Strange Academy (2020-) #4 by Skottie Young

Strange Academy (2020-) #4Strange Academy (2020-) #4 by Skottie Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The students play a game of door tag, which takes them hopping across dimensions until Emily ends up in Weirdworld, where she meets Catbeast, a cute little creature who is most certainly a wizard in disguise.

This is fun, whimsical, beautiful fun. Humberto Ramos is at his best here, crafting weird and wonderful new worlds. Skottie Young has created a cast of charming characters and seems to be weaving a tale full of mystery. My only complain is that we haven’t really got to know the cast too well yet, but that will come in time, I hope.

As this book is set in a magic school, comparisons to Harry potter are inevitable, but Harry Potter drew on a tradition of boarding school and, indeed, magical school literature that has a long heritage that this book simply adds to.

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X Of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1 (X Of Swords by Jonathan Hickman

X Of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1 (X Of Swords (2020))X Of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1 (X Of Swords by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Pogg Ur-Pogg’s Pogg, in Ur-Pogg’s Pogg. But Pogg’s Ur-Pogg Pogg, then in Ur-Pogg, Pogg’s.”

You know, if you’re at all taking this stuff seriously then you’re making a mistake. This is just fun.

I’d feel smug about being right about Genesis being Annihilation, but, you know, it was obvious to everyone apart from Apocalypse, so…

But, yeah, this is great, we get more insight into all of the Swordbearers if Arakko and, more interestingly, as far as I’m concerned, we get more of a taste of all of the kingdoms of Otherworld. I’m really enjoying how Hickman and Howard have expanded Otherworld and created a much richer and detailed environment for future stories (possibly) to play out in. We didn’t really learn anything new about Otherworld here, as it’s all been covered in previous text entries, but we actually got to see it and its inhabitants here. I’m definitely going to need more Sheriff Gia Whitechapel.

There are more clues about how this is all going to play out here, as Saturnyne presents each of Krakoa’s champions with a tarot card, which are, to some extent, explained by Tarot on the final text page. We’re clearly going to see Doug going through some kind of evolution and possibly merging with one or more other characters. I’m also curious to see if he’ll interact with his Arakkan opposite number, Redroot.

The art is as stunning as ever, and I know I’ve mentioned before that I love all of the new character designs, but I particularly love War. She looks amazing. Others have complained that this event features all new villains we’ve never seen before, and that as a result they find this story less interesting. Personally I love that we’re not just recycling the same old characters over and over and over again. I hope that we continue to get to know at least some of these new characters over the coming years…although I doubt that they’ll all survive X Of Swords. Also, as much as they’re new, I like that they’re still tied into existing characters and lore…Apocalypse has always had horsemen, but these were the first. And I’ve said elsewhere that this event has filled in Apocalypse’s backstory in a way that’s made him more interesting to me than he’s ever been.

So, we’re at the half way point of X Of Swords and so far it’s been almost universally excellent. Let’s hope it remains this good until its climax!

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Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #6 by Ethan Sacks

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #6Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #6 by Ethan Sacks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A definite improvement over the last issue, but then the only way was up after that.

I still don’t care about Valance, though. He’s a deeply uninteresting character who doesn’t really feel like he belongs in Star Wars. He looks like a character for a 1970s comic that was kinda inspired by Star Wars, before it had really been established what Star Wars really IS. Because, well, that’s exactly what he is. We’re given some more backstory for him here, in which we discover that he left a girl behind when he left his home world to join the Empire…and, crikey, this is derivative. But, then, so’s Valance.

There’s some good stuff in here though, because Zuckuss and 4-LOM are in it, and they’re cool. Although it did bother me that Zuckuss call’s 4-Lom, “For-Elloem” becuase I’ve always pronounced it “Four-Lom”…but maybe I’ve been wrong all these years. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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Juggernaut (2020-) #2 by Fabian Nicieza

Juggernaut (2020-) #2 (of 5)Juggernaut (2020-) #2 by Fabian Nicieza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Damn, this was a good comic.

That art. I mean…that art! Ron Garney is amazing. I mean, he’s always been amazing, but this is stunning and fits the character perfectly.

I like that the fight with the Hulk was cleverly done, and wasn’t just two big powerhouses hitting each other. And then, as the Hulk was brought before a group of his victims to be confronted by the harm he’s caused, the parallels with the harm that Cain Marko has done were obvious to everyone, especially Cain himself.

For a Juggernaut series this is surprisingly intelligent and muted, and it really hits the spot. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy Niceiza’s work.

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Iron Man (2020-) #2 by Christopher Cantwell

Iron Man (2020-) #2Iron Man (2020-) #2 by Christopher Cantwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was good, though not as good as #1.

I’m really enjoying the dynamic between Patsy and Tony, they make good foils for each other. Tony trying to go out in a blaze of glory so that people will remember him fondly and not as the raging asshole he really is is very Tony.

I would have liked the mystery of who was plotting in the background to have lasted longer than a single issue, but what you gonna do, eh?

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X-Men (2019-) #13 by Jonathan Hickman

X-Men (2019-) #13X-Men (2019-) #13 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When first introduced, Apocalypse was a mysterious character who obviously had a long and detailed history. Previous attempts to fill in that backstory have only served to make the character less interesting. What Hickman is doing here is weaving a tale of the secret history of Apocalypse, and, quite wonderfully, it’s adding to the mystery and wonder of Apocalypse and making him…interesting. Apocalypse has always been a bit of a one note villain, with his survival of the fittest mantra. But here, at last, he’s being given motivation for that mantra. A reason for testing mutants so that only the fittest survive, beyond just, “He thinks it’s a good idea.”

Far from being simply filler, this issue answers questions…or, rather, confirms our suspicions, while posing some more. We learn that Annihilation is very much just the helmet, which confirms that the person wearing that helmet is likely to be significant, and the best candidate for the wearer is Genesis, Apocalypse’s supposedly dead wife. But, equally, it could be Isca, Genesis’ sister and the sister-in-law of Apocalypse, who betrayed them all. This mystery feels significant, and the answer feels like it will be important…both for Apocalypse and the future of Krakoa.

It’s also important to remember that this is Apocalypse’s account of events. We are seeing and hearing everything from his point of view, through his recollections. It’s entirely possible, and extremely likely, that he’s an unreliable narrator. I anticipate us seeing these events from genesis’ point of view at some point, and for that to quite revelatory.

The art, by Mahmud Asrar, is superb, which is what we’ve come to expect from the whole X-line right now. The creators have been called on to conjure myriad new character designs and each one of them is interesting and unique. Part of me hopes that we see them return after this event is over, but part of me thinks that will ultimately dilute their impact.

Anyway, this is great stuff, and next week we hit the official half way point in this event, with X Of Swords: Stasis…and I can’t wait!

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Excalibur (2019-) #13 by Tini Howard

Excalibur (2019-) #13Excalibur (2019-) #13 by Tini Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is a twist at the end of this which basically calls all of the characters’ interactions throughout this issue into question. How much was genuine and how much was just an act? We will, perhaps, never know.

What I do know is that seeing the Braddock twins get one over on her Whyness, the Omniversal Majestrix Opal Luna Saturnye, is deeply satisfying. It also feels good seeing Brian finally get over himself, come to terms with the fact that he’s no longer Captain Britain, and embrace a new role…Captain Avalon.

But let’s go back a step and address an issue others seem to have a problem with: Saturnyne’s powers. Throughout this event the Omniversal Majestrix has displayed certain powers that, supposedly, she has not had before. As far as I can tell, there are three possible explanations for this:

1) Satrunyne has always been a fairly mysterious being. It’s entirely possible that she’s always possessed these powers and abilities but we’ve simply never seen her using them before.

2) The powers are derived from the Starlight Citadel. You have to consider: What’s different about Saturnyne compared to her previous appearances? Well, she now controls the Starlight Citadel and that may well have bestowed certain powers upon her.

3) There is a story yet to be told regarding how Saturnyne came to be in possession of these powers.

What’s not likely is that Tini Howard is unaware that Saturnyne hasn’t previously displayed any powers and has made a huge error.

(Anyway, that’s enough of me responding to the criticisms of other reviewers).

Literally my only complaint here is that Brian’s costume inside the book is not the one he’s wearing on the cover, because the one he’s wearing on the cover is a lot better. But, talking of the art, RB Silva’s work here is sublime, but mention should also be made of the colourist, Nolan Woodard, who really brings the Starlight Citadel to life, in all its glowing, ethereal beauty.

X Of Swords continues to be one of the best crossover events I’ve ever read. Long may it continue (or, you know, at least for another thirteen parts..).

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Outlawed (2020) #1 by Eve L. Ewing

Outlawed (2020) #1Outlawed (2020) #1 by Eve L. Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I really need to check out the rest of Outlawed but looking at eBay I’m not sure that’s going to happen as Outlawed #1 is selling for silly money (thanks, coronavirus), but maybe I’ll get lucky.” That’s what I said at the end of my review of Champions #1. So, did I get lucky? Well…sort of…I found someone selling the regular cover and the Tony Daniel wraparound variant cover on eBay in one lot, and it wasn’t too much..considering…

Anyway, what did I think of the book? I liked it, a lot, and now I have context for what was going on in Champions #1. Or…do I? Because my one complaint is that it really wasn’t clear what happened with Viv Vision, maybe that was deliberate. After all, the reason that everything went south so quickly is because so much was happening at once, the team weren’t properly communicating and, well, everyone got confused.

Also, while Jacinto’s art is good, it’s perhaps a tad too stylised at times for my taste…but that didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the book.

Mostly, these are characters I like, and I just enjoy seeing them interact with each other and doing stuff. Although watching them get hurt isn’t great…

This is also clearly set up for the rest of the Outlawed event, which is fair enough. I’ll be reading Champions and Power Pack, so it’s good to have read this for context.

Also, Viv is very obviously not dead. Which is good.

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Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #1 by Kieron Gillen

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #1Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #1 by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Thought For The Day: Why are you thinking?”

Like most British men with a healthy interest in both sci-fi and gaming, I had a Warhammer 40k phase. However, it was so long ago that the rules I had were first edition, and my Space Marine army all had pointy noses and came in a back of thirty for £10. For anyone familiar with the cost of Space Marines now that will no doubt be shocking.

The world building done by Games Workshop, even back then, was outstanding, and I spent many hours poring over the cutaway diagram of an Ultramarines monastery in the rulebook. I never got around to reading any of the books, and getting back into collecting the miniatures isn’t financially viable, but when Marvel announced this series, written by Kieron Gillen, I couldn’t resist.

And I am not disappointed.

This is excellent stuff. Of course, much of this issue is set up, introducing those who are unlikely to be familiar with the world of 40k to the status quo in the galaxy, but it’s done exceptionally well. Gillen draws you in to the story of Marneus and by the end I was hooked. The cliffhanger at the end is perfect, leaving you needing to know what happens next.

The art is fantastic, and perfect for Warhammer 40k. I was worried that Space Marines wouldn’t transfer well to comics, but Jacen Burrows pulls it off perfectly.

This is great stuff and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the rest of the series.

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Avengers (2018-) #37 by Jason Aaron

Avengers (2018-) #37Avengers (2018-) #37 by Jason Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Age of Konshu storyline comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Although, of course, given the fact that Konshu took over the world in a bid to stop Mephisto, and the Avengers have now stopped Konshu…what about Mephisto?

Although that’s essentially the question that’s asked at the end of the book, and the answer seems to be: Maybe the Phoenix can stop Mephisto?!

I guess we’ll find out in the comic Phoenix storyline…?

It’d be nice to know what Mephisto’s actually up to.

Still, this comic was great, and I enjoyed the part where Moon Knight ultimately rejected the Phoenix, even though it got a bit meta with his, “This isn’t the saga of Dark Moon Knight” line.

The art is, of course, cracking.

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