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review 2017-06-11 11:29
Just beautiful
Michael Turner Art Edition: Soulfire #1 - Michael Turner,Jeff Loeb,Michael Turner

Stunning art.   There's something about seeing Turner's art in pencil that really shows just how talented he was.   It's obvious even with the colors, but strip that away and it's all Turner.  I was talking a friend who hates the stripped down version of comics and how it's becoming a trend; I agree with him at times.   Sometimes the art, because it's meant to be colored, just looks better that way.   (This of course doesn't touch black and white comics: when it's meant to be just pencil and inks, that's a different category than putting them out in color then stripping them down to pencils and/or pencils and inks.)


Turner just gets better.  While he draws the best to him - inkers and colorists - because he's such a star, I somehow like the stripped down stuff even better.  Or maybe in a different way but I appreciate it more because there's so little of this out there. 


It's issues that's I've already read, but I enjoyed reading them again just for this art. 

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review 2017-06-09 00:30
Avengers (2016-) #8 - Alex Ross,Phil Noto,Mark Waid

Avenger X comes back, a crossover with the Avengers .1 series.   She showed up there, and then came over into this series, trying o get her revenge.  She tries her same trick on the Avengers, and Vision's warning comes too late: by then, she's gotten all their sympathy, and has infiltrated the group that she wants to take down. 


But it gets better.  When Nadia gets in trouble, Doom comes to her aid.   He claims it's for all of them, but he comes in time to save her?   I kinda wanna see some fanservice crack storyline where he's her stepfather...


That is beside the point.   The Avengers, and yeah, Iron Doom, work together well enough that they're able to take down Avenger X once again.   And it's thrilling to watch them do so!

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review 2017-06-08 01:44
Perfect follow up to issue one
Black Bolt (2017-) #2 - Saladin Ahmed,Christian Ward

For those who don't remember, I questioned why Black Bolt would be muzzled given the revelations at the end, said I'd be disappointed if it wasn't dealt with, and said I was sure it would be given how much thought Saladin Ahmed had put into this book.   Well, it was dealt with in this issue.   I hadn't given it much thought, as I started to keep up and even had to catch up on my comics at some point this month.   That being said, I was pleased when I saw it mentioned in this comic: I still couldn't quite get why the muzzle had been used, and now I know.


A lot gets resolved: who Black Bolt is with, at least the ones I wasn't quite sure of, and why they're in this prison.   And yet, this prison is meant to be a secret, known only to the Royal Family of Attilan, and there are far more, and far more sinister questions, such as how other people knew about this prison.  I also suspect that Black Bolt will eventually have to deal with his prison being used as a dumping ground.   It was meant to be used for the worst of the worst, people who were considered not only lost causes but also incredibly dangerous.   (At least as far as I understand.  I also believe that Maximus is an extreme case, as remember that it was he, not Black Bolt, who was to be confined to this prison.  The royal family may have given Maximus more chances than others, because he was part of their family, and because Black Bolt caused Maximus' insanity.   Black Bolt also was responsible for his family's deaths, and Maximus is Black Bolt's brother.   Blinky, apparently a child, who stole just enough to feed herself dinner is confined to prison.   And yet, I can't help but think if some in high places have chosen to use this prison to weed out those who are found lacking, the poor, the needy, is it possible that the royal family has also used this prison in such a way, even if too a lesser degree.   Perhaps someone they could have helped, but, hey, this was more convenient.   It's not an easy thought; it's highly uncomfortable, especially since I like Black Bolt so much - and want to continue liking him.   I've always viewed him as making sometimes terrible choices, but as having two bad choices and him choosing the one that would cause the least harm to his people.   But now, this is subverting that, and making me question how I view him.   Not comfortable, but perhaps a necessary new, hard look.   Did he really need to expose the world to Terrigen?   Or was that, perhaps, the easiest solution that he thought wouldn't cause harm?   Would he send someone away to a tortuous existence, even if there was a possibility of rehabilitation, if it was easier for him?  I thought I knew; now I'm not sure I do.)


Then again, I think these are questions we should ask.   It's a timely question, as well, and while the links to current politics are more tenuous than some comics nowadays, there's still a link.   My idolization of Black Bolt?   It's not completely removed to how some people view politicians.   Yes, I'm thinking of one in particular, but it's true of anyone in power, or popular, or famous.   (And something I've done with other characters.  I loved Spike enough to excuse him for sexually assaulting Buffy, which I honestly still feel guilty about.   And I can use excuses: she told him no, yes, no, yes, yes, it didn't feel in character for either of them, etc, etc, and trust me, I used them all.   The point is we should hold everyone accountable, and that's hard to do when we like, and want to continue, liking them.  I was able to continue to like Spike because he not only realized what he'd done, but he took responsibility and tried to make himself a better man because of it, and what I should have taken from that storyline originally is that exact point.   Which ties back to Black Bolt because I'm hoping, if ugly things about him come to light, that he will take responsibility and try to make himself a better man because of it. But it also ties into Black Bolt, and I'm gonna come out and say Trump, because we can like Spike, Black Bolt, or, yeah, Trump all we want, but we should hold them accountable and question the decisions they make.)


It's not often that comic book series are this revelatory for me about specific characters.   They reveal more about their background, or their characters, or something.   They tell new stories.   Very rarely do they make me question what characters really are and how I look at them.   Robinson's Scarlet Witch did, and took a character I hated - for how she treated Vision a while - and made me adore her.   This is... revelatory in another way, that takes into account me and how I relate to my fiction.   It makes me want to continue adoring Black Bolt as much as I do, but also to hold him accountable, to make him a better man.   And as such, it makes me want to hold the people in the real world - myself included - accountable.   It's one of the reasons I'm telling the quite frankly humiliating way that I made excuses for Spike: it's part of my history, it's me holding myself responsible for my own actions, and wanting to make myself a better person.


And that's even rarer: a book that makes me reframe my own history and perspective, and informs who I want to be.  I'm not even sure this that this is what Ahmed was going for.   Did he want us to question if the royal family was perfect?   Did he want us to question the power dynamics used in real life?  I don't know.  What I do know is that some small moments, some really powerful small moments, made me think of all this.   I do believe that intent is very powerful when it comes to writing, and can be used exquisitely, but I also sometimes question intent versus interpretation.   In the end, sometimes what matters is what you get out of it, because perhaps this was subconsciously written in, perhaps it wasn't even something Ahmed thought of, at all.   But that doesn't change how powerful this message was to me when reading it: it's powerful, and in a way, it's hopeful.   Maybe we all make really boneheaded mistakes, but maybe how we react, how we make ourselves better - or not, or worse - is what's really important.   And maybe if that's true, there's hope for us all.   And maybe if that's true, it's worth trying to make things better, every single time. 


So, this sprawling, rambling review.   What it really wants to say is that there's more expanse: Black Bolt has gotten to the heart of the prison, and he not only meets, and fights, more people, but he finds out more about how the prison is being used, and what those prisoners plan to do about it all.   And this expanse comes with more light and color.   The first issue was bleaker: where is he, who he is, what's happening?   There were the ominous voices, and commands, and fighting and no real connection.   Black Bolt had to struggle to remember himself.  


Now that he knows the people, knows himself, knows more about this prison, this comic literally gets lighter and more color.   The first issue was muted, tense, fitting the scenario, the amnesia, the way Black Bolt was confined to a cell, and then a small part of the prison.  Ahmed opens up doorways, and Christian Ward responds by bringing in a larger color palette and lightening this up.  I wouldn't call the art happy, or lighthearted, by any means, but there's a definite correlation between the physical expansion and the expansion in color in my mind: brighter colored background, with yellow and greens the highlights.   (Although this trend started in issue one: it was dark, dark backgrounds with hints of color until Black Bolt met another prisoner from what I remember.  It definitely got brighter and more colorful towards the end, and I wonder if I'll see this trend continuing.   If not, then my theory was simply wrong, and I can deal with that: it happens often, and I've stopped trying to get too deep into these theories because I know I'm often wrong.   Still, fun to play around with before I know better!)


The art is fantastic.   I'd say there's less focus on Black Bolt's face - particularly his eyes. And this isn't a comment on Ward's skill, but rather something I suspected would happen.   Now that he's talking, those intense moments where you have to read his eyes are no longer necessary.   There's a pro and con to this, the pro being that Ward is freer to step back and focus on full scenes.   (In the same way that Ahmed is not confined to having to write scenes of intense eyes.)   The con is that I miss those intense eye panels.   There's something powerful in having to express oneself without speech, particularly in such a visual medium.   And Black Bolt himself spoke about that in Uncanny Inhumans, and I wish I had that particular comic with me.   He talked about the power that came from not speaking, and simply listening, and it's so much easier to portray that - writing wise and art wise - when you can't rely on him speaking.  You filter the information through what he hears, not what he says, and there's something powerful about telling a story like that, too.   Or at least reading one.  


I kind of miss that.   Black Bolt's main appeals were twofold: the mythic quality and the power of words.   I think of the blind/mad man in Greek myths.   Unable to see,  or to think clearly, they still had wisdom that held not only a great power, but was inaccessible to others.   Black Bolt was mute, but that burden came with a great power that was also inaccessible to others.   And of course, someone who can explode his enemies toys by saying the single word 'war' speaks to my heart.   After all, I love reading, I love words, and Black Bolt spoke to the power of words more than any other character I've known.   I miss that about him, and I hope that soon, Ahmed and Ward will find themselves restricted by Black Bolt's inability to speak without wreaking destruction.   Because as much as I adore this story - and I do - I think that this creative team in particular could do so, so much with what speaks to me about Black Bolt. 


And I just realized: my two favorite books came out the same day this month.   Black Bolt and Lost Light?   (Both of which I read on the beach, so this was really just the absolute perfect day.)


Yeah, right, so, this is how I read Black Bolt: 



Digging my toes into the sand, and basking in the sun, while I glanced up to eat, drink, and be merry to this sight.   Oh, yeah, absolutely the best day ever.   









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review 2017-06-08 00:41
This just gets better and better
Transformers: Lost Light #6 - James Roberts,Jack Lawrence

I think most people who follow me know that I consider James Roberts to be not only my favorite Transformers author, but also a perfect author.  I'm not sure there's any other way to put it, although I went over a list of things in my head that he not only does well, but does consistently.   On top of that, he balances all these elements, and again, does so consistently. 


Pacing, characters, plot?   All perfect for me, every single time.   He's plotted out years in advance.   How do I know this?   Well, I don't, but it'd would be hard for you to convince me that he does, given how well even the smallest moment, that innocuous joke, a line thrown out, a silent panel, fits into plans that fall into place years later, real time.    On top of that, I'd be hard pressed to find a comic that crams more in here; I keep thinking about a review I read of 30 Rock, where they said the jokes come so hard and fast that if you leave the room for thirty seconds, you miss five jokes, and are lost on one subplot.   And while there are an amazing amount of one liners and humor in Roberts' books, there's more in there: serious ideas about government, towing the line, friendship, love, and what the world is and can be.   War, and the effects of war, are obviously a large part of this, and I say obviously because More Than Meets the Eye (MTMtE) is sort of about what you do after there's an uneasy peace after millions of years of war, with some bots who've been fighting since the beginning of the war. 


Lost Light (LL) is the sequel to More Than Meets the Eye, although I've seen them referred to as seasons and/or years, with LL being... third?   I honestly don't keep track of the comics that way; I honestly jumped in midway, and started collecting month by month, because I couldn't imagine waiting that long for the collections to come out.  I needed my fix, stat.  And while there are story arcs, and themes, I just take what I can get month by month, try to piece it together with what's come before, and try not to guess what's coming next, because I never, ever really guess what's really going on.   (By the way, Lost Light six wraps up the first, alternate universe story arc, it's brilliant, it's brutal, and it's hopeful.   It's a mix that I've become used to; Roberts mixes his tragedy and his optimism in an equal mix, and I've yet to find anything that hits home in quite this way.   It's what life is like, and he doesn't hold back the tragedies, the triumphs, or how they can overlap.)


I'm finding I don't really like reviews that synopsize, at least not when reviewing MTMtE or LL; I can find them everywhere, and it's more about how this comic makes me feel, as well as analysis of what's done correctly.   Going back to my first point, while I know that amongst the things that Roberts does perfectly is weave in different plots into one coherent story, this was a masterstroke in that department.   There was something about the cuts from one story to another, and how they weaved into the ending, that really made me take a literal second look.   After finishing, I went back to a couple pages, and saw how Roberts took me out of one scene and into another in a way that kept me on my toes: I wanted more information about every single storyline.   (Another thing he does consistently, and perfectly in my mind, is that when he juggles plots and subplots, he never has one that is less interesting to me: I want to know about them all.)


I keep thinking Roberts can't get more perfect, can he?   And then he shows me that, hey, look, he's been working on this thing, or maybe he's just been doing his thing, and look, it's even more perfect.   And somehow, in all this, he doesn't drop the ball on any other aspect. 


You know what?   The next time someone asks me for the great novel, I'm just going to tell them it's More Than Meets the Eye followed up by Lost Light.   Because I've been giving this a lot of thought.   Is there an actual perfect writer?   Who would I consider better than Roberts?   


Yes, yes there is.   James Roberts.   And no one.   


And sort of off topic, but just to let  you know, to make a truly reading perfect experience, have a copy of MTMtE, Lost Light, and/or Black Bolt, and have this view while you dig your feet into the sand: 


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review 2017-06-04 11:58
Soulfire Vol. 1 - Peter Steigerwald,Jeph Loeb,Michael Turner,Michael Turner

I'm enjoying this right off the bat, even more so than Fathom.   And the thing is that so far, Fathom has a world I understand more on some levels: it's set in the present day and The Blue has a society that's very much like ours, especially when it comes to politics and families and religion.   Soulfire doesn't get into that as much, at least not immediately.   Set in the future, there's privatized security, which leads Rainier to set his pet, mechanical dragon on a city to gain control over the security of the Northwest Conference.   Of course he does, because such a lucrative contract is worth the deaths to him, especially since he doesn't plan on getting caught as the man behind the dragon.


Rainier also knows about, and wants to control, the magic that's been gone from the world.   Well, not so much gone as hidden.   And when Malikai, the boy who's been reincarnated and is supposed to bring magic back into the light, is born once again, well, Rainier wants him.   


Luckily, Mal has friends like Sonia and PJ who look out for him, even at the orphanage where he was dumped by his parents as an infant.   He also has people like Grace, a woman with wings and colorful, glowing hair, who want to protect him and see him on his correct path.   


Between the time jumps - from the world where magic existed to the present, from holographic games that take place in the past to the present - and the fact that the political forum of the world isn't really explored, I got confused and frustrated.  Just a little, but yeah.   I especially wanted to know more about the privatization of national security, and how that effected the rest of the political landscape.   I may have even expected it because it was so important to Fathom.   


I didn't even let go of that annoyance, or expectation; rather, I got sucked into the world and the characters, and simply stopped caring without realizing I had.   Turner gets a little looser with his pencils around the dragons, so much so that at first I wondered if he had illustrated this title.   When Grace came into play, it was clear that he had: his women are undeniably and unmistakably his own.   It's nice to see, though, because as gorgeous as his illustrations are, they all had Michael Turner stamped on them, a little more literally when he did a cover with his name in a box on them.   (I notice his inkers and colorists also very clearly stamp their work.   I have to wonder if he encouraged them in this, because some artists, inkers and colorists do not do this when doing covers.   He owns his work unapologetically and I like to think that he did encourage others to do so, and let the world know.)  The evolution of his art is no less stunning, just different.   


I do notice some thematic similarities to Fathom: orphaned child who has a special power and prophecy written about them.   Said child is good hearted, of course, so much so that they're the best of the best.  Said child also has their world turned upside down when they find out about their true heritage.   In fact, both Aspen and Mal - or people thinking about Mal - talk about this discovery and what it does to them in very similar terms.   How hard it is to deal with this fact, how much it upends their life.   


Not that this stopped me from enjoying this any less.   Big.   Metal.   Dragons.   Done by Turner.   Magic, the future, and it's all just a whole bunch of fun.   I was wary of this, having enjoyed Fathom so much from the start.   I was afraid that Sophomore Slump would hit and I wouldn't enjoy this as much.   Even though I felt there was more in the way of internal politics in Fathom - which I thought would mean me enjoying that series more - I found myself really enjoying Soulfire even more.   Fun times, and it was kind of nice exploring a world that doesn't mimic our own as much because there's a little more wiggle room, a little more that allows me to use this as escapism.   


Fun times!

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