By Jon Durmin
There are few new occurrences (i.e. comics) on Battleworld’s horizon as we head into August 2015. However, we can expect the conclusion of several systems, with a 60% chance of humor.
Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra
What we know: Sure, we’ve seen Nomad affect an uprising against big brother Zola in the pages of Hail Hydra, but what is life like in the Hydra Empire for your average agent? Delve into the life of Hank Johnson and find out.
Pros: Artist Michael Walsh has proven himself as an illustrator of action, comedy, and intrigue bringing all three together in his work on Marvel’s most recent volume of Secret Avengers. With Curb Your Enthusiasm executive producer David Mandel handling the script this series promises to tickle the funny-bone of fans of situational and observational humor of a Seinfeldian bent.
Cons: Of course, series like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, and Clerks: The Animated Series don’t get you laughing then this may be the last series you should be reading. Even if Mandel’s sense of humor is your bailiwick it remains to be seen whether the humorist and showrunner’s comedy can translate from the TV screen to the page. Also, I’m sure there are plenty of fans who saw this solicitation and are wondering, “What about Bob?”
Should I buy it?: Walsh’s art is sure to be on point and appropriate no matter how the story it’s built around plays out. As for whether to invest your time and money that really depends on your sense of humor, but if you’re fond of Mandel’s other work this may be a must-buy.
Howard the Human
What we know: If Howard the Duck is a fowl out of water in New York City he’s right at home in New Quack City, right? Probably, but Howard the Human sure isn’t! Get ready to go for quacks to laughs in this reversal of formula for Steve Gerber’s foul-mouthed fowl.
Pros: Writer Skottie Young is a reliable mirth maker with the mighty marvel many. Readers might be surprised that he’s not also illustrating this series, but that chore goes to another experienced comedy cartoonist, Jim Mahfood. If there’s a duo today with the credentials to turn Howard hilarity on it’s head this is them.
Cons: There’s not any real clear mission statement to this book beyond “inverting the Howard the Duck Premise”. However, with no issue of the regular Howard the Duck revival series this month fans may not have another avenue to get their fix of Howard-hilarity.
Should I buy it?: If you enjoy Young’s writing but won’t miss his cartooning, are fond of Mahfood’s underground-leaning funnybooks, or just need a monthly dose of Vitamin-H set aside a few dollars for this one-shot.
What we know: In Battleworld’s Monarchy of M, Baron Magneto and his family hold hegemony over the realm. His control seems absolute, but is it? Can he maintain order against the intrigues of his son Quicksilver? What of the designs of that monarch of the seven seas, Namor the Sub-Mariner?
Pros: Writer Dennis Hopeless has built himself a faithful following through books like Cable and X-Force, Avengers Arena, Avengers Undercover, and the Secret Wars Inferno series. Two of those have given him strong X-Cred, and all of his Marvel work thus far has given readers tales where all is not as it seems. This may be a match made in heaven given the twists, turns and fall out of this book’s long impactful namesake series. Behind the big Kris Anka covers, Spider-man and the X-Men artist Marco Failla contributes art with stylistic similarities to original HoM artist Olivier Copiel. Furthermore, this is the first Battleworld series to prominently feature anti-heroes Magneto, Namor and Quicksilver, all characters with very devoted fan-bases that have doubtless been waiting for these characters to get more of the spotlight.
Cons: The promised tone of the series has been one of political intrigue and power plays in the vein of series like House of Cards and Game of Thrones(or A Song of Fire & Ice, for the literary inclined). That’s no con itself, but unfortunately most of Failla’s interior work to date has been on series’ that are a bit more tounge-in-cheek, with as much focus on comedy as comic art. This may make House of M the perfect place for him to show off his range, but if he can’t deliver it may leave us with a series of a distracting discordance of tone between the script and art.
Should I buy it?: Fans of Hopeless, the core characters (Magneto, Namor, Quicksilver), or political thrillers should give [at least] the first of August’s two issues a chance. Other readers may want to wait on the buzz for the first issue before making a decision.
Secret Wars: Secret Love
What we know: Secret Love is another anthology book, giving a nod to the romance genre comics that helped Atlas comics survive the 1950’s to become Marvel. Stories will focus on a pairing of Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider), a Matt Murdock – Karen Paige – Typhoid Mary love triangle, and “more secret love affairs”.
Pros: Felipe Smith, Marguerite Bennett, Michel Fiffe, Gurihiru, and Chris Anka all have a proven track record on Marvel books and their presence here is promising for the short features in this oversized one-shot. Writer/artists Jeremy Whitley and Katie Cook known already for non-superhero fare with other publishers, making this an apt introduction to their work for Marvel readers. The use of existing hot characters for the core stories may make the transition from superheroics a bit more palatable for fans unfamiliar with the romance or humor genre.
Cons: It’s unclear based on solicitations and interviews whether readers should expect strong super-hero elements, stories with a place in continuity, straight romance, flat-out humor or some combination of the above. This means any reader going into the series with a set expectation for the content or flavor of the story is at risk of being sorely disappointed.
Should I buy it?: Readers who admire any of the involved creators, or already enjoy romance and/or humor comics should find a solid read here. Fans disinterested in seeing these characters presented in a different genre may be turned off. Those unsure about romance books, but who like the creators on deck or the Kamala Khan, Robbie Reyes, or DD characters might want to give this book an opportunity to broaden their horizons.
What’s old is new! (Anthology Books)
In the final issue of Secret Wars: Battleworld, writer/artist James Stokoe takes point, partnering with artist Daniel Valadez on a story of Egyptia’s Silver Surfer and then with co-scribe Peter David as the Surfer encounters David’s darling from Future Imperfect, The Maestro. For those who missed Stokoe’s work on the Avengers 100th Anniversary special, expect highly detailed and expressive cartoon panels evocative of the work of Geoff Darrow, that ranges from tight character moments to city-spanning-scene-setting-action.
Egyptia will be invoked in this month’s Secret Wars Journal book as well, as the Punisher of that kingdom teams with a version of Iron Fist to go over the Shield in pursuit of one of that fortress’ AWOL sentinels. Mike Benson, known for his work on TV’s Entourage as well as hard-core crime-busting comics like Moon Knight and Punisher: MAX is joined by Italian talent Laura Braga for this one. Ms. Braga brings her clean illustrative style to Marvel’s interior pages in this story, and her skill combined with Benson’s resume as a writer suggest readers are in for a rough and tough action short with this story. Our other feature turns to the Psylocke of the Sentinel Territories as Betsy makes a desperate move to liberate her fellow mutants in a tale that pairs writer/artist/editor Sina Grace in his Marvel debut with former Storm artist Victor Ibanez. With the well selected combinations of character and creator in this issue, this may be the issue to pick up for those who haven’t yet picked up an issue of SWJournal.
Ant-Man and Silk get in on the Last Days action. They, along with Magneto, Spider- Woman, Silver Surfer, and Loki, bid the 616 adieu in the last of their, last days stories. Meanwhile, Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan continues the advance to her own end.
That’s a Wrap!
In addition to the aforementioned Secret Wars: Battleworld anthology series, Master of Kung-Fu reaches its conclusion this month. Despite having set the expectation for a tongue-in-cheek, slap-stick take on Shang-Chi, this series has delivered the distinct martial arts genre tone of classic Master of Kung-Fu series.