4 out of 5 Space Monkeys
You had me at Jim Starlin.
Starlin is one of my own personal Holy Trinity (the others being Billy Joel and George Carlin), and not only inspired me to be a writer, but shaped my young minds view on Religion, Authority and philosophy with all his works on Captain Marvel, Warlock, Dreadstar, and the Infinity Gauntlet. What Kirby was to the Golden and Silver Age of Comics, Starlin was to the Bronze and Modern over at Marvel, and was no slouch at DC either, penning New Gods, Cosmic Odyssey, Batman: The Cult, and The Weird, among other titles. Plus it’s just nice to see him return to his roots with, a character he not only created, but one that has been a Cosmic Level threat to the Marvel Universe for over 40 years, the man, the myth, the movie end scene sensation…. Thanos the Mad Titan.
Now, in what I’m sure is some backroom deal with Jim, so he doesn’t bog them down in a years long suit, Marvel has given Starlin not only this annual to do, but a 100 page graphic novel titled Infinity Revelation, also starring Thanos,… which is a little ironic since Marvel and Starlin parted ways quite vocally in 2004 over his direction of Thanos’ ongoing series (granted this led to Giffen taking over, which led to DnA and Annihilation and the current Guardians of the Galaxy, but Starlin was still missed).
And it was a very smart move. Starling loves writing Thanos and playing in Marvel’s cosmic sandbox, and it shows in this Annual, re-teamed him with his Infinity-cohort Ron Lim, one of the few artists besides Starlin himself, who can capture Starlin’s ideas and lay them on the page in full cosmic color.
A key mystery from one of Thano’s early appearances (and his first death!) is revealed. Killed by the destruction of the Cosmic Cube by Captain Marvel ( in the classic Captain Marvel #33 ) Thanos is summoned at the brink of death to Mephisto’s realm. The lord of the hell as an offer to make the now broken, failed Titan: Serve him or suffer damnation. When Thanos refuses, Mephisto attempts to “feed the fires of hell with his soul”, but is abruptly interrupted by…Thanos.
An avatar of Thanos (a ghostly image), one of many created by Thanos during his possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, has been sent via the Time Gem to key points in Thanos’ life. After rescuing Thanos from Mephisto, the Avatar and Thanos get into a time travelling look at the back drop of the Marvel Cosmic Universe, which leads not only to some some self enlightenment, but Thanos finding his true place in the universe. This Annual not only plays out as a crazy It’s a Wonderful Life, where all the ghosts are Thanos, and they only visit other Thanos’ (or is Thani?) giving us a nice recap of the Mad Titans life (for some details and where to get all his greatest hits, check out my to Inifinity and Beyond article…. To INFINITY!!!! (and beyond!) A timeline leading up to Marvel’s Infinity), its sets up the impetus for the upcoming graphic novel;
What is Universal Transmutation????
3 out of 5 Space Monkeys
Why?: Because, after the events of Forever Evil, in which the Crime Syndicate revealed Nightwing’s identity to the public, and Lex Luthor killed Dick Grayson (and then resuscitated him) to prevent a bomb from destroying the eastern seaboard. Now presumed dead by the world at large, and his closest friends and family, Nightwing is ready to move on tote next stage of his career… sidekick to super hero to… Super-Spy!!!
A story in three parts, Nightwing #30 starts with wrapping up the ongoing storyline (I presume, I wasn’t reading it regularly) dealing with Leslie Thompkins and her connections to Spyral, the near mythic shadow agency, created to hunt down and kill superhumans for governments around the world, last seen in the pages of Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. Spyral, in the hands of Dr. Dadelus, nearly brought Batman to an untimely end, and was linked to various insidious organizations like Leviathan, followers of the Crime Bible and The League Of Assassins.
The second tale is twelve pages of tough love…. Batman style! In a no-holds-barred, knock-down, drag out, bloody as hell, sparring match with Nightwing, Batman attempts to convince Dick to take on a new mission, one that requires the world believing he is dead. That includes everyone he is close to; Alfred, Batgirl, Robin, Red Hood and many others, must never know Dick is alive if this plan is going to work, and it’s a doozy: Going undercover as an agent of the newly active Spyral!
And then the third chapter, by the upcoming creative team behind Grayson, Agent of Spyral, gives us his answer. A rogue Dick Grayson, travels the globe, from Tokyo, to Russia, and then Jordan, involving himself in criminal affairs throughout various underworlds, waiting to be recruited by Spyral. It’s at his last stop in Uganda, where he is approached by a beautiful woman…. in a purple suit with a white cross motif on the chest and criminal ties to her past. I’m guessing her name is Helena (remember folks, Huntress is Helena Wayne from Earth2, and borrowed the Helena Bertinelli name when she crossed over with Powergirl. What?? You not reading World’s Finest and Earth2… shame shame…). Guess who she works for:
( pssst… it’s Spyral ! )
4 out of 5 Space Monkeys
Why?: Hahahaha, the King of the Seven Seas versus the Avatar of the Green! Fish vs. Vegetables!! How can you not want to read this!! Aquaman, concerned about the temporary but sudden massive growth of algae across the world (see current issues of Swamp Thing), has come to the Louisiana swamplands in search of the mythical Swamp Thing. Joined by Ya’Wara, his teammate from the Others who possesses the Globe of Teleportion, the two have been on his trail for while, looking to get some answers about the large cloud of plant life working it’s way through the south pacific, destroying the Apo reef and all forms of sea-life. Due to Aquaman’s more than heavy-handed approach to dealing with those who mess with the ocean, a battle of elemental kings ensues.
Although Swamp Thing tries to walk away, a passionate Aquaman won’t let it happen, and each hero is forced to pushed their powers to new levels, showing how powerful a command both have over their charges!
Like most super hero brawls and brouhahas , this one is of course a misunderstanding, as the killer plant life is a mystery to the Swamp Thing as well!!!! Parker and Pelletier continue to impress in a post Geoff Johns Aquaman title, and Martinez’s chapters dealing with Mera and her hunt for her would be assassins in Atlantis’ underworld was a seamless transition in art, and I’d like to see more of him, either on this title or any other. This is still a cool super-hero title, showcasing the bad-ass side of being Aquaman!
5 out of 5 Space Monkeys
Why?: Because if Jim Starlin is part of my Holy Trinity, Ellis is one of my Latter Day Saints! The man who refined the Superhero genre with his work on Authority, Planetary and just about any title he worked on is now writing a sci-fi mini series for Image, so of course, I’m there!!
Much like his contemporary Garth Ennis’ Caliban for Avatar, this is a hard-sci-fi story. Yes, it is an alien-invasion-conquer-the-Earth-story, but there’s no advanced warning, no rag-tag group of rebellions to fight back, no Giger-esque aliens with easy-to-spot weakness, and there is no Bruce Willis, or Will Smith to rally the troops and hit the save the day button with good ol’ American know how.
10 years ago Earth had it’s first contact with an extraterrestrial race. Giant columns, miles high landed on Earth in various locations. Devastating cites, killing millions and toppling governments. All without firing a single shot. Not one alien seen, no communications answered or received and no man-made weapon, from fighter planes and nukes to biological and chemical attacks have any affect. All rendered harmless within proximity to a Tree; the nick-name given to the giant space crafts that are slowly impeding on our planet.
Now the world has adjusted to living among an alien race so superior it dismisses them. Do humans worry about, consider or even acknowledge ants when they build a house? no, not at all, right?
Ellis, with Jason Howard (who does a remarkable shift in tone from his previous work on The Astounding Wolf-Man and Super Dinosaur) give us an on the ground and running view of this new world through the stories of a Tian, a teenage Asian boy from a provincial village, moves closer to the nearest Tree, walled of by the government, to inspire his art; Vince, a rich New Yorker who his planning on running for Mayor in a post Tree, ruined Manhattan, and Marsh, a scientist at a research station at the base of a Tree on a frozen Norwegian Island, where black flowers with markings similar to those are the alien ships have sprouted in the frozen wastes.
This seems to be a thought-provoking intelligent series, that has Ellis’ singular touch all over it. It was an engaging first issue, and will leave you mad… that you have to wait a month to learn more cool stuff about it!
Clive Barker’s Nightbreed #1
w. Marc Andreyko
a. Piotr Kowalski
3 out of 5 Space Monkeys
Why?: It’s Clive Barker, it’s based one my favorite cult movies of my teenage horror years, and it’s in the hands of a talented creative team. Andreyko (Manhunter and Batwoman scribe) and Piotr Kowalski (pencils on Casey’s SEX) delve deep into the past of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. Originally a short story by Barker, it was adapted into a movie that kind of bombed, was re-worked to many times, and mis-marketed as a slasher flick that failed to produce the author’s vision (Barker wanted to create the Star Wars of horror movies, going so far as to borrow the franchise’s artist Ralph McQuarrie for designs and backdrops).
The comic focuses on two of the NightBreed’s more popular members (to make a long story short, the Nightbreed are like the X-Men of monsters, creatures that have been the inspirations for myths and legends throughout history, who’ve gathered together to hide from us humans for their protection and ours) Peloquin, the squid-dreaded vampire like monster man, and Shuna, the bird like lady of the night with razor-sharp barbs for feathers.
As the Nightbreeds have been around since the dawn of man, Andreyko and Kowalski give us a glimpse into the past. In the 19th Century South, Peloquin transforms an escaped slave into a Nightbreed, this is par for the course with him as he is responsible for the story’s main character being transformed. And convincing the now monster-like woman to join him in revenge against the men who hunted her down and killed her husband. And then we have Shuna’s tale, which takes place in 1945 Boston. Senator Harold Emery calls it an early night after dinner with friends and seeks out one of Boston’s more secretive brothels, in search of the one thing that can satisfy him, a night in the arms of the seductive Shuna, hidden away for only the most selective of clientele.
Andreyko captures the flavor and nuances of Barker’s style of unique style of horror, and gives us the start of a much-needed return to Barker’s Nightbreed realm and all the dark disturbing things that come with it!
4 out of 5 Space Monkeys
Why?: Because this book is just beautiful. Blackman tells a cool story, filled with assassins (pulled from all corners of the Marvel U), intrigue, and action. From the continuing hunt of the best hired killers by Bloody Face, the assassin who gains the skills of his victims by eating parts of them, to the instant classic Elektra/Lady Bullseye bloody ballet of a battle that ends in a rather nostalgically ironic way, all beautifully rendered by the talented Mike Del Mundo, whose page layouts and storytelling skills rival those of Marco Rudy and JH Williams III. Check this book out!
Sorry to cut it short, but today is the Birthday of the future Mrs. Threat Level Wednesday, The Oracle of Royal Collectibles, and the one and only Di Di, my fiancee.. Diane Giordano
Happy Birthday Baby!!!