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411’s Comic Reviews: Fallen Angels #1, Legion of Super-Heroes #1, More  

November 14, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Fallen Angels 1

Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews (and previews) from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at [email protected]!  

Fallen Angels #1

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The last several weeks have seen the arrival of the Dawn of X line at Marvel, laying out the path for mutants in the Marvel Universe after the events of House of X and Powers of X.  It’s been an impressive rollout thus far, with each book having its own distinct identity while still being tied to the overall story of the new mutant status quo.  Some books have been more successful than others, of course.  Marauders and New Mutants would rank at the top for me personally, but even the least successful are doing interesting things that feel like they lack mostly in the context of needing more issues to lay everything out. 

Fallen Angels is the one book that suffers less from its path not being immediately clear than it is too busy trying to lay out what’s next to nail the particulars of its characters.  Bryan Hill is effective in his first issue at setting up the storyline for the most part, it’s just that the heroes we know for the team so far – Psylocke, Kid Cable and X-23 – seem a bit off. This assessment most egregiously applies to X-23, but first we need to tackle Psylocke, because first and foremost it’s her story thus far.

Psylocke – more familiar to X-readers as Revanche, aka Kwannon – is a character with a complicated and tricky history to say the least.  There are lengthy essays online detailing Kwannon’s story, but the least complicated version is that she was the Japanese assassin whose body the original Psylocke (Betsy Braddock) inhabited and who, in Betsy’s body, died of the Legacy Virus. (Note: for the purposes of this review, “Psylocke” refers to Kwannon going forward.)  She’s back – long story – and in her own body, with twenty years of confusing and controversial publishing weight on her back.

With Betsy now taking on the mantle of Captain Britain in Excalibur, Kwannon has reclaimed the name of Psylocke.  And in Fallen Angels, Hill is interested in exploring what the newly-renamed Psylocke’s trauma and identity mean to her.  These are both complicated issues for a character who has been, sadly, both convoluted and a blank slate for much of her history.  What we know of Kwannon came in service of exploring Betsy, and Kwannon herself had little of her own story to tell.

This is both a blessing and a curse for Hill, who has plenty of room to work with but also a lot of intricate baggage to unpack. It’s not the sort of thing you can hope to tackle in issue #1, but Hill does lay down some of the groundwork.  We learn a little of Psylocke’s history, which is apparently wrapped up in the emergence of a new self-styled “god,” Apoth, who is responsible for a technological “virtual narcotic” named Overclock that’s sweeping the globe.

This provides Psylocke the mission and motivation to venture off of Krakoa, and to bring Laura and Cable with her.  It’s a solid set-up, and both Apoth and his Overclock drug make for intriguing villains to start off with here.  Apoth is doing some pretty abhorrent things, and artist Szymon Kudranksi adds some nice horror touches to the book to up the creep factor there.  The story elements work for the most part, even if there are a few quibbles to be had with the somewhat tired way that Hill ties Psylocke to the storyline.

As I said, it’s the character exploration where Fallen Angels stumbles a bit.  Psylocke feels mostly on point, here, though we don’t get too deep into where her mind is at right now.  Where she works is in how she interacts with the other characters.  She has to deal with Magneto and Sinister in order to get off of Krakoa, and her perseverance in the face of their initial dismissals is a trait I can get behind. Psylocke is a character who doesn’t neatly fit into Krakoa’s happy family; she’s an outsider in a self-segregating nation, which is a distinctly lonely place to be.  Hill captures that well, though it will be important to see how she stands as her own character going forward.

The two supporting team members, Laura and Cable, don’t fare nearly as well.  Laura in particular feels like she’s lost the character progression she had in her recent solo books.  In those runs, she’d found purpose and stepped out of her father Wolverine’s shadow, something which backtracks a bit in parts here.  Hill doesn’t flesh her or Kid Cable out much here, instead focusing on Psylocke who will be the lead of the book.  Cable continues to be the most regressed character in Dawn of X between this and X-Men; here, he has no real personality and instead just serves as a piece for Psylocke and Laura to jostle over.  I expect that to change, but there’s just not a ton here.

Kudranksi’s art goes with a dark, close-up style, and I mean that literally.  Everything is shrouded in darkness and panels more often than not focus on portions of faces — an eye, lips, more eyes, more lips.  The visual designs work and the color scheme is fine, but the closer you zoom in, the harder it is to distinguish characters.  That’s a problem when you’re creating a book about identity featuring someone whose body was in use by someone else for decades.

There’s a lot of good here in Fallen Angels, to be clear.  Hill makes some subtle insinuations between Overclock and things like the Phalanx, transhumanism and other things at play in Dawn of X’s periphery.  I’m still interested in seeing how this plays out; I like the characters and want to know who will join them in later issues.  But for now, Fallen Angels #1 is perhaps the sole misstep in the Dawn of X launch so far.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Snoopy: A Beagle of Mars #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios revealed a first look at SNOOPY: A BEAGLE OF MARS, an all-new original graphic novel in partnership with Peanuts Worldwide, that launches the world’s most beloved beagle on his grandest adventure yet! Snoopy embarks on an exploratory mission to Mars in this original graphic novel written by Jason Cooper, illustrated by Robert Pope and colored by Hannah White, and available in stores December 2019.
NASA has shared a proud association with Charles M. Schulz and his American icon Snoopy since Apollo missions began in the 1960s. In May 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts traveled to the Moon with the aid of a lunar module named Snoopy and a command module named Charlie Brown. That was also the year of the first Silver Snoopy Award — given by NASA astronauts to employees and contractors for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success. Fifty years after their first collaboration, Peanuts Worldwide and NASA entered into a multiyear Space Act Agreement in 2018, engineered to inspire a passion for space exploration and STEM education among students. 

In SNOOPY: A BEAGLE OF MARS, Snoopy, the world-famous astronaut, heads to the stars in his most out-of-this-world adventure yet! What mysteries does the red planet hold? Will he find water? Will he find life?  Will he find the time to get in a quick nine holes? Snoopy grabs his golf clubs and blasts off for Mars in this original graphic novel from the world of Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts!

Rivers of London: Action at a Distance
Preview by Steve Gustafson

Titan Comics is releasing ACTION AT A DISTANCE, the seventh graphic novel in Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling cops-and-wizards series, RIVERS OF LONDON. 

Uncover the secret World War II history of Peter Grant’s mentor, the mysterious Nightingale…
October, 1957. A serial killer terrorising the women of Cumbria has moved to the streets of London, with Constable Angus Strallen hot on his heels. But this murderer has special abilities, and Strallen soon realises he needs the help of an old friend from the front lines who can match this madman’s power – London’s own wizarding police officer, Thomas Nightingale. As the pair move in closer, it quickly becomes clear that murder is not this man’s only intent.

The Red Mother #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios is proud to reveal a brand new series trailer for THE RED MOTHER #1, the premiere issue of an all-new original comic book series from acclaimed writer Jeremy Haun (The Beauty, The Realm) and artist Danny Luckert (Regression) about a young woman who survives a tragedy, only to be afflicted with sudden, unexplained visions of horror and forced to deal with the terrible consequences, available in December 2019.

There are dark things just beyond this reality. Horrors that we cannot quite see. Things wanting to get in. After losing her eye and the man she loves during a brutal attack in an alley, Daisy McDonough is left trying to put the pieces of her life back together. Just when she thinks she can start the process of healing and moving on, she begins to see strange things through her new prosthetic eye.

She can see the Red Mother. And the Red Mother can see her right back!

Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Review by Steve Gustafson  

As a massive Legion of Super-Heroes fan, I was eagerly anticipating this issue. I know the Legion isn’t for everyone. The massive roster, the future timeline, and the continuity headaches can be intimidating, especially for new readers, but when you get a creative team that “gets it”, the possibilities for this book are endless. 

Welcome to the 31st century! Inspired by the acts of and lessons learned from the greatest heroes of all time, the Legion of Super-Heroes have gathered together to stop a galaxy from repeating its past mistakes. The greatest lineup of heroes in comic book history returns with new, fresh, and reader-friendly stories!

While writer Brian Michael Bendis isn’t everyone;s cup of tea, his teaming with artist Ryan Sook is a welcome addition to the Legion. They understand the history and impact the book has, tweaking things here and there to give it a natural update while keeping what makes the book special. 

This issue has plenty to juggle with the addition of Superboy (Jon Kent) to the team and we get a look at the current state of earth, a couple of subplots to look forward to, and a mystery over Aquaman’s trident. New readers might be a little lost when it comes to names but they introduce a way to keep score for the reader that I hope is utilized in future issues.  

The Legion is back and looks better than ever. If you’ve ever been interested in seeing what the fuss is about, you won’t have a better opportunity than now.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Green Lantern: Blackstars #1

Review by John Pumpernickel 

I really dug Grant Morrison’s and Liam Sharp’s take on The Green Lantern and picked this up to see where they’re going to take things. They have 3 issues with this miniseries to shape things and if this issue is any indication of what to expect, it’s going to be a dazzling ride. Along with artist Xermanico, Morrison doesn’t skip a beat and we follow Hal Jordan as he takes one of the wildest rides in his career. 

Thanks to Controller Mu and the Miracle Machine, reality is shifting, taking out the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps. Jordan is a member of the Blackstars, who keep the peace with a deadly hand. It’s cool seeing Jordan both in and out of his element in a bit of a “what if?” scenario. Does he keep his inner compass or does this new reality play to a darker individual inside him?

This book is an intriguing chapter in a much grander story. It’s definitely darker in tone and relishes it’s place in the DC universe. While Jordan is familiar to us, Morrison writes him with more of an edge, more grounded than the one we’ve known. It’s a nice change and presents new angles to explore. 

A great book with great visuals. Grab this one from your comic book shop.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

X-Men #2 Review

By Jeremy Thomas/

Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men was the first book in the Dawn of X relaunch to release and established where the Summers clan stands now that the mutants of Marvel relocated to Krakoa. The first issue was a rather interesting exploration of Scott Summers and what family means to him now that he is a prominent figure of a mutant nation (again, but this time with basically the whole of mutantkind behind him). With the overall family dynamics established, Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu zoom in to focus on a narrower look at Scott’s family by viewing him as a father in X-Men #2, an issue titled “Summoner.”

Fatherhood is a major part of Cyclops’ character. As much as he’s a leader of the mutant population, he’s also a man who cares deeply for those close to him. His relationship with Cable was often the most interesting part of the latter during some of the rockier parts of the 1990s, though Scott’s relationship with Rachel Summers was less well-explored. With things settled for the moment (events of X-Force #1 aside), Hickman isn’t letting that opportunity pass him by and this issue sees him bringing his two children on a trip to investigate an island that has popped up near Krakoa.

The decision to focus on Scott for the first story arc of X-Men is a wise one, as it allows a character whose actions have been polarizing over the last several years a chance to really shine. Scott is often at his best when he’s dealing with his family, and that’s the case here. There’s plenty of time as the trio make explore the new island to converse, and Hickman has a strong handle on Scott at this point and it’s nice to see him fleshed out a bit more from the relatively smaller role he had in HoX and PoX. Similarly, Rachel — who was entirely absent from those miniseries — feels right here. There’s a lot of fun to be had in how Rachel interact with Scott on an adult daughter to adult father level, and trade some good-natured but caustic barbs with Kid Cable.

That said, the gaping hole in this trio becomes Cable who is rapidly becoming my least favorite character in the Dawn of X storyline. As noted in my Fallen Angels review above, Nathan seems to be severely regressed even considering he’s the younger version of the character. Here Nathan is played like a somewhat more straight-laced take on Jayne from Firefly, right down to complaining about grenades and making shockingly dumb decisions here and there. He’s not devoid of personality and he gets a couple of good lines, but I’m not convinced by what Hickman has shown us in regard to Kid Cable.

A new island gives us a new setting for Yu to depict, and he makes the most of his opportunity here. The new island is gorgeous and its inhabitants are beautiful in an otherworldy, unsettling way. Yu proves once again that he’s the right guy for this book, pairing very well with Hickman’s words.

“Summoner” ends with, as is standard for Hickman, another status quo changer. It typical Hickman style it is ridiculous, epic and improbabl. It’s also pretty fantastic thanks to Yu’s art and a few touches of humor from Hickman. It allows this largely enjoyable issue another to add another interesting wrinkle to the fledgeling mutant nation. There’s a point where Hickman is going to need to start providing some real answers, but for now I’m satisfied enough to sit back and enjoy the (mostly) good character work and excitement along the way.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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