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Uncanny X-Force Part Two, Uncanny Avengers

30 Aug



By Ayo

“Torment at the hands of the Four Horsemen!”
Uncanny Avengers, no. 11
Rick Remender & Daniel Acuña
August, 2013

One day it’ll all make sense.

If you read Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña during their storyline “The Dark Angel Saga,” then it is obvious that the current Uncanny Avengers storyline (The Apocalypse Twins) is the sequel to that. The irony of Uncanny X-Force was that the titular team was formed to permanently end major threats by assassination and yet all of their actions created larger and worse counteractions. While that group of characters disbanded, the problems that the have caused are still spiraling into larger and more complex threats.

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Saving people by beating up people: the Carol Danvers story

14 Jun

By Ayo

Avengers: the enemy within, No. 1 (Captain Marvel)
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Hepburn, Jordie Bellaire

~what is this~

Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers has a brain lesion that exacerbates whenever she flies. She is essentially in the position of Superman during the “Grounded” storyline except that not-flying isn’t her choice. Watching Captain Marvel struggle against her medical reality and her impulse to simply take to the skies is a wonderful tension.

Personally, I recently began wearing sunglasses because the direct sunlight has started to give me migraine-like symptoms. I know that feeling of suddenly needing some form of tool or technology to do what one used to do effortlessly.

Also, like Captain Marvel’s flying jet-sled, my sunglasses look cool. But I resent them. I just want to walk down the street in the day, not have a piece of breakable equipment on my face, filtering my world. I feel you, Carol Danvers.

The best part of this here comic book (Avengers: The Enemy Within) is that Carol Danvers’ buddies in the Avengers have been eager and happy to lend assistance to her, different from that old Avengers comic that I read in which Steve Rogers/Captain America was like “Carol Danvers, you are not on top of your game, YOU’RE OFF THE AVENGERS!!” Seriously, former Avengers writer Kurt Busiek, you really hung Carol Danvers out to dry that time! Rude.


This comic, DeConnick and Hepburn and Bellaire with “The Enemy Within,” features the things that I love the most about superhero comic books:

1) took a while to read. I didn’t breeze through this in ten minutes, it lasted me for like twenty, which is half of my commute. I enjoy density in comic books.

2) Carol Danvers and Jess Drew (Spider-Woman) have a wonderful rapport and I just want them to be buddies forever. I’m a big fan of buddies and Carol & Jess: Super Friends is totally pressing all my buttons. It was also nice and considerate of Jess Drew not to fly. Like, in solidarity with Carol who medically can’t.

3) the fights were fun to read. A bunch of heavy hitters, hitting heavily. Hepburn’s twisty, bendy-limb style is well suited for kinetic scenes of people knocking each other around, particularly due to the lighthearted banter that accompanies these fights. These aren’t scary superhero fights, they’re funny superhero fights.

3a) dinosaurs!

4) that Carol Danvers is friends with her neighbors in her apartment building (what is with superheroes renting among civilians though) is charming and heartening. In my building, there are only ten apartment units and people still act like they don’t know me, slam the gate or door on me when I’m dragging in my groceries. There’s only two black people in my building, you can’t argue that they don’t recognize me… Okay, getting personal, moving along…

5) Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel has a definitive weakness (again, the flying) and has an irresponsible urge to exacerbate it time and again. As the title suggests, she is her own worst enemy.

5a) I like it when protagonists are the instruments of their own conflicts/downfalls. It is an appealing story dynamic that a person has control of his or her destiny and that their problems are at least partly their own doing (especially if not in a retributive sense).

6) Should have been number one to me, but: this comic was *funny* There was verbal humor, there were sight gags and physical comedy. I almost think that it is irresponsible for a comic about solving problems by hitting things to NOT be funny, at least sometimes. “The Enemy Within,” despite its ominous title and brooding cover (illustrated by Joe Quinones), was a charming and humorous issue to read.

7) I’m on a mission. A holy crusade, in fact. I really like when the characters in a scene are together inside the same panel and continue to coexist in panels as the scene progresses. This is an Eddie Campbell thing but it’s turning into a Darryl Ayo thing. Chris Samnee does it in his comics and I’m seeing a lot of it here with Scott Hepburn. He breaks from the patterns during various moments for fight purposes or to do closeups but mostly this comic hangs close to the principle. Thank you, Scott Hepburn.

All in all: I had a good time.


NSFW: Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s “SEX.”

24 May

By Ayo

Sex, numbers. 1-3
By: Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski
With: Brad Simpson
Featuring: Rus Wooton
Image Comics, 2013

The comic is audaciously called “Sex.” But it really is just one of those “retired superheroes in a quasi-noir genre” pieces. There’s nothing at all extraordinary about Casey and Kowalski’s “Sex” except for… there’s more sex scenes in it than an average noir comic.
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Riot Act, b/w Eaten From The Inside Out

24 May

By Ayo

“Riot Act”
The Green Team, no. 1
Art Baltazar, Franco, Ig Guara
DC Comics, May 2013

For purely selfish reasons, I’m going to lean in heavily on this comic book. Off-brand DC comic books have a poor success rate in the comic book marketplace and I want this series to live. To “go viral,” pun intended.

I like co-writer Art Baltazar and I’ve enjoyed his work since the mid-1990s when he was exhibiting self-published works in the church-basement show Big Apple Comic-Con. I like superhero comics, especially when I don’t need to keep up with sister series and related tie-ins. I like off-brand series that don’t rely on encyclopedic knowledge of ideas that are older than my lifespan. Heck, I like those type of comics as well but walk with me. What I’m saying is that I like this comic book. The Green Team is light in tone, confident in its own momentum and the entire enterprise is performed with one eyebrow arched.

I’m not saying that Green Team is the best comic. I would understand if you, my reader, were to dismiss it and scoff at my insistence of its attributes. You wouldn’t be wrong for that. There are plenty of comic books–superhero comic books–that are better than Green Team. Some of these came out this very week. But I enjoyed this comic. I was chuckling on the train this morning while all of the other commuters were frowning into their immediate futures of downtown offices. Now I sit in my own miserable downtown office but that’s okay because I had a nice ride.

Baltazar, Franco and Guara put together a fun little comic that has its own Instagram hashtag #GreenTeam

So as I said, I need your help.

I need anybody who is inclined to read a lighthearted, silly comic about rich kid superheroes to lace up their sneakers and go to their comic book store and buy this. Then I need you to talk to me about how much you like it. And don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to make fun of this comic and beat the stuffing out of it. But out of love.


~the record is not over yet~

“Eaten From The Inside Out”
The Movement, no. 1
Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II
DC Comics, May 2013

The Green Team doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Though unrelated, #GreenTeam was marketed with another new comic book called The Movement. Where The Green Team is about super-rich-kids who are buying their way into superheroics, The Movement is about an underground network of vigilantes loosely based on the real world’s Anonymous group. Loosely.

Described in the book as a hacker group, “Channel M” is intimidating on the page. Their method for policing their neighborhood makes for good visuals. My regret as a reader is that there is also a superhero team inside this story that undercuts the creepy kids in masks surrounding crooked cops. See, I like both things: teenage superheroes and vast networks of hacker troublemakers. Twenty pages per month might not be enough space to get too deep into the regular-people-with-smartphones aspect of crime-fighting. We shall see.


I <3 Deadpool

24 May

By Ayo

“Eight Legs To Kick You”
Deadpool, no. 10
Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne, Val Staples
Marvel Entertainment, May 2013

The cover of this comic book promises a wacky team up between The Amazing Spider-Man and “The Inferior” Deadpool. Spoiler: the contents of this comic book provide just that! Mission accomplished!!

When I began to reenter the world of superhero comic books in 2010, Deadpool was one of the titles that I sought out. I’ve loved Deadpool for twenty years, since 1993’s “The Circle Chase,” drawn by X-Men artist Joe Madureira. Deadpool is a fun character by concept and with the right team, the concept will always work.

This isn’t to diminish the specific good work of the current creative team. But these kinds of comics work like television works: you have an editorially decided concept and a group of writers and directors who put the product together according to editorial specifications. When all of the players are in position, you’ve got the makings of a solidly entertaining project.

Specifically, Posehn, Duggan & Hawthorne’s version: what stands out to me is that this iteration is funnier than Daniel Way and Carlo Barberi’s version. Based on just this one issue, I’m seeing more chances taken, higher joke density and a greater visual cohesion between thought and execution. I’m the one person on the internet who enjoyed Way and Barberi on Deadpool but I recognize where the results could have been better, particularly as a work of serialized comedy. The difference between the previous Deadpool series and what I’ve seen of the current one is the difference between smiling and laughing.

Now me, I know a comic book is working when I’m laughing on the train. And with “Eight Legs To Kick You,” I was laughing from first page to last.

Mission accomplished. Job well done.


Commit To Your Future

3 May

By Ayo


“It’s All Over!”
by Ben Passmore
self-published minicomic


Immediately after complaining that too many cartoonists simply draw their characters *existing* but not really *doing* which is to say, the cartoonists fail to have their characters engage with the actions that they are supposedly performing, I read DayGloAyHole by Ben Passmore which antidoted that cartooning crisis with finesse.

The characters of DayGloAyHole are very animated and very present in their roles. Whether its walking, running, leaping or whatever, the characters appear to be *really doing* the actions that they are shown to be doing. Rather than characters that appear posed as doing a thing.


Something that really bothered me is that the first protagonist of DayGloAyHole doesn’t have a name. The character drives half of the book (another character named “NO LIMITZ” drives the other half), yet he has nothing to identify him by. That bothers me. I literally read this book forwards, backwards and forward again before giving up hope. This character is literally nobody.

I’ve got a bone to pick with “The Everyman,” “The Unnamed Protagonist,” “The Man With No Name,” and other such nonsense. Commit to something, authors. You have to give things names. This “general” stuff just doesn’t hack it. There is no “everyman,” there is nothing to gain from obscuring basic contextual information. It doesn’t allow me as a reader to project myself onto a character or immerse myself into a character. It just makes me think that something is missing and makes me leave the story to try and see what I may have overlooked. Just name characters. Even Scott has a name. It’s “Scott.” Why does Scott get a name and Protagonist Man remains nobody, going nowhere, doing nothing? I don’t even want to hear that “thematic” stuff, it’s just lazy.

Authors have been pulling this “man with no name” nonsense forever and a day and that has to stop. It’s not about whether the character is named “Jeff” or “Herbert,” it’s about how can I think about this character? What do I even refer to him as? I mean, there’s a character in this book called “NO LIMITZ” because he has “NO LIMITZ” carved into his forehead, presumably with a knife. Any name will do. Just something to hold on to.


There are basically no women in this comic, except for two backup comic strips that exist outside of the main story. Written and drawn by Kate Hanrahan and Erin Wilson, these strips gently play at undermining the hyper-masculinity of Passmore’s story. A fitting close for a book that reveled in maleness for its duration.

Some girl drug-overdoses. Everybody who does drugs in fiction always overdoses.

26 Apr

By Ayo


Jupiter’s Legacy, no. 1
Mark Millar, Frank Quitely
Millar World/Image Comics
April 2013

Look, Frank Quitely is the best superhero artist in the world. His use of space in his signature horizontal compositions is still understudied and overlooked. Nobody put out a better superhero comic this week because nobody is better than Frank Quitley.

But sweet heaven, this was also likely the most boring comic this week as well. As a debut issue this was about equivalent to the first track on a hip hop CD that features two and a half minutes of the rapper talking lazily to his friend over a good beat about something so vague that it fails to even make an impression. Feels like a waste of a good beat.

The Comics Journal’s Tucker Stone and Comics Alliance’s David Brothers already gave this comic as serious a looking as it deserves. This is the kind of work that gets produced when writers and artists are allowed to rest on their laurels and feed off of the fat of their past achievements. As the introduction of a new work, Jupiter’s Legacy is lazy. It is banking on the reader’s emotional investment., not the work at hand. But as a brand new story with new characters, a new world to explore, the only emotional investment of loyalty that a reader can have is an investment in the authors. Having enjoyed another work previously doesn’t make this project better than what appears on the page. On its own merits, Jupiter’s Legacy is just no good.

How About Alex?, -or- The One Punch Chump

29 Mar

By Darryl Ayo

“Let The Good Times Roll”
Uncanny Avengers, no. 5
Rick Remender & Olivier Coipel
Marvel Entertainment

Not to be Mister-Anti but I actually liked this comic book. It moved several characters with distinctive worldviews through one day that ended with somebody getting his neck broken by accident. The flat-note ending was pitch-perfect for me and I like that the ending’s implication is…implied by the way Rogue looks up to see the press cameras all directed at her. Not a word is needed after that moment and not a word is offered. That is the end of the story, CRACK, neck broken.

But let’s be reality, the reason people care about this particular comic is a scene that happens earlier. Alex, a character who is indicated by the story to be the leader of this group of characters, delivers a press conference where he says something so silly that I’ve never heard it before in real life.



Short and simple: my only problem with Alex’s speech is that “mutant” isn’t “the M-word.”

“Mutant” in comic storyland isn’t a slur in and of itself. It’s a group descriptor like “gay,” “black,” “Muslim.” A slur would be a crude term of division which shouldn’t be spoken in polite company (taking its cue from “the ‘N’word” of real life). The slur would be a term of undisputed hostility and derision (ie, “gene-joke,” “mutie,” “freak”), not the term which merely describes the group of people.

Now, Alex could be a “self-hating mutant,” I suppose. Particularly to contrast with his brother Scott, who is concurrently raising a mutant revolution army in some other comic book. Scott the separatist and Alex the assimilationist. That could work as a believable tension. But it still doesn’t work in the particular language twist that this scene tries to achieve. This scene doesn’t achieve its goal of paralleling real-world expressions of oppressed people (which the mutants are meant to represent).

Here is writer Rick Remender weighing in about the contrasting opinions on twitter


Not a problem, I live in Greenpoint.

All jokes aside, I strongly suspect that Remender was responding to people who opposed his story’s anti-bigotry message rather than members of oppressed groups who objected to the logic of his story’s argument. That said, he’s made his statement and that’s that. I do find it interesting that nobody in Marvel Entertainment editorial second-guessed the tone of character-Alex’s press conference. That nobody saw the glaring problem of equating general group description with the idea of a pejorative slur. Because even a character who is self-hating in his or her cultural identity would know that the generic descriptor isn’t a “___-word.”

This comic makes a try at tackling a real-world issue. It misfires. That’s okay, try again.


Everything at once

15 Feb

By Ayo

*Stuart Immonen w/ Brian Bendis*

Last night I watched a bunch of episodes of the CW network’s evening drama Arrow which is based on the comic book hero Green Arrow.


It wasn’t a great work of art but neither is Green Arrow as a comic book. What does distinguish it is that it is solidly entertaining. There is an overarching storyline for the entire series, a storyline that seems to comprise the season and an individual storyline or each given episode. Just like most other evening dramas. And not at all like most comic books. This isn’t rocket science but it is something novel in the comic book field: trust.

Trust that you have created an engaging premise with captivating characters. Trust your writers. Trust your art direction. And then don’t rely on cliffhangers to try and compel people to return to you. End the short term plots and slowly build up the long term, character-driven plots. It’s very basic, my friends. People don’t come back because your hero is in danger. We know he’ll live. So stop trying so hard to extract drama out of the immediate conflict and simply resolve the immediate conflict in the same episode. People come back because they like the hero and they like how he or she solves (or simply manages) problems. If you take six months to get to a resolution like comic book writers do, you lose readers. That’s because the readers lose sight of what is interesting.

Each unit of storytelling that is sold or released should give the audience a plot with a resolution AND the seeds for developing overarching plots. It’s not a secret. So stop writing comic books all wrong.

That goes for all of you.



On HBO, there’s a show called Girls that you probably heard about. Some of the characters have storylines based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn which is where I live. It’s a pretty good show. Much more amorphous than many other modern television dramas are structured but much more interesting for the fact that this show eschews many of the tried and true formulas. Yet it clings to other formulas.

I’m not usually happy with the way sex is used in popular entertainment stories but the sex scenes in Girls are pretty shocking for how lived-in they feel. These aren’t sex scenes where the cameras cut to artful montages of knees and shoulder blades. The sex scenes are actual stories in themselves. With each participant wanting something from the sex and often with differing results.

Sex that is treated as a battle of sorts, something that can leave participants happy, empty, deluded or amused. It’s very rare to see sex depicted as the lively, continually-evolving part of a relationship that it factually is.


Speaking of sex, here’s a page from Cable designed to appeal to women whose fetish is men who are literally half-automobile. By Ariel Olivetti.

Dating Ironically

7 Dec

By Ayo

“Arrête, cést icî L’empire de La Mort”
“Bad Brains/WOTW”
By Simon Hanselmann
Space Face Books, Nov. 2012

Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that I read somewhere that Simon Hanselmann is relatively new to cartooning. If that is the case then he has taken to the vocation like a fish to water. This is a beautiful comic. Clean character design, expressive storytelling and smooth panel-to-panel transitions: nothing is awkward about reading this story. The drawings are relatively pared down but are so instantly readable and the panels’ relationships to one another are so effortless that the reading experience feels fully immersive and engaging. Slick cartooning.

As a narrative, I don’t quite understand the comic. I know Hanselmann’s characters Megg, Mogg and Owl from the strips that he has posted on his website. But the actual plot events of this particular story are mysterious to me. I’m not complaining. I’ve read more than my share of abstract minicomics in my day–and I’ve made them too. But Hanselmann doesn’t feel to me as though he is trying to go over our heads; even though his work is richly coded in a language of his own symbols. I just feel as though I’m missing a step somewhere in this story.






A lot of Hanselmann’s Arrête, cést icî L’empire de La Mort reads essentially like stream of consciousness psychedelia. The storyline is very much about drugs and possible psychological problems, which both effect people’s perceptions and coping abilities. These combine with the general setting and characters which are all a fantastic in composition and in nature. Talking animals who shift between humanoid and beast mode. Alien spaceships. A television actor. All just sort of appear and can be accepted as nothing strange.

This sort of storytelling convention is quite common in the world of artcomics and minicomics. The story takes place externally but it feels internal, like somebody’s dream. Part of me feels that externalizing psychological and emotional strife is an excellent use of visual storytelling.

It is interesting that Hanselmann uses no captions or narration. Everything happens by action or by characters talking. This furthers the feeling that I get as a reader that the author himself is in a process of discovery and exploration as much as his characters. I’m happy to follow him along and learn whatever he discovers.