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411’s Comic Reviews: Wolverine #1, New Mutants #7, More 

February 20, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Wolverine 1 Image Credit: Marvel Comics

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]!  

Wolverine #1

Review by Jeremy Thomas

What would an era of X-Men be without a solo series for Wolverine?  Marvel’s most popular mutant has long been a star of his own (sometimes multiple) focus titles. The decision is thoroughly understandable of course from a business standpoint, though it has led to some real ups and downs in Logan’s history over the years and, at times, severely diluted him as a character.

Fortunately, the first issue of Benjamin Percy’s new solo series suggests this will not be the case.  Percy is very familiar with Logan’s history and has proved to have an apt handle on the character in the currently-running X-Force. That experience serves him well in bringing him into his own story.  Wolverine is a character who has often served as what it means to be a mutant within the Marvel Universe on their own to a degree; as much as he’s an X-Men, his status of a loner means that he can potentially explore those stories of how the latest events in the X-corner of Earth-616.

That value is significant in the Dawn of X era.  No longer as marginalized as they once wear, mutants are safe on Krakoa.  Percy has fertile ground to explore what that means for a character who constantly lives on the knife’s edge like Logan does.  There are some elements of that in the two stories contained in this oversized issue, “The Flower Cartel” and “Catacombs,” with Percy establishing what the core elements of a Wolverine comic mean in this new status quo.

The various volumes of the title have often explored the seedy underbelly of the world; think Madripoor, crime lords, drug wars, and the like.  “The Flower Cartel” heads down that road as Krakoa’s floral medicines that make it an economic and political power predictably become a target for drug dealing.  This is a problem that Krakoa created and Wolverine goes to lead X-Force on a mission to determine the source of the new supplier.  This story feels very much like what an X-Force side issue would feel like (largely) without the rest of the team.  It’s a smart move that explores the greater implications of Krakoa in a way only Wolverine can.

“Catacombs” explores another aspect of the Wolverine books in giving Logan a chance to go head to head with one of his enemies without his teammates getting in the way.  In this case it’s Omega Red, who claims Krakoan amnesty much to Logan’s protest.  Determined to prove that Krakoa needs protection from his old enemy, he goes to determine what Omega’s been up to and finds himself wrapped up in a threat that comes from below the streets of Pairs.

The best thing that can be said about these stories is that they feel very much like what the better Wolverine stories from previous volumes would have had Krakoa existed in them.  Logan is a character that works well on his own in the hands of a writer who really understands him.  Percy is absolutely one of those writers, and his collaboration with his artists – Wolverine veteran Adam Kubert on the first, and Viktor Bogdanovic on the second – do a wonderful job of spooling out the narrative.  It’s wonderful to see Kubert back on an X-Book for the first time in a while, and he feels like he hasn’t lost a step. Bogdonavich captures the bloody essence of Wolverine and Omega Red well, with a sketchier style that works well within the shadows.

Whenever Wolverine starts branching out into additional series, it’s a cause for concern on my part.  Call it the result of being a veteran of the character’s extreme overexposure over the years. But Percy and his artists are on the right path here so far.  The stories are resonant and the art is very good, making Wolverine another successful launch in the Dawn of X.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

New Mutants #7

Review by Jeremy Thomas

Jonathon Hickman’s run on New Mutants has been a fun little endeavor, with the caveat that it’s been subject to a strange on-and-off release schedule with Ed Brisson’s alternating Earthbound story. Hickman and Rod Reis’ tale brought our original team of New Mutants to space for some hijinks, and throughout we’ve seen little cheeky flairs that have kept things like, fun and slightly off kilter.  It’s been nice to revisit with the originals and see them interact together again, while touching on some interesting developments within the Shi’ar Empire that could mean big things down the road.

All good things must come to an end though – and sadly, not all of those good things will end well.  Hickman’s work on New Mutants closes out with issue #7, “Spoilers.”  If that title seems a little meta for you, then hold onto your seat because it’s about the least meta thing about the issue.  Hickman wraps up his storyline so that he can move on and Brisson can take full reins of the book with a combined team.

Unfortunately, to do so he has an issue to write about three issues (at least two) worth of story.  And the results are far from spectacular, to say the least.  In order to get through what he must, Hickman takes an overly cute, meta approach where he amps up Sunspot’s in-character recaps to the next level, blowing through a ton of story in short order.  And that looked to be interesting story, too.  It’s delivered with a meta approach that feels too Deadpool-esque for its own good. While we got a little of this in previous issues, it’s pushed all the way to 11 here and it’s more frustrating then it is funny (even if, to be fair, it’s some of both of those things).

That narrative shortcut isn’t the only one taken here.  A lot of this issue is unconventional, whether it’s the sudden introduction of a quick dice game in the middle of the book to resolve a fight or the quick wrap-up.  This kind of stuff can all be really fun in the right book.  Is New Mutants the right book?  I lean toward the side of no, based on the results here. Hickman had the voices of these characters down fairly well, but in the end it all goes askew.  Rahne, who was criminally underused throughout the arc, gets a gag repeated twice as the whole of her screen time here and everyone else gets about the same with the exception of Bobby and Sam.  Characterization is entirely askew here, sacrificed in the name of gags and to let Cannonball and Sunspot explore their bromance.

On the positive side, enough good things can’t be said about Rod Reis’ art.  Reis has been doing wonderful work throughout this book and he continues that here.  The few battle sequences we get contain more characterization than should be possible in a few panels, and his depiction of visually distinct characters like Xandra, Sunspot, Deathbird and Rahne are fantastic.

The most frustrating part of New Mutants #7 is the shadow that it casts over the arc that led up to it.  There was certainly a lot to enjoy in Hickman’s story, and the humor worked for a time.  But the way this issue concludes it ties all the light-touch metanarrative jokes to this final issue thematically and hurts them as a result.  It was nice to see these kids team up once again, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Brisson does when he has full control starting next week.  I just wish it didn’t end on such a sour note.

Rating: 5.0 out of 10

Marauders #8

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The previous issue of Marauders took a side venture away from the stunning conclusion of Marauders #6.  That issue was enjoyable enough, to be sure.  But let’s face it; we all want to see what’s going on with Kate Pryde after Sebastian Shaw left Lockheed and her left for dead.  In Marauders #8, “Furious Anger,” Gerry Duggan circles back around to the story and lets the shoe drop for Kate’s teammates. 

The result is a story that gives us some answers as to Kate’s state, but more importantly how her team reacts to this development.  This is an important development, as Kate has been very much the focus of Marauders.  While that’s been a lot of fun, it also means that characters like Storm, Bishop, and Bobby have been shorted just a touch.  Duggan resolves that in large part here, as we see Bishop and Bobby go on the warpath while Storm and Emma have a confrontation over the turn of events.

There’s been a lot of conversation about how death has been removed from a point of concern in Dawn of X because of the Resurrection Protocols. Sure, Xavier was assassinated in X-Force #1, but no one thought he wouldn’t get better.  Same with Kate Pryde; as much as Marvel might suggest otherwise, I would venture to say there isn’t more than a handful of people out there who believe Kate isn’t making her way back.

But death still has emotional stakes, because creatives like Benjamin Percy and Duggan are able to make us care by exploring the reaction of the characters.  The way that Iceman and Bishop go on mission says a lot about who they are, while Emma and Storm’s face to face not only explores their connection to Kate but deepens their ties to each other. It makes for a much-needed story that fleshes out how Duggan sees these characters and even if there isn’t a lot of plot pushing forward, there’s just enough that we’re engaged and interested here.

The quieter moments are also ones that I am increasingly a fan of how Stefano Caselli handles.  This is his second issue on the book and he gives us some beautiful panels, while really capturing emotions of the characters to enhance Duggan’s words. Marauders #8 may not be the most event-heavy issue of this series yet, but it’s by no means lesser for it.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Snake Eyes: Deadgame #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson
IDW Publishing shared the first look at SNAKE EYES: DEADGAME #1, the first issue of an explosive new comic book miniseries written and illustrated by Rob Liefeld (X-Force, Deadpool)!
Snake Eyes has long been the most mysterious member of the G.I. JOE team, but within the pages of DEADGAME, he’ll finally be forced to play his hand! How long can he keep his past classified… and what deadly secrets will come back to haunt him?
“G.I. JOE was my first obsession. Those were the toys in the sandbox with me, kung fu grip, eagle eye, I had them all. G.I. JOE is a world of characters that I have always aspired to participate in,” says Liefeld. “Snake Eyes was a profound influence on my creating Deadpool. Producing this series is an all-time bucket list achievement for me.”
“I’ve seen Rob’s excitement about G.I. JOE for years,” says John Barber, IDW Editor-In-Chief. “I’m thrilled and amazed to see it all finally coming together in the biggest SNAKE EYES comic book in decades — maybe ever! There’s a real electric charge in the air every day as new pages come in — every one seemingly topping the last!”

Heartbeat #5

Preview by Steve Gustafson 

BOOM! Studios is proud to reveal a first look at HEARTBEAT #5, the oversized final issue of the new original five-issue series by comics creator Maria Llovet (Faithless, Loud) and letterer AndWorld Design (Martian Manhunter)—a dark, violent, decadent, disturbing story, in which life, death, blood, and love are inextricably intertwined, available in March 2020.
With the walls closing in around Eva, she becomes more determined than ever to find a way out, and the easiest path involves a lot more blood.

HEARTBEAT is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Faithless by Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet; Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä; Bury The Lede by Gaby Dunn and Claire Roe; Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora; Folklords by Matt Kindt and Matt Smith; and The Red Mother by Jeremy Haun and Danny Luckert. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties including Joss Whedon’s Firefly from Greg Pak and Dan McDaid; Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Jordie Bellaire and David López; Angel from Bryan Edward Hill and Gleb Melnikov; and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott and Daniele Di Nicuolo.

Firefly #14

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios, in collaboration with 20th Century Fox today unveiled a first look at FIREFLY #14 from New York Times best-selling writer Greg Pak (Ronin Island), artist Lalit Kumar Sharma (Daredevil), colorist Francesco Segala (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), and letterer Jim Campbell (Coda), along with series creator & story consultant Joss Whedon (the visionary writer/director behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s The Avengers and more) continue the iconic worldwide pop culture phenomenon’s sold-out return to comic books. Available in stores February 2020.

Mal matches wits with a serial killer! The newly minted Sheriff Mal (don’t call him that, though) and Boss Moon are given their first big case as local law enforcement—to hunt down and arrest a serial killer haunting their new town! As Mal and Moon dig deeper into the mystery behind the suspicious murders, a surprising new benefactor strolls in, offering new technology and new beginnings for the townspeople…all courtesy of the Blue Sun corporation.

FIREFLY #14 features a main cover by Marc Aspinall (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), along with variant covers from artist Daniel Warren Johnson (Murder Falcon) with colors by Mike Spicer, and more.

Created by Whedon and set 500 years in the future in the wake of a universal civil war, FIREFLY centers on the crew of Serenity, a small transport spaceship that doesn’t have a planet to call home. Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, a defeated soldier who opposed the unification of the planets by the totalitarian governed Alliance, will undertake any job — legal or not — to stay afloat and keep his crew fed. Thrust together by necessity but staying together out of loyalty, these disparate men and women are seeking adventure and the good life, but face constant challenges on the new frontier, such as avoiding capture by the Alliance, and evading the dangers you find on the fringes of the universe.

Machine Man 2020 #1

Review by John Pumpernickel 

The A.I. uprising has begun, and Machine Man finds himself torn about his place in the revolution! As the battle rages around him, will Machine Man aid mankind’s fight for survival or join his robot brethren in ushering a new age? Plus, when faced with a figure from his past, Machine Man must decide-is it time to follow his programming or his heart? Don’t miss out on this epic adventure from Christos Gage and Andy MacDonald! Plus, revisit Machine Man in 2020 with legendary creator, Tom DeFalco!

This issue is a mixed bag. You get a cool character like Machine Man, who has been all over the place in terms of writing, and a tie-in to the Iron Man 2020 event. Writer Christos Gage has some good ideas going but the issue never feels like it really gets out of neutral. The book has two stories and while the first is good, it ends before I could really get pulled in. It left me wanting but not in the good way. It definitely could have used the extra pages. Tom DeFalco writes the second one and brings back his “Midnight Wreckers” from the past Machine Man books but nothing really gelled in that story either. Again, space issues. 
Machine Man 2020 #1 has potential but a weird split makes it hard to be invested. Thumbs in the middle. 

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

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