A Comic Death or Three: Ramblings

warning: contains spoilers to Justice League: Cry for Justice #6 – #7

Over the years we’ve got used to knowing that, if a DC or Marvel character that wore tights died, there is always a high probability of that character returning at some point down the line. Whether it be months or years. The thing is if a non-powered character dies, that’s them gone. I think thats why there has been such a strong reaction in some parts to the death of Lian Harper, the child of Roy (Arsenal) Harper and Jade (Cheshire) Nguyen.
Now, I don’t know if it is now because I am a father myself, but I was quite shocked when I read of Lian’s death. I’ll be honest now, as I don’t know the context it happened in as I’ve not read the Cry for Justice Issue. In fact, I’ve only really read Arsenal in Devin Grayson‘s (Titans, Arsenal mini-series) & Jay Faerber‘s (Titans) run across the turn of the century, but what I have read of Roy Harper, his paternal nature was a resonant part of his character. Lian’s death will now completely redefine him, and not only in the short term. I’m sure, whether Lian’s death was conceived by the story writer, James Robinson, or was diktat of the editorial hierarchy, that this move has the potential to go badly, badly wrong. Is it possible for a character to go forward without constant reference to his child’s death? Will a writer, somewhere down the line have to ‘forget’ this has happened to try and revive the characters emotion? are things being lined up for Superboy Prime to start punching again? I’ll be keeping on eye on things to see how things go.

Somewhere that a non-central characters death story was handled well was back in a New Warriors story by Fabian Nicieza. Elvin (Rage) Halliday, began is hero-ing at age 13, toxic waste giving him strength, invulnerability and a trip way past puberty into the frame of a 30 year old. At that age you’re not going to handle the death of your “Granny Staples” well. It was in New Warriors Vol 1 #37 (which has one of my favorite covers of all time) that Rage’s name was finally matched by his character and it really helped define the character for the future. Why is this different to Arsenal you might ask?  Well the main difference is the amount of history behind the character. Rage only had been made his debut, two years prior in Avengers Vol 1 #326. Roy Has well over half a century of stories to his name. The main similarity, though, both Lian and Granny Staples will probably not be seen alive in comics again.

I mention previously that both DC’s and Marvel’s costumed characters are know to come back to life. Well we’re know only two months away from the resurrection Paul Johnstone to retake his mantle of Shadowhawk.  The creator owned characters who have been published with the ‘i’ adorning the cover seldom come back, but this time its happening. I originally had reservations, BIG reservations. Whereas Marvel had the Legacy Virus, Jim Valentino didn’t beat around the bush with Shadowhawk, Paul Johnstone had been injected with the HIV virus by one of his enemies, a huge story line centered on Shadowhawk’s desperation with finding the virus, and his despite adventures across time, and with characters steeped in uber-advanced technology, no cure could be found. I posed the point at the Image Message boards and Jim Valentino responded:

 “I think we came up with a solution that will not only surprise, but satisfy. It worked for ME and I’m not big on resurrecting the dead (and, no, he’s NOT a zombie…or a messiah!) Actually, it was [new series writer] Dan Wickline that came up with the solution and it won him the writing gig!”

Now color me excited for the return of this character, a character that dishes out true vengeance by giving villains a true, irreversible life sentence in a battered body.

And thus ends a page worth of ramblings. My worries for the non-reversable death of Lian Harper, my love for the story around the non-reversable death of Granny Staples, and my excitement for the the back breaking return of the best Shadowhawk of all Paul Johnstone.

Roy Harper’s story continues in DC comics’ The Rise of Arsenal on March 24th, Rage can currently be seen in Avengers: the Initiative, and Shadowhawk makes his return in a new Issue #1 on May 5th 2010.


Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1 Review

Writer: Greg Hurwitz
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Would you like to read a comic where the Hero crash lands in the middle of New York in a strange completely enclosed, flying Machine? Where the Hero bursts out on a souped up and armoured Motorcycle, capturing the bad guys with non lethal gun weaponry?

How about a comic where the hero propels himself from a Ladder extending from a aircraft, using his momentum to knock the bad guys cornering 4×4 onto it’s side and surfing on the 4×4’s side down a main city street?

How about a comic where a the Hero gets rid of the miniature manifestation of his literal “inner demon” by flicking him out of his taxi?

How about a comic which has one of the most complimentary Writer / Artist teams in recent memory. One where the writers script leaves the artist space to make some incredibly draw dropping panels, while creating an incredible re-introduction to the Hero?

You really should see what Gregg Hurwitz and Jerome Opeña have done with the Vengeance of Moon Knight #1 you know.

Vampirella: The Second Coming #1 Review

Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Daniel Sampere
Publisher: Harris Comics

Firstly, I have to admit I know nothing of Vampirella’s history or longevity in the comic world. I may well have intentionally avoided it for the overtly sexual costume and covers, having failed to notice the list of top writers who have written the character.

Well the $1.99 on the cover was enough for me to sit up and take notice this time. Harris comics (like Aspen with their $2.50 title Dellec) are trying to counter the consistent price rises to $3.99 at other companies by putting affordable comics on the shelves, and its something people who want to pay less should take notice of.

In The Second Coming, Vampirella is “a myth, a cartoon character, some sort of viral image”. In Fact, the marketing has made Vampirella a brand as popular as “Hello Kitty”. Well this is the Vampirella that Kelly Robinson-Witten knows. A viral e-mail awakens a seeming memory in her, and suddenly she starts noticing a blood red V tag all around her city. This draws her from her job at Trinidad Women’s Resource Action Center to a mysterious encounter at the local library.

Meanwhile Kelly’s Husband, workaholic Frank Witten, meets his new project manager over dinner at the underground transit system. The location is as good as any for a gateway to hell, and the dinner laced to turn Frank into a pawn for he who resides below.

Vampirella was a decent little introduction for me, I wasn’t overloaded with information about the Vampirella that came before, there was a nice little hook of familial conflict being enhanced to quite a degree and there was nothing more overtly sexual than you’ll see in some of Marvels T+ books.

The artwork by Sampere impressed, in fact it’s clarity, linework and shading reminded me a lot of Mahmud Asrar’s Dynamo 5 work, and he certainly looks like a name to be watched in the industry.

I wasn’t expecting anything from Vampirella, I got an interesting title that looks like it will pique my interest without hitting my pocket. Bonus.

Magog #1 Review

Writer: Keith Giffen
Artist: Howard Porter
Publisher: DC Comics

He’s a marine who was critically injured, repaired by a pseudo-god and enhanced in the process. He became a member of the Justice Society, but not a popular one. Thing is he’s military trained, not ‘Hero must not kill’ trained. This sets up collisions with not only his team-mates, but the baddest bads in the DC Universe, in theatres of war across the globe, and closer to home.

With the huge number of characters featured in JSA, Magog has not had much of a chance to be fleshed out. Things are started to be resolved on that front here, and Giffen begins to show us what rules Magog lives by. He brutally takes out young soldiers guiding the living dead of a massacred Sudanese village through the jungle, and, closer to home, trains up a friend to protect herself from her violent partner.

Aided and abetted by his former military colleague, Magog has so many wrongs he feels are going unchecked by his super-powered peers, he even goes as far as using an iPod based random mission selector to choose his next destination.

Giffen weaves into the tale details of a hi-tech arms dealer (a perfect military based story) who matches Magog’s brutality, but with less discrimination.

Magog is off to a good start, and it’s nice to see DC willing to attempt to vary their line-up by having a character at the “Punisher” end of the Good-guy scale, rather than so many of their characters having similar moralities. I’m looking forward to future issues.

Red Circle: Inferno #1 One-Shot Review

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Greg Scott
Publisher: DC Comics

The injection of characters into the DC Universe continues in the second of four Red Circle one-shot that reinvent the Archie Heroes for today.
The lone survivor of a cruise liner has been brought to hospital. His amnesia is so severe, he can’t even remember the name he uttered on his arrival, Frank Verrano. The name doesn’t appear on the cruise liner manifest, in fact the name can not be found in any search engine database. “Six Billion people on the planet and I don’t get even one hit on Frank Verrano”. And why would someone go to the effort of disguising themselves as a porter to assassinate the amnesiac? And maybe more importantly, why can the amnesiac turn into a man on fire?
J. Michael Straczynski story merges action and super-heroics with extra portions of mystery and intrigue. A guest appearance by fellow Archie Hero, the Hangman, helps us establish Inferno’s moral leanings and really brings up an air of Robert Ludlum’s hero with no memory, Jason Bourne.
Greg Scott’s artwork is very similar in style to John Paul Leon and Paul Azaceta. Heavy shadows adorn many pages, so the partnership with colourist Art Lyon is incredibly important when it comes to making a fiery character leap off the page. The partnership works so well you can feel a back-draft penetrating your eyes.
Inferno might be the co-feature of the upcoming Shield ongoing series, but it’s definitely one to watch. Jump on now with this affordable one-shot…

Dark Reign: Mr Negative #1 Review

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Gianluca Gugliotta
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The first new villain of Spider-Mans brand new day has gotten himself a tie-in mini-series and he’s pitted against New York’s new Kingpin of crime the Hood. Can the Hood and his crime syndicate take over Mr. Negative’s home soil of Chinatown?
In 2007’s MODOK’S 11, Van Lente had proven that he knew how to handle D and E list villains, and he brings this skill back to this issue and he mixes the lesser Spider-Man foes in with a tale of how new A list villain, Mr. Negative’s alter ego came to America.
Mr Negative’s current story is intertwined with Spider-Man supporting characters, and it’s Betty Brant who offers us a retrospective of his arrival. But it’s where the action kicks in that the issue really kicks into gear. A corrupted White Dragon, Scorcher, White Rabbit, Bloodshed and the Squid… You may not have heard of them but they bring great character to the story and bring us a true Battle Royale on the streets of China Town.
Gugliotta’s artwork is incredibly in tune with the words as he brings swagger to all the characters involved.
Mr Negative’s a good book to have fun with, whether you’re following Dark Reign or not.

Olympus #1 Review

Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics

Were you thinking that it’s about time that there was a new leading pair in comics? a decent duo who share lead billing, rather than a hero / sidekick affair? Well, brothers Castor and Pollux, known to some in the mythology world as Gemini, are perhaps the pairing you’ve been waiting for.
As “Hunters serving Olympus”, we’re introduced to Castor and Pollux chasing down the rogue Gregori across the backdrop of London, in an attempt to retrieve Zeus’ staff. And what’s more, they’re armed only with a hook and chain fit to drag their opponent back to the underworld.
The action of Olympus seamlessly runs from panel to panel, the fluidity enhanced by Christian Ward’s uncanny knack of capturing each panel at the perfect point in each characters motion. He treats us to crunching punches and motorcycle stunts in a truly unique style, creating focus with an incredible use of colour.
Saying that though, these characters are fully realised by Edmondson’s dialogue, which establish the brothers bond and their differences incredibly subtly but incredibly deftly. Their words exude realism and believability.
If you want to read a comic that comes across as it were a Hollywood blockbuster transposed into a 32 page form, then this is for you.
This is Hollywood action blockbuster fayre transposed onto the comic book page.