Hey everyone, ML Miller here. Humphrey Lee has been a comic book enthusiast and one of the @$$Holes from almost the very beginning of our time at AICN COMICS. This week, he has offered up a half dozen reviews of various comics of note. Be sure to head to your local comic shop to check these books out! Take it away, Humphrey!

THE WILD STORM #11

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: John Davis Hunt
Publisher: DC Wildstorm
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

The deeper we get into this reimagining by Warren Ellis of the imprint that put him on the map about twenty years ago, the more it feels like a completely renovated home. Personality wise it has all the traits and ticks I’d expect from Ellis and from these characters but their motivations are now more traditional than when Ellis and his teammates were trying their hand with the Wildstorm alumni back when. Before it was more about taking mad bastardry and villainy to a bigger scale than you traditional comic book but now we’re more entrenched in the machination of IO, Stormwatch, and just a smidge of Daemonite action from the edges and it feels comfortable. Ellis and sublime penciling partner Jon Davis-Hunt are bringing all the greatest hits like Science City Zero and the eternally snarky Jenny Snark more into the fold and it’s pretty great. Sometimes the book tends to spend an entire issue going all expository more than anything – and this issue is about 80% that – but when you’re reworking about 25 years worth of material into this go around, I can swallow it as long as the goods come; and when this book amps up it does so bigly. We’re just about halfway through this redo and I’m pretty excited to see how far to the edges Ellis will push this kind of storytelling again and what other familiar but fresher faces we’ll see in the meantime.

THANOS #15

Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Geoffrey Shaw
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

I’ll give Donny Cates credit on one thing – and it should be no surprise after his breakout work in GOD COUNTRY for Image – the man knows how to be flamboyant with the grandiosity. Overall, this isn’t much a “stuff happens” issue so much as it is a “let’s fluff up just how overwhelmingly hardass not one but two Thanoses interacting with each other can be” exhibition. Younger Thanos chastises Future Universal Genocide Thanos on still having a schoolboy crush while basically fapping himself into a coma having Cosmic Ghost Rider use his Penance Stare on him to relive all his old committed atrocities, which he obviously feels no remorse over because he’s fucking Thanos. And we get a reveal on who Cosmic GR was once upon a time, which is neat but I don’t quite buy, not that there’s really much reason to play coy with that I wager. Downside to this issue, cool as all the “I will grind this universe into dust” chest buffing by young Thanos is, it kinda is the bulk of the issue alongside some name and mythical weapon dropping as they prepare for the fight elder Thanos was not afraid of but actually mildly skeptical he could not pull off alone. Overall, it’s a fun and menacingly over the top issue but it’s putting a lot of weight on this knock down drag out with “The Fallen One” next issue to back up the lack of action this go around.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN & THE LEGION OF EVIL #4

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: David Ruben
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

This saga, the whole BLACK HAMMER adventure by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, David Rubin, etc, has really been about taking Pulp storytelling and turning it on its head. The main book itself, on hiatus to tell us this tale, is all about formerly larger than life heroes having gone from essentially fighting “god” to being stranded on a farm in the middle of who the hell knows where. This mini-series interlude, though, has successfully fleshed out the main storyline by building on the world from which those heroes came, and also it has twisted up the “villain gone hero” trope that has been pervading comics as of late. Sherlock Frankenstein has plagued the heroes of this world for decades but we find out that he basically did his “heel turn” for nothing more than love and he’s going back to his heroing ways for the same reason and because, well, he’s bored. It’s all actually pretty cheery then sad then cheery again stuff, but it’s done so matter-of-factly with no grandiose, sweeping schtick it’s kind of refreshing. Sherlock was this way once, had some stuff go down, and now he’s back on the proper path after fifty, sixty, how every many tens of years of thinking on it and still growing as a “human” after regressing pretty badly. It takes some pretty rote material and makes it memorable because of the world around it and all the character motivations abound. I’m glad we’re getting back to the gang and their Green Acres stint in BLACK HAMMER proper, but I hope we see Sherlock and I know we’ll be seeing Lucy Weber, the ingenuitive daughter of the titular Black Hammer, at some point.

DOCTOR STRANGE #384

Writer: Donnie Cates
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

So now that we’re a few issues into this run by breakout name Donny Cates, I’ve come to a couple revelations. One, Cates has the goods I think. He’s got a good voice for these more fringe, darker characters (or at least characters who touch dark places like Stephen Strange) and he’s high on concept, which is what the B and C-ish tier characters need to thrive. Two, fuck man, I really still don’t give a shit about the Sentry in anything beyond his first story from Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee but the small instance of him in this book is pretty cool. Three, Loki’s at a good place now, I think, with his face turn officially over and he’s more into an anti-hero role. He’s just the right bit of “making amends but fucking it up” that his personality pretty much demands he has to be if you want to play him as a good guy in any capacity. Lastly, this whole “BUT THE COST!” rule set that is now in place for magic in the Marvel Universe is already goddamn tiresome and as much as I’m enjoying this fledgling run, I’m not exactly begging to start picking up Doc Strange related titles two or three times a month for the next handful of them with some sort of mini-event going on after this arc. Especially not with Nick Spencer riding shotgun. Like, fuck, does anyone at Marvel not understand the concept about squandering goodwill? Still, I did this book and want to support Donny and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s superb art on this run so I’ll tentatively comply, but with a wary Eye of Agamotto directed toward everything.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #37

Writer: Chris Priest
Art: Pete Woods
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

Y’know, I hate saying this, but I was actually pretty down on this Christopher Priest after the previous issue, despite being pretty enthused after his debut with Pete Woods on pencils a couple issues ago. It felt like just the narrative that Priest prides himself on so much was getting very jumpy and wasn’t as coherent as it is traditionally. I felt like this issue did a lot better in refocusing a bit, though it still did its fair share of hopping around. Between a, say, 80% push is showing just what exactly is going on with our JLA copycat that’s been causing all the havoc for the team recently, especially in a PR capacity, and then showing how the seeds of distrust have been sown toward the League, this issues stands a lot more firmly than the last. Though, admittedly, I wish a mind such as Priest’s who has spent an entire career both thinking outside the box and putting a firm grip of reality into his work on these larger than life, superhuman characters would have spent just a little more time delving into the idea of a public losing faith in superheroes. Not to go, like, full CIVIL WAR with the notion and devolving into raging fistfights over government regulation, but I think a thinker like Priest could come up with some nice talking points in the notion of superheroes in a realer sense given that they are walking bombs we count on to be perfect and always do the right thing with little to no oversight. Still, this issue was marked rebounds given the offbeat performance last go around. Never bet on Christopher Priest to not bring it all around in the end.

KILL OR BE KILLED #15

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

These guys, these fucking guys, Brubaker and Phillips, they somehow just continue to be the top tier at weaving an interesting, character centric narrative and doing it with all the style in the world. As we enter the four arc of KILL OR BE KILLED this dynamic duo still manages to mindfuck us readers repeatedly with what exactly is going on in the head of our lead, Dylan, and his possible psychotic break with reality or very personal encounter with a Demon demanding sacrifice on a monthly basis. And while they are continually dangling and yanking that carrot away from us, you realize that that central conceit, which is already a pretty juicy premise, really is kind of the second tier plot, at least in intricacy, because there’s so much shit going on around Dylan due to his contact with the world under the influence of this psychosis and/or demonic conscription. He’s gained/lost/regained a love of his life, this demonic business apparently has a deep history within his family, he’s sown chaos across the crime syndicates with his vigilante work and, as we find by this issue’s end, possibly engaged copycats who have picked up his mantle while trying to fight this either figurative or literal demon. Brubaker and Phillips have deftly kept us guessing (and guessing still even after all that this issue threw at us) at this twisting and turning demonic angle but undersold an impactful crime and love story while we all focused on Dylan’s mental anguish. It’s all brilliantly handled and, honestly, may be their best work together since their seminal SLEEPER run that put them on the map as possibly one of the top tier one-two punches in comic book history.