Comic Review: Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #5 (Marvel)

Another one from the archives. Expect more of this rubbish until I run out, then I’ll post some scathing reviews about DC’s #0 issues.

Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #5 (Marvel)

Written by Damon Lindeloff
Art by Leinil Yu

Angry hairy man and angry green man are displeased with each other. Words are had…

There’s a Whole Lotta Lindeloff in the public eye at the moment, with Star Trek burning up multiplexes and Lost’s fifth season perplexing the hell out us. So it was a shrewd move for Marvel to resurrect the Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk series that stalled back in 2006. Oh yeah, and there’s apparently a Wolverine movie out at the moment too. Ahem.

The Ultimate Marvel Universe has been around a good 10 years now, meaning that
for the casual reader – if there are any of you actually out there – jumping into a
supposed continuity-free universe like this one is a rather tall order. Jeph Loeb is
currently trashing everyone and everything with a big flood (ie, pressing a big flashing red button called RESET), but because of the hideously erratic schedule for UWvH, it comfortably stands apart from the ongoing monthlies.

The latest issue, #5 of 6, is quick to change the style and pace of previous entries with such weird and wonderful chapters as ‘Part One: In Which Logan Pisses Off A Panda’. Lindeloff is great at writing punchy dialogue and delivering the action up in spades; it’s also funny to see one of our cuddly friends tear into the guy with the daft hair like he’s a cheeseburger.
#1 saw Wolvie getting his legs torn off by one very angry Hulk; in ish three Lindeloff introduces Ultimate She-Hulk — a super-powered Betty Ross. It’s a fanboy-for-the-fanboys affair, but with Leinil Yu (Secret Invasion) providing some jaw-dropping, career-best art, you can’t help but be swept along with the energy and sheer fun of it all.

Fingers crossed that we’ll see issue six on the shelves before 2012 when the world ends.

Comic Review: Kick-Ass #4 (Icon)

Before CLiNT magazine, before Nemesis, this series actually had me excited. Four years later, I’m burned out with it all. The tasteless rape of a minor character in Kick-Ass 2 put me off for good.

Kick-Ass #4 (Icon)
Written by Mark Millar

Art by John Romita Jr.

Superheroes get real, get a MySpace page and get popular…

What does it take to put on a costume and become a real superhero? Loneliness and despair. So it goes in Mark Millar’s latest creator-owned series about a highschooler who decides to bring real life superheroics to the streets. It follows the story of a typical American teenager, Dave Lizewski, whose inability to woo the ladies and obsessive interest in comics leads him to slip into an eBay-purchased wet suit, and hit the streets to combat crime. On his first jaunt, he’s stabbed in the chest trying to stop vandals,
and then, if that wasn’t enough, hospitalised after a speeding car ploughs into him.

While this doesn’t exactly sound like a cheery read, Millar’s characters’ worldview is
not as cynical as you would expect, and this makes a nice change when most superhero output seems to go down the dark and gritty path. As Dave and his schoolfriends discuss the Fantastic Four’s battles with Galactus and the realism of Spider-Man’s web-shooters, we take one step away from the fact that we’re staring at a comic book page. The geeks that populate the pages of this story almost live and breathe.

John Romita Jr. is a long-established artist for Marvel, who’s worked across all the biggest and best titles they’ve offered up over the years: Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (with Frank Miller) to name but a few. This month also marked his return to the pages of Spider-Man alongside Kick-Ass colourist Dean White, who transforms Romita’s rough and frenetic pencil work into something of impressionistic beauty. Yes, this is still a comic we’re talking about. And
it looks damn good.

Millar, the other half of the creative team, should be a name not unfamiliar to most comic and graphic novel readers. With Wanted recently making millions at the UK box-office, and Kick-Ass already optioned for the big screen by the Stardust team of Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, Millar is a marquee name in the world of comics, and each new project he works on brings about an almost ridiculous level of anticipation.

Overall, this is a fast paced, over-the-top but brilliantly engaging read. It sits alongside Wanted, Chosen and new Millar series 1985 as a series that could quite easily be developed further, and it’ll be interesting to see how this evolves onto the silver screen.  Fun, violent, possibly even offensive, Kick-Ass is worth picking up.

Comic Review: Batman #666 (DC)

I’m already getting bored of reading these reviews because they’re so free of profanity. Mazza Manson should have appeared in this issue and pissed on a security guard.

Batman #666 (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Adam Kubert

It’s Damian Vs the Antichrist in the Satanically special 666th issue of the long-running comic…

Self-professed magician and purveyor of all things Crowley-esque, writer Grant Morrison hasn’t shyed away from the controversial during his twenty-odd year career. With memorable characters like King Mob under his belt, and a string of classic runs on titles including Animal Man, New X-Men and the critically acclaimed All Star Superman, Morrison has managed to put a fresh spin on often tired concepts and still retain those aspects that make the character so enjoyable.

Batman #666 is no exception. The setup is timeless comic book: good vs. evil, with a
predictable outcome. But it’s how good triumphs that proves that the character is in
the hands of a brilliant writer who can still inject new ideas into a sixty-year-old icon and not come across as twee. This is no Batman you’ve seen before, but rather the recently introduced son of Bruce Wayne, Damian. Despite his apt name, battle scars, pill popping and dead father, he also feels inclined to dress up as a giant bat and take on the hoods of Gotham.

Thrown into the future, the story doesn’t deviate into Dark Knight realms or reference Paul Pope’s recent Year 100, but instead pits the haggard new superhero against the Antichrist. Andy Kubert, who made his name churning out classic X-Men pages during the 90s, effortlessly realises this new Gotham and its denizens with a careful balance of hyper-kinetic action sequences and splashes that are packed with detail.

If Morrison and Kubert continue to provide such concise and exciting stories, hopefully the stale fallback of multi-part crossovers will be vanquished from the pages of Batman. #666 is a one off, but it’s devilishly good.

Comic Review: Criminal – Coward (Icon)

Criminal: Coward (Icon)
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Ed Brubaker (Daredevil; Uncanny X-Men) and Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies) join forces for a tightly plotted crime tale of diamonds, drugs and deceit…

There aren’t many crime comics on the shelves these days. In fact, nobody has really resurrected the genre since the heyday of 1950s when the likes of Shock SuspenStories and EC shockers ripped stories from the headlines and turned them into eight-page disposable thrillers.

There have been a few interesting twists in Frank Miller’s Sin City, which made noir almost farcical, Brian Michael Bendis’ Torso and, more recently, Darwyn Cooke’s take on The Spirit. But nothing followed in the direct tradition of Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard until Criminal hit stores in 2006. With dialogue that wouldn’t look out of place in either of those writers’ novels and the sort of low down characters you might find in a Tarantino flick, Brubaker’s marriage of cool-talking and lawless abandon is epitomised by Leo, Coward’s protagonist. When Leo is offered the chance to walk away with $5 million in diamonds from a cop-organised diamond heist, he doesn’t spend too long weighing up the cons.

Seasoned comics readers will be surprised by the level of conflict and complexity Brubaker injects into his characters — you can feel these hoodlums breathe on the page. Phillip’s stark artwork, heavy with the black ink and subtle with the details, brings to life the crooked and dirty streets of a nameless

Best of all, the conclusion to this self-contained story comes from leftfield, but doesn’t feel contrived. This is fantastic storytelling that goes beyond mere comics, it begs to become celluloid.