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Sinestro #1 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (story), Dale Eaglesham (art), Jason Wright (colors)

The Story: Just when you need a fear-mongering dictator, he decides to give it all up. Figures.

The Review: As Hal Jordan’s primary arch-nemesis, Sinestro has always been a formidable villain, but in recent years, under Geoff Johns’ revitalizing pen, he’s now become one of the all-time greats of DCU antagonists. In some ways, he blends elements of two of his peers; he has rationality and arrogance to rival Lex Luthor, but like Joker, he has loftier aims than merely destroying his rival. But Sinestro is more than their amalgamation; he’s nobler and more capable of genuine sympathy than either.

Weird as it is to say that Sinestro has a heart, it’s the only way to explain how he can be driven to weariness, even something like depression. These are foreign emotions for most other villains; they require a degree of self-reflection that would take a villain too close to questioning his purpose, and God forbid we should have that. But for all the violence and callousness of his methods, Sinestro’s purpose has never been outright evil. He can appreciate the costs of his actions, which is why here, we see him weighing his real, personal losses against his scant, vague achievements.
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Magneto #2 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (artist), Jordie Bellaire (color artist)

The Story: To fight monsters we create monsters.

The Review: In Magneto #2, Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta continue their unique look at Marvel’s most fascinating villain. So far, Magneto is really not a superhero comic. Costumes are rarities, invoked for psychological effect, and powers are weaker than motives. It’s more of a detective tale than anything else, with Erik’s forceful interrogations, antagonism with the authorities, and strong inner monologue almost recalling a hero in the mold of Sam Spade. But building that tone takes time.

It’s hard to deny that this series is moving at an extremely leisurely pace. Each issue seems to take us a single step further into the mystery. It’s an effective pattern but many comics would contain a couple of Magneto endings. Still, when the narration is this entrancing and the art this beautiful, it’s not hard to overlook the pace.

Indeed, there’s plenty of reason to take time this month, as Magneto thinks back to a moment from his childhood as a resident of the Warsaw Ghetto. The balance between retreading old ground and respecting the historical importance of Magneto’s origin is a difficult one but, thankfully, Bunn seems to have a good grasp on his subject matter. Survival is a victory and loyalty is different from how we see it today. The issue also grasps the almost cartoonish cruelty that the Nazis frequently dipped into and avoids exaggerating their evil. It’s the right choice, especially when the truth is enough.
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Magneto #1 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (artist), Jordie Bellaire (color artist)

Magneto. Erik. Max. Champion. Terrorist. Survivor. Revolutionary. But never victim…

Magneto has been many things to many people, but, for better or worse, something’s changed in him. Building a stable future didn’t work, the mutant revolution wasn’t enough, and so this series opens with an inherent mystery: who is Magneto now?

Cullen Bunn does a fine job of demonstrating Erik’s complexity. An onlooker’s report that he kills “on autopilot” contrasts, but never contradicts, the methodical focus with which Magneto goes about his task. Bunn’s first issue lacks a single brilliant anything, not a scene, not a line, but while there isn’t a crystallized moment, it’s hard to deny that there’s a power in his words.

This Magneto gives off the gravity that his character deserves. He could be raining metal from the sky or drinking his coffee and you would be holding your breath just the same. But while Bunn gets into a great rhythm before long, he does take a minute to get the hang of Erik’s voice. Unnecessary biblical references and Magneto’s judgments of himself belabor the early pages. Thankfully, Bunn does a much better job of analyzing the master of magnetism through the lens of other characters. Magnus’ comments reflect the situation only as much as they reveal the inner workings of his mind.

One particularly welcome characteristic of our protagonist is his willingness to change his mind. At least to me, a Magneto beyond reasoning is a boring one. Not that he should be sticking up for humans, but so much beautiful subtlety is lost when he paints exclusively in black and white. The revelations of this issue’s final act demonstrate Magneto’s ability to reevaluate the situation and even to exhibit empathy, that most hated and yet most necessary element of the character.

The plot for this issue is pretty simplistic. It seems more interested in setting up the status quo and the tone of the series than demonstrating the premise at its most exciting. The series has a hook by the end of this issue, and a pretty solid one at that, but it’s a slow build.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s style is instantly distinct. He presents something of a simplified realism in his drawings, perhaps appropriate to the character. It’s very much in Marvel’s recent trend of more art-centric comics, but it’s decidedly not David Aja or Javier Pulido. Deep blacks and beautifully washed out colors, courtesy of Jordie Bellaire, flow into Walta’s thin, graceful lines and between the gentle shading that makes up so much of the book.
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Creepy #13 – Review

By: Josh Simmons, Dan Braun, Peter Bagge, John Habermas, Cullen Bunn & Archie Goodwin (writers), Dean Haspiel, Bagge, D.W. Frydendall, Lukas Ketner, Tyler Crook and Reed Crandall (art), Nate Piekos & Bagge (letters)

The Story: More short horror stories from Uncle Creepy…

Review: This is another issue where the new Creepy stories don’t quite measure up to the reprinted classic story (Note: There is always a reprinted classic in contemporary Creepy).  The problem these new stories have is that they’re a little too cartoony in their artistic style and that cartooning is often incompatible with anything being truly horrific or unsettling.

The classic reprint in this issue (The Squaw, by Archie Goodwin & Reed Crandall, reprinted from Creepy #13, February 1967), shows how a serious tone can make an outwardly silly story “work”.  The Squaw sees a young couple in Europe on their honeymoon – who are characters only in the sense that they give the reader someone to see the unfolding story through.  They meet a loudmouth American businessman on vacation named Elias.  Why honeymooners want to hang out with a solo male tourist isn’t really explained, but Elias is basically the popular stereotype of Teddy Roosevelt: full of piss and vinegar, seeking danger, talking about animals he’s shot…..  The trio sees a mother cat playing with her kitten and Elias decided to toss a rock at the cats to scare the cats as a joke….except the rock crushes the kitten.  Oh….how the mother cat is pissed off, but she’s just a silly cat.  What can she really do to big man Elias?  Later the group tours the torture museum and Elias insists on getting inside one of the devices just to see what it was like.  You know….he wants ADVENTURE!  Of course, this is a terrible idea and as readers, we KNOW something bad will happen.  As the museum assistant is holding the jaws of the apparatus open and allowing Elias to experience the adrenalin rush of almost being skewered to death, the CAT shows up and claws the assistant’s face, the apparatus slams shut, Elias dies horribly and karmic justice is served.  The End!
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The Fearless Defenders #6 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Will Sliney (artist), Veronica Gandini (colorist)

The Story: Valkyrie kills the Marvel Universe.

The Review: Having largely dealt with the threat of the Doom Maidens, battle-mad eldritch-warped valkyries, Marvel’s new team of Defenders find themselves up against the wall when Brunnhilde, the heroine known as Valkyrie, becomes their commander. We get some teasing history on the Doom Maidens and how they came to be, as the new Valkyrie wipes the floor with half the heroines in the Marvel Universe.

If you’re looking for superhero action on a larger scale, this issue provides. Especially with a heroine playing the role of antagonist, it’s pretty amazing to see such powerhouses as Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel tossed around like rag dolls. The stakes are high, and the fighting brutal. Unfortunately, the fight is short, simple, and probably better on paper than…well, on paper. Though the battle between She-Hulk and Valkyrie is a high-point, this contest is simply too one-sided and hopeless to really get the blood pumping. But then, that’s not the point of this issue.

Indeed, though this issue features a regular battle royal, it isn’t about battle or rage, but a rejection of such things. I won’t say too much, but Cullen Bunn is absolutely clear that, to him, this issue is about the interpersonal relationships between these new Midgard Valkyrior.

Admirable as that is, the greatest problem with this issue is that it doesn’t dive deep enough. Both the banter during the fight and the pleas for peace that follow are fairly shallow. Worst of all, the climax of the story is unclear, leaving you unsure what happened until it is reported to you. The book appeals to pathos but doesn’t put enough heart into it to achieve the epic conclusion it’s reaching for.

The pacing is also interesting, off if not necessarily flawed. While I appreciate the greater focus on tone and the aftermath of battle, I’m not sure we need an entire page of Valkyrie climbing stairs. Likewise, the book’s many flashbacks and visions of the future are interesting, but a trifle unclear, which naturally begs the question of why so many were included in a book that could have so benefitted from a little more time to focus on fallout of this arc.

Will Sliney’s art is similarly mixed. Sliney provides attractive linework, but his inking feels a little heavy at times. Either way, it’s hard to fault an artist who is able to draw so many of Marvel’s leading ladies with such determination and strength.
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The Sixth Gun #30 – Review

THE SIXTH GUN #30

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (art), Bill Crabtree (colors), Douglas E. Sherwood (letters)

The Story: The gang seeks medical/spiritual attention for Becky after she is overcome from using The Sixth Gun too much.

Review (with minor SPOILERS): I came away from this issue feeling disappointed and unfulfilled.  It’s a little difficult to capture “why” this issue comes up short, but I think it has to do with where TSG stands as a series and decompressed storytelling.  Ugh–decompression..  At 30 issues, the series is mature: we know the characters and we know the stakes; now we need to get on with the story.
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Ultimate Comics Wolverine #1 – Review

ULTIMATE COMICS WOLVERINE #1

By: Cullen Bunn (Writer), David Messina (Penciler), Gary Erskine (Inker), Javier Tartaglia (Colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

Review: Poor old Jimmy Hudson. As character’s go he’s often gotten the short end of the stick. He was first introduced in Jeph Loeb’s facepalm-worthy Ultimate Comics: X, a series intended to be an ongoing before production delays saw it wound up as an extended mini. Then he shifted over as a regular cast member of Ultimate Comics X-Men though his growth remained stunted, imagined as half romantic foil for Kitty Pryde, half perpetually snarling anger-ball. Now, even when he gets the chance to star in his own mini-series proper, he has to share page count with dear old departed Dad.

Still, Jimmy does kinda suck, so whatcha gonna do? Other than his Daddy Issues I’ve never found him to be that interesting. I mean, compare him to Daken in the 616; that guy had it all. Cool tattoos, an edgy Mohawk, a third claw on the inside of his wrist…and he was into the guys as well as the gals. Plus, he totally hated his Dad and cut the Punisher up into tiny l’il bits. Meanwhile J-Huds is just this angry white kid – he reminds me of Ryan from The O.C. Not that I watched The O.C., you understand, it’s just that I’m hip and culturally aware and have my finger on the pulse of popular entertainment *remembers that The O.C. finished 5 years ago, hides away DVD box set*. Ahem.
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The Sixth Gun #29 – Review

THE SIXTH GUN #29

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (art), Bill Crabtree (colors), Douglas E. Sherwood (letters)

The Story: The gang is back together.

Quick Review (with minor SPOILERS): This was a tidy little issue of The Sixth Gun.  For the most part, it served to mop up the leftovers of this Winter Wolves story arc.  Honestly, this hasn’t been the most enjoyable story arc, but it still had a nice ending in this issue.  After so many months, it was nice to see the entire gang gathered again but it was kinda a bummer to see the damage that events have inflicted on our heroes: Drake is weakened, Becky is pissed at Kirby, etc.  There’s also a bit of humor as 9 foot-tall mummy, Asher Cobb rummages for suitable clothing to wear on their trip back into town.

Overall, the first half of the issue just serves to recap the action of the story arc and establish the new status quo.
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The Fearless Defenders #1 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (Writer), Will Sliney (Artist), Veronica Gandini (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Review:  It’s Ladies Night at the House of Ideas, which I guess is reason enough for a certain amount of celebration; mainstream comics are a bit of a sausage-fest after all.  So, when a book featuring two badass babes going all out to raise a ruckus pops up on the shelf, it is perhaps a debt owed by all red-blooded man-nerds to pick it up. All that ogling of Frank Cho’s libidinous artwork had to come at some kinda price, right fellas?

I jest, of course, but there’s a kernel of truth hidden amongst my pseudo-chauvinistic posturing. We often hear the case put forward in the comic book press that women, diverse ethnic groups and those of a non-hetero persuasion are much maligned when it comes to the world of capes and tights. This book tackles all three hot topics at once, and does so naturally and succinctly. Any move towards equality in the super-powered community deserves at least a respectful nod for trying to make right…but at the end of the day, the main thing we care about as readers is comics that tell a great story filled with engaging characters and dynamite visuals. On those terms I’m afraid this issue comes up a little short.

The basic premise is a good one. I love an Odd Couple pairing and Misty Knight and Valkyrie are nothing if not that. Teaming the “Badass private investigator,” with the “Last Shieldmaiden and defender of Asgardia” is a scenario ripe for terse, witty banter – two more opposing worlds it may be hard to find. It’s a set-up that was at the core of one of my favourite comic runs of the last few years, Greg Pak’s Incredible Herc, where street-smart, likeable techno-brat Amadeus Cho proved a perfect foil for the tragi-comic Greek God Hercules. There’s not a whole lot of interaction between Misty and Valk’ here but the combination certainly has a lot of potential.

The team-up itself takes a while to occur. The story begins with Misty in the middle of a mission from Archeologist Dr Annabelle Riggs to retrieve some stolen Asgardian artifacts from a band of mercenaries. The job gets messy when a villain (who I can only assume is Morgan le Fey) interrupts and makes off with most of the loot. Misty makes her way back to Dr Riggs at her dig site with the one artifact she was able to recover, though she could hardly have picked up a worse one – once activated this Asgardian ‘music box’ plays a tune that reanimates the dead. Zombies ensue, Valkyrie turns up to help Misty, and the book sets up its stall from there.
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The Sixth Gun #28 – Review

THE SIXTH GUN #28

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (art), Bill Crabtree (colors), Douglas E. Sherwood (letters)

The Story: Becky & Drake continue their battle with the Wendigo while Gord, Kirby & Asher Cobb ride to their rescue.

Review (with SPOILERS): This hasn’t been the strongest storyline for The Sixth Gun.  It’s a simple matter of dilution because we’ve had a two-issue concept that was spread over 5-6 issues.  But, this issue provided a pretty snappy ending for the arc and made me hopeful for the future of the comic. Continue reading

The Sixth Gun #26 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (art), Bill Crabtree (colors), Douglas Sherwood (letters)

The Story: Drake and Becky deal with a Wendigo.

Quick review (with SPOILERS): I only recently picked up The Sixth Gun after a recent Comixology 99-cent sale.  Last issue (#25) was my first reading the comic monthly and while it was a good issue, it wasn’t “great”.  In that issue, the art was at it’s typical level of greatness, but the story didn’t have that snap I recalled from gorging on the first 24 issues in a week’s time.  In the back of my mind I worried a little that I might not enjoy this series as much in single issues….
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The Sixth Gun #25 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (art), Bill Crabtree (colors), Douglas E. Sherwood (letters)

The Story: Becky and Drake are trapped in mystically frozen Fort.

Review: Well….that figures.  A couple of weeks ago, Comixology had a sale where all back-issues of The Sixth Gun were 99 cents.  I bought them all because a few of my comic friends loved the series and it sounded up my alley.  They were right!  It’s a great series that I should have been reading all along–”Deserving of the hype” and all that.  But just when I add The Sixth Gun to the list of titles I regularly review, it tosses a ho-hum issue at me.
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Captain America #16 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker & Cullen Bunn (writers), Scot Eaton (pencils), Rick Magyar (inks), Guru Efx (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  Cap finds himself swarmed by brainwashed cable news devotees as Sharon and Dum Dum get to the heart of the smear campaign against him.

The Review:  It’s been hard times for the main Captain America book over the last few months as it’s become increasingly clear that Ed Brubaker has been phoning it in.  Sadly, I think that this may be the worst issue of his justifiably legendary run.

At a fundamental level, the writing is simply poor.  The dialogue and cable TV demagoguery of Reed Braxton is actually painful to read.  It’s ludicrously over the top and completely lacking in subtlety.  This isn’t a case of a guy making nuanced or layered arguments against Cap or superheroes.  No, his speeches are ridiculously blunt and completely and utterly hamfisted.  His accusations have zero evidence, he straight up calls himself the savior of America, and he says very little of substance beyond “Cap sucks.”  There’s no subtlety, no smoke and mirrors, nothing.  The most shameful part is that even Brubaker and Bunn seem to realize that Braxton’s dialogue is so clumsy and heavy-handed that no reasonable person would buy into it.  Instead of just, well, writing better, they’ve decided that it would be easier to just use ye olde mind control crutch.  This of course ultimately means that Braxton and everything he’s saying is actually completely unimportant.  He could literally just stand in front of a camera for an hour and say “Kill Cap” repeatedly and it would yield the same effect.

But what still beggars belief is that given how stupid Braxton’s monologues are, it leaves one wondering how he even GOT on television?  Is there a HYDRA News Network cable station in the Marvel Universe that I’m unaware of?

The worst part of the issue, however, is that Brubaker is also completely content with not just recycling his own material, but recycling material that was used TWO STORY-ARCS ago.  Seriously, we end up seeing Cap struggling against an angry, brain-washed mob suddenly turned against him.  Again.  For goodness sake, we saw just about the same exact scenario in the Mad-Bomb arc earlier this year.  Has Brubaker become that lazy and that starved for ideas?  The mad-bomb arc was basic and unoriginal as is, but we’re already repeating that?  There’s even a scene, once again, of a person distracted by his/her iPhone to the point of being unable to notice the exploding wreckage and general Armageddon surrounding them (….yeah), forcing Cap to dive in for the save.  It’s the same exact sequence that we saw just a few issues ago!  How did editorial even approve that?  Not to mention that that scene was stupid enough of the first time.

The Discordians aren’t any better either.  They’re a visually dull group of bad guys whose sole gimmick is saying that America is broken.  That sounds great, it’s a phrase that has a lot of contemporary resonance….but hey, it’s not like that phrase is ever expanded on or explain, so it’s basically meaningless.

Scot Eaton’s art is solid, but unremarkable.  It’s art that leaves nothing to complain about, but nothing really memorable or jaw-dropping either.  It’s solid art, but not stunning, which is what it would take for it to save this issue.  Patrick Zircher managed to do a lot of heavy-lifting in the last arc of Cap, which was also fairly derivative, and Eaton is not quite at Zircher’s level and lacks Zircher’s more distinct style.  And, well, this story is also worse.

Conclusion:  I never thought I’d truly say this about an issue of Brubaker’s Captain America: “This sucked.”

Grade: D

- Alex Evans

Venom #18 – Review

By: Rick Remender & Cullen Bunn (writers), Lan Medina (pencils), Nelson Decastro (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Flash races to get to Betty before Jack and the Savage Six.

The Review:  With co-writer in tow, it’s another solid outing for Venom.  Aside from the brief Circle of Six crossover, it’s pretty remarkable how consistent this book has been in both quality and style.  For instance, once again, Flash’s narration is strong this month.  Remender and Bunn manage to once again strike the balance between a clipped, efficient use of words representative of Flash’s military background and training and narration that is rife with emotion, tension, and desperation.  In other words, as Flash desperately tries to get to Betty, the narration does exactly what it should: it lets you step into the mind of the character, while I also pulling you into the story.

I’m also enjoying what Remender and Bunn are doing with the Rogue’s Gallery here.  As always, Jack is written wonderfully.  He’s cunning and creepy and having him get to Betty sans costume, playing up his old “Flash’s friend” identity under a guise of friendliness was a really great turn that’s perfect for the character.
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Venom #17 – Review

By: Rick Remender & Cullen Bunn (writers), Kev Walker (pencils), Terry Pallot (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Flash attempts to kill Crime-Master to extricate himself from his situation once and for all.

The Review:  The first thing to address with this issue are the two big additions to the creative team.  Honestly, co-writer Cullen  Bunn’s impact doesn’t at all change the issue and were it not for the credits page, this issue might as well have been written by Remender alone.  That’s a very good thing, as it means this issue follows the winning formula that’s fueled it for 16 issues or so and Bunn’s input only keeps that going, rather than changing anything up.  The desperate, gritty, and tragic narration by Flash, for instance, is still very much in play and as solid as ever.

The other big addition is Kev Walker on art.  Walker is a natural pick for a series like this, but he actually seems to tone down some of his idiosyncrasies.  For instance, his trademark blocky anatomy only shows up, slightly, in his take on Megatak (which ends up looking really cool).  Otherwise, Walker holds pretty true to the aesthetic and look established for the series by Tony Moore.  Much like Bunn, he doesn’t upset the formula.  As such, what we get is a comic that looks like one of those badass cartoons that played in the wee hours of the night on Cartoon Network (or Teletoon, for my fellow Canadians).  The highest praise I can give Walker’s art,  however, is that he is the only artist to draw an issue of Remender’s Venom that I truly felt did not fall short of Tony Moore’s work on the book.
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