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Alternate Cover - 20th September 2006

Alternate Cover

My first update from the new house, on my own 'net connection. Nothing's changed on your end, of course, and there's still plenty of time for comics. We're still in something of a Civil War-related lull at the moment, but with a new issue of both Phonogram and DMZ out, I'm well-catered for. There's also Ms. Marvel, the Incredible Hulk and the Thunderbolts, for those of you more into conventional superheroics rather than the ultra-trendy indie hits.

DMZ #11

DMZ #11

Publisher Vertigo • Writer Brian Wood • Art Kristian Donaldson

DMZ takes time out from its month-to-month status quo shifts to have an issue focussing on the recent past of Zee, Matty's some-time guide in the DMZ and, as we learn, former medical student. Wood uses this issue to show us both how the war has affected Zee as a character (as it turns out, quite radically) and give some more backstory about how the war began and how it's structured, which is some of the most interesting material in the series.

Joining Wood is Kristian Donaldson, who only just finished collaborating with Wood on Supermarket, a 4-issue mini series from IDW. While the style is quite different from regular artist Ricardo Bruchielli's, the colouring gives it a good sense of continuity so that it fits in quite nicely with the rest of the series, visually. The art style on Supermarket, while breathtaking, would have stuck out quite badly if it were used in DMZ.

It's hard to level criticism against books this good, but if there is one, it's that this issue is, despite being stand-alone, probably not the best jumping on point. Luckily, next issue is a Wood solo issue chronicling Matty's first year in the DMZ, so let's face it, that's going to be one of the best places to start if you're looking to jump onto what is quite probably one of my favourite ongoing books ever.

Phonogram #2

Phonogram #2

Publisher Image • Writer Kieron Gillen • Artist Jamie McKelvie

No comic has come so close to challenging Brian Wood's continued lordship of my affections than this, my new favourite miniseries. I imagine if John Constantine edited the NME, you'd probably get something pretty close to Phonogram. Less than 2 issues into the series I'm more hooked than whales in Japan.

After the Kenickie-love of issue #1, this month's examination of the music-scene trivia brings us to Richey Edwards. As a former Manics fan (oh, the shame) I was glad to see this, and yet further still to see Gillen's polemic in the back explaining just who the Manics are and what became of them, because he's nailed it quite convincingly. The references aren't just for kicks, though, they serve genuine story reasons and are appropriately deployed, whether it's showing the emotional vulnerability of one character (missing Richey Edwards), or the confusion of another (listening to Echobelly) there's nothing about it that feels gratuitous. We also learn a little more about the magic of the phonomancers and the events of last issue gain further context as a result.

McKelvie's artwork is incredibly pure. Simplistic without being uncomplicated, and cleanly rendered, with not a stroke of the pen wasted. His artwork, and the music-related themes remind me, almost appropriately, of an old Brian Wood and Rob G series from Oni called "Pounded", and that's certainly no bad thing. The cover parody for this issue is the pretty easily-placed and iconic Black Grape album "It's great when you're straight...yeah" and while I've seen it done plenty of times before, it's still used sparingly enough that you can get away with it (Giant Size X-Men, on the other hand...)

There's not a bad thing I can say about Phonogram so far, now that initial concerns about the accessibility have been tidied away (though to be fair, if you're not inot the music, you might not understand it like I do, you phillistine). I just hope it doesn't fall prey to the lateness that can plague popular indie comics, because frankly even a week between issues would be too long. Deserves to be huge, and if you're not reading it now then you're only going to have yourself to blame when you realise what you've missed.

Incredible Hulk #98

Incredible Hulk #98

Publisher Marvel • Writer Greg Pak • Artist Aaron Lopresti

Much like Daredevil, Hulk is currently providing the antidote to anyone with Civil War poisoning. As we move into the second half of Planet Hulk, things kick off ina big way and we're starting to see big returns on the earlier arcs of the series. This is going to read like one hell of an epic. Hulk, cast as either the saviour or destroyer, may have finally been pushed into one role over the other, but is it all as it seems?

There's some classic Hulk-Smashing action as we see him face off against the Emporer's incredibly powerful bodyguard. The fight is brilliantly rendered by Lopresti, and you'll believe that the Hulk's feeling those punches, even if he is he's nigh-invincible. It's ludicrously conceived and rendered, and easily one of my favourite scenes from Planet Hulk yet.

For a run I was initially unsure if I'd like, it's turned into my favourite work on the character since PAD's legendary run ended all those years ago. This is exactly the sort of story Hulk fans needed, even if they didn't know. With World War Hulk announced to follow, the outlook for the character has never been so rosy. The Hulk title is in good hands with Pak at the helm.

Flick-Through Reviews

MS MARVEL #7 - Reed/De La Torre
Ah well. I knew it couldn't last. Teen heroine Arana finally displays some of those annoying qualities that Reed almost seemed to have beaten out of her last issue, and once again it's like the fictional equivalent of nails on a blackboard. Luckily, despite her appearances in the issue, Reed turns out a decent story that almost manages to give a good reason for Registration and Training. Arana's request to accompany the various heroes on a mission is actually a brilliant use of the concept, and as every issue makes the pro-reg side look more and more like psychopaths, it's good to see someone trying to do it in a slightly more balanced fashion. I'm not as captivated as when the series started, but I'm wondering if that's not to do with a more general Civil War-related malaise.

THUNDERBOLTS #106 - Nicieza/Grummett
Nicieza brings this issue to quite literally an explosive conclusion as Zemo faces off against the Grandmaster and betrayal after twist after reprisal leaves me with a headache trying to follow it all. The end is in sight for this iteration of the Thunderbolts and if nothing else, it looks like we're going to get all the threads wrapped up neatly, no matter what the resolution. Unfortunately, given his track record, I'm not seeing the Grandmaster as much of a credible threat, so much of this arc is based on a premise that wasn't really established well. It's fun enough, slightly disappointing after the last issue turned out to be the high point of the series, but a revamp on the cards is no bad thing.

About this entry


Richey Edwards, of course, ended up playing bass in The Darkness.

By Ian Symes
September 21, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

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