Book Review: Incredible Hulk: Dogs of War by Paul Jenkins, Ron Garney

The Hulk has been hounded by armies before. But this time it seems more personal than usual. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross blames the Hulk for his daughter’s death, and his colleague, General Ryker, has decided the time has come to bring him down for good. The Hulk doesn’t necessarily disagree with Ross, since his gamma-irradiated body caused the radiation poisoning that killed his wife, Betty. The stage is set for a battle the likes of which have not been seen before. Ross brings everything in the army’s arsenal to bear in this war. The Hulk must fend off mutated soldiers, radiation-injected hounds and even tries to turn the Hulk’s own body against him. It’s a battle for the ages, but not without a price being extracted from both Ryker and the Hulk. The aftermath may leave the army poorer for the experience, but it also leaves the Hulk and his Bruce Banner alter-ego in less than stellar shape.

Hardback in the Marvel series, picked up from my local Comic Book Store.

The book includes the two part Snake Eyes as a precursor to the full 9 issue “Dogs of War” storyline.  It centres on Banner having both lost his wife Betty, as well as finding out he has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is dying and doesn’t have anything left in the world to live for. Continue reading

Book Review: Captain America: War and Rememberence by John Byrne (Artist), Roger Stern (Writer), Jim Salicrup (Editor)

captain america war and rememberance marvel Captain America’s endless war on crime and tyranny sets him against new enemies and old, from an army of robot replicas to the black deeds of Baron Blood Plus: Captain America for president Guest-starring the Avengers; S.H.I.E.L.D.; and the late, great Union Jack Featuring Cobra, Mister Hyde and Batroc the Leaper The complete Stern/Byrne run, culminating with the standard-setting version of Cap’s awe-inspiring origin.

From my TBR shelf, published by Marvel Comics, in Hardback. In the introduction, Jim Salicrup mentions that he comes into the sub-editor space near the end of a story process, where no one was happy with the story, but it was too late to change anything. When he became editor, it allowed him to ditch the previous arc which was out of canon by doing what could be classed as a “Bobby Ewing in the shower” moment by having the previous arc as implanted false memories.  It’s this story that kicks off this collection. Captain Marvel works with Dum-Dum Dugan and Nick Fury from SHIELD to recover his original memories, as Cap has to face Dragon Man and Machine Man.

The storyline of Cap possibly running for President is as relevant in the current election cycle as when it was written; Mister Hyde has teamed up with Batroc the Leaper to blackmail the New York Harbour with a container of Liquid Gas in exchange for several billion dollars, only for the pair to turn on each other; Cap gets a phone call that calls him back to England to team up with his old friend Union Jack (James Falsworth), who is now bedridden and dying but has to confront the threat of Baron Blood the vampire.  Interspersed with these stories are the fact that Cap is still coming to terms that all his old friends are now getting very old or dead whilst he is still in his prime (after being in suspended animation for decades). He is also trying to balance being a super hero (Captain America) against earning a living and paying the bills – something that I dont think is necessarily covered in the current batch of comics. He is also getting out and dating again, whilst wondering when to/if to reveal his secret identity and the reasons why Steve Rogers keeps disappearing at strange moments. Previous partners are either now much older (e.g. Jacqueline Falsworth/Spitfire), or have died as part of the life of the super hero.

This was written and produced in the 1980s, and I’m surprised this style of comic has survived this late. There’s lots of exposition via text, lots of “BAM!”s and “THWOCK!”s, the cells are of standard size and colouring, and it’s a straight linear narrative (top left to bottom right, same again on the opposite page). I’m much more in favour of the more modern style, where there’s less story-dump-through-text, more variation in the cell sizes (where narrative can switch into across the two pages), and the colours are more varied and occasionally darker.

Author Details

John Lindley Byrne is a British-born Canadian-American author and artist of comic books. Since the mid-1970s, Byrne has worked on nearly every major American superhero.

Byrne’s better-known work has been on Marvel Comics’ X-Men and Fantastic Four and the 1986 relaunch of DC Comics’ Superman franchise. Coming into the comics profession exclusively as a penciler, Byrne began co-plotting the X-Men comics during his tenure on them, and launched his writing career in earnest with Fantastic Four (where he also started inking his own pencils). During the 1990s he produced a number of creator-owned works, including Next Men and Danger Unlimited. He also wrote the first issues of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series and produced a number of Star Trek comics for IDW Publishing.

Book Review The Avengers: Birth of Ultron (Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection Classic #12) by Roy Thomas, John Buscema (Illustrator)

avengers birth of ultronWitness the startling creation of one of the Avengers most deadly foes: the insane automaton known simply as Ultron.

Discover what drives this metallic menace, as it undertakes a terrifying  (a scheme that will leave the Avengers changed forever! Plus, change is afoot as two mysterious new members, the Vision and Yellowjacket, join the team. Collecting Avengers vol. 1 #54-60 and Avengers Annual #2.

From my TBR pile, when at the time of reading, the second Avengers movie (Age of Ultron) is still in post production with an expected release in 2015, exact date dependant on region.

This is NOT the book of the film. This is a collection of early Marvel comics, charting the initial appearances of Ultron (Ultron-5), plus a few additional lesser known cast members in the Avengers canon.  There’s no “original publication date” I can see for the source comics, but judging on style, presentation etc, I’m guessing they were originally published in the 1960s. Of course, Marvel have a back history of the character.

The makeup of the Avengers here is not the team set up that modern audiences are currently used to (Thor, Iron man, Hulk, Black Widow etc). There is a “New” Avengers consisting of the lesser known Giant ManWasp, Black Panther, along with the better known Captain America) and Hawkeye.

The presentation as a Graphic Novel is lovely, with the hard cover, a collection of related strips etc. I have to admit that this is not my style of Comic Strip. I am very much a fan of the later style of  Comic/G.N. with related narrative, violence and design,  where as this is from the 1960s/1970s with a much more “innocent” (retro) style of cell construction, drawing and violence.  Cells colours are lighter and brighter, exposition and story line is progressed though chunks of in-cell text explaining what’s going on to the reader. There are also occasional handy arrows guiding you from one cell to the next in case you hadn’t worked out where to go next! It reminded me somewhat of the Adam West Batman series – all gaudy colours, cheese and make believe fighting. There is also some bad alliteration at the start of each episode as to who wrote or drew what.  These are the strips I would expect to see in the weekly “funnies” and that I would be able to pass onto Nieces and Nephews as a more “acceptable” level of violence.

Several characters are introduced, such as Ultron-5, The Vision  (an android sent by Ulton to kill everyone, only to have a change of heart), and YellowJacket – yet another SuperHero character for Hank Pym to add to his other alternate characters of Ant-Man, Giant Man etc.

In summary: nice to have read as a backfill to the new Avengers movie, but not really my style of Graphic Novel

Here is one of the trailers for the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie:

Book Review: Alabaster Wolves by Caitlin R Kiernan

Alabaster Wolves by Caitlin R Kiernan #BookCover @BookReviewFor nearly as long as she can remember, Dancy Flammarion has fought monsters, cutting a bloody swath through the demons and dark things of the world, aimed like a weapon by forces beyond her control or questioning. But now, for the first time, Dancy finds herself alone–and the wolves are closing in.

First time I’ve come across Dancy, which I picked up whilst shopping in my local comic book store and deciding to try something new.

This hardback is a collection of the 5 story arc where Dancy is left by her Avenging Angel to face the monsters and Wolves alone (apart from the talking blackbird and the ghost of the werewolf she kills in the first story).

This is not an easy journey for Dancy, feeling alone and angry that she seems to have to do the dirty work for the angel but gets deserted at her most challenging time.

Story is good, graphics and lettering are decent and reflecting the disintegrating world that Dancy finds herself in

Book Review: New X-Men, Vol. 2: Imperial by Grant Morrison

New X-Men, Vol. 2: Imperial by Grant Morrison #BookCover #BookReviewAs protesters lay siege to the Xavier Institute, Professor X lies in a coma, trapped within the shattered form of his evil twin, Cassandra Nova.

Charles Xavier has been betrayed by his identical twin Cassandra – she has stolen his body and taken to the galaxy, using his good name to destroy worlds and send people mad.

Meanwhile the Xavier school is under attack, first by non mutant humans wishing to destroy the mutants, then by sickness, then by Cassandra’s warriors, hoping to destroy all of the mutant verse.

It’s a long book, that could have done with a little culling – the journalists appeared at random times when you had forgotten about them, and there is only one saving grace for Dr Mccoy where he gets to turn down someone who had hurt his feelings before. This coming at a time when he is becoming more and more “Beast” like and feeling that he’s losing his humanity

“Classic” X-men drawings this isn’t. None of the mutants come out looking particularly attractive, even Scott and Wolverine and often they appear old and tired. There’s the usual young man’s fantasy of busty girls wearing barely-covering-nipples outfits (with no corresponding male eye candy for the girls). However there are decent fight scenes, and the damage done to the x-men shows that they are less than invincible.

Book Review: Marvel 1602: Spider-Man by Jeff Parker

Marvel 1602: spider-manA return to the acclaimed universe created by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert kicks off as The Spider has reached manhood in the New World The young nation has grown peacefully, but Norman Osbourne’s treachery finds a way to spoil the peace and put Peter’s life on a new course – back to Europe. Jeff Parker [Agents of Atlas] joins artist Ramon Rosanas to begin the final story of the 1602 saga Collects Spider-Man 1602 #1-5

An offshoot of the Marvel 1602 world set up by Neil Gaiman. All the Marvel stablemates appear in a new world setting.

Peter Parquah is all grown up as a “witchbreed” in America. Osborne commits crimes and is sent back to England to be tried, and Peter is sent on the same boat to keep an eye on him.

Meanwhile some natural philosophers (including Octavious) have been experimenting with Witchbreed blood in order to make them superhuman but things run afoul resulting in a battle in the streets.

As usual, it takes a while to work out who everyone is in “real” life, especially if you’re not a regular visitor to the Marvel multiverse.

Book Review: Ultimate Comics Iron Man: Armor Wars by Warren Ellis

armor wars #ironman #marvel #comic

Cash, cars, boats, houses… Tony Stark has got it all. The only thing that could ruin his day? If every single one of his Iron Man armors were stolen, and then turned against him!

In the wake of devastation brought on by Ultimatum, Earth has become a harsh place to live. Most of the world’s heroes are dead or missing. New York, once the capital of the world, is now a waterlogged husk of it’s former self.

But Iron Man remains vigilant. Until, that is, he learns that his advanced technology has been stolen by the Ghost, a corporate mercenary with his own modified suit of armour.

And matters go from bad to worse when Justine Hammer, the daughter of one of Tony’s rivals tells Stark that the Ghost isn’t the first person to plunder his base. Across the globe, criminals have brought and sold the Iron Man specs. And the only person with enough guts, charm and available cash to stop them from wrecking havoc in an already unstable world is Tony.

Tony is still a bit of lush, and spends most of the story rather drunk, but still manages to out-think and out-shine everyone. He’s down to his last $100million and occasionally has to “slum” it as only Tony can.

Joining up with Justine – who has been bioengineered with nanobots into a superhuman by her father – he travels the world to find out where the stolen technology and plans are in an attempt to stop them being used by baddies. Thankfully (!) they haven’t been sold to too many people, so it’s a fairly short arc. New York looks a mess, but London doesnt look to bad, so the devastation doesn’t look as bad as implied in the blurb.

Tony gets a shock to find out who is masterminding the thefts and how the thief has managed to get through the locks he had designed. Unfortunately, the thieves have not appreciated the significance or the impact of the one small box that Tony doesn’t want to open, with fatal consequences

Graphics are clean and the panels are not overloaded. As I’ve said the story is a little light on numbers of baddies, but then again, there is enough pathos at then end to compensate.

Book Review: Captain America: Fighting Avenger Volume 1 by Brian Clevinger

avengeCaptain America: Fighting Avenger Volume 1 by Brian Clevinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A ragtag Special Forces unit brings Captain America on his first mission during World War II! Their orders? Don’t get him killed! But when the low-profile assignment draws the attention of Baron Strucker, the future Red Skull and half the Nazi army, it’ll be a crash course in super heroics for Marvel’s first Avenger! Plus: An evil from the Sentinel of Liberty’s earliest days reemerges in the modern era to exact vengeance on Cap and the Avengers!

This short novel contains 4 stories for Captain America, written in the 21st Century, but all with a distinct “retro” vibe about them.

The first one gives an overview of Cap’s first mission into WWII, to beat the Nazis. The artwork and lettering is clear and clean, with subdued colours even on Cap’s red white and blue uniform. There is some humour, and the battle fatigued combat troup he ends up with hate him, then come to respect him just a little.

The second story is where Cap goes out to rescue a baby rhino that is being experimented on, and ends up becoming temporary partners with Rhino Man in order to make it happen. the artwork for this is very crowded, with every frame filled to capacity with colour and images – it’s a bit overwhelming and difficult to read.

Third story is about the return of Baron Nemo, who Cap fought against in WWII (really his grandson), who kidnaps Cap in the middle of an award ceremony. The artwork for this one is fairly modern. Most of the Avengers are in this story, including Wolverine and Ironman, all who have to pull together in order to get Cap back.

The Last one has the Puppet Master bring some of the heroes forward from the 1950s in an attempt to control the world. Very 1950s drawings, a Wolverine that keeps going “heh heh” about the double entrendres, all very child friendly, with low levels of violence

All stories put me in mind of the child friendly newspaper strips, with no swearing and limited violence, so would probably be a reasonable started for children to get into Graphic Novels

Book Review: Captain America: The Chosen by David Morrell

thechosenCaptain America: The Chosen by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marvel brings you a groundbreaking new vision of Captain America as you’ve never seen him, in this six-issue Marvel Knights mini-series in the vein of Spider-Man: Reign and Silver Surfer: Requiem. Steeped in the life-or-death tension of insurrectionist combat, is the young Marine Corporal James Newsom really fighting side by side with Captain America, or is it all in his mind? And is Cap actually… dying?

Multi stranded story, where Captain America lies dying. Meanwhile a Corporal in the US Army is in Afghanistan, missing his wife and the 5 month old son he’s never seen. During a patrol, when the unit are under fire Corporal Newman rescues the rest of his unit, believing that Captain America is beside him, supporting him. He only finds out later, during another rescue (which forms the main part of the book), that Captain America is telepathically talking to him, as Newman has been selected to become one of the new Captain Americas.

During his escape attempt, Captain America tells Newman of how Steve Rogers became “Cap”, why there was only one super soldier ever produced, and why he is now dying. There is also a new project being set up, for which Newman has been selected to take part.

Excellent graphics and writing, good to see a story in a modern setting, with the problems still being encountered by soldiers still in Afghanistan being included.


Book Review: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet by Warren Ellis

Wolverine not dead yet #graphicnovel #comic #marvel

Over the years, the hero known as Wolverine has faced many adversaries, fought many battles, and survived more than a few tough scrapes. But there may never have been a more ruthless man in the life of Wolverine than McLeish, the hard-drinking, tough-talking Scottish terrorist, known as the White Ghost. First a drinking buddy of Wolverine’s many years in the past, McLeish is revealed to be a hated enemy, bringing death to the door of Wolverine.Now, many years after his death at the hands of Wolverine, McLeish appears to be alive again. Signs and clues point to the unlikely continued existence for this vile character, and Wolverine will not rest until the truth is revealed. A noirish thriller told in John Woo-like action sequences, Wolverine: Not Dead Yet will leave readers gasping for air as the mystery of the White Ghost’s return unfolds into the most unexpected ending of all

This tells of Wolverine, alone in New York, being chased by memories of a drinking partner from 10 years previously: McLeish was a hard drinking mad Scottish killer who Logan linked up to drink with in Hong Kong.

Logan left McLeish for dead after a boat exploded in Hong Kong harbour. However, Logan is now being chased by ghosts (plus all too real killers) and is manipulated into arriving in a deserted house outside New York where he comes face to face with McLeish in a final showdown.

Gone are the early narrative introductions in each chapter of “I am Wolverine, I’m the best at what I do”. Logan is feeling old and tired and manipulated. His capacity for fast healing remains, but the adamantium has been stripped from his bones and not providing him with the protection he was once used too. His claws are still as lethal as ever, but they are now bone rather than metal. This was the main thing that annoyed me about this story – i didn’t understand why or when wolverine has lost this protection, and it could have added to understanding of why Logan felt so down and even darker than normal.