Dead of Night: Devil-Slayer (2009)

“They look like zombies. They’re dead, right?”

“No they are undead.”

“Oh yeah? Then let’s see if we can make the undead dead again.”

Dead of Night: Devil-Slayer #1 cover

This book collects the four issue mini-series which is one of three published by Marvel on their MAX imprint in 2008/9 featuring modern versions of horror characters from the Marvel Universe – the others featured Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night. This one was written by horror author Brian Keene with art from Chris Samnee. Keene is a new name to me but has written a library full of books on his own. Samnee’s work I know from Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale and Thor: The Mighty Avenger – and he is currently doing art duties on Daredevil.

Dan Sylva is returning for a tour of Iraq after leaving the army but finding that his girlfriend had left him and that there were no job opportunities at home. His first mission is to investigate a site where a captured American soldier is possibly being held. Dan discovers the soldier, and a lot of the civilians who had also gone missing recently, prey to a bunch of demons – both in demonic form and masquerading as part of the mercenary Bloodstone unit. With the help of a magi, Isaac, Dan alone escapes and learns that some demons and angels are plotting to bring about Armageddon early using war zones to hide their ritualistic murders. Dan learns that his uncle was a devil-slayer and that he is the next in line to assume the mantle and prevent hell on Earth.

The blurb on the back of the book says:

A radical re-imagining of Marvel’s premier horror icon!

which is not a good start as I had never heard of the character before – which in a way is not surprising as I am much more of a DC/Vertigo fan than I am a Marvel one. I much prefer the DC/Vertigo take on horror, magic and the supernatural. The original character was created in 1977 by Rich Buckler and this series marks an updating and rebooting of the character. Gone is the cheesy superhero costume to be replaced by fatigues and shemagh.

It would appear that the reboot did not lead on to any further series which is a bit of shame as I quite liked this book. It still had a long way to go to match the rich Vertigo universe but it had some promise. I liked the grounding of the horror within the human conflict and the conspiracy between demons and angels, although well worn, could have legs if handled correctly. The last page in the book showed how the story could be expanded out to involve corporations, religious leaderships and governments – again familiar targets but full of potential if tied to current affairs. Perhaps a missed opportunity for Marvel to try and muscle in on some of DC’s action.

House of M: World of M featuring Wolverine (2006)

[ Listening to BBC Radio Scotland Currently: Listening to BBC Radio Scotland ]

Quote:
“You gave him the one thing that he could not live without: you gave him back his war.”

 

This book is a bit of an odds and sods collection of House of M related stories. The main story is from Wolverine 33 -35 and was written by Daniel Way with art from Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira. The book also contains three single issue stories from Black Panther 7, The Pulse 10 and Captain America 10.

The main story features Sebastian Shaw, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., interviewing Mystique after Logan literally jumps ship from a helicarrier. He is concerned about Logan’s loyalty especially after a recent terrorist incident in which a sentinel was stolen by Logan’s old colleague Nick Fury and Logan himself disappeared. The story features Wolverine only in the flashbacks as the interview proceeds and examines further the mutant oppression of the human population and the spiky relationship between Fury and the mutant squad he is tasked to train.

The main story is good but only features Wolverine as a background character in his own book. It does explore, along with the other stories in the books, some of the prejudices of the formerly suppressed mutant majority. The Black Panther story expressly addresses the prejudices of the ruling regime towards other mutants – for instance the ruling classes tend to be white and human looking with the more extreme looking mutants not having a look in. The quality in the book shines through in the last two stories that were written by the great Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker. Bendis’ story again features the oppression of humans in the mutant controlled workplace and the censorship the press. It features a confrontation between journalist Kat Farrell and the anguished Hawkeye who has just had his memories of his death restored to him. The Captain America story features the sad decline of the formerly feted hero as he struggles to find his place in the increasingly mutant dominated world order. So a mixed bag but an interesting read exploring some of the background to the House of M universe.

House of M: Spider-Man (2006)

 

Quote:
“Hope you don’t mind, Goblin, but I brought some of my buddies along.”

 

This book collects the five issue mini-series and was written by Mark Waid and Tom Peyer. I know Waid best from the Kingdom Come mini-series but he has had runs on other DC titles such as Flash and JLA and Marvel titles such as Captain America and Fantastic Four. Peyer was an editor on Sandman but I think this is the first book I have read for which he has a writing credit. The art was by penciller Salvador Larroca and inker Danny Miki. I know Larroca from the Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra and Ultimate Elektra mini-series and I don’t think I have come across Miki’s work before.

Peter Parker has the perfect life. He is one of the most famous mutants on the planet – as a wrestler and film star. He is happily married to Gwen Stacy with a small son and has the rest of his family around him including his uncle Ben. So why would anyone want to dirty his reputation? Who is the mysterious Green Goblin who passes the dirt, in the form of an alternate reality journal, to Parker’s personal whipping boy Jonah Jameson?

Peter Parker is the superhero who gets the roughest emotional ride in the House of M series when his memories are restored. And that continues in this great series from Waid and Peyer in which his real memories are trying to come to the surface and he goes from hero to zero with Jameson’s revelations in the press. The book continues a theme common to a lot of the House of M related series – the so-called dream come true reality created by the Scarlet Witch does not seem like a dream come true in actuality. The only fault that I can find with it is that I felt the ending was a little weak but other than that well worth a read even without any knowledge of the main book.

House of M: New X-Men – Academy X (2006)

 

Quote:
“You’re a terrorist now?! People have been sent to kill you. My people.”

 

This book collects New X-Men 16 -19 and was written by husband and wife team Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir. The art was by penciller Aaron Lopresti and inker Brad Vancata. All of the creative team are new to me.

In this reality, the Hellions are a group of young S.H.I.E.L.D. trainees and the New Mutants are a group of non-combatant mutants being trained for leadership. After the Hellions break-up a terrorist incident at a New Mutants assembly, the signs point to the father of Surge, one of the Hellions, as being behind the attempted atrocity. When the Hellions are sent to Japan to investigate without her, Surge enlists the help of her New Mutant boyfriend to find out the truth of her father’s involvement and the super secret Project Genesis.

This was an enjoyable little side tale in the House of M universe. It explores more of the dark side of the seemingly perfect mutant ruled world created by the Scarlet Witch. Because the teams are made up of teens there is a bit of a juvenile feel to some of the settings and dialogue but the story is mostly good with mystery and intrigue in the form of the secret Project Genesis and super covert S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in both camps. one of the worthier House of M titles though it did feel like they ran out of room a little with an ending that borrowed from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

House of M: Mutopia X (2006)

 

Quote:
“I can’t do it this time. I can’t raise the dead.”

 

This book collects the Mutopia X mini-series that was written by David Hine a British artist and writer who seems to be more well known for his writing duties these days. He wrote the District X series for Marvel out of which this series is descended. The art was by penciller Lan Medina and inker Alejandro Sicat – a pair of comic book artists from the Philippines who also worked on District X.

Ismael Ortega is a human cop working in Sapien Town. When the Sapien League narrowly fail to assassinate a mutant singer, Ortega is teamed with Lucas Bishop to protect the League’s next suspected target film director Daniel Kaufman. In the course of his duties, Ortega becomes close to Kaufman’s shape changing wife, Lara, prompting retaliation from Kaufman leading to tragedy for Ortega and his family.

This book was OK but given its pedigree – all the creators having worked on the parent title District X – it may have had more resonance for those familiar with that series and the background of the main characters. There is a sub-plot concerning tensions with Ortega and his mutant wife over their daughter who has the chance of awakening her dormant mutant abilities in a rite of transformation. There was an opportunity to explore this more and elevate the story above the average but it was only touched upon and used as a plot device to enable the villainous Kaufman a shot of revenge at Ortega. Ortega himself is not a very sympathetic character in this story and his plight did not touch me as much as it might have done for characters that I have an emotional connection with. So another House of M related title that adds little to the main story.

House of M: Uncanny X-Men (2006)

 

Quote:
“And what is this? I swear, if I’m dead again …!”

 

This book collects Uncanny X-Men 462 – 465. It was written by long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont and pencilled by two of my favourite arists – Alan Davies and Chris Bachalo. I know Claremont’s work from various X-Men books but primarily from the original Excalibur series from the late eighties. Davis also worked on that series as well as the fabulous, Alan Moore penned, D.R. and Quinch from 2000AD. I loved Bachalo’s work on the two Death mini-series on Vertigo as well as Shade, the Changing Man and The Witching Hour – in fact my favourite t-shirt to this day remains one that features a Bacholo image of Death (the only picture that I can find online is in the background of this image).

Captain Britain is swept up into the events of the House of M as this story shows that the actions of the Scarlet Witch on Earth 616 threaten the integrity of the whole omniverse. He is tasked with returning to Earth 616 to try and seal the breach in causality before the whole of the omniverse ceases to be. however once back on Earth 616 he he finds himself happy to play the role given to him by the Scarlet Witch’s changes. It is only through messages transmitted through Meggan and a hunt for fugitives from Magneto that he gets back on track.

This is the first book in the spin-offs from the main story that I have really loved. I think part of it is nostalgia for the original Excalibur series that I liked back in the day – and this story feels like an Excalibur story rather than an X-men story as a lot of the characters and the setting come straight from Excalibur. The other part of it is due my love for the two pencillers’ work who both have two chapters each in this story. The story from Claremont is good but the plot line featuring Juggernaut and Nocturne on the run from a bunch of Magneto’s hunters is left largely unexplained – possibly to be resolved in one of the remaining books. An early splash page shows Captain Britain and Meggan being blasted across the omniverse and shows familiar characters in unfamiliar setting and guises – some of these look intriguing and I wish there was a series that explored some of these further (like a Marvel version of DC’s Elseworlds books).

House of M: Fantastic Four/Iron Man (2006)

 

Quote:
“You just killed those people.”

“No. Not people. Mutants.”

 

This book collects two mini-series related to the House of M crossover event – Fantastic Four: House of M 1 – 3 and Iron Man: House of M 1 – 3. The creative team on the Fantastic Four series are all new to me – it was written by John Layman with pencils by Scott Eaton and inks by Don Hillsman. The Iron Man series was written by Greg Pak, whose work I know from the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk books, and the art was by another unknown to me Pat Lee.

The Fantastic Four story actually stars the Fearsome Four, a mystically powered team led by Victor von Doom with only Ben Grimm as the It surviving Reed Richards space mission to examine cosmic rays. Doom is allowed to rule Latveria under the global mutant superiority but finds himself at the beck and call of Magneto. His vanity will not allow this and he directs his scientific research to the problem of how to rid the world of the House of Magnus and install himself as world ruler only to find his plans scuppered by the one person for whom he has utter contempt.

In the Iron Man story, Tony Stark is a successful entrepreneur and competitor in Sapien Death Match – an arena sport where he battles with other humans in mechanical suits – however he finds himself constantly overshadowed, in all his pursuits, by his father. Searching for Henry Pym, a rogue scientist who was researching the mutant genome while in Stark’s employ, Stark uses a new mechanical suit that he developed in secret. He traces Pym to a hideout of the human resistance but soon finds himself in a battle with a sapien hunting sentinel controlled by his father. When Pym is revealed as a terrorist who has planted a number of devices targeted at mutants only, Stark must decide between being his own man and the future seemingly mapped out for him by his father.

For a world that is supposed to give the heroes their dreams come true neither Victor von Doom or Tony Stark are particularly happy with their lot – though this could be seen as some dormant, nagging sense that something is not right. The stories are both fine in themselves without really adding much to the central story.

Pat Lee’s art in the Iron Man story is quite strange. There is a lot of it that contains sentinels, armoured humans and other mecha and this is all really good but when it comes to the depiction of the people it just does not do it for me.

House of M: The Incredible Hulk (2006)

[ Watching the Dresden Files Currently: Watching the Dresden Files ]

Quote:
“Hulk smash puny paperwork!!!!”

 

Next in my House of M read is this book which collects Incredible Hulk 83 – 87. It was written by Peter David who has got to be the writer most closely associated with the Hulk after Stan Lee. The main story (the first four chapters) was illustrated by Jorge Lucas who is an Argentinean artist whose work I have not come across before but who has had short runs on a variety of Marvel books.

As the story opens, Bruce Banner has been living with an aboriginal tribe finding a means to control the Hulk. Australia us also the country with the most severe mutant administration and hundreds of humans have fled to the outback with the help of AIM. When the authorities invade an aboriginal sacred space to try and round up the humans, the Hulk is unleashed and takes the fight back to Sydney and takes over the country’s administration. But all is not well as Banner uncovers an AIM sponsored project into which human refugees are disappearing.

The story was just OK – given David’s reputation I am guessing that this was probably not one of his best. It didn’t have the depth of the Banner book that I read recently or the over the top abandon of World War Hulk. I wanted more of the relationship between Banner, the Hulk and the beliefs of the Australian Aborigines which was touched on in this story but subsumed by the standard superhuman fare. The tension between Banner and the Hulk was quite well explored in the expectations of the human administration who wanted the occasional appearance of the Hulk to appease the populace and Banner who wanted to keep him under check. The art by Lucas was fine without being spectacular.

House of M (2006)

 

Quote:
“They gave us what we always wanted, and … isn’t there an argument that we deserved to get this? To be happy for once?”

 

I have put The Walking Dead re-read on hold for the moment as I have reached the same point as the TV series mid-season break and I want to se what they do in the series before carrying on in the comics. Instead I am going to read the House of M books as I have collected most of them from one source or another – I am only missing the Excalibur prelude.

House of M was the Marvel crossover event from 2005 and features the New Avengers and the X-men. This book collects the eight part main story and I was looking forward to reading it as the creative team was writer Brian Michael Bendis and penciller Olivier Coipel. I recently read and enjoyed the first New Avengers book that Bendis also wrote in the same era and as an added bonus I loved Coipel’s work on Thor.

The story takes place after the Avengers Disassembled storyline. The Scarlet Witch is being stabilised by Charles Xavier in Genosha but he fears that he can do little to prevent her having another potentially disasterous breakdown. The Avengers – old and new – and the X-men are gathered together to decide the fate of their former team-mate and fellow mutant. But they arrive too late to prevent the Scarlet Witch from rewriting reality and creating a world in which mutants rule over homo sapiens. Wolverine awakes in this new reality but finds that he remembers the original reality too and sets out on a quest to find out what is going on, round up any of the powered human resistance that he can and put things back they way they were if he can.

This is another great book from Bendis that I enjoyed very much. The storyline was interesting as it offered an alternative few of a mutant dominated world where Magneto won his fight to have mutants rule over the human population. The concept of dreams coming true is explored most thoroughly through the experiences of Peter Parker who is put through the emotional wringer by Bendis when he regains his memory of his true life. The weakness of the book is that it is being used as a game changer in the Marvel universe so a lot of questions are left unanswered presumably to be further explored in the individual comic series, especially the mutant ones, after the legacy that the Scarlet Witch leaves behind. But if you can accept that then it is a fine crossover story and well worth a read.

Startling Stories: Banner (2001)

 

Quote:
“Your brain for God’s sake! It’s what makes you who you are.”

“It’s what makes me something I don’t want to be.”

 

This book collects the four issue mini-series of the same name by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Richard Corben. I know Azzarello’s work from various Vertigo series such as the great 100 Bullets, the not quite so great western series Loveless and a run on Hellblazer that I did not like terribly much. Corben also illustrated an Hellblazer story line during Azzarello’s run but I am more used to seeing his work in Heavy Metal magazine though he does have a serialised story running in the latest incarnation of Dark Horse Presents.

Doctor Samson is trying to capture Bruce Banner as the Hulk goes on an uncontrolled rampage devastating several small towns. Meanwhile, Banner is struggling to come to terms with his actions as the Hulk, both in the past and the present, as he tries to help in the aftermath of his most recent episode. And all the while General Ross is waiting for Samson to complete his mission so that he can take drastic steps to control the menace.

This is one of a number of tales labelled as Startling Stories. I am not sure of where they lie in Marvel’s continuity with at least one source claiming that they are set on an alternative Earth. In any case, this is a dark little tale from Azzarello with Banner attempting suicide after one particularly devastating episode that completely destroyed part of a town. Azzarello explores Banner’s feelings of guilt and remorse to a level that I have not read before – though I am not the greatest Hulk fan so am ready to be corrected on that. The art from Corben is as good as usual and I like his portrayal of the Hulk. I normally see his work in a fantasy or horror context and I think that this story is enhanced due to his background in those genres, especially in the scenes that feature a reflective Bruce Banner.