go around. Of course, you could easily argue that the limited roster is a good excuse not to publish a million X-Men books, but that’s for another time.

Uncanny X-Men 6 is, if nothing else, pretty damn cool. Like I said, I’m still warming up to these characters, but a lot goes down in this issue that really makes Magik stand out as someone to keep an eye on. Not only does she have interesting powers and an even more interesting backstory, but her character is well fleshed-out in this issue, where she stands out as a particularly strong and selfless heroine.

There’s also a brilliant moment involving the Cuckoos, a trio of characters that I’ve never much cared for. When they decide to manipulate the entire team by giving them a false sense of bravery, I was surprised by how emotionally stirring that was. Maybe it’s deeper rooted that I initially thought and it speaks to my own desire to be more bold, but it’s a powerful moment and it’s inspiring to see all of the X-Men, both the veterans and the new members, come together and fight for their survival.

Do I really need to keep singing the praises of Brian Michael Bendis? Uncanny X-Men is another great Bendis title and it’s a great X-Men title, even if we have a few too many of those. I’m excited to see the adventures of Dazzler: Agent of SHIELD.

All-Star Western #20 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

All-Star Western

Issue #20

Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Art by Staz Johnson

Published: July 2013

I’m not a John Wayne fan, but I’ve always really dug the western genre. I love the rawness and the romance of it. It makes sense that Jonah Hex is one of my favorite DC characters. Not only do I like him on his own merits, but he also provides a nice escape when I need to get away from the costumes and capes for a while. This is why I had no idea how I would feel about Booster Gold being in the title. I missed issue 19, so issue 20 is my introduction to the team of Booster and Jonah. I don’t hate it.

It goes without saying that with Booster in the book, he becomes the center of the story. Not just because he’s there, but specifically because he’s from a different time and so the majority of dialogue that happens between the two leads consists of Booster trying to wrap his head around the wild west and Jonah trying to wrap his head around this bizarre man from the future. It’s not bad. It’s well-written dialogue and it makes for an entertaining time, but it’ll be disappointing for anyone looking for more solid western action. And that isn’t even a joke about how Booster is a pacifist, thought I would’ve meant it that way if I were more clever.

Not a bad issue, per say, and I’m sure those who read issue 19 have a good idea of what to expect.

The Lost City of Gold, the story included at the end of the issue, is less than ten pages long, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s a fun read and the Stormwatch team is a great cast of characters, but the over-the-top nature of it feels like something that’s best in small doses. Having said that, this small dose is pretty great.

Skaar: King of the Savage Land #5 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Skaar: King of the Savage Land

Issue #5

Written by Rob Williams, Art by Brian Ching

Published: September 2011

If you liked the first four issues of Skaar: King of the Savage Land, then issue #5 will also be to your liking. If you have been underwhelmed so far, prepare to be underwhelmed again.

On the good side, this issue brings us more of the dinosaur versus robot zaniness that has carried the book so far. It’s an all-out battle between Skaar’s motley crew of dinosaur, fighter planes, and timedisplaced cowboys versus the Designer’s forces. Thrown into the mix is Umbu the Unliving, an old foe that appeared way back when the Hulk first met Ka-Zar. All in all, this is the type of stuff that superhero comics are really made for.

The downside to all of this is that the tone of the series has never really stayed consistent, and it’s still riddled with inconsistency in this issue. The proper tone would be a fun-filled romp with high adventure and a swashbuckling atmosphere. At times, this comes through. Other times, we are treated to the more melancholy and serious character pathos of Ka-Zar and Skaar, both of whom are outsiders who have taken up the cause of defending the Savage Land. The problem is that the character arcs here remain flat – our heroes haven’t really developed at all from beginning to end, and the same problems remain after the battle is over.

Needless to say, the heroes win out and the Earth is saved from the Designer’s mad plot. At the end, though, Skaar remains the same impulsive youth that he always has been, despite his insistence on protecting the natives of Sakaar. Ka-Zar remains the same man he’s always been, despite the first issue hinting at some sort of change in status quo. Even the title of this series is a bit of a misnomer, since Skaar never actually becomes king of anything, nor is he interested in being king. His goal remains focused solely on the Sakaarians.

Speaking of Skaar’s people, it’s a very glaring omission to have the Warbound missing from this entire series. Last we knew, they were in the Savage Land with Skaar, but when something threatens the entire world, they are nowhere to be seen. It wouldn’t have been hard to include them in this series, but then again the writer has struggled with Skaar’s voice, so maybe handling the Warbound as well would have been too much.

All in all, Skaar: King of the Savage Land is a pretty underwhelming miniseries that can be safely skipped by non-completists. The book had a lot of potential as being a haven for the crazy and the obscure, but the appearances of long-forgotten characters reads more like a shout-out than anything else, and nothing changes for the characters other than another day, another bad guy defeated.

Idolized #0 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Idolized

Issue #0

Written by David Schwartz, Art by Micah Gunnell

Published: June 2012

I really like the premise of this one. Superheroes have dealt with issues of celebrity, media manipulation and egotism before, but this one puts these issues front and centre as opposed to containing them in character-driven subplots that complicate the main storyline. The combination of superheroes and reality TV has the potential for some rich conflicts, as well as the opportunity for commentary on the genre itself— the marketing of it, the clichés, the expectations. Really, the premise is just bursting with possibilities.

Issue #0 is, predictably, more of a set-up than anything else. However, Leslie, our lead hero, does come off as likeable and relatively fleshed out, and her motivations, while kept deliberately vague for the moment, are human and speak to her fallibility. Even though this issue is clearly just teasing, I already like Leslie’s ‘voice’; there’s something sincere about it that’s compelling, especially as it concerns her unashamed desire for revenge.

The issue takes the odd approach of showing us how everything is going to end up through retrospective narration, informing us that everything is going to go horribly wrong, and inviting us to stick around to see just how everything falls apart. Leslie flies through an overview of the story to come, skipping over what I assume are huge chunks of the story, and I have to admit that it is an effective device for sparking reader interest. I want to know more, which is perhaps the greatest praise I can give an issue like this. It’s too early—and this issue is too short—to really tell if it will live up to all of its potential, but issue #0 of Idolized certainly makes an impression and is worth checking out.

Thor: Blood Oath #1 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Thor: Blood Oath

Issue #1

Written by Mike Oeming, Art by Scott Kolins

Published: November 2005

There’s a lot going on in this first issue, which works somewhat to Thor: Blood Oath #1’s advantage, and in some ways to its disadvantage. The first quarter or so is a typical battle between Thor and his adversary, with some decent action and a quick introduction to who Thor is for any new readers who might be checking him out for the first time. We move then to some philosophizing from Jane, whose wisdom basically amounts to “biology is the great equalizer and our biological origin proves we’re all the same”, which inspires Thor to return to Asgard. He returns to find the Warriors Three on trial for accidentally killing Holth, a shapeshifting giant they mistook for a monster, and naturally Thor steps in to defend them.

The first half of this one I can sort of take or leave—Jane’s philosophy doesn’t do much for me, and the battle, while not bad, is nothing outstanding either. Once Thor returns to Asgard, however, the issue picks up a lot. The story of the warrior three accidentally killing Holth and having to satisfy the angry whims of Holth’s father plays wonderfully on Thor’s mythological roots, and reads just like an actual myth (most likely because—it is!). It also sets up a fantastically impossible quest for the four to undertake in order to fulfil their obligations, which is filled with creative and daring mythological obstacles. In many ways it’s a basic quest narrative, but it works well here because of all the details and allusions.

I’m curious to see how the philosophy of the first chunk of pages will come back—if at all—as Thor undertakes this quest, but for now, I’m just looking forward to the coming journey.

Behold Boomarchia!

by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor

Or perhaps Archaioom! Or perhaps neither. Anyhoo…
Deadline reports today that Boom! Comics has picked up fellow independent publisher Archaia in order to add to its roster of intellectual properties to shop around Hollywood. With the studios first comic to film adaptation — Universal Pictures “2 Guns” staring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds — due out this August, the company is reportedly looking to increase the flow of Hollywood cash into its coffers as a buttress against increasingly diminishing printed comic sales. According to the story by Deadline, the company currently has Jeremiah Harm attached to director Timo Vuourensola (the auteur of the unfortunately unwatched “Iron Sky” which if you haven’t seen, you should).
With the purchase of Archaia–which has been around since 2002 but is most well known for it’s more recent additions, the Mouse Guard graphic novels and the adaptation of Jim Henson’s A Tale of Sand–the company adds Archaia’s own projects in development to its slate including “Rust,” “Lucid,” “Bolivar,” and “Feeding Ground.”
While Boom! has aimed from the get go for a healthy showing in Hollywood along side older, more established independent publishers like Dark Horse and Avatar, the acquisition will surely boost the publisher’s recognition factor and footprint, putting them on par with the other big indie publishers like IDW (and the aforesaid DH). It will also likely help their market share position which has eroded somewhat over the last few years following the loss of the Disney license to Marvel after the House of M’s acquisition by the House of Mouse.
The announcement is the latest in a series of big movies by the small publisher, who also recently announced the acquisition of the “Sons of Anarchy” license and becoming the exclusive home of writer Paul Jenkins (“Inhumnas”) for the foreseeable future.
Boom! was founded in 2005 by publisher and CEO Ross Richie, originally under the guidance of editor-in-chief Mark Waid. With Waid’s return to the bosum of the Big Two, editorial at the publisher has been under the guiding hand of Waid’s former number two, Matt Gagnon.