Short & Sweet: X-Men, Conan vs. Red Sonja, & Doctor Who!
Brian Michael Bendis (W), Mahmud Asrar (A)
Jan 21, 2015
The All-New X-Men continue their adventures in the Ultimate Universe, but before they can return to their rightful reality they must defeat Ultimate Dr. Doom. This issue is full of amusing character moments like Iceman continuing to annoy every version of himself that he meets, and Angel’s reaction to seeing “Professor Pryde” as a teenager. Most satisfying is the immediate bond between Jean Grey and Ultimate Jean Grey. Young Jean has struggled with her future self’s legacy throughout All-New X-Men, and it’s touching to see her, well, become friends with herself. The downside to any single issue featuring multiple X-Men teams is that it’s bound to feel overcrowded, and a few characters feel lost in the shuffle. (If Ultimate Firestar has had a line of dialogue throughout this entire crossover, I don’t remember it.) Miles Morales also feels underused this issue, which is a shame because he was one of the main draws to this arc in the first place.
Mahmud Asrar’s artwork continues to be stellar, and he opens the issue with a fantastic double-page spread of the X-Men’s siege on Castle Doom. His action scenes are imbued with drama and beauty, and while reading this issue there were several moments where I paused to think, “Damn, that looks great.” Storm and Jean Grey(s) look especially powerful and beautiful.
With Secret Wars looming over the horizon and the Marvel Universe about to change forever (again), I’ll put my minor quibbles aside and enjoy what may be one of the Ultimate X-Men’s last hurrahs.
Gail Simone & Jim Zub (W), Dan Panosian (A)
Dark Horse & Dynamite
Jan. 14, 2015
Prolific comic book writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub teamed up so Red Sonja and Conan could cross paths once again. Equally independent and barbaric and, as always, resistant to formalized power, the dialogue between Red Sonja and Conan is spot-on repartee – a conversational swordplay and will to power. I like Panosian’s artwork, which is more about savageness than social realism. However, his sketchy lines render Red Sonja’s skimpy “armor” even skimpier while Conan remains largely covered. Where are my goddamn man-thighs? It’s only fair. I want man-thigh, dammit.
Aside: Red Sonja continues to be the animal welfare warrior portrayed in Simone’s Art of Blood and Fire arc. I am sure this reflects Simone’s own “goggie” love as she recently rescued two greyhounds. As a pet rescuer myself, I can only approve of Red Sonja taking this route.
Rob Williams (W), Warren Pleece (A), Hi-Fi (C)
Jan 21, 2015
Titan’s Doctor Who line has been an unexpected pleasure, capturing the spirit of the source material while being both zanier and at times brainier than the TV series has room for. Having a smidge more science in the science fantasy is a plus, but the new characters are a big draw. Pragmatic library assistant Alice Obiefune is a great match for the Eleventh Doctor, with the life experience both to puncture his ego and to share his hard-won sense of joy. And while it’s not impossible to conceive of a companion like Alice showing up on TV, despite the show’s 50 year predilection for the young-white-and-peppy, if she did she definitely wouldn’t be accompanied by a nobody musician destined to become rock god David Bow– er, John Jones, nor by the shape-shifting artificial life form ARC.
Rob Williams trades off writing duties with Al Ewing on this title. This issue, he kicks off a story that takes Alice back to London to straighten out her home life while the rest of Team TARDIS works to forge a peace between two species endlessly at war. It’s hard to say where it’s all going just yet, but there’s nice character work as Alice gains insight into the Doctor’s dark past, and the cliffhanger ending promises not just to link the two subplots together but tie them into the overarching mystery of the guy in Gallifreyan get-up who’s been haunting the Doctor since issue #1.
Warren Pleece’s art meshes well with that of series regular Simon Fraser, but seems more rushed than I’ve seen from him previously (in Inconegro, which admittedly is a very different — and highly recommended! — sort of work). However, his characters are expressive and he does a nice job with the alien architecture of the Great Wheel of the Amstrons.