Travelling Man's Blog


Review: The Ultimates Issue 1 by Travelling Man

ultimates issue 1Written by Al Ewing

Art by Kenneth Rocafort

Colour art by Dan Brown

Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

One of the several unsolvable problems of comics is stasis. Batman will never rid Gotham City of crime. Spider-Man will always do whatever a spider can. The worlds we see in superhero comics are vibrant, complex, rich and fundamentally unbreakable. The song may not remain the same, but the forms of the stories always do. Nothing changes. Or perhaps more accurately, nothing changes forever.

No one told the Ultimates that.

Al Ewing is one of the best writers in the business right now and every page of this issue shows you why. It’s loose, TV-like storytelling right down to the cold open and credits spaced through Rocafort’s big, expansive panels. It’s also a comic that trusts you completely. Inside the first few pages, Blue Marvel is talking about how the universe is built and what’s changed post-Secret Wars. Inside the first half issue we get an idea of the sheer scope of the team; T’Challa introducing the Secretary General of the UN to the Triskelin, Blue Marvel and Captain Marvel on a mission in deep space and Spectrum and Miss America on a second string of the same job, on a different world. All of them get moments to breathe and T’Challa, Captain Marvel and Spectrum come out particular well. They also play like a very different kind of team. There’s almost no conflict, no sense of warring personalities. This is a group of professionals, tackling the jobs no one else can. Changing things.

Big things.

Rocafort and Brown are on top form throughout here. I’ve talked already about the expansive panels but it’s the detail that stays with you. The look on Spectrum’s face as she sees just how powerful America Chavez really is. T’Challa’s good natured and relentless explanation of how the Triskelion is essential a science and superheroics nation state. Carol Danvers using an old identity for a new purpose and clearly enjoying it. And, of course, those final pages. This is a book about big ideas, filled with big personalities. It’s also absolutely confident in its mission, just like its characters. Because, and I’m being really careful not to spoil anything here, this book is going to change things. Or at least try.

Vast in scope and brilliantly executed this is one of the best debuts you’ll read this year. Rocafort and Brown’s art is note perfect, Sabino’s lettering is clever, playful and subtle and Ewing’s script is hugely ambitious and successful. Pick it up, meet the Ultimates and get ready for a brave new world, one they’re building one solution at a time.



REVIEW: Ms Marvel Issue 18 by Travelling Man

ms marvel 18Written by G. Willow Wilson

Art by Adrian Alphona

Colour art by Ian Herring

Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by Kris Anka

Published by Marvel

£2.20

 

This is the end of everything, As Earth collapses and the Convergence begins, Kamala and Carol Danvers try and find Aamir, Kamala’s older brother. The good news is they succeed. The bad news is they find him in the hands of Kamran, Kamala’s evil ex-crush. And Aamir seems to be an Inhuman now…

 

I’ve talked about this book a hell of a lot for one simple reason; it’s brilliant. It embodies everything that superhero comics should be and manages to wrap them round a couple of dozen elements that superhero comics are rarely brave enough to tackle. This takcles them all, head on and does so in the same way kamala would; with absolute honesty.

This is a book about family, and why it sucks sometimes. Wilson, Alphona and Herring are getting fiercely good at single panels that make you laugh and cry at the same time and there are three here. The first is the moment where Aamir, newly empowered, immediately defends his sister. Kamala’s astonishment that her brother actually likes her is impossibly sweet and absolutely genuine and in any other issue would be the highlight.

Here’s it’s just the first of three. The later scene where Carol leaves to fly off to the (SO MUCH LESS FUN but still good) Secret Wars and gives Kamala a parting gift is another standout. It’s funny, deeply moving and very sweet in a pragmatic way only this book, and these two characters, can pull off. Wilson’s take on Carol is the same compassionate, two-fisted leader that Kelly Sue DeConnick has written so well but, with Kamala, there’s another side to her as well. This is Carol not just as big sister, but as a big sister defending her weird and awesome sibling for the first and last time. Elegant yet functional, tough yet compassionate. That really is how they roll.

This is a great book and this, despite being part of a tie in to a crossover, is one of the best issues yet. Do yourself a favour, go pick up volume 1 and read all the way up to this. Kamala, and it, are worth it. As well as being weird and awesome

 



Review:Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps Issue 3 by Travelling Man

carol corps issue 3Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson

Art by David Lopez

Colours by Lee Loughridge

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

There’s a William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, that everyone knows. Trust me you’ve heard this quoted somewhere:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

It’s a great poem and one that I’ve seen quoted in numerous comics over the years. It’s not quoted here but that idea, of the world slowly shaking itself apart, is central to this issue. Not in any cosmic, world-shattering way either but through something as simple, and unstoppable, as curiosity.

The cat’s out of the bag, the flight are in the air and now Captain Marvel and the Corps are called on to do the hardest thing any soldier can do; run. The issue is taken up with the immediate consequences of the last one and it’s very much a transitional instalment. The Corps run like Hell, stop for breath and then realize they shouldn’t. That’s it.

Except it isn’t. DeConnick and Thompson’s script is peppered with subtle little moments of humanity, courage and humour. Carol’s moment of mutual respect with her pursuers is especially great as is Rhodey completely flipping out on his ‘flight’, both beautifully rendered by Lopez. Likewise, the quiet, mournful penultimate scene gives the entire team a chance to do something different. Loughridge’s deep, sunset colours add to the funereal air, Caramagna’s letters perfectly capture the muted emotions of the characters and the script raises the stakes even as it comes into land. This is not a story which is going to end tidily for the Carol Corps but it still might, just, be a story that ends well. They’ll certainly go out swinging, regardless.

That’s what you take away from this as a story and Secret Wars as a whole; the people. The pilots DeConnick and Thompson show us here are distinct, gloriously untidy humans in an impossible world. They cling to what they can, make the best calls they can and live with the bad ones. They’ve been a pleasure to fly with and, as the story shifts into endgame, it’ll be an honour to fly with them all the way to the end. The centre cannot hold, Battleworld is falling apart and the Carol Corps have one last flight, and fight, in them. Hit the afterburners, ladies. Let’s go.



Review: Ms Marvel Issue 17 by Travelling Man

ms marvel 17Written by G. Willow Wilson

Art by Adrian Alphona

Colour Art by Ian Herring

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by Kris Anka

Published by Marvel

£2.20

 

I’m writing about a lot of poetry this week. The Hollow Men by TS Eliot is the poem you quote if you can’t quote The Second Coming. The last stanza in particular is very powerful:

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

 

That’s what’s happening in Ms Marvel, or at least, what’s threatening to. By cleverly avoiding the Battleworld plot, Wilson’s script focuses on what matters the most to Kamala; her family and friends and neighbourhood. She’s a classic, street level superhero, standing her corner even as it evaporates around her. And this time she’s got backup.

Carol Danvers’ arrival in the book is glorious for two reasons. The most obvious is it gives Kamala a chance to fangirl as the world ends but the subtler reason is also the more poignant. Carol’s been doing this far longer and she knows what Kamala doesn’t quite yet; sacrifices have to be made if you’re going to keep going. This is the most serious, saddest version of Carol we’ve seen in a while and Wilson cleverly shows us why. It’s not just that she’s terrified of what’s coming, it’s that she’s genuinely scared for this glorious, sweet-natured, huge hearted kid who’s sort of borrowed her old name. The scene with the cats here is their relationship in a nutshell; Kamala desperate to help everyone, Carol desperate to keep her together so she can help some people. It’s clever, funny, poignant stuff and I powers every page of this issue.

As does the sheer, sugar-rush joy of Kamala finally getting to cut loose. The patrol scenes are especially great, and Alphona’s combination of Carol’s military precision and Kamala’s gangly energy is funny even before they start talking. For all the damage, Kamala’s blossoming as the world ends and the panel where she describes herself as being ‘WEIRD AND AWESOME!’ is about the best mission statement the book has ever had. Alphona and Herring have done brilliant work through this series to date but this issue is some of their very best so far, especially in the scenes where Kamala’s redirecting neighbourhood criminals to help rather than loot. Caramagna’s letters match their energy beat for beat and the result is a book that shares the exuberant, desperate compassion of its heroine. The world may be ending, but Kamala Khan’s still on watch. Don’t mess with Jersey and don’t mess with Ms Marvel.



Review:Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps Issue 2 by Travelling Man

carol corps 2Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson

Art by David Lopez

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by David Lopez

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

The Carol Corps have a problem. His name is Rhodey and he should be dead. In fact, he should be an Ultron. The fact he’s neither is bad enough, but what they’re about to find out is even worse. The collective lie everyone has been telling themselves is growing thin and the Corps are going to get their shot at the stars. If they live.

The best Secret Wars miniseries have been the ones that either explore the core concepts of the characters in a new way or break entirely new ground. This falls somewhere in the middle of the two approaches and works supremely well. The militaristic background is a subtle throwback to Carol’s past but is also an interesting new world that DeConnick and Thompson explore here. But it’s also a catalyst for the central motif; that this is a book about pilots and pilots can’t help but fly.

That spirit, not of pioneering but of wanting to tweak the nose of your limitations, is baked into the character and brought very much to the fore here. It works brilliantly too and the fact that breaking new ground is what gets the Corps to commit heresy is an elegant touch that echoes up and down the issue. Thompson and DeConnick have a clear love for these characters and you do too by the end of the issue. The Corps are brilliant, flawed, heroic people and as a result they’re in a lot of trouble. I’ve rarely been more worried about a cast, and that’s a testament to the writing. You want them to be okay even though they almost certainly won’t be. The tragedy, and brilliance, of the characters is that that’s exactly how they want it; someone’s got to be the first and someone’s got to be the first to come back and those are two different people, so be it.

On the art side of things Lopez has huge fun, not just with the characters but the tech. There’s a glorious engineering montage here that gives him a chance to show off his research and some character moments that are amongst his best work. The chess game between Carol and the Baroness is especially well done, not to mention chilling. Likewise, Doc is a lovely new character who fits right in and feels like she’s been in the book for years. Finally Caramagna’s letters focus you on every nuance of the dialogue and ensure the book is as tightly machined and engineered as the planes the Corps fly.

Character driven, concept heavy, brave SF that’s also one of the best Secret Wars books on the market this is as good as they come. Pick it up and watch the Corps soar.

 



Review: A-Force Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson

Penciled by Jorge Molina

Inked by Jorge Molina and Craig Yeung

Coloured by Laura Martin and Matt Milla

Lettered by VC’s Cory Pettit

Cover by Jim Cheung and Laura Martin

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

Most of Battleworld is terrifying, an amalgam of dead worlds held together by the force of will of Doom. But Arcadia is a light in the darkness, a citadel governed by She-Hulk and protected by A-Force, the mightiest superheroines of the Marvel universe.

But Arcadia, like everywhere else on Battleworld, is vulnerable…

Everything in this book is confident, assured and fun. From the informal introduction of Arcadia and the roster of A-Force to the closing reveal, this is a book that knows exactly what it is and where it’s going. Bennett and Wilson are two of the best writers in the business and they’re on top form here. Arcadia is set up straight away as an ideal but a fragile one, and they lay out the relationships between the leads with minimal exposition and maximum character. The tensions between She-Hulk and Medusa and the relationship between Loki and Miss America are the two real standouts but everything you see works. I especially liked Carol Danvers, up before everyone else, hanging out with an ipad and a coffee while the others get up to speed.

That rock solid foundation of character is used to give us just enough about Secret Wars to care. The book tells its own story but also clearly sets up stuff for other series in the crossover. You don’t have to read them, but if you do you get added value. That’s not just good writing, its rare writing when it comes to crossover events.

That level of skill is reflected in every aspect of the art too. Pettit’s lettering is organic and clean in a way that accentuates the book’s pacing while Martin and Milla’s colours are deep, naturalistic and Mediterranean, reflecting the island idyll of Arcadia. Molina’s pencils are great too, giving each member a unique look and personality and grounding Arcadia as a unique, vibrant location with a distinctly European feel.

The end result is another Secret Wars book that doesn’t feel beholden to its crossover. There’s a lot to absorb here, but it’s all done with such a light, confident touch (As well as some great jokes) that it stand alone. A real breakout from the current run of Marvel series, this is huge fun and promises to only ever build on that. Highly recommended.



Review: Captain Marvel Issue 15 by Travelling Man


Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Art by David Lopez

Colours by Lee Loughridge

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by David Lopez

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

I lost my best friend when we were both 17 and that experience, as well as the extended nature of his illness, has coloured my entire life. Around November, when the anniversary hits, I find it very easy to turn in on myself. The first couple of years, I, and a lot of other friends of his, did just that. Some of us drunk to excess, others caused creative and mostly nonviolent mayhem. We dealt with a wound, by causing more wounds. None of them serious, none of them permanent but there was a sense of the scar being re-opened, increasingly, on purpose. Honour through pain. Remembrance through pressing an old wound until it hurts. Grief through anger.

That’s what Carol does here, and it broke my heart. She arrives back on Earth (After a fantastic Star Wars joke cold open) and finds out Tracy, one of her best friends, died. Her first response is to kick her own ass for not getting home a week earlier. Her second is to close up. Solve the problem by punching the problem into smaller pieces, let grief, as Kelly Sue talks about here, carry you downstream. There’s always stuff to do, there’s always things to take your mind off the absence and off your own healing.

Until there aren’t. And that’s when it really hurts.

Most of this issue is told in flashback, by Tracy’s ghost and the ghost of the love of her life, Teddy. The two women embody the same pragmatic, mischievous compassion Carol does and the scene where they meet is wonderful. Rendered in lush near monochrome by Loughridge it’s a scene that really lets Lopez cut loose on subtlety and emotion. The look on Tracy’s face when she realizes she’s being hit on is priceless; hope, joy, abject terror, the stunned expression of someone who’s just been whacked upside the head and is trying to work out if they like it. It’s amazingly sweet and is just one of a dozen moments that shows just how good this art team is. A couple of pages later, there’s a four panel montage of Teddy’s death and the aftermath. It’s horrible and raw and untidy and absolutely silent and, again, so much about the characters is coded into the art. Tracy folds in half the same way Carol does at the top of the issue, the doctors gradually fade away and the whole time, Teddy’s body is always there, grief exerting gravity.

That trick’s used a lot this issue, the entire team using slight modification of panels to show just how much your sense of time changes when you’re grieving. The final scenes are set on the beach and again, show just how much of an influence Carol was on Tracy. Again too, the art is on top form; Loughridge’s colours creating a sense of environment most comics never come close to. There are some neat character touches too; Spider-Woman’s remarkable funeral hat, Rhodey in full dress uniform, Carol in costume, Wendy in formal wear. All of them honouring Tracy in their own unique ways.

And then there’s the ending, which is glorious and irreverent. Because grief may have inertia. Grief may have gravity. But what grief doesn’t have?

Is a sense of humor.

That’s where Tracy and Teddy come in and the result is…trust me, it’s worth it. The entire issue, the entire RUN, is worth it but that last scene is an all-time great.

My friend, Coombes (Loooong story), loved comics. He is a very large part of why I’m here, writing this. I honour his memory by finding joy in the things he taught me to love. The wounds don’t need to be reopened to keep their worth. There’s always the next right thing to do, always the next adventure. An adventure we wouldn’t even be aware of without the influence of those we lose. That’s what this issue teaches you; that it’s not just okay to carry on, it’s mandatory. And so, as Tracy, Carol, Kelly Sue, David, Lee and Joe teach us here, is fun. Thanks, folks.




%d bloggers like this: