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Alien (2021) #1 [Review]

alien(2021)_001Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Color Art: Guru-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: InHyuk Lee
Variants: [Too Many]
Design: Jay Bowden
Assistant Editor: Shannon Andrews Ballesteros
Editor: Jake Thomas
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 2021
Story Pages: 30
Info Pages/Credits Pages: 2 (double-page spread)
Cover Price: $4.99

There’s a lot to unpack here, mostly cosmetic and comparison.

They very first thing for me is that–as always–there are TOO MANY DARNED VARIAN COVERS. Do a pin-up gallery or something! Give us bonus art pages–the back cover, the inside covers, I don’t know. Knock it off with all the ****ed variants, though!

Secondly but still surfacey…what a freaking BORING logo. Basically just a spaced-out generic FONT. In my (surely vast) ignorance on the matter, I do not "get" the shift in branding to ALIEN (singular, with boring/generic font as "logo") away from the more dynamic, attention-grabbing ALIENS with the glowy effect and such. Same sorta problem I have with the novels from Titan. Maybe it differentiates a bit from Dark Horse-published stuff, but….I’m rather irked at all the crap regarding the licensing and such anyway, so this does nothing to endear this to my heart! While I know that the logo for the original 1978 film was basically just this "boring/generic font as ‘logo,’" the logo for the 1986 film was much more interesting, so in terms of using a logo from the series, it’s not like that one isn’t available (as far as I am aware, as just some dumb customer).

Thirdly and (also still surface stuff): yet another $4.99 #1. I pay $5/issue for a LOT of stuff lately, and generally without complaint (I’m looking at current-day X-BOOKS stuff in admitting that). But then, those are things I’ve been buying en masse and not sitting down to "analyze" and specifically, singularly discuss as a single-issue item in a relative vacuum. $5 gets you 5 things from Dollar Tree. You can go more upscale and get something at Five Below. But a mere 2 $5s is $10; 4 is $20, and that $20 might net you a "fine" condition back-issue (even a "key"!) decades-old that will be more memorable and appreciated than SEVERAL generic modern issues flocked by oodles of generic variant covers.

So, getting back to the cover: While on a technical level, this cover’s not bad….it’s very, very generic. It’s nothing but a pin-up image of a lone Xenomorph on a black background, with generic white text denoting several creators and the title. Nothing about ANY specific characters, or the world of the franchise, not even any sort of creepy background or something to be atmospheric beyond a lone creature coming out of the darkness with enough light glinting off of it that–the more I think on it–the more it seems there should be SOMEthing visible besides the creature.

We open on flashback/dream stuff of someone in some sort of capsule with "Alien Inside" painted on it from the outside (with spray-paint? With blood?) and come to find one Gabriel Cruz talking with his therapist–a Bishop-model synthetic. He’s retiring from his position as Security Chief on Weyland-Yutani’s Epsilon Station to go back to Earth and try to rebuild a relationship with his son. We then briefly meet a couple, conspiring on something…and find that the male is Cruz’s son, Danny. He’s feigning his part of patching things over to get ahold of his dad’s old W-Y badge. After they split, we get more insight into Cruz and his background and this dream sequence thing in a Xenomorph hive, seems to be about another son since lost. Back to Epsilon Station and the son, girlfriend, and others bust in, murdering indiscriminately, and find that they’ve breached a laboratory rather than a server farm. They find scientists still present, and before they can all be killed, a lockdown is initiated, destruction ensues, and facehugging commences. To Be Continued…

The flashback/dream stuff here is obviously present to have the Xenomorphs make an appearance in the issue for an issue that is part of a Serialized Graphic Novel that does not feature the titular creature(s) in its first quarter (sixth?). The comic IS titled ALIEN, after all, and I’m sure Marvel would hope loads of "new readers" would flock to their iteration of the title just for that word "MARVEL" on the cover and buy into the thing. This is Marvel, but this isn’t 2001 Hide-The-Hero Marvelright? And other than these bits, this is basically just a comic about normal humans with typical-ish (albeit 200 years in the future) human technology. No superpowers, no gaudy costumes, no hopeful musical montages.

The art itself is good quality; I like the appearance; and there’s nothing "bad art" about this thing in and of itself. Between the glimpse at the Xenomorphs/nest and present-day stuff, just flipping through this it looks like an Aliens comic. (Oops. Sorry. ALIEN. Singular. Darn that "s"…)

Story-wise…I’m neither impressed nor disgusted. This in no way reads as anything new or spectacular; there’s nothing revelatory or really…anything different whatsoever from pretty much any other Alien/Aliens comic published by Dark Horse. The story is a couple hundred years in the future from us as readers; it’s set after Alien and Aliens (preserving the film canon/timeline) but otherwise is a bit nebulous and indistinct. We have some arbitrarily-chosen human protagonist, haunted by something horrible that happened in the past either to him directly or to someone close to him that involved creatures in darkness that he may or may not know what they are–while we (the reader) know (by the title on the cover, at least) exactly what they are. Yadda yadda yadda, Weyland-Yutani is evil, misguided people accidentally wind up loosing facehuggers to begin an outbreak, etc…blah blah blah.

We do have 30 story-pages (as opposed to a standard 20) so the extra 10 pages for $1 are a better value than a standard $2 per 10 pages. We also get a double-paged spread of 2 pages "infopage"/"credits pages" with dramatic placement, going for a cinematic presentation. Cold open, slight development, bam! Credits, scene cut…comics. Nothing special or original. Despite my annoyance with Almost Every First Issue Must Be An Oversized Five Dollar Thing Heaven Forbid First Issues Just Be First Issues, the TECHNICAL "value" is there, so…yeah.

While by no means a "bad issue," this lacks anything significant–to me, at least–for being a NEW #1, fro a "NEW" publisher, etc. 30 years of Dark Horse publishing Aliens comics, and then Marvel gets the license due to the Disney buyout. And a bit of a gap from DH trailing off and nothing at all for a few months. And now "the big debut" from Marvel (my phrasing, not Marketing) and the property is not even given the Star Wars RUSH/deluge of publishing (as I’m recalling from 2015, Marvel had an omnibus AND first issue of new Star Wars ongoing published the very first week of 2015 when their license went officially active, followed either that same month or immediate months after with multiple other series.) These were directly, overtly placed in a singular, known timeline, building a new/additional canon.

Alien, however, does/did not get this. No, this is a new series launched practically FOUR MONTHS into  Marvel having had the license. That Omnibus? It’s not even due til sometime later in April. And…but for the title on the cover (ALIEN singular) and the publisher logo (MARVEL)–there is really no difference…no new or exciting feel, no particular tone (whether internal or external/meta) to indicate this is any sort of a new era, nothing about new/rebuilding canon, just nothing at all that there’s anything that Marvel brings to the table that Dark Horse did not.

Except that Dark Horse never did umpteen variants on a single issue.

speculators_guide_marvels_alien_001a

By and large, this issue could certainly just be the first issue of the next Dark Horse-published mini-series. The art is good, but nothing new for the property. The story is good, but nothing new for the property. The (main, ignoring variants) cover isn’t bad, but nothing new for the property.

If you’re already a fan of the property and were regularly buying the content from Dark Horse, this should be right in line with any of that and thus no reason not to buy Marvel‘s #1. If you’re newly interested in Alien/Aliens/etc. in comics, this is just as decent a jumping-on point as any other #1 with the title on the cover. I suppose the only real difference is that where so many "firsts" were already exhausted by Dark Horse, this provides a Marvel Modern Reset to stuff, dragging a 30-year-old comics property into a New Age for New Speculation.

alien(2021)_001_blogtrailer

Secret Wars Journal #1 [Review]

secretwars_journal001The Arrowhead; We Worship What We Don’t Understand

Writers: Pru Shen; Matthew Rosenberg
Artists: Ramo Bachs; Luca Pizzari
Color Artists: Jean-Francois Beaulieu; Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Kevin Wada
Editor: Jake Thomas
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I think I thought and "assumed" that this was to be some broad, "down-to-earth" sort of title, like the "man on the street" view of Battleworld, since I’m pretty sure not every last inhabitant is a version of one of the previous multiverse’s "named" super-powered characters. What I got was two short stories (much like Battlworld #1), one of which trailed off into a "follow this character into a full title" note.

The stories are short and basic; Kate Bishop sneaks into Doom’s castle to steal an orb, and winds up having to take the "noble" road to see her thieving partners have a chance to escape. The second story follows some mutants as they seek to end Khonsu as their god, that they might know freedom.

In and of themselves, the stories aren’t bad…they just did not come off as very interesting to me. The first one really felt like some sort of prologue or such, particularly for having a blurb to follow the main character into the pages of another Secret Wars tie-in series. The second has an ending, but was tainted from the start by the end of the first, and ultimately feels like just some random one-off. As "moments" within Battleworld’s existince, sure, that’s fine, it’s nice to have stuff that isn’t necessarily part of the driving force behind a singular "core event series story" and all that.

But…?

But I wasn’t expecting half-issue-length stuff, I either hadn’t read at all or didn’t particularly mentally "register" what this title was…I saw THAT it was coming out, so planned on picking it up, as a tie-in to an event whose start really worked for me, more than I’d even figured at the time.

I’m not all that familiar with the visual team. I’m not all that thrilled with it on the whole–it’s ok, it fits the stories, but nothing about it is consciously memorable for me (this goes for the cover as well). You could certainly do a lot worse, but this is also a good bit of distance away from my favorite comic art. It works for the issue, but–especially for one such as me–the art is by no means a "selling point."

All in all, I suppose it’s not the worst $3.99 I’ve spent. But especially in comparison to more specific stuff–Inferno, Infinity Gauntlet, and other stuff coming up like X-Men ’92, Years of Future Past, and so on–this is a fairly disappointing issue, and if I had to choose right now for certain one way or the other if I’d get the remainder of the series, I’d err on the side of caution and give it a pass. As-is, we’ll see what kind of week it is when #2 arrives, whether or not I continue with the series.

Infinity #1 [Review]

infinity001Infinity

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales with John Livesay, David Meikis and Jim Cheung
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos with Joe Caramagna
Cover: Adam Kubert & Laura Martin
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

I wasn’t going to buy this issue. I physically picked it up from the shelf last Wednesday, and then put it back. It’s a $4.99 issue, which is $1 more than “usual” for most Marvel fare these days (though to its credit it’s a thicker than usual issue, even factoring out full-page “chapter headings”). But Thanos’ face is featured prominently on the cover (it IS the cover image, really!), and darned if I’m not a fan of classic Marvel Cosmic Thanos stuff! So despite other online chatter, I decided to go ahead and buy this Friday after all, in the interest of giving it a fair chance.

On the whole, I’d have to say that it was a passively neutral read for me. I did not particularly enjoy it…but I did not actively dislike it the way I’d somewhat expected to.

We see a world apparently destroyed by Avengers…then move to Titan, to a creature whose existence seems to be solely its mission–Thanos’ bidding. With the success of one mission, it is now sent to Earth after other secrets. Various events unfold–Space Knights face an unwinnable situation, SWORD and Captain America and Hawkeye bust a group of Skrulls hiding out, and we see the current status quo of the Inhumans and their King, Blackbolt. The spy creature delivers a message, and we get a hint of Thanos’ plan.

After not enjoying SHIELD #1 a few years ago, not being able to “get into” his early Fantastic Four issues, and being completely turned off to his Marvel Now Avengers and New Avengers launches, I’ve pretty much decided Hickman‘s work in general just is not for me. As such, his name attached to Infinity was a big red flag…one that somewhat holds true even now, having read this issue.

Despite Thanos’ face on the cover, he may as well not even actually appear in the issue for the near-zero on-panel time he gets. For that alone I’m disappointed with the issue. Additionally, there are plenty of characters that I’m not familiar with that I get the feeling I “should” be to truly “appreciate” this issue/story.

Visually I definitely enjoyed the art overall…I’m not a huge fan of some of the costumes (specifically Captain America and Hawkeye) but they look about as good as I can expect here, leaving me only to dislike the costumes themselves rather than the depiction. As for the many characters I’m not familiar with, I suppose the visuals don’t do them any disservice…they look how they do, and I’m cool with that.

The title Infinity–and featuring Thanos’ face on the first issue and other marketing as well as the Free Comic Book Day issue–seem clearly chosen to draw association with past Thanos-centric stories like The Infinity Gauntlet or Infinity Abyss. As such, the comparison is there, and as a first issue, this does not do for me here what those did in their respective stories. Plus, about 10 pages of this issue are what we were given in that FCBD issue, so that wasn’t even a prologue so much as “just” some random scene over 3 months before the arrival of #1.

While I imagine things will pull together and make sense by the end of the six individual issues of this “main story”/mini…as a single issue, Infinity #1 leaves me let-down. If I come across positive enough reviews of the later issues and/or tie-ins, I’ll likely be interest in a collected volume of the entire story; but as it stands, I don’t plan on picking up any of the subsequent single issues for this event/story.

Infinity FCBD 2013 [Review]

infinityfcbd2013Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $0.00

Given my history with Thanos, Adam Warlock, the Infinity Gauntlet (and the Infinity Gems’ involvement in the Ultraverse)…even though I REALLY don’t want to get sucked into another Marvel Event, I wasn’t about to ignore the Infinity issue Marvel‘s got out as one of the Free Comic Book Day 2013 offerings.

The cover has a rather iconic look about it, a shattered pane falling away to reveal Thanos’ grin behind it–and images of a bunch of characters from around the Marvel Universe looking rather disconcerted.

The story is fairly simple, as we’re introduced to some aliens, including one whose latest mission was a success. The alien is given another task, which it sets about accomplishing quickly. A “tribute” is extracted from another alien people–who are but thousands where they were once millions. This tribute is presented to Thanos. And on Earth, we learn that tribute will be demanded there as well, or the world will burn.

This issue certainly serves its purpose–to be a “teaser” of sorts, something within the main story of Infinity yet probably not absolutely essential to understanding the story. This reeks of “prologue,” and other than seeing Thanos, I was honestly not very interested here. I don’t consciously know anything of any of these aliens or their worlds. I’ve yet to get through all of Annihilation, Conquest, or the Thanos Imperative, so other than tidbids of spoilery stuff, I’m not really current with Thanos…but this issue doesn’t hold up, considering I’d expect from the cover to either have more of Thanos himself, or of the general Marvel Universe presented.

The issue also reprints a Thanos backup story from Logan’s Run #6 in which Thanos once more survives the wrath of Drax the Destroyer. This was more to my liking, in that at least the focus was on Thanos, not a bunch of characters I didn’t know. Also, I’d never read this particular Thanos story, so it was still new material to me.

The art of the main story is pretty good, and quite to my liking. Thing is, I’m more interested in a story that I enjoy than I am pretty pictures, so it doesn’t make up for the lackluster story snippet. Meanwhile, the art from the Logan’s Run backup at least looks like classic Thanos, and while not entirely to my liking, is easily forgiven as a product of its time.

All in all…I’m not at all impressed with this “preview” or “prologue” or whatever-the-heck-it-is for Infinity. However, as a free issue, this is certainly worth it, if only for the reprint of the classic Thanos story.

Avengers: Season One [Review]

Writer: Peter David
Artists: Andrea DiVito, Jon Buran, Nigel Raynor, Mike Bowden, Walden Wong
Color Artist: Wil Quintana
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Art: Adi Granov
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Associate Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Published by: Marvel Comics

When I heard that Avengers Season One was going to be included with the Walmart edition of the DVD/Bluray, I was pretty much “sold” on the spot. By the time this came out, though, I’d resigned myself to some sort of DVD-case-digest-size book, probably on crummy paperstock and not at all reasonably worth the added cost (though if it was one of these sets priced the same as the non-set package, it’d totally be worth it!)

The package felt suitably heavy, though, when I finally bought it the morning the thing was available. When I opened the package, seeing the pages-out, I was ready to be incensed at the actual packaging…until I slid out a full-size TPB volume that would easily command a $14.99+ cover price if it were being sold by itself. Even at some “bargain” $9.99 price, in and of itself the book makes the added cost worthwhile if you’re interested in the book itself.

The physical package is your average Marvel paperback. The cover stock and pages, and dimensions are as any other Marvel volume that this would be indistinguishable as an ‘exclusive’ if it wasn’t for the notice on the cover where the pricing would be “Custom Edition Not For Resale.” (That, and that this is a paperback where I believe thus far the other Season One books have been only in hardback).

The writing is solid–and I’d expect no less of David‘s work. He knows these characters and it shows–though in a way it reminds me that I myself do not know these characters particularly well in their pre-1990s iterations. While the writing is solid–it manages to capture these characters in a suitably generic sort of way–they’re recognizable without being placed entirely in the silver age nor the modern age. The relationships seem familiar to what I know of them in the comics, while bordering on adapting the movie versions.

Visually, much of the book is the same way. There are multiple artists (depicting different scenes/settings) which works fairly well as it differentiates what each character is seeing/doing through the story. Though it works, I got a distinct sense that I’m supposed to associate these comics with the characters from the movies, that this story is supposed to fit either the comics or the movie universe according to primary experience.

Sure, that works well enough–it is a tie-in product, after all. But the fact it evoked the movie characters as much as it did took me out of the story and left me unsure where the story’s supposed to be set, and I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if it felt like it was more based in the traditional comics story. I suspect I was also soured a bit by a one-shot I read earlier this year that was set in the movie universe that itself felt like a waste of time.

If this was a $15 paperback or $20+ hardcover being sold by itself, I’d be pretty disappointed despite the creative talent involved and wondering if there’d be some way to get a refund. Standing solely on its own this–to me–is not something worth seeking out specifically.

But as a bonus included with a blu-ray I was already planning to buy, this gets points as a decent read, with art that never felt bad or out of place. And though it’s the size of 4-5ish single issues, I don’t think I paid more for this package than the cost of two standard Marvel comics in addition to the actual blu-ray pack.

All that said–you get a complete story in this volume. There’s no cliffhanger directing you into some other volume or series of volumes; this is not a prologue to a crossover/event nor some epilogue/continuation of a crossover/event. You have the characters, you see their adventure, the threat(s) they face, and you have resolution.

If you’ve seen the movie, the characters don’t particularly contradict the film. Or if you read this and then watch the film, stuff works overall.

And really, on the whole, I’m glad I went with the Walmart purchase for this book. If you can still find the blu-ray/DVD package with this graphic novel at your local Walmart, and want the Avengers film anyway, this is definitely a worthwhile purchase.

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Avengers vs. X-Men #11 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

Avengers Academy #29 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Age of X: Alpha #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

 

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

X-Men #2 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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