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Comics Haul 19/3/2014

A number of new first issues of interest came out this week, including American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 and Daredevil #1, plus the start of a new Iron Man storyline (#23.NOW) and Ms Marvel #2; plus, I picked up a copy of a slightly older comic, Avengers World #1… all are reviewed below!

American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 (Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque)

American Vampire was Snyder’s Vertigo series pre-New52, his first major ongoing to my knowledge; I’d read some of the early volumes, but then gotten a little bored with what was, really, yet another Anne Rice-style rehabilitation of vampires. Snyder moved through various time periods, writing basically a historical epic using the tropes of different periods – the Western genre, for instance, and 1920s/Fitzgerald style social critique. This Second Cycle opens up in 1811 for a brief, horrific prologue before jumping forward to 1965; we’re seeing two parallel time tracks once again, Skinner Sweet and his progeny Pearl Jones. The issue is well-written and once again fantastically illustrated by Albuquerque; the nuances of the time period are wonderfully conveyed, including the pseudo-Hell’s Angel Skinner and the protector Pearl Jones; but somehow, it just didn’t grip me, instead feeling like going through the motions – as if all involved, me included, knew the product ought to be excellent, but for some reason just didn’t find it such.

Daredevil #1 (Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez)

Daredevil is a well-known hero, despite the attempts of the atrocious Ben Affleck flick that tried to kill all credibility for the character. This story is doing much the same; whereas he used to be a hero in a darker kind of story, a conflicted character troubled by his failure to stay within the law, the dark angel of New York… but this issue opens with the Man Without Fear in San Francisco, helping the District Attorney with police approval, in broad daylight, with public knowledge. He’s cocky, overbearing, reliant more on the help and guidance of another than his own abilities… and completely ignoring his legal training, the police, or the importance of justice. Unfortunately, I can’t review this comic dispassionately; the degree to which this comic undermines the character is really disturbing, and the lack of a strong new character is simply purposeless.

Iron Man #23.NOW (Kieron Gillen, Luke Ross, Guru eFX)

In the wake of Thor: The Dark World, Malekith is being recentred in the Marvel Universe, it seems; #23.NOW kicks off the start of a new chapter in GIllen’s Iron Man combining the might of the Mandarin – not that of Iron Man 3, but that of the Marvel comics and the Ten Rings. Tony Stark is also the Stark of the comics, but with unfamiliar elements for new readers – elements introduced during the course of Gillen’s fantastic run. This comic starts off what looks to be a fascinating series, if Gillen can pull it off; combining the various aspects of the mythoi he’s trying to pull together will be rocky, and indeed, in this comic that’s already been rocky. The first pages – the introduction of the svartalfir – is perfect, perhaps aided by Gillen’s experience writing Loki in Journey Into Mystery; but the rest of the comic is sadly rocky, not quite sure what it wants to be, or even what it wants Stark to be. I trust Gillen so I’ll be following this further, but… warily.

Avengers World #1 (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Stefano Caselli)

Hickman’s status as the current rising star of comics, especially with his creator-owned work at Image Comics, is only confirmed with Marvel’s choice to give him this title. However, his work all shares some common themes, one which Avengers World #1 also falls prey to; excessive enjoyment of its own complexity. Three (apparently) separate threats, three separate teams, three overwhelmed groups of Avengers, all at once, none of which are focused on long enough to actually be interested in or cared about, especially with the jumps back to Steve Rogers and Maria Hill on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Between the lack of characterisation of anyone but Hill, the yet-again threat inflation that the Marvel Universe seems prone to, and the complete lack of a decent hook for the whole story, I’m not sure how this one got past Editorial!

SPOILERS FOR MS MARVEL #1 FOLLOW

Ms Marvel #2 (G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring)

Kamala starts this issue imbued with the costume of Carol Danvers’ Ms Marvel persona; she’s gained shapeshifting powers and is slowly working out how – and if – to use them. Unlike most superhero comics now, even in the Marvel stable, Wilson is keeping Ms Marvel resolutely domestic at this stage, and a good thing too; the way the life of a superhero, and a Muslim family of varying degrees of fundamentalism, intersect are brilliantly and sympathetically dealt with, and Wilson handles the ideas involved excellently. The treatment of Kamala coming into, and deciding how to use, her powers is also brilliant; in a world with a multiplicity of superheroes already, what should one do when granted superpowers? I hope the question is discussed more over the next few issues, and I trust Wilson to continue doing so without the same deft hand. Bravo!


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