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More Tales to Astonish

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It used to be that only the X-Men were Astonishing. Now, a whole line of Marvel heroes will get to share that adjective.

When Joss Whedon signed on to write his version of the X-Men, two things became readily apparent. One, he would get his own book and not take over Uncanny X-Men or X-Men, and two, this new title would need a new adjective.

The adjective chosen was Astonishing. The adjective had a history with both Marvel, which published an anthology in the 1970s called Astonishing Tales, and with the X-Men, which previously had two Astonishing X-Men titles in its universe—one during the “Age of Apocalypse” event in 1995 and one tying in to “The Twelve” storyline in 1999.

Joss Whedon was joined on Astonishing X-Men by superstar artist John Cassaday. Those two were they replaced by the superstar tandem of Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi. When Bianchi left, he was replaced by superstar artist Phil Jimenez.

Astonishing X-Men set a precedent. It would feature superstar creative teams doing above average work on pretty darn good stories. Marvel decided to take this precedent and expand it into a whole line. Now, there will be a lot of books sharing that “Astonishing” adjective.

The mission statement for the new Astonishing line is simple. Big name creators working on the company’s best characters doing stories that provide an easy entry into the world of Marvel comics. Each series in this line will act as a perfect jumping on point for new readers. They will be easily accessible tales that fit into the “Heroic Age” philosophy that Marvel is currently promoting.

The line began earlier this month with Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine #1, teaming Jason Aaron with Adam Kubert. And the title that started it all off is returning this week with a new number one and a new title—Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1.

Ellis is back writing this new miniseries, and he is joined on art by Kaare Andrews, an artist who is a writer in his own right, known mostly for his 2006 Marvel Knight series, Spider-Man: Reign, which he wrote and drew.

In this miniseries, the X-Men travel to Africa to investigate the case of a newborn who somehow blew himself and the entire hospital up. The X-Men think this could be the next stage in a line of mutants. But it could be the beginning of something far more sinister. 

If babies exploding and killing a whole building of people isn’t an indication that while the series might be appropriate for new readers, it’s not fit for all-ages, we have the artwork reinforce that point. Andrews’ covers for the series have gotten some attention on the internet for his depiction of the X-women. This issue’s cover portrays a robust Storm in a way-too-small top which reveals her bra underneath and Emma Frost draw in the all-too-common “brokeback” pose, one where a female figure is twisted in an anatomically impossible fashion so the customer can clearly view her breast and posterior at the same time. Andrews’ cover for issue three portrays a Cyclops on all fours, providing a seat for Emma so she can eat a plate of pancakes. Rich Johnston delves into all the naughty connotations that image represents.    

But, for me at least, the sexist art doesn’t take away from the great potential that the Astonishing line could have. One hopes that it could succeed where DC’s similarly themed All-Star line failed. Regardless, I can’t wait to see what Marvel will be bringing us next.

Also out this week:

Sam & Twitch: Writer #1:

Usually, comics featuring the supporting cast of other books, especially if said casts are the cops who clean up after the heroes, usually do not fare too well. However, Image has had some success with Sam & Twitch. Perhaps it is due to their only releasing a miniseries every so often featuring the characters which makes people want them more.

Well, Sam and Twitch are back with a new miniseries, created by a team of popular Italian creators. The detectives are investigating a murder case where the victims have a portion of a story written on them. Could this be the beginning of a new serial killer in New York City? And, if so, what will happen when the story finally ends?

Luca Blengino (W), Luca Erbetta, Fabio Bono & Filippo Rizzo (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Four Issue Miniseries.

Siege #4:

Norman Osborn has overstepped his bounds one last time and the troika of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor has brought him down hard. But the fall of Osborn might have been the worst thing they could have done. Because Osborn was the only one keeping the Sentry’s evil alter ego, the Void, in check. They are the greatest heroes the Marvel universe has ever known, but will they be enough?

This series has been a nice cap to the last seven years of Marvel. It was full of moments you could cheer for and had the tangible feel of the band getting back together. If this is any indication of how the Heroic Age at Marvel is going to play out, then we should be in for some good reading.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Oliver Coipel (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

Savage Dragon #160:

Erik Larsen has said that at the end of the current “Dragon War” arc, the Savage Dragon we know and love will either be “…dead for good or back.” The fact that there is a Savage Dragon #161 in our future might take some of the drama out of this conclusion to said arc, but not all of it.

The star of the series has been plagued by amnesia with no memory of being a hero or who he was. He was forced to fight an alternate reality version of himself that wanted him dead. On top of that, the villainous Overlord got his hands on some of the Savage Dragon’s blood and created Dragon-powered bad guys to infest the city. Not the easiest of arcs for the Dragon now, was it?

Erik Larsen (W/A), Image Comics, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

Bram Stoker’s Death Ship #1:

When you think of Bram Stoker, you think of Dracula. And that is where many people’s thought processes stop. But Stoker was quite prolific and published many novels and short stories before and after his most famous work.

Whether this series is adapted from a Stoker work is uncertain. I can’t seem to find a story with that title in his bibliography, but it does seem to take place in between the pages of Dracula. It deals with a schooner who is hired to transport a comatose man from Transylvania to London. Easy right? Not when crew members start disappearing it’s not.

This miniseries is written by Gary Gerani, co-writer of the classic horror film, Pumpkinhead.

Gary Gerani (W), Stuart Sayger (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Daredevil: Cage Match #1:

Shadowland will be the next big event to hit the Daredevil universe. It is being billed as the battle for the soul of New York City and will feature almost all of Marvel’s grittiest characters. It will feature everyone from Wolverine to Elektra, Spider-Man to Ghost Rider, Moon Knight to the Punisher, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and, of course, Daredevil.

It appears that Daredevil and Luke Cage will be on opposite sides of the conflict for this event, so, as a special pre-fight breakdown, we get this one-shot that will cover each of the two heroes paths crossed. We’ll see the times they worked together and the times they clashed. If you are looking forward to Shadowland, you might want to look into this first.

Antony Johnston (W), Sean Chen (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. One-shot.

Justice League: Generation Lost #1:

People who have fond memories of the Giffen /DeMatteis Justice League/Justice League International series’ have had a hard run of it in recent years. A number of the characters that starred in the series have been killed off by DC, usually in less than acceptable ways. So, having Keith Giffen returning to the concept is not as exciting as it could be, because this time he is paired with Judd Winick and the new series featuring the characters is tying into the “Brightest Day” event. This gives fans cause to worry.

Of course, another cause for concern is the fact that this series will be focusing on Maxwell Lord, the man who DC turned from a charming manipulator to a psychotic controller. He’s back from the dead and up to something. This could mean that there might be more Justice League International members joining the choir invisible. 

Keith Giffen & Judd Winick (W), Aaron Lopresti (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Twenty-Six Issue Miniseries.

Heroic Age: Prince of Power #1:

If I were to describe this book as the tale of a teenager who was granted extraordinary power by a pantheon of gods, you might be quick to come back with, “Yeah, what a Captain Marvel/Shazam rip-off!” And if you said that, you probably didn’t read Incredible Hercules and just for that in and of itself you should be ashamed of yourself.

This series continues the storyline from that series as Amadeus Cho, the 7th Smartest Person in the World and Hercules’ former companion, is chosen to replace the fallen Hercules as the new Prince of Power. Of course, nothing about the way or reason why he was selected is what it seems. And when he finds out that he has been duped into taking these responsibilities, the gods might just regret bestowing all that power on him.

Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (W), Reilly Brown (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Booster Gold #32:

Usually, when a creative team returns to a character they wrote the definitive version of, that is a good thing. However, here is a case where it might be the opposite.

It’s safe to say that the only version some Booster Gold fans remember fondly is the one written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis during their time on the Justice League book. But that version was a buffoon who was written to be the butt of the joke. The current version has been built up to be more of a classic hero type. One concern I have is if the creators will take the character back to his JL roots.

Giffen and DeMatteis have a history of writing serious superhero stories separately. But they usually skew to the humorous when paired off together. So my fear is that Booster Gold might be in store for a little backsliding.

Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (W), Chris Batista (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Frenemy of the State #1:

Few people have the lineage that Rashida Jones does. Her father is super-producer Quincy Jones and her mother is Peggy Lipton, a woman who broke a lot of hearts in the late 60s-early 70s on The Mod Squad and broke them all over again in the 90s on Twin Peaks.

This sets Ms. Jones up very nicely for a career in the recording industry and acting, both of which she has had some success in. But as a comic book writer? That would appear to be beneath her.

Not so fast! Jones apparently has some affinity for the four-color world, and she is teaming up with comic vets Nunzio De Filippis and Christina Weir to write a new series that starts this week. Is there nothing she can’t do?

Rashida Jones, Nunzio De Filippis and Christina Weir (W), Jeff Wamester (A),Oni Press, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

The Sword #24:

Dara Brighton was a happy college student who had the help of her family to cope with being a paraplegic. But her perfect world was shattered when three element-controlling siblings broke into her house looking for a sword of awesome power, killing her family in the process. As her house burned to the ground, she found said sword. The weapon healed her injuries, bestowed upon her great power and allowed her to pursue vengeance against the family that killed hers.

But every path of vengeance must come to an end. Dara has dispatched two of three siblings. Now, there is only Malia, the woman who killed her father. Malia can control the air, which makes her a formidable opponent. Can Dara even dream of winning? And if she does, what happens then?

Joshua Luna (W), Jonathan Luna (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

The Claw and the Fang #1:

A demon is awakened and his only purpose on Earth is to hunt a particular race. Lucky for him, there is only one of the race left, a female called Firewoman. Lucky for her, she has a champion who can protect her from her certain doom. It is too bad for her and lucky for the demon that the protector would rather play video games all day than do anything at all. How can he protect Firewoman when he shies away from any human contact at all?

This series is a sword and sorcery/fantasy given a modern update. It features themes that, if developed, might raise the miniseries above the pack and set it apart from the rest. There will be four different covers as an enticement to bring people in. If the story is good, they just might stick around for the long haul. 

Mike Kutcher (W), Matias Basla (A), Bluewater Productions, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Kevin Smith’s Kato #1:

While there is a Green Hornet film coming out in December, all the talk seems to be about a movie that was supposed to come out several years ago. Kevin Smith’s abandoned script for his version of a Green Hornet film has been turned into a small cottage industry for Dynamite Entertainment. The latest addition to the franchise hits this week.

Kato went from being an ordinary sidekick, certainly not that much different than any that went before him, to becoming a legendary charter thanks to Bruce Lee. Lee played Kato in the 1966 TV series and the character became forever linked with him. Now, the sidekick is striking out on its own and the kung fu master is now a woman. Will the change of gender go over with fans of the Bruce Lee version? I guess we’ll find out.

Ande Parks (W), Ale Garza (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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