Gateway Comics is a recommendation thing I do where I list works in a franchise that are good for new readers, that hopefully make them want to check out more of the franchise or character. It features franchises/characters that I am personally familiar with, although I will be using others’ opinions at times. The key point is that these are recommendations for new readers.
The first installment of Gateway Comics focused on the X-Men, because they were my first superhero team comic. But of course, many of the X-Men have had their own series, and the one with the most, and one of the most popular X-Men is none other than Wolverine. Love him or hate him, the little Canadian mutant has had a lot of series over the years, so much so that it can be hard to figure out where to start. So I’m going to give those who want to start reading some good Wolverine comics a little help. I personally don’t feel too strongly about the character, but I’ve read a lot of his stuff, so I think I have a good frame of reference for this. Anyway, here are the comics I recommend for new readers looking to read more Wolverine.
To me, there are two types of “bad” comic: something that is just badly crafted in terms of story/art or something that’s disappointing. To me, the latter is worse. You can usually see a bad comic coming a mile away, but a comic that has everything needed to be good and fails anyway, that will always hurt more. 2017 has been a solid year for comics, but there have been some disappointment. Some of these were set up in 2016, while others were a bit newer to the poop party. Regardless, they let me down in a big way, and I need to make a list, dammit! So in ascending order, here are my top comic letdowns of 2017.
Also, the reason this list is super late is because I wasn’t going to do it. It just got too far into 2018… then I saw ProJared (and others) make 2017 lists still and decided to just make this super succinct. So I’m doing this quick and dirty, because I just need to get these off my chest. Continue reading “Biggest Comic Letdowns of 2017”→
It’s been a while since I gave my thoughts on the initial ResurrXion line-up. Well, the ones that were announced right away, at least. I completely missed Black Bolt and Old Man Logan continuing, and it just got to the point that they became old news. If you want my opinions on that real quick, I’ll give them real quick at the end of this post.
I’m not here to focus on those series. For you see, today I get to do what I love most: act like a bitch and be super smug! And why? Well, Charles Soule is returning to the X-Men as the writer of a new Astonishing X-Men series! Yes, the same Charles Soule who wrote the mostly good (for its last issue) Death of Wolverine before jumping ship to the Inhumans and penning the awful Death of X and even-more-awful Inhumans vs. X-Men! And my smugness can be summed up with:
Oh, did you and the Inhumans not work out? I’m so sorry to hear that, Charlie! And no, I wasn’t laughing behind your back! I was full on rooting for you guys! Or, if you want a more direct connection:
I’m drawing all the attention to it, Soule! All! Of! The! Attention! If there’s one thing this blog isn’t, it’s classy!
Okay, I’m done now. I just wanted to be a bitch. In all seriousness, here are my thoughts on Charles Soule’s upcoming Astonishing X-Men series.
Astonishing X-Men Written by Charles Soule Art by TBA
The Astonishing X-Men title is so associated with Joss Whedon that people forget that there were indeed other writers, up to and including Warren Ellis! Charles Soules’ series doesn’t seem to have anything in common with the well-known Whedon run — which partly tried to incorporate the X-Men more into the Marvel universe and have them act as more traditional superheroes (something that it gave up on pretty quickly) — other than just being a good jumping-on point for new fans, something Soules touts, which isn’t exactly unique to Astonishing. The aforementioned idea of the X-Men being more present in the Marvel Universe is being handled elsewhere, so it seems Astonishing X-Men is just called that because it’s something that’s not Uncanny X-Men or just X-Men, which is strange, as Marvel is going to be renumbering all their ongoings with “legacy numbers” later this year.
Anyway, regarding the comic itself, very little is known. In fact, this series’ reveal was actually gradual, weirdly enough. Its roster was revealed bits at a time, then finally its name and writer. I’m not sure why it was built up, but I can’t deny that it’s probably going to be one of the better X-books coming out of ResurrXion. But that’s if I really separate Charles Soule from his recent X-work. Because… oy. But he says the story told will build on itself, and it will have focus in that sense. That’s a good idea, given the sporadic nature of some X-runs, though it has me worried he’ll use his horribly written version of Emma Frost (Charles Soule is to Emma Frost what Jason Aaron was to Cyclops).
But before I get into that, let’s talk about the cast. It’s mostly good! Old Man Logan seems to be succumbing to the old Wolverine curse of being on a lot of different series and teams. I count three so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were put on an Avengers team again. But his character is interesting, and it will be interesting to see him lead a team (if he is the leader, which the cover seems to indicate he is). Archangel is always good for some angst and dark stories, along with a plain cool look. Psylocke is a cool character with an interesting history and relationship with Archangel. While I’ve found her kind of boring outside of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, she has potential and she throws a wrench into the cast. And that’s because of the presence of Fantomex, a character I’ve always seen as a more self-aware Gambit. He’s a thief who steals to distract from his constant urge to kill. He’s fun, though works best when playing off Psylocke and Archangel and other super serious characters. Oh, and speaking of Gambit, he’s here too. I’ve never been his biggest fan, but he’s fun and can lighten the mood when not angsting about whatever contrived Thieves Guild story he’s taking part in. Rogue is here too, and that makes this series give off a real soap-opera vibe, given the Psylocke/Archangel/Fantomex thing and now Rogue and Gambit. It seems like Rogue has been handled surprisingly well by Gerry Duggan over in Uncanny Avengers, and I always like to see her around. She’s a versatile character who works best when she’s a tough-but-caring Southern Belle using her own experiences to help others. Oh, and Mystique is here, in case we didn’t have enough drama. I like Mystique in the right role, and assuming she’s the token evil member of the team, I can see her having an interesting dynamic with Archangel, encouraging his darker tendencies. Also, I’d like to see how her relationships with Rogue and Logan develop, given her rocky relationship with the former and… complicated relationship with the original Logan . And then there’s Forge who exists and I don’t care about him.
Now, the elephant in the room — Charles Soule… Charles Soule was once a writer I really liked. I enjoyed his Thunderbolts run, and he managed to make the dumb concept that Daniel Way started work. I’ve heard nothing but good things about his Swamp Thing run, which I’m told far surpassed Scott Snyder’s and seemed to create an interesting mythology. His Red Lanterns run was really the only part of that series worth reading, and while I never finished, I really want to. He definitely seemed to understand the characters, especially Guy Gardner, while also keeping true to the idea of the group. I found Inhuman to be a pretty good read with some interesting characters (who became less interesting over time) and concepts. His She-Hulk run has been thoroughly praised, and I’m assuming utilised his law skills well. His Daredevil run has some cool ideas and what I read of it (I omnibus-wait Daredevil (I am not kidding) seemed like he was doing a good job bringing darkness back into Daredevil’s world after Mark Waid’s run. Thought it was rough when I read it, I’ve heard it’s really picked up. Then came his X-Men work…
While I largely enjoyed Death of Wolverine and thought it had a fitting ending, the miniseries itself felt like it had quite a bit of padding while also not quite adequately summing up Logan’s life. But what followed… I have heard nobody speak of Wolverines, Marvel’s attempt at a weekly ongoing to compete with DC’s two Batman Eternal series. I couldn’t read more than two issues of Death of X, where Soule decided to nonsensically kill off Jamie Madrox — who was the closest thing to a lead character in Peter David’s amazing X-Factor run (the second one he did) — and Cyclops, in such a low-key way that I’m sure it was meant to be profound that Cyke went out like he did, but it comes off as disrespectful given the characters rich’s history, importance to the franchise, and large fanbase. Oh, and the ending was awful and filled with plot holes. Then he wrote Inhumans vs. X-Men, which, while concluding the awful Terrigen poisoning plot (which I will be writing something on due to its awfulness), it had an amazing amount of plot holes, only some of which were carried over from Death of X — there were inconsistencies within the series itself! Oh, and Uncanny Inhumans was kind of boring and didn’t seem to get the appeal of the Inhumans. So yeah, Soule started out as an up-and-comer I really liked, but 2016 was not a good year for him, and I basically replaced him with Tom King.
A year ago I’d have been excited for this series, but Soule has really fallen in my eyes. While I had to let out the pettiness early in this post, I really hope this series is his comeback. Because it has a good cast, good planning and a writer who I know can do better than he has recently. I am cautiously optimistic about Astonishing X-Men. Continue reading “ResurrXion, Part 6 — Look Who Came Crawling Back!”→
Written by Dennis Hopeless (aptly named)
Art by Victor Ibanez
When ResurrXion was being teased, lots of people thought the original Jean Grey, killed during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, was returning. Well, that’s not the case. But even disregarding that, this comic is just… hopeless (I know, I’m so clever).
The plot will feature Jean confronting the Phoenix Force, without the experience her older self had. The world needs her to be the Jean they need her to be. It’s an okay twist on things, but it still just sounds so boring. She’s obviously going to be the Jean they need or is going to disappear at first and eventually take up the burden. That or she can just go home and Rachel Summers, who writers remember exists since she’s in X-Men: Gold, can just get the Phoenix. Or maybe the original Jean does finally come back. It doesn’t help that Jean’s just not very interesting. This Jean’s characterisation varies depending on where you read her, and not because she develops naturally; but because she’s just poorly written. Hopeless states that Jean wanting to get prepared for the Phoenix Force’s arrival is relatable to young adults thinking of the type of adult they want to be, and how this is largely based on people’s expectations and your own experiences. Which… is how that works, last time I checked. It’s pseudo-philosophical bullshit that just comes off as dumb. Jean can prepare for the Phoenix: learn self-control, mediate, psychologically prepare herself like Hope Summers in AvX, learn to use her powers more, make plans if it goes wrong, etc. Really, there are ways to prepare, and suggesting otherwise is pretty stupid. Like this series, actually.
If it wasn’t clear from the last two paragraphs, let me make it clear: I don’t like Dennis Hopeless. At all. The guy’s dialogue is godawful and he seems to think it’s clever, but comes off as a dumber and shallower Kieron Gillen or Matt Fraction. He doesn’t care about characters’ histories and personalities and bends them to suit his mediocre plots, such as in the awful Avengers Arena,Avengers Undercover and All-New X-Men (volume 2) series. And when he’s not killing off new characters with potential or writing generic fluff, he’s writing mediocre popcorn stuff like Cable and X-Force. And when he’s not doing that, he’s writing cliche-filled boring stuff like Spider-Woman. Hopeless likes to romanticise things like teenage waywardness and motherhood and frame them within the superhero genre, but he’s just too transparent about it and does little else in his stories. The guy is just a bad writer who somehow gets consistent work, and I can’t even say he’s got some magnum opus that justifies keeping him around, or even some good but flawed stuff like Cullen Bunn does with Magneto. At least not anything that’s relevant enough that people talk about it (maybe there’s some amazing, obscure series of his out there that nobody ever bought, like Alex + Ada (except even that series is popular and acclaimed enough to be cited as a work in solicitations).Hopeless seems to be kept around because Marvel need someone to write the books they seem to only publish because they have the IP.
That was a huge rant, so I’m going to give Victor Ibanez his own section. Looking at his prior Marvel works, he seems to be a fill-in artist, and an inconsistent one at that. He did a few issues of Storm and Extraordinary X-Men, and judging from them, he seems to really hate backgrounds because they’re nonexistent in a lot of his panels. His characters look good, however, and he’s got some range. He can do a less stylised look while not being minimalistic or intentionally ugly. Or he can do a more typically superhero look with lots of detail when called for. However, the man’s faces are just off sometimes, and his stuff seems to go off-model somewhat frequently, with things like absurdly long necks and just weird body proportions in general. He’s got potential, but right now, he’s a mixed bag.
Jean Grey already had an uphill battle by using the time-displaced version of the character that the majority of fans have grown tired of. But then Marvel saddled it with their worst writer, and I have absolutely no interest in this series. Jean Grey looks like it will be another crap series by Dennis Hopeless. No thanks.
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Greg Land (I just threw up in my mouth a little)
It’s not really an original thought to suggest that the only current X-Men series that are actually good are All-New Wolverine and Old Man Logan. So when Weapon X was announced, it was assumed that one of the writers of those series, Tom Taylor and Jeff Lemire, respectively, would be writing Weapon X and that it would be a kind of team book featuring the Wolverine family of characters (Logan, Sabretooth, X-23, Daken, etc). However, at best we were about a quarter right.
But ignoring all of that, I like most of the cast. I don’t think Old Man Logan has interacted with the now sort-of heroic Sabretooth yet, and it will be interesting to see how that works out. Jeff Lemire wrote a good Lady Deathstrike over in Old Man Logan, and Pak wants to build on that, which I’m glad to hear, and she does have a weird relationship with the Weapon X project (her father developed the method by which Adamantium was bonded to Wolverine’s skeleton). I know next to nothing about Domino, but she’s got a kind of cool look. Thunderbird is boring to me (you can tell I don’t care about him because I forgot he also went by “Warpath”, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever read him as Warpath), but he was an okay supporting character in Ed Brubaker’s X-Men run. Also of note: why isn’t X-23 here? Pak has said that there will be some familiar faces as guest stars, and I hope Laura shows up, because it’s weird that she’s not on this team, given their goals.
The actual story involves a new Weapon X project, one with even more power and resources than the original. That’s an okay plot, though I swear it’s been done before and I really hate sinister shadowy organisations with unseen goals. It barely ever works out. But yeah, Logan and Sabretooth have to form a team to stop the bad guys, using methods that group members won’t agree on. Pak also said that Weapon X will test the heroism of the heroes and the villainy of the villains, and deconstruct the morality of the characters. With a huge threat like a bigger, better Weapon X, I think that it might actually work, especially since everyone on the team is already an anti-hero, at best. The series seems to be an X-Force series in all but name, focusing mostly on Weapon X-related characters.
Greg Pak is a good writer who excels at emotionally grounding characters, such as in Storm and Action Comics. While his work can lack strong narratives, his character work is always very well done. But then there’s the art. It’s Greg Land. The internet has archives of his bad artwork. The guy’s artwork is badly posed, because he’s copying other work, and does not flow well at all. And that’s when characters aren’t blatantly traced from born, such as in Uncanny X-Men, where Emma Frost dodging a missile was blatantly a tracing of a woman masturbating. His actions scenes suffer because of the aforementioned copying, his characters can look different from panel to panel because of the aforementioned copying, and his dramatic stuff fail because there’s always a part of you that knows, or at least thinks, that you’ve seen the picture somewhere before because of the aforementioned copying. Apparently Land will also be doing a decent amount of splash pages in Weapon X, and I can already see the awkward photoshopping, posing and placement. When he actually draws original art for a story, things look okay, or even good like in Nightwing. But I think Land long ago stopped caring about the quality of his work. Hopefully a new artist comes on after an arc or two, but I doubt it since Land is the “bad, but gets stuff out on time” kind of artist.
Weapon X sounds like it will be an interesting read with bad art. There’s room for good character development and interactions, and hopefully the villain is just a plot device to allow for it. The art is not going to be good, there’s really no avoiding that, but hopefully it’s at least inoffensive in how bad it is. I’m looking forward to it.
Written by Marc Guggenheim (yes, really)
Art by Ardian Syaf
One of the two main X-ongoings, it features the team introduced by Chris Claremont, with Rachel Grey/Summers and Kitty Pryde along for good measure. They do… stuff. Honestly, it’s vague, but they’ll be more entrenched in general Marvel goings ons, which honestly hassn’t worked out well for the X-Men in the past (e.g, the mediocre second X-Men series, their more recent stuff in Marvel NOW!, such as Uncanny Avengers)
The lineup obviously is invoking the second generation of X-Men, though obviously changed a bit. Old Man Logan is confirmed to be sticking around, and he’s pretty hard to write out of character. Nightcrawler and Colossus are sticking around to be fun and boring, respectively, but they’re always good in supporting roles, especially when Logan is around. Storm’s sticking around, so her fans will be happy, though the leadership position apparently goes to Kitty Pryde. I’ve never been a huge fan of Kitty, but it’s at least nice that she’ll be back with the X-books. Apparently, her returning and finding the X-Men in such a different state will not be ignored, but given how much Guggenheim seems to be the typical Kitty fanboy (she’s his self-insert, he started reading as a teenager and she was just introduced, etc), I doubt she’ll be called on abandoning her species. Rachel Grey/Summers is here, in a bad Mon-El cosplay apparently, and the linked interview makes it seem like Guggenheim really doesn’t know what to do with her, like she’s just there because she needs to be there. The cast is mostly fine, but time will tell if Guggenheim writes them well. Which segues nicely into my thoughts on the creative team!
Just… no on this creative team. Ardian Syaf is hit-or-miss, and a lot of his stuff ends up looking rushed. He’s okay when he’s a hit, but nothing special. But Marc Guggenheim? Let me make this clear: I don’t watch Arrow. I read the Arrow subreddit, but I don’t watch the show. But I know that he basically tanked the show. However, I’m going to throw on my hipster hat and say this: I hated Marc Guggenheim before it was cool! He wrote what is probably the worst New Mutants-esque book ever — Young X-Men, which just alienated every reader of Marvel’s younger mutants while also introducing the shitpile that is Ink, a mutant who gained powers relating to whatever tattoos he had, up to and including the powers of the Phoenix. Not only that, but he also wrote the crapfest that was Bart Allen’s run as the Flash. He also ruined the Justice Society after Geoff Johns left, though people were ruining them a bit before him anyway. So yeah, I’ve got a pretty negative opinion on Guggenheim’s writing, and there’s no big name, strong artist to help him.
While the cast would normally get me kind of excited for X-Men: Gold, having Marc Guggenheim as writer just kills it. I’m sorry, but I expect this to be a mediocre at best series, with probably tons of focus on Kitty Pryde. Not interested.
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Jorge Molina
And here’s the other main X-ongoing, X-Men: Blue! And… the time-displaced, original five (O5) X-Men are sticking around. Of course. It will feature the O5 working with Magneto of all people, and getting into “classic”-style stories.
The cast is not good. I’m sorry, but next to nobody cares about the O5 anymore. Let them go home. They’re pointless. Bendis may have had something planned for them, but he jumped ship, and now they’re just a relic of a story that never had any payoff. They’re boring, and pale reflections of their adult counterparts. And Bunn’s interpretation of the characters is just… off. He says many people feel Jean should’ve been the X-Men’s leader for a while, which is just untrue. And given how she either acts purely on her own emotions (All-New X-Men) or is just… a character that exists to exist (Extraordinary X-Men), I have trouble seeing her as a leader at all. Maybe I could swallow the original Jean leading the X-Men in Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Xavier’s absence, maybe, but this Jean? I’m sorry, but no. The rest apparently don’t want to go home, because they’ve built lives for themselves, such as Cyke joining the Champions (actually a good read, by the way), Iceman getting a boyfriend, Beast dabbling in magic (why?), and Angel embracing a more warrior-type attitude. It’s just… it feels like Bunn just randomly decided to give the characters new traits because he needed an excuse to keep them around. Except it sounds like this might actually be the series that ends with them going home, which I sincerely hope it is. Bunn’s writing of Magneto is always good, but teaming him up with the O5 is just a weird creative decision.
The creative team is okay, I guess. Cullen Bunn is a writer who I think gets way more work than he deserves, but hey, he gets stuff out on time so why should DC or Marvel care, right? But what I’ve read of his Magneto run is solid, if nothing special, and his Uncanny X-Men run approaches the Terrigen Mists plot in a more interesting manner than any other X-book. However, he’s said that X-Men: Blue won’t be dark like his other works, and honestly, I think that’s his biggest, and possibly only, strength; he can tell dark stories that use other, better writers’ works as a foundation. Jorge Molina is an okay artist, with a style that seems to be a more painted version of David Marquez. At the very least, I kinda dig the design of the X-Men boots. Yep, that’s the only thing I can really say about the art — I dig the boots.
I would love if this series and X-Men: Gold switched creative teams. Bunn is a better writer than Guggenheim, and I’d sooner dump these unwanted, boring characters onto the latter. If this series had a more interesting cast, I’d actually be interested. But instead, we basically get All-New X-Men volume 3, and I stopped caring halfway through volume 1.
This is going to be a lot more difficult, what with Marvel’s second Marvel NOW relaunch imminent. But for completion’s sake (I’m doing Q3 for the other companies), and because there’s still some recommendations to make, I’m still doing it. Also, I reconsidered by criteria, and I don’t think high issue count is a problem so long as the series catches you up well, which Marvel series do with a good recap page (DC really needs to do this). So here we go.
Written by Dan Slott
Currently on issue 6
Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer is the comic that made me like the Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd). So much that I went diving into the back issue bins and bought a ton of his first big ongoing, written by Steve Englehart. Slott’s run is about Norrin Radd’s adventures with human companion Dawn Greenwood, a girl who never really left her home town. At least that’s what the previous series, also by Slott, was about. The current ongoing is about Surfer and Dawn returning to Earth after their exploits, and the hijinks that ensue.
But Silver Surfer’s plots, aside from being Silver Age-level craziness, mainly serve as a way to explore the relationship between Norrin and Dawn. Because he doesn’t understand many human customs — don’t worry, Slott’s the one writer I’ve seen who can pull this off consistently without it getting annoying — and she’s experiencing the wackier side of the Marvel universe. Their relationship is adorable, and you do get attached to Dawn as a character, rather than just an audience surrogate. But at the same time, these stories feel epic, and the Surfer’s way of speaking definitely adds to that. The stories are big and epic, but never lose heart because of Slott’s focus on Norrin and Dawn.
Another reason the dialogue works is the art style. The series is drawn by one of my favourite artists, Mike Allred. His art style can best be described as pop art, and is essentially a more modernised version of the style you’d see in Silver Age comics from artists like Jack Kirby. Thick line work gives everything a classic look, and this suits the Surfer’s cheesier dialogue. Laura Allred’s colours make the style even more distinct, and the result is a series that looks fittingly retro yet modern.