Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Sam Wilson, Captain America Issues 1 and 2 by Travelling Man

captain america sam wilson 1Written by Nick Spencer

Art by Daniel Acuna

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by Daniel Acuna

Published by Marvel



Two issues in this is the most interesting thing that’s been done with Cap in years. That isn’t to slam any of the writers who came before Spencer either. Cap’s book has quietly been home to some serious narrative experimentation since the epic-scale novel that Brubaker’s run formed.

This though, is different. In every way. All of them brilliant.

Sam Wilson is Captain America now. Sam Wilson is also penniless. And on the outs with SHIELD. And has a support team consisting of D-Man (The fact Spencer has successfully rehabilitated D-Man is MEDAL WORTHY) and Misty Knight. Oh and he’s flying coach.

Across these two episodes we find out why and it’s fascinating and realistic and actually very funny. Sam isn’t Steve so where the previous incumbent was politically neutral Sam…isn’t. He speaks out, he gets slammed for it and suddenly Captain America is being attacked for being partisan. It’s a subtle, clever character beat that speaks to the difference between the two men and also folds the inevitable criticism of the turn into the book itself. It’s clever without being snippy, referential without getting lost.

It’s also really nicely paced. The reason for Sam’s loss of SHIELD contacts, and, more importantly, his feud with Steve makes perfect sense. These are two men who know each other very well and have huge mutual respect. But this is a divide they don’t want to cross and may not be able to. It’s a much better take on Old Man Steve than we’ve seen in other books and gives this one a far more even political keel than the right wing have claimed it has.

sam wilson 2Oh and it’s gorgeous. Acuna’s work is tense and furrowed like Sam himself but open and spacious when needed. It reminded me of Ron Garney’s definitive run with the character and there’s definitely the same sense here. A slightly more than human soldier doing the best he can and failing a lot. But that’s the point and also why Sam has his glorious supporting cast, both of whom have never looked better.

Subtle, character driven, funny and heartfelt this is a book that embodies its lead character. Heart on its sleeve, heading for a fight and staring it down. I know who my money’s on.

Review: Uncanny Avengers Issue 1 by Travelling Man

uncanny avengers 1Written by Gerry Duggan

Art by Ryan Stegman

Colours by Richard Isanove

Letters & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover by Stegman and Isanove


Published by Marvel


The Avengers Unity Squad was designed to show humans and mutants could work together. When the Inhumans rose, they were folded into the mix too. But tensions are running high, not just in the team but across the world. The Inhumans are everywhere, and not all of them look kindly on the people they share their world with…

There are three things going on here and two of them work. The first is the organic foundation of the book. The Unity Squad is an idea that’s absolutely logical in the current state of the Marvel universe, with the three biological power groups on Earth all jostling forstatus. Conversely, Duggan does a great job of throwing gooey biological singularities at them. I know I invoke this a lot, but Ellis’ seminal Stormwatch run springs to mind here. Both feature a fractious group of superhumans with the best of intentions and both explore what happens when those intentions go awry very well.

The second thing that works is the art. Stegman’s gloriously brawny, Ed McGuiness-like style is given a Hell of a workout here. A big cast and some huge action are all given a chance to shine and the end sequence, especially Quicksilver delivering the quickest briefing ever, is brilliant. Isanove’s colours are exactly what’s needed too; rich, vibrant and a little too alive in the biological tornado the team are dropped into at the end. Cowles lettering, likewise, is as impressive as ever.

Then there’s the thing that doesn’t work and it’s a biggie; most of the characters. Duggan excels at small character beats and his take on Brother Voodoo is the most interesting the character has been in years. Likewise, Quicksilver’s portrayal is really interesting; less the endlessly irritable speedster of classic era X-Factor and more a man hyper aware of time and what he has to do with the time available to him. They’re great, everyone else, right now, not so much.

Spider-Man’s appearance, and subsequent strop off the team here, feels perfunctory because, well…it is. It’s maybe an attempt to acknowledge the fact he’s everywhere but if it’s a joke it doesn’t land and if it’s a plot beat it plays as desultory, not to mention painting Peter as something of an asshole. Likewise, Cap’s return to the field as an old man appears to have shaved 30 points off his IQ. Here he’s less the moral compass and more the grumpy old uncle, something which maybe meant to be a reflection of his mild swing to the right. Again, though, it really doesn’t work.

Most egregious of all though is Rogue. Her venomous outburst about the Inhumans is meant to show how much strain she’s under but plays as hugely overdramatic and, well, pretty hypocritical. The new situation the mutants find themselves in is fascinating and there’s rich ground for stories there. None of that ground is going to be reached by having one of the primary mutants in the world cooking off in a manner she hasn’t for years. Worse still, her grumbling about Deadpool’s financing of the team feels both hypocritical once again and like a huge, and very forced, wink to camera. Wade, for all his numerous sins, is barely in the issue and remarkably well behaved when he is. Which doesn’t stop the newly humourless Spider-Man bagging on him of course.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good. It looks like a lot of the character beats I have problems with here are either start up issues or en route to being directly addressed in the plot. I certainly hope so because when it’s on form this is great. The ideas are big, the action’s neatly paced and the story is excellent. The characters are, I hope, on the way.

Review: Civil War Issue 1 by Travelling Man

civil war issue 1Written by Charles Soule

Pencils by Leinil Francis Yu

Inks by Gerry Alanguilan

Colours by Sunny Gho

Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino

Cover by Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho

Published by Marvel



Six years ago, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark went to war. The Superhero Registration Act and the Fifty States Initiative combined to promise a brave new world of licensed, government trained and protected superheroes. But that world’s dark side was too much for Rogers and civil war broke out between the Avengers. It was brought to a halt, originally, by Rogers realizing the damage they were causing and surrendering.

But that was before Battleworld…


If there was a Marvel event made for Charles Soule to play with, it was Civil War. The fascinating legal issues that the original series raised (And, towards the end, shoved to one side) are ample fodder for Soule’s legal experience and detail-oriented writing and this sits with Carol Corps and Marvel Zombies as one of the best Secret Wars series to date. The reason for that is, on the script side, due to Soule’s exploration of the effects of deadlock and what happens when a war doesn’t so much end as stagger to a pause.

There are two scenes here, very clearly designed as bookends, that tell you just how finely balanced this world is. They both feature a young superhuman exhibiting their powers and being talked down by a member of the armed forces. On the Blue’s side, run by Captain America, it’s stature. On The Iron’s side, run by Tony Stark, it’s Carol Danvers. Both scenes are gentle, kind moments that see veterans pass their wisdom onto the young. Both scenes finish with hanging questions. Both scenes make it clear neither side is blameless. It’s a subtle, effective storytelling technique that echoes up and down the book. From the bridge where the peace talks are held to the different heroes holding positions in each army, Soule continually plays with expectation. There’s a cameo from one character that I was particularly happy to see and a take on Spider-Man that honours the approach taken in the original series but, bluntly, works much better than that ever did. It’s an immensely clever, heartfelt script that never loses sight of the people in the middle of these events, or the price they pay for being there.

The art takes each one of those themes and elements and builds on it. Yu’s gravelly precision is exactly the style needed here and the two generals in particular look great; Rogers a mass of green fatigues and anger, Stark still in a suit but carrying a lot more grey hair. All the characters look like they’ve been through the wringer but all of them also look like they’ve evolved. This is what the world would look had the Civil War ended disastrously and the pain of that battle is etched on every face Yu shows us. Alanguilan’s inks add to that tight, weary feel and give the world a slightly desolate, blasted look that suits it to a tee. Finally, Gho’s colour work not only drives that home but gives each character a unique signature. Rogers’ uniform, Tony’s suit, the armour worn by their forces. All of it feels lived in and worn and real. Finally, Sabino’s lettering deals with a lot of information with absolute ease, keeping you in the middle of the two armies and the two immense egos driving them.


This feels like a Greek tragedy with added punching. It’s an immensely successful, confident open to what was arguably one of the stickiest wickets in the entire Secret Wars run, raising serious questions about all the characters we meet and setting up a hell of a mystery. If you were looking for a Secret Wars title to try, try this one.

Review: Avengers: Endless Wartime by Travelling Man

Written by Warren Ellis

Illustrated by Mike McKone

Cover by Jason Keith and Rain Beredo

Letters by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

Book Design by Rian Hughes

Published by Marvel


The first in a new series of original graphic novels, Endless Wartime is one of those books that shows off everything that works best about both the creators and the characters.

On the creative side of things, this is Warren Ellis on top form. A lot of Ellis’ favorite tics and subjects turn up (mortality, world war 2, the no longer quite human, good natured and massively articulate bickering) but they’re always in harness to the story. There’s no grandstanding here, and considering this is a book where half an island explodes in the opening pages, that’s quite an achievement. On the art side of things, Mike McKone is given a chance to show off not only his wonderfully burly design work but how good he is with characters. Make no mistake, this is a full cast Avengers story and McKone brings something distinctive to each one. His Banner and Hawkeye are especially great as is the sheer scale of some of the later action sequences. Finally, Eliopoulos’ lettering is as precise and expressive as anything he’s done and Hughes’ design work is elegant and somehow minimalist whilst still being information heavy. Make no mistake, this book could not read or look better than it does.

Over on the fictional side of the street, things are just as impressive. Fundamentally this is a story about the two oldest Avengers; Captain America and Thor, and an event that ties their pasts together. It’s cleverly handled as we see the two approach a problem from very different directions at similar times, only for it to resurface in the present day. This leads to a feel that’s very close to that of the Avengers movie, but still takes some serious left turns that mark it out as a piece with its own voice.

For a start, this version of Cap is still deeply unsettled by his presence in the modern day. Ellis portrays him as a good man but an uncomfortable one, and he clings to the good-natured inter-service rivalry he has with Captain Marvel like a drowning man clinging to driftwood. This Cap is principled, upright, honest and just a little hypocritical. Logan is under used here, and the book is frankly better for it, but his appearances are almost all confrontations with Cap. The two world war 2 veterans have very different views on how to get things done, and the script cleverly folds that conflict into the central plot. It also does it in a way that means neither man is right, or wrong, enough for a definitive answer. Logan has no problem killing. Cap has every problem killing when he perceives it as unnecessary. Both men are tested by the events of the story.

Elsewhere, Black Widow and Hawkeye get plenty of fun stuff to do as well, with Hawkeye pretty clearly the luckless slugger of Fraction’s extraordinary title rather than the Renner-ized, dead eyed killer. Hawkeye is the engine that drives most of the jokes but his best scene is his last, whilst Widow is a fiercely competent woman with no compunctions about reminding the living legend and the God just how mortal she and the others are.

Tony Stark, in the meantime, is…Tony Stark. This is, again, clearly influenced by the movie version and again works very well. It’s also a nice circular moment to see the movie version, itself influenced by the classic Ellis story Extremis, in turn influencing another comic. Ellis’ trademark dialogue sounds great coming from Tony Stark in particular and he also gives the former weapons designer moments of real dramatic weight. Stark still has a slight hint of the debutante to him at times and this story knocks those edges off with casual violence. This Tony Stark is still learning and, it turns out, he too has a moment from the past that he’s working through. Many of the books’ best scenes are just the Avengers talking to one another and Stark has one of the absolute best. The line ‘I react to his ghost badly’ is one that’s still in my head over a week after reading the book.

Weirdly though, the breakout characters here are Thor and Captain Marvel. Ellis has a unique handle on the God of Thunder that makes him an absolute pleasure to read. This Thor has moved past the boisterous warrior thug of his youth and finds himself haunted not just by the past but by that younger self. He wants to be better, wants to be the king his people deserve but doesn’t quite believe he can be. It’s a subtle take on the character and one that really lets him shine. Likewise, Captain Marvel is given some major moments here and positioned solidly in the Avengers’ big leagues. She’s endlessly calm, endlessly resourceful and has precisely no idea how to back down, getting some particularly impressive moments in the closing sequence. I’ve long been a fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s take on the character and that’s just who we get here; a fiercely competent, professional pilot and soldier who grounds the team even as she helps them fly.

This is a tremendously good book. It places the Avengers in a position that’s both unique and stylistically in keeping with where the movies are going and gives every single one of its creators and characters a moment to shine. Marvel couldn’t have picked a better launch for their OGN line and if you’re an Avengers fan, you couldn’t pick a one-shot book better than this.

Review: Captain America: Living Legend Issue 1 by Travelling Man


Written by Andy DIggle

Illustrated by Adi Granov

Published by Marvel

£2.85 or £1.99 with glorious communist SuperCardGo! Save! For Party! For Russia!


Now this is what I’m talking about. Andy Diggle, hands down master of the two-fisted, morally ambiguous action adventure has been let loose on the First Avenger. Even better, so has Adi Granov, an artist who is years into a golden run of art that’s never been less than excellent.

This is really fun. I really liked it. Here’s why.


Firstly, Diggle puts Cap somewhere we’ve rarely seen him before; Russia. As the war grinds to a halt, and the Cold War drops towards absolute zero, Cap and his unit are sent to the Bavarian Alps. There, he runs into a Russian unit led by an ambitious young soldier called Volkov. This is normally where the stereotype halftrack rumbles into view but Diggle goes out of his way to portray the Russians as something other than a stereotype. These are tired, bitter, wounded men who just want to survive. Aside from Volkov, who’s a true believer. That belief ties him and Cap together in a way we’ve not seen before, and carries the rest of the issue up through 1968, the Soviet Space Program’s attempt to put a man on the moon and the apparently disastrous consequences in the present day.

Yes, there are secret rocket science things in this. Ones drawn by Adi Granov. Yes I did squee.

What makes this work on the script side of things is Diggle’s absolute confidence. You don’t need to know the details of Cap’s life, the Russian front or the Soviet space program, because you know Diggle does. Character is established quickly and completely, the ideological conflict is well established and the pace is constant. Diggle also uses the three act structure very cleverly, setting one in each time period and walking us up to the present day and the start of the main story. It’s an information dense, idea heavy issue that demands you pay attention and rewards you with Cap beheading a tank and very bad things happening in space. In other words, it’s vintage Diggle; fast, clever, nasty and jam packed with incident.

Meanwhile, Granov continues to impress. He’s as comfortable with character work as he is with big action here and there is plenty of both to work with. He’s also adept at establishing character silently, the brooding shot we get of Volkov in his spacesuit telling us all we need to know about his mindset for example.  His colours are rich, his detail work is top notch and this is some of his best work. Again.


Living Legend is one of a pair of Cap stories that have really impressed me this month. The other was Avengers: Endless Wartime which I’ll be talking about later. Both focus on Cap not only as a man but as a force through history, and the effect he had even when he was ‘dead’. It’s an interesting, unified vision of the character and Diggle and Granov have a lot of fun with it. You will too.


Alasdair Stuart


Review: Avengers Assemble Volume 1-Science Bros by Travelling Man

‘Science Bros’

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Art by Stefano Caselli (Issues 9-11)

Pencils by Pete Woods (Issues 12-13)

Inks and finishes by Scott Hanna (Issues 12-13)

Breakdowns by Mark Bagley (Issue 13)


Annual 1

Written by Christos Gage

Art by Tomm Coker with Mike Mayhew, Mike Deodato, Luke Ross & Valentine De Landro

Colour Art by Daniel Freedman


Yes this is a collection named after the ‘Science Bros’ meme that sprung up post-Avengers. And yes, that is a selling point. Also yes there are many glorious things behind that link, some of which may not be safe for work. Tread lightly, for you tread on your office’s IT policy. Or something.

You get three stories here, two by DeConnick and one by Gage. ‘Science Bros’, the first one, is an absolute joy. It opens with a gag so pitch perfect you can see Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo doing it, as Tony addresses ‘definitely not the TED conference’ and sings the praises of science along the top of the page.

Along the bottom, Banner talks to five bored students about how doomed we all are.

A bet is made which is of course never an idea that ends badly. A joint colleague of the Avengers’ biggest brains has gone off line and Stark and Banner agree to race there. Whoever’s team gets there first wins. The loser has to walk from the Baxter Building to Avengers Tower and back.


This is immense fun, and DeConnick writes inter-Avenger banter like no one else on the planet. The sequence where they’re picking teams and Thor good naturedly messes with Tony is especially great. However, the flip side of the story is a well-handled and very dark story about the sort of scientist that Stark and Banner could be but aren’t. This is a story about ambition and greed and what happens when they’re allowed to run loose. It’s nicely handled, the gears shifting between the two tones with tremendous ease. There’s some great action beats too, especially a fight that starts with Cap battling ninjas on a plane in mid-flight and finishes with him jumping out of that plane as Captain Marvel races to catch him. This is big scale, big screen action but with Caselli turning in fantastic art and  DeConnick at the helm it’s also entirely character driven. These people are the best in the world, and they trust each other completely. That undertone of respect gives the book weight but, given that this is the writer who gave the world Princess Sparklefists, there’s always a well-timed joke. As a result it feels like the most human of the Avengers books and that carries across into the other stories.


And yes someone gets naked. And no I’m not telling.


‘The Widow’s Ledger’ sees a near total change in tone and cast. Focussing, again, on an element of Avengers (Widow’s ‘I got red on my ledger’ line), it opens with Natasha Romanov still working as a killer for the KGB. She takes a shot, downs a target and thinks no more of it. Until she gets a marker in the post and realizes there’s a debt to be paid. Widow, it turns out, sent markers to the families of the people whose deaths haunt her. They can call those markers in at any time and she’ll do whatever she needs to do to try and make it right.

What follows is again a two level affair, with Widow, Spider-Woman and Hawkeye heading to Russia to clear the debt. Again, DeConnick’s character work sparkles and I could honestly read entire issues of just those three talking. However, there’s emotional heft to the story too. Their investigation leads them to the sewers beneath Omsk and the discovery of just what’s down there. DeConnick combines real life, and horrific, drug krokodil with a fairly traditional monster story to great effect, especially in the closing pages. It’s not quite the equal of the first story but DeConnick writes Widow particularly well, and shows us just how damaged and guilt-ridden Natasha is without ever expressing it out loud. The story lives and dies in the final scenes though, where the true extent of Widow’s heroic need to atone is shown and we see another character in a very different light. All of this is carried effortlessly by Scott Hanna’s precision character work and breakdowns by the legendary Mark Bagley.

The first Avengers Assemble annual closes the book and sees another shift in rosters on and off the page. Christos Gage’s story is focused almost entirely on The Vision. Gage, like DeConnick, is a character writer first and foremost and that’s certainly true here. He combines the increasingly erratic, tragic Iron Man villain Sunturion with a corporate espionage story and the Vision’s own search for a greater connection with humanity to huge effect. Vision’s always been an iconic Avenger and he’s especially well served here; cold but not distant, concerned but not emotional. The contrast between him and a third-stringer like Sunturion is especially well handled and the ending is sweet, honest and ties the book into the wider Avengers-verse. All of which is presented in the deep reds and deeper shadows of Coker, Mayhew, Deodato, Ross, De Landro and Freedman’s art.


The Avengers books, as I say, are on a tear at the moment and this is a perfect place to start, especially for new readers. The characters and situations will feel familiar to fans of the movie but the creative teams expand them out into the comic Marvel universe with tremendous skill. It’s a hugely entertaining, fun, sweet trio of stories that’s as good an advert for what Marvel do best as anything on the market now.


And, also, Science Bros. How could you pass this up?

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