Category: Comics

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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It’s fitting that this film has done away with the usual numbering that we see in sequel titles since calling this ‘Captain America 2’ would be an oversimplification of the complex route its characters have taken to get here; its the third, fourth and fifth appearance for most of them, recurring as they have throughout the Marvel universe. It would also have been a mistake to imply that this is a direct sequel to the film that first spawned Cap into the MU since their relationship is more that that of Alien and Aliens: there are some deep-cut references and ties to the formers lore, but the tone, tempo and arguably the genre has changed over the break.

Which makes perfect sense given how much the character has changed since his first cinematic foray. Johnston’s film was a WWII-set homage to the adventure movies of the era that embraced the cheese and machismo of such things, but as the Captain is now a contemporary his films had to have a more modern feel to them. What doesn’t make as much sense is the fact that the filmmakers went to the well of the Cold War and the cold conspiracy films of the seventies to achieve this, merging them with the staple comic action of Marvel studios. Much has been made of the movies inclusion of drones and other such contemporary commentaries, but to call this a modern movie ( or Marvel’s Dark Knight) would be short-sighted; in its own way it’s just as dated and daggy as the original but that’s exactly why it works as well as it does.

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She-Hulk #1

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I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: I don’t like Hawkeye, or at least I didn’t until I saw what Matt Fraction was able to do with him. A few pages in to that series and he became my favourite Marvel character. The tone, scale and style of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye is so brilliant, so unlike another superhero book out there and has, thankfully, made the book a bit of a hit commercially. So it makes sense that Marvel would try to replicate the conditions that created such a comic here in the newly relaunched She-Hulk.

She-Hulk is another character that I’ve never really cared for, not enough to ever attempt even trying her solo stories – and Jennifer Walters didn’t even exist in my mind as anything other than a misremembering of the Arrested Development actresses name – but i’ve sought out and supported both Charles Soule and Javier Pulido when they’ve worked on other properties, which I think puts me in the perfect position to enjoy this extraordinary new book, just as it did that other one.

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Punisher #1

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As they’ve relaunched nearly all their titles over the past twelve months, outfitting them with new creative teams and new continuities, Marvel have had to look outside their usual stable for talent; putting a lot of previously independent writers and artists on work-for-hire IP’s. While its always great to see these guys get a paying gig it rarely results in their best work; superhero serials simply require a different skillset to that of an Image series and their styles don’t always translate. So it’s a sheer delight to see a match as perfect as the one Marvel editors made for the new Punisher series.

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Sheltered #1

The first thing that struck me about Sheltered was just how timely its story seemed: with the tea party politically splintering the population, with Hoarders spinning off shows about people obsessing over stocking their bunkers “just in case” and the world swirling the drain fast enough to throw our axis off-kilter now seemed the perfect time for its story of apocalyptically-minded individuals getting everything they ever wished for. Then I thought, “No, twenty-twelve might have been a better time, given the Aztek prediction,” then I read the words series Writer Ed Brisson wrote in the back of the book, detailing Sheltered‘s near four year history and I thought ” Ok, 2009 also makes sense.” That is when the most horrifying part clicked for into place for me: any year, any time, any place this could happen. We’re skating on the edge and have been for miles now. With a mere twenty-two pages Sheltered had made me start thinking like a prepper.

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Hawkeye #11

Ten issues and a few more months than that ago ( the book has seemingly been on a bit of a short break and boy have I missed it) Matt Fraction and David Aja introduced us to the bizarrely banal superhero Clint Barton in one of the best debut issues released in many years. It seemed then, and during the many fantastic issues that followed, that the pair had taken us to the lowest point of the Marvel Universe, that they were showing us the places smallest stories and its most dogged hero who just happened to find himself in the middle of these messes; I mean, pages were spent detailing the set-up of his DVR. With this issue though they take the series to new lows, showing us a smaller story and a head even closer to the ground; that of the other character introduced in that debut issue: Pizza Dog.

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Lazarus #1

There are few people in comics today besides Brian Wood who can write a more convincing female character than Greg Rucka – which likely says as much about the strength of his writing as it does the dirge of women writers working in the industry – partly because both understand that you should no more stress the fact that they are female then you would the alternative, just make them interesting instead. This is the same approach that Greg seems to take to the other defining trait of his writing; building worlds for his characters to wreck. Like his other rival, Nathan Edmondson, Rucka excels at merging military fact into otherwise near-magical fictions (the pair unparalleled in their construction of straight-spoken semi-sci-fi action narratives); painting settings with blunt, faux-blasie brushstrokes for the comics in which his characters, often female, reside. Lazarus looks set to be yet another example of his many mixed masteries, if this first issue is anything to go by.
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Demeter

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Comics are a strange and almost mercurial medium, mixing together elements from those more traditional and truly defined forms of art in ratio’s of their creator’s choosing. The superhero comics of the big two tend towards the cinematic, their panels playing out like storyboards of an action sequence we have to animate in our mind; some eschew sentence and story near altogether, allowing their ambiguous but suggestive art to awe us, akin to a gallery held in one hand; others, like those of Alan Moore, lean towards the literary, long layered stories that earn the title ‘graphic novel’. What Becky Cloonan has done with Demeter – what she began back with Wolves, her first self-published short in this sequence of sorts – is twist the comic form in another, new direction: poetry, particularly that of the Romantic period.

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NeoMad

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Though geographically speaking Gestalt Comics are an Australian company they have never stressed that the works they publish are uniquely Australian in spirit or location; they strive, it seems, to simply publish what is good, not what is near. Neomad, however, presents as something of an exception to that rule; it is a truly Australian title, one that could not have possibly come from anywhere else.

Co-produced with Big hART as a part of their Yijala Yala project, one that pushes to give voice to the indigenous people’s of Australia, Neomad mixes together true-blue Australian tropes with a fictionalised future world: one in which water becomes a resource worth stealing, anthills an obstacle for your hover bike, spraycans and slingshots a weapon against security bots, etc. It’s what Mad Max might have looked like had George Miller made it for the Happy Feet crowd.

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The Wake #1

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If The Wake was Snyder’s attempt at telling an epic sci-fi/horror story then he failed, because this first issue alone is beyond epic. Certainly the man was already known for his dense and complex comic scripts but here we see what happens to his storytelling after taking some Hickman pills. This book, the story of a something strange found below the water, is far bigger and travels far deeper than anything we have seen from him before…and this is only the first issue!

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Endangered Species: Brian Panderson

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Brian Panderson, like his phonetic namesake, has shamefully become a rare sighting in the comic world; a living master lacking for work, our industries J.D. Salinger. The recent furor in the press around Panderson’s name in the solicits for Marvel’s Age of Ultron series was simply the latest in a long string of false sightings; the artist signing on to then dropping off of major titles around once a year. Some say that the lack of his name on the comic store racks or convention signing tables is simply a matter of health – the aged artist lived a long, storied life before starting out in comics, as the many available biographies attest –  however others argue that his style, while highly respected, is simply too controversial for the now corporately owned comic companies.  Whatever the reason, chances are that if you’re a new reader then you’ve never actually seen a single piece of Panderson’s artwork, which is a shame because he is arguably one of the mediums greatest minds. Who, you may ask, is Brian Panderson? Let’s find out.

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