Category: reviews

Non-Doomino Effect: The Immortal Hulk #18-23

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Today, it’s The Immortal Hulk #18-23.

I don’t think I’ve been a regular Hulk reader since the Peter David / Dale Keown days in the early ’90s. I bought World War Hulk but that was a miniseries. I started picking up The Immortal Hulk when the hype became too much to ignore, and I probably had a slow week or something and decided it was time to try something new.

This series is really disturbing and unnerving, but it is fantastic. Also the art is really bad, which only adds to the sense that you’re reading something that is getting away with something. Sometimes I wonder if I would like it more if it had someone with a style like Mark Texeira or Bernie Wrightson illustrating it. But then on the other hand, I think the back-bencher art style somehow enhances the atmosphere of the book.

It feels dirty. It feels like some under-the-radar publisher is releasing a bootleg Hulk series that Marvel clearly must not know about. It’s so good. As the new issues have been coming out to the shop, I’ve been catching up on the old issues in this title on Marvel Unlimited (at the time of writing this, Marvel Unlimited is up to #10 while I started reading the hard copies at #18).

Sometimes you’ll feel sort of gross after reading an issue, but I highly recommend this series. One of my favorites.

Non-Doomino Effect: Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1-2 and The Batman Who Laughs #4-7

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Today, it’s Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1-2 and The Batman Who Laughs #4-7.

Scott Snyder’s run on Batman from The New 52 was one of my favorite runs of all time. I loved the horror element he brought to the book, and both of these series have been fantastic.

Batman: Last Knight on Earth reunites him with Greg Capullo, who is great, but still — for whatever reason — seems content being a blatant Todd MacFarlane rip-off. This series is so far probably best described as a Batman take on Old Man Logan. Society has collapsed, the bad guys have won, there are all sorts of spectacles to express the extent of the damage (such as the hills they’re walking on being the cloak of the fallen Spectre) and it’s up to Batman to save the day.

As I mentioned with DCeased, I usually don’t care for Elseworlds / What If stories, but this is done well enough that I’m digging it and very much looking forward to the final issue (I think it’s just three issues, anyway). This would probably be perfect if not for the JRJr cover.

Speaking of people wounded by the cruel laughter of others, that leads me to The Batman Who Laughs #4-7. I was keeping up on this series before my summer derailed me, and I was totally digging it, but the story was dense and twisty enough — and Jock’s art is often ambiguous enough — that I frequently kept putting the later issues aside because I felt like I didn’t have the attention or patience to dedicate to them.

I’m glad I finally sat down and finished this series, though. I wasn’t a huge fan of Metal, even though I admired its attempts to tie together a lot of threads from throughout the years. So even though this was a Scott Snyder book, I didn’t have a lot of emotional buy-in to this, given that The Batman Who Laughs came from that event.

Ultimately that didn’t matter much, though, because this series really just boils down to being a Batman vs. The Joker story, with the added bonus of being a Batman vs. Batman story. Other than a few cameos from the weirdly immortal-or-whatever Joker (another thing I didn’t really care for from Snyder’s Batman run), this felt like an otherwise straightforward (in a good way) cat-and-mouse Batman story. Solid stuff.

BONUS FOOTNOTE: I had seen all the “Year of the Villain” stuff with the Batman Who Laughs all over it, and therefore thought “This series probably won’t have a satisfying ending if the Batman Who Laughs is still out and about” but I was wrong! I felt like this series ended just fine — it was just the pivot out of this series that was lame.

I picked up Batman/Superman #1 a few weeks ago, which spun out of this series and picked up the fight against The Batman Who Laughs; I figured that new series must include an intriguing story of how The Batman Who Laughs escapes and launches his new evil plot!


Even though (SPOILERS) The Batman Who Laughs #7 ends with The Batman Who Laughs captured and securely imprisoned, and then plugs that the story continues in Batman/Superman #1, he’s just out on the loose in that issue, with no mention of how that happened. Lame. I have no intention of continuing with that series.

Non-Doomino Effect: Savage Avengers #1-4 and Daredevil #6-10

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Today, it’s Savage Avengers 1-4 and Daredevil 6-10.

Much like DCeased, I’m not really sure why I picked up Savage Avengers in the first place. As someone who lived through, read comics during, and gave up comics during the worst excesses of the ‘90s, I do not experience ‘90s nostalgia. Yet a book called Savage Avengers that features not only Wolverine, but Venom (!) and The Punisher (!!) just reeks of the worst type of ‘90s nostalgia for over-the-top violence and grittiness for grittiness’ sake.

Oh yeah, and David Finch covers! David Finch obviously didn’t make his career in the ‘90s, but his overly-muscled, overly-hatched Kubert-esque (and not even Adam or Joe, but Andy!) style harkens back to the indulgences of the Image days. I mean just look at the size of the Punisher’s gun on the cover to issue #1 (but in fairness to Finch, he’s at least consistently getting better at what he strives to be good at).

Oh you know what? I now remember exactly why I took a chance on this — Mike Deodato, Jr. He’s evolved into the one of the best artists in comics today, and I would probably read anything he illustrated. Here’s proof!

In spite of the clear call-backs to those ‘90s excesses, though, I’ve found this series pretty enjoyable so far. It’s got a plot that — while making room for violence and slashing and shooting — has its own purpose and doesn’t feel like it exists just for those excesses. Circumstances have drawn this otherwise unrelated hackers, slashers and shooters to the Savage (hence the name) Land, where a cosmic cult attempts to summon a being from the outer edges of the solar system. It’s nothing too special, but the weaving of each character’s path — including the bad guys — is believable enough to feel like the characters are part of the story vs. the story just being there to see Wolverine stab and the Punisher shoot.

The one thing I really don’t care for are the contrived attempts at humor. Fish-out-of-water character contrasts can make for natural laughs, but Duggan’s attempts to leverage Conan for those situations do not work at all. I appreciate the effort to make this something other than dark, gloomy violence, but it’s not working.

Speaking of ‘90s comics, that leads me to Daredevil #6-10, the “No Devils, Only God” arc that follows the supposed death of Daredevil.

There is absolutely nothing overtly ‘90s about this series, but whereas Savage Avengers adopts some overtly ‘90s elements for this otherwise timeless story, this arc of Daredevil reminds me of some of my favorite elements of the less-flashy comics of the ‘90s — somewhat bright and mismatched art adorning earnestly gloomy stories. The inability to really hit the mark on the gloom — in spite of trying so hard to be heavy — sometimes comes off as charming, and this is one of those times.

Matt Murdock is grappling with what it means to leave Daredevil behind, and consequently, so is Mayor Fisk. The parallels are interesting, with much of the action and drama revolving around the story of how _the police_ are reacting and adapting. It’s sort of pulpy but just so committed to telling its story — even though the story just isn’t all that great — and I really admire it for it.

Coming up with new stories for Daredevil has got to be so hard; really since Frank Miller deconstructed the guy, I feel like every writer has had to essentially react to “Born Again,” either by embracing it (Bendis, Brubaker) or pushing hard against it (Waid, and to an extent, Diggle). Zdarsky’s take manages to be familiar without feeling overly constrained by what came before, and I respect it for that.

Non-Doomino Effect: DCeased 1-4

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Up next, DCeased 1-4.

I hate zombie stuff.

I used to be sort of indifferent to it, but then there was that phase in the 2000s where Marvel zombified everything, and it just let me to hate the stuff. So I have honestly no idea why I even took a chance on DCeased. Maybe it was a slow week?

But I’m loving DCeased. For the uninitiated, DC’s take on zombies is based on the idea that the anti-life equation is unleashed on humanity, and it spreads through blood and screens. Funny enough, I also tend to really hate things related to Darkseid and the New Gods. Maybe these things are canceling each other out?

I’ve honestly been giving some thought to why on earth I am enjoying this, in spite of my previously stated inclinations against precisely the things this story is about, and I suspect that it’s all about the underlying hope in this series. Don’t get me wrong — this is as bleak, terrifying and gut-wrenching as you would expect from a zombie story, as loved ones turn, families are torn apart, and lives are irrevocably changed by tragic moments.

But there’s an underlying “Ok, things are terrible — so what are we going to do about it?” that propels the story forward and that I find engaging.

I don’t want to get too spoilery on this, but if you’re like me and find yourself typically staying away from a genre that seemed tired 10-15 years ago, this is a surprisingly fun series so far.

Non-Doomino Effect: Thanos 1-4

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Up first, Thanos 1-4.

I had been reading the Thanos series by Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato at some point in the past few years (they all kind of blur together) (the years, that is) (well, and the comics too) and loved it, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure when that ended and a new one began. Last I really remember, Thanos was dying? But then in one of those other events, I believe Gamora chopped off his head. I do remember him being dead and headless, because that condition seemed to be a catalyst of the new Guardians of the Galaxy series, which I’ve been enjoying.

This series–while titled Thanos–really seems to be an origin-of-Gamora series that just so happens to revolve around Thanos. You’ve got the mad Titan and some “young” members of the Black Order (Ebony Maw and Proxima Midnight to be exact) drifting rather aimlessly–both literally and emotionally–through space, killing people but just not really feeling it. Then this young prisoner/adoptee enters the scene and complicates things for everyone.

So far it’s really kind of a charming story of the genocidal Thanos and his adopted daughter, getting a sense of each other in spite of their terribly misaligned pasts. Tini Howard has so far done a great job with the tone, as that tension can be hard to pull off and hard to keep from teetering into odd-couple humor.

I don’t really remember buying this, but I’m going to keep buying it. Good stuff.

The Doomino Effect for March 20, 2019

I didn’t buy anything last week, but there was a good haul this week!

Speaking of hauling things, that leads me to Avengers #17, where Shadow Colonel has been carrying a junior version of Man-Thing on his back (and I just noticed it this issue).

I have been enjoying—but souring—on this arc as the weeks have gone by, but I am going to change my attitude. I have been feeling nostalgic for the comics arcs of my youth, when not everything was leading to or participating in some company-wide crossover. I was reminiscing just this morning actually about the Avengers stories back in the 300s or so, which are mostly forgettable and inconsequential, and really seem to only be existing for the sake of existing, and finding that incredibly charming.

Here I was, getting tired of this silly vampire story with this silly vampire characters, appearing to not really lead anywhere except for putting a new Avenger on the team, when right before my eyes, there was exactly the type of story I’d been nostalgic for!

Remember when it was such a huge deal when a cover would be teasing a new member of the team? That was such a great gimmick! I’ve been appreciating Jason Aaron’s run so far as a fun, mostly lightweight throwback—and boy is he ever hitting the bullseye. (more…)

The Doomino Effect for March 6, 2019

Let’s kick this off with Uncanny X-Men #13.

I mentioned last issue that the tone here was reminding me of the Australia era, and here we find out that the X-Men are squatting in the back of a bar! This totally is the return of the Australia era!

Except they almost literally brought back the Jim Lee era, when Wolverine digs up some old uniforms from the basement that align with the Savage Land / Shadow King / X-Men #1 period. I’m not sure if this is intended to just be fun fan service or something more significant, but it felt a little cheap to me.

Other things that made me roll my eyes a bit:
Yet another discovery of a Madrox clone.
Yet another psychic shield.
Dark Beast.

There was also a misalignment in the dialogue that left me confused. Early in the issue, Cyclops presents a list of threats to identify what will be left if the X-Men cease to exist. Wolverine says “it’s a kill list,” to which Cyclops says “No, it’s not. We aren’t solving things that way. Not anymore”—a clear distancing from who he was before he died.

Then later in the issue, Cyclops and Havok are talking about what to do with their Dark Beast prisoner. Alex says “We can’t be taking prisoners anymore,” and follows up with “the way you were [referring to Cyclops], what you made the X-Men at the end. We can’t go back to that. I won’t let you.”

So I’m a little bit confused, but not like “Where is this story going?” but more like “Is there a writing or editing mistake?” (more…)

The Doomino Effect for February 27, 2019

It was a pretty small pile this week, but at least enough to call for some segues.

Speaking of things flowing into each other, that leads me to Heroes in Crisis #6, where the blood from all the murdered heroes created a big ol’ mess.

When I was a kid, my dad would get claustrophobic on airplanes, so we took nearly every family vacation by car. I visited all 48 contiguous states by car by my early teens. And I tell you, when you’re driving around 20 hours or so en route to Disney World, it doesn’t matter how much fun Disney World is going to be; those hours in the middle are really boring.

And so I have no doubt that the ending to Heroes in Crisis will be delightful, but I’m getting really tired of these middle issues where nothing happens. I don’t dispute their purpose—we’re getting a lot more character moments that are filling in some of the gaps. But this issue, we get a poetic monologue from a caveman. (more…)

The Doomino Effect for February 20, 2019

Now it may seem as if the streak ended, and technically it did, but I only bought one comic the week before this last one, and considering the entire gimmick of this review column is the ragged segue from one issue to another, you can’t exactly have a segue when there’s only one thing to talk about. So I saved last week’s issue for this week.

So we’ll start with last week’s lone issue, The Batman Who Laughs #3, the mini-series spin-off from Dark Knights: Metal. I have two things I really like about this series and one thing I don’t.

Good thing 1: This series is essentially Batman vs. Batman, and even though there have been a number of iterations of that over the years, I don’t really get tired of them—provided the premise is around the challenge of catching up with someone who is always one (or more) steps ahead, simply by virtue of being the same guy with all the same strengths and usually freed from some of the constraints that our Bruce imposes upon himself.

Good thing 2: Scott Snyder’s skills with setting the horror mood are perfectly suited to a story like this. Nice Batman can’t keep up, can’t keep from falling further behind, and now can’t stop himself from slipping further into the Joker’s seemingly inescapable trap. That’s bad! Scott Snyder is made for that stuff.

But the thing I don’t care for is how Snyder has turned the Joker into this weird invincible metahuman. (more…)

The Doomino Effect for February 6, 2019

Let’s kick off this week’s reviews with Avengers #14, which resumes the vampire storyline that was randomly dropped in favor of the Iron Fist origin story last issue.

There’s apparently a vampire civil war going on, with a bunch of anti-Dracula vampires attacking Dracula’s castle, and Blade is in the middle of it trying to stop the anti-Dracula vampires, led by a guy called Shadow Colonel. In a scene that is basically just the “Joker gets arrested on purpose” scene from The Dark Knight, the Shadow Colonel is deliberately taken into custody by the Avengers so that he and his evil buddies can be on the inside and start causing problems with folks like Blade and Ghost Rider.

“He’s far too confident,” Black Panther says. “It would appear the Shadow Colonel wanted to be here.”

There’s something really kind of stupid about all of this, yet I find myself being uncharacteristically patient. (more…)