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This week (6 November 2013), DC Comics brings an all-new, all-Australian team aboard for Earth 2 #17! THEN the Bamfs attack in Amazing X-Men #1 (Marvel), things get very strange in Drumhellar #1 (Image Comics) and the Ultimate Universe is headed for a Cataclysm (Marvel).
It’s with a sense of national pride that we open this week’s Graphic Bits with a look at Earth 2, the first major flagship DC title to feature an all-Australian creative team. Tom Taylor, having already done bad things to Superman in the Injustice tie-in comic, sits down to play in a brand new sandbox. Outgoing writer James Robinson left Taylor with the huge reveal that Steppenwolf’s killer Bruutal is none other than a Darkseid-friendly Superman. Taylor further lays down an opening gambit of transferring Lois Lane’s consciousness into the body of what appears to be the new Red Tornado. The introduction of a new Batman, whose identity remains secret, adds a new element to the mix, suggesting that it is “criminals and madmen” who are Earth 2’s last hope. Series artist Nicola Scott takes it up a notch with this issue, soaking the panels in the recurring red motif that has been present throughout this run. Her new Batman, flying fist forward after emerging from a red gas plume, is one of the coolest new designs of the year. If Taylor and Scott have laid out a roadmap for what’s to come over their first arc, then it might be time for everyone to take another look at this title. Richard has also reviewed this title at length over at Newsarama.
You’re just asking for trouble when you put “Amazing” in your title. The latest in a series of – what is it now 40? – X-Men books, Jason Aaron takes us to some unexpected places. The first of these is heaven, where the recently deceased Nightcrawler is having a tough time settling in, at least until Azazel and a band of pirates turns up for some swordplay. It firmly sets the tone for the sheer irreverent fun of the issue, a solidly tongue in cheek piece that has mischievous little red and blue “Bamfs” (think: mini Nightcrawlers) running around like rodents. Aaron treads some familiar ground with the school corridor scenes reminiscent of his Wolverine and the X-Men, and introduces the erstwhile Avenger Firestorm as a new teacher at the Jean Grey school. McGuinness brings a lighthearted touch to the art, filled with colour and slightly exaggerated expressions that serve the more comical tone. If this achieves nothing more than a means to reintroduce Kurt Wagner, then it will be a successful outing as far as most fans of the ‘elf’ are concerned. At this early stage, it is difficult to tell if this fun diversion from the seriousness of the last year will amount to anything that distinguishes it from the plethora of X-Men books already available on the shelves. It will also be interesting to see where Nightcrawler stands after the recent division of teams following the Avengers Vs. X-Men and Battle of the Atom events. Staying tuned to this channel for now.
Drumhellar is a difficult book to fix neatly into a box, and if you did manage to get it into a box, it would drop a blue light and dance to the rhythm in its head. Imagine something on the fringes of Constantine, just on a lot more acid, and you’d come close to describing the premise. Ostensibly about a paranormal detective whose shock-induced visions see him land in South Dakota, the final product seems far less linear than that. There’s bog-men, ex-girlfriends, ex-girlfriend-werewolves, and demons, and a lot of stuff happening. Unfortunately for this debut issue, the deliberately psychedelic approach might just leave the reader confused, scrambling back a page or two to see if anything has been missed between scenes. Alex Link is setting us up for a bigger world, or possibly just a head-spin, and there is something pleasurable about the exuberance of the abstraction. Riley Rossmo’s gorgeous art sells the world, beginning with something that is almost Japanese influenced as the protagonist has a vision in a pond, before emerging out the other side of a Western by way of Paris, Texas. Coupled with Karl Fan’s amazing colours, which make maximum use of Rossmo’s minimal frame fillers, it’s the hook that keeps readers visually engaged enough to want to know more about this puzzle.
So it begins, or is that ends? The buzz around Cataclysm is that it will spell the end for the Ultimate Marvel Universe, a fact telegraphed by the rampaging 616 Galactus running through downtown Ultimate New York. If this is the last stand for the Ultimate U, it’s highly appropriate that Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, the originators of Ultimate Spider-man back in 2000, take the helm. Picking up from the events of Age of Ultron and Hunger, this tightly packed issue kicks the series off with several bangs, whimpers and lightning bolts. It’s light on plotting, with Mile Morales/Spider-man, the Ultimates and Fantastic Four helplessly throwing themselves against the jolly purple giant to no avail. Yet it has an epic grandeur to it that feel as though it is all headed…somewhere. We’ve been here before, so we remain cautiously optimistic. Bagley is, of course, a perfect fit for the story, having clocked in well over a decade of Ultimate experience. His wordless Galactus is at once imposing and iconic, yet he really excels on the action. Despite pages where almost a dozen heroes are throwing themselves into the mix at once, Bagley never loses the flow or the location of a single entity. The stage has been set, and we’ve got a bad feeling about the fate of the Ultimate Marvel Universe.
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