X-Force #23 by Benjamin Percy

X-Force #23 (X-Force (2019-))X-Force #23 (X-Force by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beast’s inexorably slide into moral ambiguity finds him, uh, with a tiny man inside him. And, as everyone knows, the solution to having one tiny man inside you, is to get your friend to put a tiny version of themselves inside you.

Also, Colossus’s brother, Mikhail Rasputin is up…to something. This is not unconnected to the tiny man inside Beast.

This is good stuff. Percy’s moving all the plot lines he’s had on the boil for a while forward, intertwining them and, it feels, things are finally coming to a head. I’m fascinated by Beast’s determination not to die because he fears that his friends will take the opportunity to bring him back as he used to be, rather than the self-confessed bastard that he’s become.

Things, I suspect, are not going to end well for Beast and we’ve had out first hints at how the character is likely to go through a reset…a decision which, I expect, will have its own moral repercussions.

The art is solid, the writing engaging, all in all this is another fine issue of X-Force.

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Excalibur #23 by Tini Howard

Excalibur (2019-) #23Excalibur (2019-) #23 by Tini Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DOOM! DOOOOOOOM!

Ya’ gotta love Doctor Doom, particularly when he shows up in comics that he doesn’t usually appear in. But there’s a perfectly good reason for Doom to be in this, as he’s basically Morgan Le Fay’s ex, and she’s the deposed ruler of Avalon, so Doom wants to go pick up his stuff from her castle. Unfortunately, for him, not only is the only way to Avalon through the gate on Excalibur’s island, the castle itself has gone missing. Which leads to some fun with Mad Jim Jaspers.

This is great stuff, full of treats for long time Excalibur and Captain Britain fans, and it’s all beautifully illustrated by Marcus To.

I’m really loving Excalibur at the moment and I’m really glad that Howard is choosing to explore more of this new, expanded Otherworld.

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Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #14 by Alyssa Wong

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020-) #14Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020-) #14 by Alyssa Wong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is so frustrating. Alyssa Wong is finally writing some really good Aphra stories, she’s finally got a real grip on the character…and then it’s illustrated like this.

Look, Sabbatini’s art isn’t bad, it’s just not…Star Wars? It’s heavily manga influenced, very low in detail and very light on backgrounds. Which are all perfectly valid choices, stylistically. I just don’t think they really work here. And, Rachelle Rosenberg, who’s a consistently excellent colourist, really doesn’t quite know what to do with it. The Star Wars line, as a whole, has established a certain “house style” so to speak, and this kind of cartoony style doesn’t really fit. I feel mean saying this, and maybe this tyle could be executed brilliantly in a Star Wars comic…but it’s just not here.

Regular series artist Minkyu Jung returns next month, so hopefully this is just a temporary blip.

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Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #4 by Charles Soule

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters (2021) #4 (of 5)Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters (2021) #4 by Charles Soule
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It suddenly occurs to me, sitting down to review this issue, that the War Of The Bounty Hunters story, so far, hasn’t really included a war…of the bounty hunters. What we do get in this issue is a small skirmish of the Bounty Hunters, as Dengar and Valance team up against Boba Fett. But Fett quickly gets the best of them, leaving Dengar floating, alone on an iceberg and then agreeing to team up with Valance.

But, ultimately, what we have here is a very fun, action packed comic that really feels like Star Wars. There’s also some great political Hutt drama, and for some reason I really enjoy Hutt politics.

The art is also really good. I’ve not been a huge fan of Luke Ross in the past, but he’s really stepped up to the plate with his work on this series.

So, yeah, the War Of The Bounty Hunters has been a bit up and down across the series as a whole, but this core book continues to be really strong.

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Red Sonja (2021) #1 by Mirka Andolfo

Red Sonja (2021) #1Red Sonja (2021) #1 by Mirka Andolfo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Red Sonja was created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith for Marvel Comics in 1973. However, she was based on the Robert E. Howard character Red Sonya, and so, I assume, Marvel lost the rights to her when they lost the rights to Conan. While they now have the rights to Conan back, the rights to Red Sonja had presumably already made their way to Dynamite, now separate from the Conan rights…which means that Marvel now no longer have the rights to a Conan character they actually created. Which explains why Thomas and Windsor-Smith are credited nowhere in this comic and it instead says “Based on the heroine created by Robert E. Howard.”

I’ll be honest, what really attracted me to this comic was the stunning cover art by Mirka Andolfo. As much as I like her writing, her art is what really shines, so while I definitely wanted this for the cover, I was less confident about buying a comic that she’s written but not drawn. However, I needn’t have worried.

Firstly, I have to congratulate everyone involved for finally giving Sonja a somewhat sensible costume, rather than the chainmail bikini she traditionally sports in all weathers. She still looks like an awesome and sexy warrior, just not an awesome and sexy warrior in danger of dying of hypothermia or a random sword slash in the middle of battle.

Fans of Andolfo’s Mercy might find the trope of small child who mistakenly thinks the main character is her mother a little familiar, but as that’s really the only thing this has in common with that book I can forgive it (but if Sonja turns out to be an alien plant woman then I’ll totally be calling foul).

This is a great first issue, and while I’d certainly prefer it if Andolfo was drawing the book as well as writing it, Cafaro’s definitely no slouch in the artistic department.

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The United States of Captain America #3 by Darcie Little Badger

The United States of Captain America #3The United States of Captain America #3 by Darcie Little Badger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is…not good.

After this series got off to a string start, it’s got progressively worse as it’s gone along. We started with Cap musing on the nature of the American dream, the second had Cap reminiscing about a time he nearly peed on Gettysburg and the third gave us a Native American man dressed up in the American flag. Which…doesn’t feel right.

The art is also incredibly weak. Eaglesham is inking himself here, it seems, and he’s not doing himself any favours.

The second story, which is, at least, written by a Native American writer, really doesn’t feel like it’s about the same character…who’s working as a construction worker here, something he didn’t seem to be doing in the main story, where he was basically the local handy man.

The whole book feels rushed and ill conceived. Which is a shame, because this series felt like it had so much promise at the start.

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The Last Annihilation: Wiccan & Hulkling #1 by Anthony Oliveira

The Last Annihilation: Wiccan & Hulkling #1The Last Annihilation: Wiccan & Hulkling #1 by Anthony Oliveira
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You have to give props to any comic that can effectively use quantum entanglement as a plot device.

While this comic does, indeed, feature awesome battles on a distant world for the fate of the galaxy, it also includes flashbacks to the first time that Billy and Teddy met. As such this comics is, perhaps. The single gayest Marvel comic I’ve ever read…and that is no bad thing!

We’ve come a long way since Northstar punched his way through a wall while shouting, “I’M GAY!” Now we’re at a point where flashbacks to when a gay, married couple first met and fell in love, while they’re fighting for the fate of the galaxy while surrounded by their gay friends just seems totally normal. Which it should be. And while Marvel has not always been the most progressive of big corporations owned by Disney…they should eb applauded for the progressive they’ve made in representations of diversity both on the page and in their creative teams.

If, like me, you’ve been a fan of these characters pretty much from the start, you’ll find this comic a joy to read. I really love the way Billy and Teddy have developed both as characters and as a couple, and hope that they stay together for a very, very long time.

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Avengers (2018-) #48 by Jason Aaron

Avengers (2018-) #48Avengers (2018-) #48 by Jason Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For some reason every time I see the cover to this issue I think it’s Nimrod. That’s not really relevant to this review, but just a little oddity I thought I should mention.

Anyway, Jen’s on a rampage because she’s been brainwashed by the Russians, and for some reason she’s decided to take Gorilla-Man along for the ride. Of course, he’s not completely unrelated to her current situation as he was the one who betrayed her and the Avengers to the Russians, allowing them to capture her in the first place.

Along the way we get a lot of musings from Gorilla-Man on the curse of immortality, and one can’t help but wonder if that’s relevant considering that it’s basically been established that Hulks are immortal. What would happen if she did kill him? Would she become even more immortal? Would she turn into a Gorilla-Hulk?

Anyway, this is a non-stop, action packed issue, as you’d expect from something titled “World War She-Hulk.” We’re leading to a show down between She-Hulk ad Namor, which should be entertaining…

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Demon Days: Cursed Web (2021) #1 by Peach MoMoKo

Demon Days: Cursed Web (2021) #1Demon Days: Cursed Web (2021) #1 by Peach MoMoKo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third part of Peach Momoko’s look at the Marvel Universe through the lens of Japanese mythology and manga.

While at times it’s a little hard to follow, it’s a consistently beautiful and deeply interesting take on some familiar characters. Momoko is very much telling her own story here, rather than adapting existing Marvel stories. It’s executed extremely effectively and, I suspect, stands very well on its own merits, even if you’re not familiar with the characters that she’s referencing.

I’ve been a fan of Momoko’s artwork for a while now, having an ever growing collection of her stunning variant covers, so getting a whole comic book full of her art always feels like a real treat.

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Hellions #15 by Zeb Wells

Hellions #15 (Hellions (2020-))Hellions #15 (Hellions by Zeb Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not the biggest fan of Tarn The Uncaring and his weird, uncanny grossness, but this is fun stuff.

Sinister’s plans and schemes are fast unravelling as the team finally learn that they’ve been manipulated and used and that Sinister’s secretly been using Arcade’s Murderworld as a cloning facility. Oh, and that he’s been holding Kwanon’s daughter hostage so that she’ll keep his secret.

We also learn that he’s created the first chimera, moving us one step closer to the future world of Powers of X. Although the chimera he’s created isn’t quite what you might be expecting…

Overall, this is a solid issue, and even if it didn’t quite blow me away, it still had some great moments.

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