The Pull List is a new semi-regular feature where I post capsule reviews of the comics from my personal reading stack. I buy from Capstone Comics, where I have my subscription box, and Austin Books & Comics. Please support your local comic book store!
- Big Trouble in Little China #1 (w. Eric Powell, a. Brian Churilla) - There's a two-page spread that flashes back to a crazy story that might've been called "Big Trouble in Little Mexico" if it were fleshed out beyond two pages, and it ends up being the tale you really want to see -- not this direct sequel to the original film. The book suffers from incurable sequelitis, setting up Jack Burton with a lovable demon sidekick carried over from the first movie, while another Chinese sorcerer shows up to avenge the first film's Chinese sorcerer Lo Pan. I believe there's potential to tell new comic book stories about the Porkchop Express, but this first issue feels restrained by its own license.
- The Empty Man #1 (w. Cullen Bunn, a. Vanesa Del Ray) - I was very intrigued to see what Bunn would do with a modern horror tale, considering he's effectively making me squirm on Marvel's Magneto (which isn't even a horror book!). This one's about a series of seemingly random violent events centered around the idea that something/someone called "The Empty Man" is telling people to commit the violence. Investigators wonder if it's a virus that affects the brain, but we, the readers, know it's something more than that. First issue was more of a slow burn than I expected, intriguing with inky, scratchy art supporting its X-Files-esque mood.
- The Woods #2 (w. James Tynion IV, a. Michael Dialynas) - Looking like Boom has one of the sleeper hits of 2014 here in this comic about 400+ high schoolers and faculty being teleported against their will to a savage alien world. In this second issue, the adults try to enforce the same social structure and rules of public high school to the discomfort of the students who are smart enough to know that things like detention shouldn't matter anymore. The shocking, horrific cover art doesn't really have much to do with the interior story (not directly anyway).
- Action Comics #32 (w. Greg Pak, a. Scott Kolins) - I gotta say, I'm digging "Doomed." This installment finds the Doomsday-infected Superman trying to work out a plan with Steel so that Supes will quit destroying everything in his path. Then, along comes Metallo, and everything goes to Hell. Pak has turned Action into an efficient, effective Superman book and Scott Kolins is as reliable as ever.
- Detective Comics #30 ("Storytellers" Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato) - Thanks to appealing cover art, I decided to give Manapul and Buccellato's first issue of Detective a spin. It's kind of a basic, no-frills Batman story (with Bruce pissing off gangsters over a real estate deal), but the interior art is really pretty and painterly.
- Infinity Man and the Forever People #1 (w. Dan Didio, p. Keith Giffen) - I'm a sucker for Keith Giffen going "full Kirby." The book reinvents some of the Fourth World concepts but not in a way I found offensive to the legacy of those books. The Forever People are New God "grad students" who get sent to study the Earth from a shithole apartment on Venice Beach. No Infinity Man just yet (though I'm happy to see the New 52 salvage him from Jim Starlin's Death of the New Gods). I found this enjoyable enough to come back for more, even if it was just a touch messy.
- Justice League United #2 (w. Jeff Lemire, a. Mike McKone) - Three issues in (including the #0) and this will be my last one for a bit. While accessible (and the rare superhero team book that you could hand off to a 9-year old without any worry), I'm not digging the pages of endless, chatty exposition (8-pages of it!), or the 3-issue fight between Hawkman and Lobo, or the juvenile bickering between Animal Man and Green Arrow, or the lack of editorial acknowledgment of the non-Red Lantern Supergirl. I dunno. It's fine. But it's not for me.
- Superman/Wonder Woman #9 (w. Charles Soule, p. Tony Daniel) - This is an all-fighting issue of "Doomed," with Doomsday-infected Superman getting beat up by Hessia, then the Red Lanterns, while Wonder Woman stands on the sidelines asking them to stop. the action suits Tony Daniel well. It's the kind of issue that creeps into long arcs like this, a bit of stalling till the next major plot development.
- Swamp Thing #32 (w. Charles Soule, a. Jesus Saiz) - Jesus Saiz is an insanely good artist and this might be his most beautiful issue of Swamp Thing to date (assisted with sumptuous, vivid underwater colors from Matthew Wilson). In this issue, Aquaman feeds Swamp Thing to a herd of hungry manatee, so how could you not love it? One thing I'm starting to wonder is if Soule was asked by editorial to go more superheroic with Swampy. "Whiskey Tree" and Soule's "Arcane" one-shot for Villains Month were pure horror stories, but the title has become something closer to weird action.
- The Wake #9 (w. Scott Snyder, a. Sean Murphy) - This is the penultimate issue of The Wake, drawing the series' second half, a post-apocalyptic pirate adventure, to a close by bringing it back around to the first half (which felt like "What if James Cameron remade Creature from the Black Lagoon.") Second half of this mini has been a little harder for me to follow and I'm hoping that reading it collected will give it a clarity that I've been missing issue to issue. The series allowed me to see Snyder in a different light than "Batman guy" and it introduced me to the impeccable, drool-inducing linework of Sean Murphy, so even if I don't find the ending satisfying, I'm happy.
- Vampirella #1 (w. Nancy A. Collins, p. Patrick Berkenkotter) - Vampirella has a really cool look, but I've been mostly unimpressed by her various revivals over the years. Nabbed this out of curiosity over what was being described as a return to the character's roots and because of former Swamp Thing writer Nancy A. Collins. Here, Vampirella is a private investigator (?) employed by the Vatican to find a child kidnapped by a cult that worships chaos. Turns out, I'm still not a fan of Vampirella.
- Haunted Horror #11 (w./a. Various) - A typical lovably garish issue of Haunted Horror. The highlight might be vampire Western "Day of Panic" thanks to artist Howard Nostrand, who really elevates an uninspired story with cartooning that evokes Al Capp.
- Popeye Classic Comics #23 (w./a. Bud Sagendorf) - I think this comic is getting thinner maybe? Three stories this month, including one that isn't even a Popeye character (that I know of), the amateurishly drawn Sherm in "Snowfather." Best one in here is "Ship Shape" in which Popeye is issued a warning by the police for having a filthy boat and has to clean it up with Pappy's help. This month, none of it is as funky as it usually is.
- Madame Frankenstein #2 (w. Jamie S. Rich, a. Megan Levens) - I'm pleased by this black and white period piece. This issue takes bits of My Fair Lady and transplants them into a "Frankenstein" story, giving us some socio-political bits to chew on and some crystal clear cartooning to look at. Watching a male scientist impose the do's and don'ts of proper ladylike behavior on his dead love interest/experiment is uncomfortable and the sense here is that these actions will reinforce larger themes within the story that will pay off later. That's just a guess, as we're only two issues in.
- Savage Dragon #195 (w./a. Erik Larsen) - We're barely in to the new direction, with teenager Malcolm Dragon as the titular character, and while I don't miss (Papa) Dragon, I do miss the "can't miss one issue" subplots that Larsen is skilled at threading through his big action stuff. There are no apparent if/then threats for Malcolm, where the stakes of the subplots are accompanied by looming consequences. That said, Malcolm's ex Maxine still gets all the best lines.
- Shutter #3 (w. Joe Keatinge, a. Leila Del Duca) - The only comic on the stands to open with two pages of Richard Scarry homage-gone-wrong and end with a skeleton butler bidding you welcome. There's also a living Felix the Cat clock in here. And a samurai fox riding a triceratops is introduced. Look, I think Keatinge/Ross's Glory is brilliant, so I'm in. Shutter is shooting all around that target, but not hitting it. Not yet, at least. Tether all of that fantastic imagination on display to narrative vitality. Impress me.
- That's Because You're a Robot One-Shot (w. David Quantick, a. Shaky Kane) - I appreciate the audacity of three double-page spreads in a row that all convey the same visual information (a deliberate joke that pretty much only works on comic readers with some kind of grasp on sequential storytelling). It's a ludicrous way to break up a "one joke" book that feels like it could've been a late-80's SNL spoof of sci-fi action films. Buddy cops are told that one of them is a robot and they spend most of their time blowing their cases while arguing about which one of them is the actual robot. Candy-colored weirdness.
- The Wicked + The Divine #1 (w. Kieron Gillen, a. Jamie McKelvie) - Now, Gillen writes a touch too decompressed for my taste in general, but damn if this book wasn't packed with potential. As readers, we're thrown into the deep end here without a lot of backstory, but basically this comic is about gods (and devils) living on Earth as pop star celebrities. It's darkly humorous, but much more of a horror book than you might expect. The cold opening's occult overtones set the stage for the unease that follows. It also hints at something bigger and more meticulously plotted than what's in the pages here. The Wicked + The Divine has "Next Big Thing" written all over it.
- All-New X-Men #28 (w. Brian Michael Bendis, a. Stuart Immonen) Odd that after all the hype of "Battle of the Atom," that this follow-up is treated like just another issue of All-New. Immonen, supported with the colors of Marte Gracia, is astoundingly good, to the point where I'm consistently shocked he's been doing this on a near-monthly level for over two years. How much longer can that continue to surprise me? At any rate, this is another good issue, where not really that much happens, but the illusion that a lot happens is created by providing some insight into what makes the Brotherhood tick. Sometimes, that's enough, though I wish Bendis didn't always walk that line.
- Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl #1.2 (w. Dan Slott, a. Ramon Perez) - I'm impressed with Slott and Perez's ability to modernize the Lee/Ditko era in way that feels 100% authentic and not gimmicky. Interesting timing on this story too, as it echoes some of the things Marc Webb was trying to do with Electro in Amazing Spider-Man 2, but far more successfully.
- Avengers Undercover #5 (w. Dennis Hopeless, p. Kev Walker) - A lot of times if a new book has an elevator pitch hook, it's introduced in the first issue. In the press Avengers Undercover was sold as "the kids from Avengers Arena infiltrate Baron Zemo's organization from the inside." It took five issues for this to happen, and this isn't a criticism on how long it took to get there, but the book has been canceled in the interim. On the one hand, I'm glad Hopeless and Walker got to unbox the story at their own pace. On the other hand, I hope they're also able to resolve it at their own pace as they sprint towards a final issue now. This is the best issue of the series so far -- a cinematic, character-rich walk through the Marvel Universe version of Pinnochio's Pleasure Island, where the kids are shown the upside to being super-villains by Hellstrom, Madame Masque, and Constrictor.
- Daredevil #4 (w. Mark Waid, a. Chris Samnee) - Hey, this is a really excellent comic; don't know if you'd heard. Kind of glad this stuff with The Shroud has resolved for now though, as it was one of the rare times I didn't really like this particular C-list hero. Solo Avengers, ftw.
- Magneto #5 (w. Cullen Bunn, a. Gabriel Hernandez Walta) - This kicks off a new storyline for Magneto with new character Briar Raleigh giving Magneto an offer he can't refuse against X-Men villains I did not expect to see. Walta's Romita Jr.-inspired visuals maintain a deadly serious tone that works for this book, giving it a bitter flavor unlike anything Marvel currently offers.
- Mighty Avengers #11 (w. Al Ewing, p. Michael Lark) - In this "Original Sin" tie-in, Luke Cage's daddy relates a story of his own personal run-ins with Blade back in the day. When I first tried this title (with #1), I thought Lark was at odds with Ewing's lighter tone, but last month's issue drew me in and I might be here to stay. Maybe. I miss the Avengers and this hits a sweet spot in what I want from a superhero team book -- a lighter touch, clear stakes, interesting plots, and appealing characters.
- Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #2 (w. Brian Michael Bendis, a. David Marquez) - And here's an example of a Bendis comic where not much happens, and, boy, does it ever show. I have a theory that Bendis takes on too many monthlies and that there's always a couple of books that he writes that suffer much more than others (it's the reason I dropped the unusually plotless Guardians of the Galaxy). Miles Morales is a great character; this is not a great comic. Two things happen here: Norman Osborn returns to his secret lab and Miles discovers a clone. The Osborn stuff gets a couple of pages. Miles asking himself if he discovered a clone takes up most of the other twenty. I dropped this title a while back and added it with the relaunch, but I can't keep up with it if this is all I'm getting for my four bucks.
- Original Sin #4 (w. Jason Aaron, p. Mike Deodato) - It should come as no surprise that a bunch of characters yelling at each other about not understanding what's going on does not make a very satisfying comic (Paul Jenkins' Deathmatch being an exception). I'll continue to love Aaron on Southern Bastards and Thor while I back slowly away from this event mini-series.
- Secret Avengers #4 (w. Ales Kot, a. Michael Walsh) - Hmm...my least favorite issue so far in my most favorite incarnation of this frequently relaunched book. Really liked the interplay between Maria Hill and unlikely teammate M.O.D.O.K. and if you're missing Hawkeye the way Matt Fraction writes him, this is where you can find him right now. If you haven't tried this title yet, it's recommended, but start earlier than this issue.
- She-Hulk #5 (w. Charles Soule, a. Ron Wimberly) - I've been supportive of this book because I like the character and I like the creatives, but I've also felt like it hasn't found its true purpose. This issue finally emerges from tall shadow of Dan Slott's run, which also focused on Jen as a superhero lawyer. Slott's was more L.A. Law and Soule starts to move the character into more "John Grisham" territory with a central law-related mystery that has Jen acting as an investigator of sorts. It works!
- Silver Surfer #3 (w. Dan Slott, a. Mike Allred) - I like that the introductory arc of this book was a lean three issues and a love story at that (Never Queen and Eternity, awwwww). I'm still not in LOVE love with this title, but I should say it's also a character I've never LOVE loved (though I liked a lot of the 90's Ron Lim stuff). Some of the silliness I expected in issue #1, which was mostly absent then, is present here. We'll see where this goes. It's cute.
- Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12 (w. Nick Spencer, a. Steve Lieber) - Everyone assumes this book will be canceled any issue now, because it's too good to possibly live. Also because a book that stars D-list villain Boomerang sounds like a losing proposition. Also because the "Superior" branding is over now that Spider-Man is "Amazing" again. No matter. This is still one of Marvel's very best books.
- Thor: God of Thunder #23 (w. Jason Aaron, a. Esad Ribic) - Still the best book from the initial Marvel NOW batch? The hype seems to have died down, but the comic itself is still remarkable. The "Old Thor" versus Galactus B-plot pays off on things that happened in AaronRibic's first arc while Modern-day Thor faces off against Ulik and Man-Bull. Hugely dramatic and often much funnier than expected, this is about as good as Thor comics get.
- Uncanny X-Men #22 (w. Brian Michael Bendis, a. Chris Bachalo) - This ends the long-running S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. X-Men plot with an appropriately big resolution. The comic is like the final third of a blockbuster film, with huge action moments and little twists, which will work nicely collected against all of the issues leading up to this one.
- Armor Hunters #1 (w. Robert Vendetti, a. Doug Braithwaite) - I've been reading X-O Manowar since its relaunch so I'm not sure how much of this book has been enhanced by my overall enjoyment of X-O as a character and concept, but Armor Hunters just plain worked for me. This is a mini supporting a multi-chapter cross-over within the Valiant U, about a super-powered team of aliens trying to retrieve the X-O armor for what seems like surprisingly altruistic reasons. The Valiant books feature more adult superhero stories with a sci-fi bent that dog ears them as a different offering from Marvel or DC. They just have their own flavor. I actually found Armor Hunters #1 to be a more satisfying kick-off to a crossover than many of the recent ones from the Big Two. Its story is crystal clear, the players are unpredictable and interesting, and the events inside carry weight. Braithwaite, fresh from the introductory arc of Unity, feels born to draw Vailant's world. I've never liked him better than on these books.
- Unity #8 (w. Matt Kindt, a. Stephen Segovia) - Kindt writes all of the action stuff in Unity, a team comic that's been almost hilariously flippant about its heroes being killers, with a barely perceptible wink that makes every adventure feel like a guilty pleasure. Segovia must've drawn each page in the order they appear because he seems to run out of steam as the issue progresses. #8 is all right, bogged down a bit by being a direct tie-in to the Armor Hunters mini-series.