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Hugh Likes Comics: Cable Reloaded

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Cable Reloaded #1
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Bob Quinn
Colored by Java Tartaglia
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Design by Tom Muller
Published by Marvel Comics

The Skinny: Maybe the real Time-Traveling Cyborg Super Soldier was Friendship all along.

Cable has never been one of my favorite Marvel characters. In a lot of ways, the cybernetic super-soldier from the future represents a lot of the problems that crept into 90’s Marvel Comics. His backstory is a complicated mess, his design is unpleasant, and his plots center around the hyper-masculine dourness that dominated the comics industry at the time. In short, I think he’s just not a lot of fun.
 Cable recently returned to his status quo after he was murdered and replaced by a teenage version of himself because Comics and this solo one-shot integrates him back into the Marvel Universe. Since I didn’t read Teen Cable’s solo series, I would’ve given this issue a pass if it weren’t written by one of my favorite writers, Al Ewing. I’m glad I didn’t skip it because it turns out, this is a great single issue.
Cable Reloaded is also a tie-in to Al’s Last Annihilation storyline going on right now in Guardians of the Galaxy and S.W.O.R.D. Fortunately, you don’t need to know much about either book to be brought up to speed. Cable’s new mission is to infiltrate the infamous Breakworld, previously seen in Astonishing X-Men. But again, that’s not anything you need to know because this is actually a comic about Cable reestablishing his connections and friendships after being gone. Because he’s a time traveler, it’s been a lifetime for him since he’s been in this era, but only a month in everyone else’s time, including the reader.
Cable gets a few nice moments with Cannonball and Boom-Boom, his mentees from when he was leading X-Force, as well as with the staff of S.W.O.R.D, where his younger self was working as Security Chief. 
We also see a fair bit of Cable’s internal monologue throughout the issue, and it is an interesting peek into the thoughts of a normally taciturn and laconic character. One of the fun things you can do with a character like Cable in the context of a crossover is to use him to build up the importance of an event or put over another character. There’s a fun scene in which Cable meets Guardian of the Galaxy Rocket, and is awed by meeting such a famous and brilliant historical tactician. Rocket is clearly one of Ewing’s favorite characters, but it’s still a nice scene.
Bob Quinn’s art is also very good in this issue. He evokes a 90’s aesthetic without falling into the failings of the era, and he is a steady hand at making complex action easily understandable. The issue’s page layouts have a particularly nice flow to them. java Tartaglia’s colors are warm and glossy, also evoking Cable’s origins while remaining easy on the eyes.
I picked up this issue not knowing what to expect, but I’m glad that I did. Cable Reloaded #1 is a self-aware and oddly sweet return to form for the character, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this creative time and this character in the future. Cable is a character of excess in a lot of ways, but this issue hits all its points without overindulging. If you’re at all curious about Cable, S.W.O.R.D., or The Last Annihilation, do yourself a favor and pick this issue up from Comixology or your Local Comic Shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: Top 5 of 2020

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This year was a rough one for Comics. Covid-19 forced a distribution shutdown, with ramification that were felt throughout the industry. But there were still a plethora of great books that came out this year, and while I don’t have enough space to expound on all the outstanding books I read this year, here are five of my favorites, in alphabetical order. Spoilers abound below!

Empyre
Written by Al Ewing and Dan Slott
Drawn by Valerio Schiti
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramanga
Published by Marvel Comics

At first glance, Empyre is just another Marvel Comics alien invasion story. The Earth is pushed to the brink of peril, and then saved at the last minute by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, etc. etc. But look past the surface, and there is so much more going on.Empyre concludes with a same-sex royal wedding in space, with all the Avengers and Fantastic Four as guests of honor. It reaches to the roots of Marvel Universe history, both in-story and in publication, and embraces that past while stepping into the future. The status quo for superhero comics is typically dark, putting the heroes on a never-ending back foot, with another crisis just around the corner. The end of this book does acknowledge that nothing good lasts forever. But today, the Kree / Skrull War is over, and Comics Are For Everyone. Make Mine Marvel!

Far Sector
Written by N. K. Jemisin
Drawn and Colored by Jamal Campbell
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comic Young Animal

This rare gem of a book takes place in a distant corner of the DC Universe, far from the crises of the regular continuity, and also, I suspect, from editorial interference. Given their own canvas to work with, Jemisin and Campbell have built a beautiful, wondrous and troubling world in The City Enduring, a sparkling artificial super-metropolis where three distinct alien cultures live in apparent harmony, until Green Lantern Jo Mullein is called upon to solve their first murder in centuries, and uncovers a chilling web of oppression and dirty politics whose exposure may tear a civilization apart.Jemisin’s writing on this book is consistently amazing. It’s difficult to believe this is her first jump from prose to comics. Propelled by Campbell’s dazzling art, this ongoing title is not to be missed.

Heist
Written by Paul Tobin
Drawn by Arjuna Susini
Colored by Vittorio Astone
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Published by Vault Comics

Gritty sci-fi crime dramas seems to be my jam this year, and Heist was another great one. After being set up by an evil executive and thrown in jail, Glaine Breld is out for revenge. There’s just two problems. One, the Dignity Corporation is so powerful it is completely untouchable. And two, everyone on the entire planet wants him dead. No big deal, because he’s got a plan to set everything right. All he has to do is get a crew together and steal the whole planet.
Full of twist, dark humor, and the blackest of cyberpunk high concepts, Heist is a hell of a ride.

The Ludocrats
Written by Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol
Drawn by Jeff Stokely
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics

This book is weird, and also weirdly horny, for the sake of weird. Delightful and strange, Gillen and Rossignol don’t merely break the fourth wall, but stomp up and down and pee on it for good measure. Stokely’s art is intricate and full of clever sight gags, and the nonsensical plot, which follows a pair of Aristocrats on the case to stop the Hyper-pope from turning the world boring, is a mad-cap romp. This comic is chock-full full of axe-wielding maniacs, nefarious betrayers, and cannibalistic gastronauts, and those are the good guys! The funniest book I read this year!

Slaughterhouse-Five
Adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel by Ryan North
Art by Albert Monteys
Published by Archaia
Faithfully based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel of the same name, North and Monteys bring us along on Billy Pilgrim’s unstuck journey through time, from his capture in World War II and the battle of Dresden to his abduction to the alien planet Tralfamador and back. North’s script does justice to the story, capturing all the comedy and tragedy it evokes. Montey’s art is cartoonish and subtly colored, and is evocative and resonant. I knew going in this would be a book that I would either love or hate, and I’m glad it pulled off so ambitious an adaptation.

Hugh Likes Comics: The Union

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The Union #1
Written by Paul Grist
Drawn by Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci and Le Beau Underwood with Paul Grist
Colored by Nolan Woodard
Published by Marvel Comics

The Skinny: This comic feels a lot like Jack Staff, but that’s hardly a bad thing.

The Union, Marvel’s (mostly) new team of British superheroes debuts at a rocky time for the island nation, both in the real world and the Marvel universe. On our Earth, Brexit continues, while on Earth-616, their most prominent superhero, Captain Britain, has been replaced by his sister, Betsy Braddock, who is a mutant. While neither of these issues are explicitly addressed in the comic, both loom large over the book as it introduces a new government sponsored team lead by Britannia, a character who feels very familiar to the absent hero.
The one familiar member of the team is Union Jack, who fills the role of a Captain America-like super-soldier on the team. Grist wrote a long-running indie comic Jack Staff, about a similar character who was based on a rejected pitch to Marvel. This opening chapter has a similar feel, and artist Andrea Di Vito literally has him holding onto a flag for most of the issue in a likely homage.
The Union looks like the start of a clever superhero satire. Let’s just hope it can survive being tied-in to Marvel’s latest event, King in Black. You can download it digitally through Comixology, or pick up a print copy at your local comics shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: I Walk With Monsters

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I Walk With Monsters #1
Written by Paul Cornell
Drawn by Sally Cantirino
Colored by Dearbhla Kelly
Published by Vault Comics

The Skinny: Hunting monsters, both supernatural and human

Jacey and David hunt monsters in rural America. Jacey grew up with her brother Jace on a farm, and they both knew what their father did with the hands who came to briefly stay and help out. That was until Jace was sent away to stay with “An Important Man.” Now, she searches the backroads and dark underbelly of the heartland, searching for a clue to what happened to him. David’s story is more complex.
Paul Cornell’s dialog is a treat here. It has a simple elegance that works really well to convey character. Jacey snaps with defiant boredom while in the clutches of a serial killer, and the short, rote dialog between her and David in the next scene quickly conveys that they have been at this a while. The extraordinary has become routine. And when that all falls apart, the flashback scenes deliver very effective menacing dread.
Sally Cantirino’s art with Dearbhla Kelly’s colors create a moody and oppressive atmosphere. Figures face the reader and challenge their notions of comfort and security. With a palate of browns and dark yellows, they evoke an endless autumn, a dark and dying world.
I Walk With Monsters gives an intriguing glimpse into a world of monsters, serial killers, and rich, deep characters. You can find it digitally through Comixology, or in print at Your Local Comics Shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: We Only Find Them When They’re Dead

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We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Simone Di MeoColored by Mariasara Miotti
Lettered by AndWorld Design
Published by Boom! Studios

The Skinny: A weird and beautiful space opera about small business and giant corpses.

In the distant future, mankind has scoured the galaxy clean of resources. Pushed to the edges of a depleted galaxy, they find space’s last mineable source of minerals, metals, and even meat: Dead Space Gods. But the competition between fleets of ‘autopsy ships’ is fierce, and heavily regulated. As corporate entities dominate the market and push out independent operators, Captain Georges Malik and the crew of the Vihaan II struggle to stay afloat under the watchful eye of a zealous enforcement officer.
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead is a sad, beautiful, and imaginative high-concept space opera of the sort that only really works in the comics medium. Ewing’s script is tight and economical, bringing the four-person crew to life in just a few pages. But Di Meo’s art with Miotti’s coloring is the real star here. There is a breathtaking use of light and shadow in this book. The characters seem to float right off of the page, and the space scenes do an excellent job conveying both the enormity of the titanic corpses and the tiny, cramped vessels that carve them up for parts.
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1 is the start of something massive. I can’t wait to read more, and I highly recommend you check it out. Find it at Your Local Comic Shop, or digitally from Comixology!

Hugh Likes Comics: Commanders in Crisis

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Commanders in Crisis #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Drawn by Davide Tinto
Colored by Francesca Carotenuto
Lettered by Fabio Amelia
Published by Image Comics

The Skinny: An ambitious start to a fascinating new indie superhero series.

Commanders in Crisis is an ambitious new indie superhero comic that doesn’t aim simply to tell a story so much as to create a new universe. It introduces and follows the five titular heroes, who are a team along the lines of The Avengers or Justice League, although there is a bit more going on with them than it first seems, and the real twist of the book is at the end, so it won’t be spoiled here. I will say that Orlando and Tinto have created a compelling cast of characters with a huge burden to shoulder. Commanders feels like a crossover event for a line of comics that doesn’t exist.
One of the spots where ‘Big-2” crossovers tend to fall apart is that the action demands too much of the book’s page count, with splash pages and punch-ups pushing out character and story moments, making the plots feel rushed and the characters feel off. This is a well-paced book that gives us everything we need about these five characters in one short fight and a sequence of two-page vignettes following them through their off-hours. With five new heroes that don’t seem to fit neatly into their expected archetypes, Orlando and Tinto do a great job establishing who these heroes are and what they’re doing. I particularly like “Sawbones,” who is just the right mix of interesting powers and 90’s parody.
The other big pitfall for a story like this is the dramatic irony of knowing the status quo can only be shifted so much in a big superhero universe. The good guys are going to win the day, in the end, and while there may be a heroic sacrifice, they’ll only be off the board for so long. By establishing a whole universe, the creators are in the unique position of being able to take the story in any direction they want. There is a sense of possibility here that I haven’t felt in a Superhero book since Stormwatch.
Commanders in Crisis #1 is a gleaming gem of possibility. If you love superheroes, but are looking for something fresh that isn’t steeped in eighty years of continuity, This is a book to check out. You can find it at your Local Comics Shop, or snag a digital copy from Comixology!

Hugh Likes Comics: The Ludocrats

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The Ludocrats #1
Written by Keiron Gillen and Jim Rossignol
Drawn by Jeff Stokely
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles

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The Skinny: Weird for weirdness’s sake.

The Ludocrats #1 was delayed for nearly two months due to Diamond Distrobution’s shutdown over Covid-19, and I still wasn’t ready for it. The book reimagines the madness commonly found in aristocracy not as the unfortunate products of inbreeding and a system of hereditary wealth and power coupled with the intrigues that go with such, but as a purposeful system of government. And it goes all in with the concept.
The book opens with an epigraph: “We tried to imagine a better world. We failed. Instead, we did this.” Followed by one of the two main characters, Baron Otto Von Subertan, that he isn’t technically naked if he’s covered in blood. The other, Professor Hades Zero-K, remarks that by showing up to another important function sky-clad, he’s becoming predictable. And the book goes on from there without letting up its pace or frantic energy.
The book is helped enormously by Jeff Stokely’s art, colored by Tamra Bonvillain. The pages are crammed full of silly, wonderful, blink-and-you-miss them gags, such as a wedding attended by such diverse guests as a robot reading a newspaper and a sack of wheat, which the backmater assures the reader is both sentient and ‘the most emotionally intellegent being in the known universe.’
The pages reward careful study, but don’t detract from the manic pace of Gillen and Rossignol’s delightful script. This is a deeply weird comic, but it presents itself exactly as it is, without a hint of irony or self-consciousness. Deadpool wishes it could be this over-the-top.
The Ludocrats #1 is a strange and wonderful gem, and I’m not precisely sure what’s happening, but I can’t wait for the next issue. You can find it at your local comics shop. Call and see what their safe pickup options are. Or, enjoy digitally via Comixology!

Hugh Likes Comics: Far Sector

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Far Sector #1-5
Written by N. K. Jemsin
Drawn and Colored by Jamal Campbell
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Published by DC’s Young Animal

HLC Far Sector

The Skinny: A Green Lantern story unlike anything you’ve read before.

Far Sector is a comic likely unlike anything you’ve read before. Triple Hugo award-winning author N. K. Jemsin has teamed up with phenomenal artist Jamal Campbell to tell the story of Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The newest member of the Green Lantern Corps, Jo protects The City Enduring, a Dyson Swarm with a population of over 20 billion. Home to three previously waring civilizations, the city has preserved the peace for the last 500 years by forgoing their emotions. But when she investigates the first murder in centuries, she finds tensions ready to snap.
This comic is unlike anything I’ve read from a DC in a very long time. The City Eternal is a very different setting than the rest of the universe, far removed from epic struggles of the Justice League or even the tropes commonly found in the other Green Lantern books. It’s a story about a queer black woman cop (admittedly with superpowers) on her own and in over her head. The setting is constantly surprising, but Jo is the star of the show, and Jemsin sculpts her with more humanity than we get from Hal Jordan or Bruce Wayne.
The comic is further elevated by Jamal Campbell’s stunning artwork. Intricate, richly colored, and imaginative, it’s everything you could want in a space comic. Campbell makes Jemsin’s characters breathe in ways that are far removed from DC’s house style. No easy task when you’re drawing sentient, holographic AI and carnivorous plant people. Also, issue five has the best design for a Guardian of OA that I have ever seen.
Weird, wonderful and completely engrossing, Far Sector is the Space Opera Detective Comic you’ve been waiting for. Issues 1-5 are currently out, so if you can get to your local comics shop, or they can deliver, see if you can order them. And of course you can check them out on Comixology.
Stay safe, and be good to each other!

Hugh Likes Comics – Immortal Hulk: Great Power

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Immortal Hulk: Great Power #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Drawn by Jorge Molina
Inked by Adriano Di Benedetto with Roberto Poggi
Colored by David Curiel
Published by Marvel Comics

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The Skinny: This self-contained issue is a modern twist on a fun What If? premise.

Even the most serious concept can be fun sometimes. Superhero comics, as a sub-genre, lend themselves to certain kinds of experiments you rarely see in others. Who would win in a fight? What if this story had ended differently? and of course, What if X character had Y’s Powers?
The premise of Immortal Hulk: Great Power is that Spider-Man has somehow taken the powers of the Hulk from Bruce Banner. But the twist here is that this is the modern, horror-version of the character currently written by Al Ewing.
The result is a book that strays a bit far from the premise of that book, but is a good deal of fun, and serves as an introduction to the characters for readers who don’t know their current deals. It feels like something from the 70’s brushed off and polished to modern style, in the best way possible.
Taylor’s writing is very strong, capturing both the classic essence of these character as well as the modern takes. For instance, Loki has a cameo that feels right in line with his more recent appearances, as do the Fantastic Four.
The art is good, particularly the colors. Molina doesn’t display as much body diversity as one would expect in the characters, though, and in particular his version Bruce Banner is way more ripped than he should be.
This self-contained little story isn’t exactly consequential, but it is a lot of fun and a very enjoyable superhero romp for Marvel fans. You can snag a copy at your local comics shop, or read it digitally through Comixology.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Top 5 of 2019

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Die

Die
Written by Kieron Gillen
Drawn by Stephanie Hans
Published by Image Comics

Gillen’s story of a group of adults returning to the magical world they escaped as teenagers is a mix of It and the ’80’s Dungeons and Dragons Saturday morning cartoon. Hans brings a unique, painterly style that makes the world feel as strange for us on the readers. The comic itself is a deep, emotional examination of trauma and the rules we live and play by. But as the characters move across the fantasy world, Gillen repeatedly pulls off the trick of exposing the bleeding heart of what Fantasy is and why we make it.

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Fairlady
Written by Brian Schirmer
Drawn by Claudia Balboni, Shari Chankhamma, and Marissa Louise
Published by Image Comics

An intriguing mix of mystery and fantasy, Fairlady mixes a modern sensibility with pulp stylings to great effect. A sort of fantasy private eye, Jenner Faulds solves mysteries, bickers with her co-worker at her day job protecting an absent wizard’s tower, and gets bailed out of trouble by her seven-foot tall cat-man bestie. Each issue is a single mystery, and they’re all clever and interesting. Unfortunately, the book was canceled after issue 5, but the trade is available, and this isn’t a book to let pass you by.

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House of X / Powers of X
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Drawn by Pepe Larraz and R. B. Silva
Published by Marvel Comics

House of X and Powers of X were a big gamble, and it’s safe to say at this point that it’s paid off. After years of protecting a world that hates and fears them, the X-Men are trying something new, and approaching their enemies as a new force. The idea of a mutant nation has been tried and failed in the Marvel Universe, but this one has a lot of new, big ideas going for it. I can’t wait to see what Hickman and crew get up to next.

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Invisible Kingdom
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Drawn by Christian Ward
Published by Berger Books

The incisive writing of G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, Air) and the art of Christian Ward (Black Bolt, ODY-C)is a heady mix. And the intertwined story of a cargo ship captain working for a monopolistic space corporation and an acolyte in a religious order with dark secrets is a little bit Alien and a little bit Star Wars in all the best ways.

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Lois Lane / Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (Tie)

Lois Lane
Written by Greg Rucka
Drawn by Mike Perkins
Published by DC Comics

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen
Written by Matt Fraction
Drawn by Steve Lieber and Nathan Fairbairn
Published by DC Comics

I couldn’t pick between these two standout books, both of which came out around the same time, but are only slightly connected. Both are deep studies of neglected characters that are very different in tone and style from D.C.’s usual fare.
Lois Lane is a hard-boiled story about the world’s greatest investigative reporter as she delves into a conspiracy that cost one of her colleagues her life, with help from Renee Montoya, AKA The Question. It plays the Journalist as superhero part to the hilt, and it is something worth cheering for.
Jimmy Olsen is a more comical and surreal update of the silver age teen sidekick, as he goes into hiding after thinking Lex Luthor put out a hit on him. But this is also the comic where Jimmy Olsen finds himself in a prank war with Batman. Fraction is writing at the height of his Hawkguy powers here, and it’s strange, fascinating, and hilarious.

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