Antonio’s Top 5 Comics of the Week – 03.27.2013

Published on April 2nd, 2013

1. East of West #1 by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, and Frank Martin [Image]

East-of-West-1I feel like there is a God I need to pray and sacrifice a large animal to say thank you for being blessed with a brand new ongoing comic book from Jonathan Hickman. This comic has a lot of ideas that it has to get across to set up this alternate universe that it makes its setting. Though having read this book I don’t really know what it’s truly about yet, at least what the main story that follows the main character is. But let me paint and picture and try and figure out what the heck is going on.

From the start of the issue we are shown the birth of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse on Earth with the exception of one. We don’t know who it is but we do find out by issues end, all we do end up knowing that the remainder of the horsemen are on a mission to kill the last horseman.

Then we get a story of prophets and prophecies from after the Civil War and we jump into an alternative world, more specifically and alternative United States of America. The ideas of messages and prophecies I think will play big into the title. This comic book is pure Hickman in every sense of the word. The design is phenomenal and it is covered with small short messages that I think are going to play into the series overall, like in his other books, specifically The Manhattan Projects. But what I love about them is that not only are they themes of ideas that will come into play in the series but truths that as a society we’re not looking at or are trying to avoid. The one that stands out the most is, “The things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us.” This works in the comic because the comic takes place in a world where the United States is separated in different sections but it also plays into the world right now. There is so much diving us as a people and as a nation, from political parties, to religion, to human rights. I don’t know how much of the series is going to comment on current events but it’ll be interesting to see how things line up and how much the comic is influenced by the world we live in.

Also I’m a sucker for the way the multiple stories connect in this comic, whether it is by dialogue or similar images. My favorite, “There was a lone man. A broken sparrow…one apart of night…the first of four, the end of everything…” and then on the next page the character speaks, “And so I have arrived.

I can’t talk about this comic and not mention the incredible job of the art team in Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin. Dragotta has brought this world from Hickman’s mind to life. I loved his stuff from when they worked together on FF over at Marvel but Dragotta’s art here has never been better it’s style and substance at the same time while also creating this alternate world. Dragotta’s designs are brilliant, the world is an open frontier that leans on aesthetics of the western but also in a world that is technologically advanced, so seeing transportation that looks like horse or seeing something called the White Tower that’s suppose to be a version of the White House is really cool. His characters are unique and brilliantly colored by Frank Martin. Martin combines that western feel with technological feel as well as bringing the doom of the end of the world. The character looks of The Wolf and The Crow were some of my favorites.

I think that anyone who has read Hickman’s Marvel stuff will really dig this book. Hickman has a plan, like always, but because his creator owned stuff is new and doesn’t have a history like the Fantastic Four or the Avengers, it’s hard to predict where it will go, but that’s the best part of reading this comic. I also don’t see this said a lot about Hickman’s work but I’m telling you that he can write some really cool bad ass moments, and this comic is bad ass from top to bottom.

2.Uncanny Avengers #5 by Rick Remender, Oliver Coipel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin [Marvel]

Uncanny-Avengers_5-674x10241Since I have been part of this website one of its favorite titles has been Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, I’m looking at you Simon, but I feel that with this issue of Uncanny Avengers, in combination with the opening arc, Rick is building on his X-Force run and will be taking this title in a bold direction of adventure with characters that we aren’t use to seeing on adventures together.

One of my favorite things as a reader of comics is when faith in one of your favorite writers pays off and with this title that faith is paying off tenfold. I didn’t know what to think about the original line up of the team and I didn’t have much of an opinion when it came to expand the roster. I’ve been reading comics for 10 years now and I still consider myself a newb when it comes to certain things. I’m unfamiliar with a lot of characters because I may not have been reading a book they were in or they were dead or they were not portrayed in the same way they have been portrayed in the past. The Wasp was dead or at least considered as much since Secret Invasion. Wonder Man was used as an antagonist against his team. I consider Scarlet Witch as someone who should be facing crimes against mutant kind; I don’t think she redeemed herself during AvX. I have little to no knowledge of Sunfire and I haven’t read that much of Havok. I’ve read him when he appears in X-Men stuff but have never really gotten to know him, the only real thing that I’ve read him in is Age of Apocalypse and he’s not the same character that he is now. But the rest of the team I’m familiar with since I started reading comics. I love Rogue, Wolverine, Thor, and Captain America. But one of the reasons I love this comic is because of how well Remender knows the characters and how he lets us get to know them because with this issue and the previous one, Havok has become one of my favorite characters in the book. Havok has become one of my favorites when at the same time I am siding with Cyclops and what he’s doing over in Uncanny X-Men. I look forward to the comic where they come together to discuss things.

This issue sees Havok officially become the leader of the team and have the team come together at a press conference to announce this but of course things go south like they always do and they are attacked by Grim Reaper. They battle and thing end on a bad note, which I’m not spoiling here.

I just want to mention that Remender is setting up some stuff with Kang the Conqueror which is pretty cool and I like that he’s tying it into elements from his X-Force run, so much so that I want to go back and reread the series. One of my favorite things about this issue that I liked about this issue was the stuff with Havok at the press conference. I like the fact that his brother’s voice is at the back of his mind and that even though it’s a negative voice it’s acting in a positive way, giving him a reason to be there and to do the good things that he’s now in the power to accomplish. I also like that he talks about the word mutant and that he’d rather be called a human being. The X-Men, in this case, mutants have always been the group in the Marvel Universe that have always been discriminated and even though it has been almost fifty years since the creation of the X-Men, it’s says a lot of our world today that it still resonates.

3.The Legend of Luther Strode #4 [of 6] by Justin Jordan, Tradd Moore, and Felipe Sobreiro [Image]

The-Legend-of-Luther-Strode_41Luther Strode is the book I read and like when I want to see brutal fights and destruction. There isn’t anything insightful about this and I don’t ever fell particularly smart about the fact that I’m reading and watching a fight between a teenage kid who got powers from the back of a comic book, another character that has the same powers and has a striking similarity to the writer of the book, and of course the preserved body of Jack the Ripper. Yeah, that’s right, Jack the fucking Ripper. It’s balls to the wall action and I give it so much praise because it’s so much fun to read and look at. The reason that I think everyone and their grandma’s should read this comic is because the action is top notch and it never falters, there’s shit going on and it’s all crazy and bloody and violent but the reason I like it so much is because there are stakes involved. There movies and comics where they try and go over the top but it just feels forced or because it’s done to shock rather than to add to the story it just becomes boring.

Luther Strode is the exception. The character is going through a journey that is being told in these miniseries. In the first book, the Strange Talent of Luther Strode the journey was dealing with getting powers and dealing with the responsibilities of having those powers. The Legend of Luther Strode is dealing with the growing pains of being this man with powers and doing what is needed of you rather than doing whatever the hell you want. These powers come with consequences and you’re going to have to face them if you don’t play ball.  Besides the fact that Tradd Moore’s art is just amazing. His fights scenes are full of energy and his stylish illustrations make the feel of this book unique as hell. His fights scenes are works of art alone, and I’m not talking literally, the fight scene he draws between Luther and Jack the Ripper is truly inspired. I love it.

4.Age of Ultron #3 by Brian Michael Bendis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, and Paul Mounts [Marvel]

AgeofUltron3I have to be honest, this is the first big Marvel Crossover event that I have really enjoyed on an immense level since House of M. There’s a reason for it and it’s not that Brian Michael Bendis wrote Age of Ultron and House of M, the major reason I’m enjoying it is because Marvel is being so secretive to what is coming next. As of this writing we really don’t know where the story is going and what repercussions this is going to have in the long run. After Civil War there was The Initiative. After Secret Invasion came Dark Reign. After Siege came The Heroic Age. There was always something set up and coming after a major event where we knew enough of what was coming out months before the final issue of the series came out that it was more of a waiting game to get to there and setting up a new initiative at Marvel to launch new books rather than enjoying the journey of the series. I fucking love that we’re being kept in the dark here, despite recent news of a character coming in and a big name writer in Neil Gaiman coming in to co write some stuff. Even though that’s happening we can guess but there’s nothing to confirm any idea other than pure speculation. But we still don’t know anything of what is coming after the event. No initiative to sell books or launch new titles, though I’m sure that will happen.

Anyway, onto the issue, Bendis is taking his time telling this story and since it’s pretty much coming out biweekly I am totally fine with his taking his time and letting the story breath and letting him take his time to get to where he wants to take it. Mostly I’m enjoying the gorgeous and highly detailed art from Bryan Hitch, I was blown away when I first saw his art in The Ultimates, but here he’s not only drawing a hellicarrier and different cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago but in ruins. Bendis is taking full advantage of Bryan’s talents here and at the same time adding these larger than life characters into the mix.

The heroes come up with a small plan to try to get some information on Ultron and his base. The Avengers know that Ultron accepts superheroes as a currency so that villains can continue being villains, Luke Cage and She-Hulk volunteer for what is pretty much a suicide mission to infiltrate. They succeed and when they get in they see not Ultron, someone they didn’t expect to see. I for one was surprised and then pretty rational, as in, of course this is what they find. Now I’m not spoiling it here because I think it’s a pretty great reveal, the question now becomes where the hell is Ultron?

5.Guardians of the Galaxy #1 by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, John Dell, and Justin Ponsor [Marvel]

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy1cov_02This comic was one of my most anticipated comics of 2013.  I liked what we got in the point one issue though when I read the point one issue I felt that it didn’t represent the comic that we were going to get and that I really didn’t need to know the origin of Peter Quill, even thought it was beautifully told and illustrated. I was wrong. Though you don’t need to read it because it’s Bendis and he’s always accessible, if you skipped the point one issue go back and read it. The opening scene of dialogue with Peter Quill and his father means so much more knowing how Peter grew up and how badly his daddy issues and how he’s not over them yet, or anywhere near being over them.

The two meet up on a space bar, for lack of a better term, and they talk. Dialogue is something Bendis is a master at, especially when one of the characters, Peter, is snippy and sassy. Besides having an antagonizing conversation between father and son, what the conversation boils down to is that Peter Quill is the Star-Lord of Spartax and the first born of the Spartax Empire, the next in line, seeing as how his father is King of the Spartax Empire. King tells son that the Council of Galactic Empires has declared Earth off limits to all of space including Peter and his team of Guardians. The two leave each other annoyed.

The rest of the issue introduces us to the rest of the team. We get Gamora doing her warrior thing and Iron Man coming up to the ship to meet the Guardians before he gets attacked by the Badoon. This is where we get and “Avengers Assemble” moment of the team and they get to work. I can’t say how awesome the art is, it needs to be seen but you know that its Steve McNiven’s so you know that it’s amazing. As much as I miss the designs of the old costumes during the Abnett/Lanning run because to me they looked liked uniforms and they looked more like a team I have to say that I’m warming to these designs pretty fast. They are more like armor and space suits combined and look more practical than the uniforms of past.

I didn’t think that the conversation and the declaration of Earth being off limits would play into the issue right away but it does. The Badoon are attacking Earth and it’s Gamora who says that this is a ploy from Peter’s father. He knew that Peter would do the opposite of whatever he told him and saying since the King of Spartax can’t have his son, no one can. After the announcement from earlier last week that Neil Gaiman was coming on board to co-write Guardians with Bendis with issue 5 and that it somehow spins off something from Age of Ultron my interest in this book is sky high. I really have no idea where this book is going, how it’s going to play into Age of Ultron, or the bigger Marvel Universe in general. But if there’s anyone that can do it and do it well it’s Bendis. And since there will be a Guardians of the Galaxy movie coming out in a few years, no pressure, right?

Antonio Cuneo
Antonio@ComicImpact.com