For DC Comics, it was a Justice League week, and a Justice League week is a good week; Image Comics brought us Huck #2 and I Hate Fairyland #3; and Marvel Comics brought us the end of the Ultimate universe in Ultimate End #5 alongside a great Vader solo story in Darth Vader Annual #1.
- Huck #2 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition
The Millar-verse has been hit or miss since its inception, but Huck presents a strong argument for giving everything Mark Millar writes a fair shot. In the second issue, we realize that this mini-series is not a one-trick pony. Huck and his supporting cast continue to be some of the better characters in comics right now and Huck continues to be one of the best new comics of the year.
- I Hate Fairyland #3 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition
With the first two issues, I Hate Fairyland set some comedic expectations for its readership. This foul-mouthed, murderous girl, who was clearly “someone’s little princess” a couple of decades ago, is not someone you want to stumble across in a dark alley or really anywhere. Issue three strengthens the narrative element beyond fun artistic and dialogue gimmicks, elevating the book above a mere torture porn version of The Wizard of Oz.
- Darth Vader Annual #1 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition
Marvel’s development of Darth Vader has been one of the strongest element of the Star Wars line of comics that rolled out earlier this year. His complicated feelings regarding family and the Sith are brought to the surface in most of his books, but in Darth Vader Annual #1 we are reminded that Vader is not one to be messed with. He may be a dog of the Emperor, but he is a shrewd dog if nothing else.
- Ultimate End #5 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition
The Ultimate universe began with Bendis and Bagley, and it ends with Bendis and Bagley’s Ultimate End #5. Though we don’t know exactly what fate awaits the heroes and villains of Marvel-616 and Marvel-1610, we know that many of these characters are going to disappear from the pages of Marvel Comics forever. Ultimate End #5 serves as a good cap stone to the whole endeavor.
- Huck #2 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition
My biggest concern with Huck was that the following issues would not be as strong as the first. This happens all too often in comics, but I was really hoping that the angel of boring would pass over this particular book. DC threw social justice Superman to the curb just as soon as they could, but Huck is still just a fountain of goodness, a Superman divorced of all the ideology. The enemy for the first issue is a predatory press mob besieging Huck’s place of residence. What is Huck’s response? He homes in on the rare individuals who have come to ask him for help, and he starts another list.
Clearly, Millar is building up characters to force a superhero/supervillain confrontation, but my hopes for the future are that he never abandons what we love about Huck. He is just plain good. He doesn’t need to prove anything about himself. As a result of not get tripped up by having a code, Huck can respond to conflict in surprising ways. If the Millar-verse is a body, Huck is firmly set in its heart. There are a lot of good competitors, but I think Huck might just be the best new comic of 2015.
- I Hate Fairyland #3 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition
Though I was enamored by the oddness of I Hate Fairyland #1, the comic was starting to wear on me. Don’t get me wrong. I Hate Fairyland is consistently funny, well drawn, and filled with some great dialogue moments, but it has some serious problems with story structure. In I Hate Fairyland #3, the gimmicks that felt old by the second issue felt warm and welcoming. The characters have been introduced, their motivations have become clear, and now that story can start in earnest. With the introduction of another young girl who is much better at questing and somehow really powerful, it seems like Gertrude might have finally met her match.
My strongest hope is that this movement toward a more highly structured story with new options for character development — as in Gertrude either cannot kill some people because they’re too powerful or she learns not to kill some people because she begrudgingly needs some help — is sustained. The art and comedy are good enough to keep me reading for a while no matter what happens plot-wise, but if Skottie Young can iron out some of the difficulties with this book it will probably become one of my favorites of 2016.
- Darth Vader Annual #1 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition
I mostly do not like annuals. They are generally not written or drawn by the same creative team as the regular series, they usually do not have the license to develop any important stories or make use of important characters, and everything else moves forward without concern for whether or not you read the special year-end issue. Occasionally, however, an annual is released based on the fact that someone somewhere has a fantastic story idea for a character or group of characters but is not currently contracted to write for that title and will not be contracted to write for that title in the future. I imagine that Darth Vader Annual #1 is one of the latter.
Darth Vader Annual #1 is a lesson in leadership from the Sith perspective. Darth Vader is sent to a planet to demand his tribute from their mining guilds, a natural resource that is presumably going to be used on the secret construction of the second Death Star. He meets with a king who blames his problems on those producing the goods, a leader who appears to be lead by his people. After the king sacrifices his third daughter in an attempt to kill Darth Vader, Vader’s droids slaughter the entire royal court and Vader chooses the sacrificial lamb as the new king. He sees in her a strong leader and assures her loyalty by reminding her what happens to people who are no longer in the Empire’s favor. Remember Alderaan?
- Ultimate End #5 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition
This is not exactly something that many people would boast about, but I kept up with every single comic book released in Marvel’s Ultimate imprint. At the beginning, Ultimate comics were fantastic, but over time they started to degrade. Personally, I have wanted everything Ultimate to end for a while now, and we presumably witness that end in Ultimate End #5. The thing is that you can’t just stop publishing the comics. The ending has to be delivered well in terms of story, delivered well in terms of the creative team, and we need to keep certain key characters alive and port them over to the regular universe. The first imperative is unclear. Though the Ultimate universe has presumably come to a close, it is still uncertain how this has come about. This is the fault of the Secret Wars release schedule, which has made Marvel comics much less approachable than it could be. The final issue of Secret Wars is set to be released before the end of the year, but at this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t come out until April or May. The second imperative was hit out of the park. The first issue of Ultimate comics — Ultimate Spider-man #1 — was written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Mark Bagley and so was the last issue. Well done, Marvel. The third imperative is still somewhat up in the air. The only survivor of the Ultimate universe that I have seen in a normal Marvel title is Miles Morales / Spider-man in All New, All Different Avengers, but Ultimate End #5 suggests that his whole family (even some dead people) were brought over with him. While many people were writing top ten lists about who needs to come from Earth-1610 to Earth-616, I was a hardliner for “all we need is Miles, Ganke, and Miles’s family.”
These are the only characters who still seem to have some story left in them. As of right now, it seems like I won out on that one.Ultimate End #5 had a great mix of sentiment and purpose and it closed the book pretty well.
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I’d like to say that my mind is on future comics, but I just watched The Force Awakens and there is nothing else that I really want to talk about. I’m going to keep putting up weekly comic book posts, but I’m a lot more excited about doing some kind of write-up of the new Star Wars. If you ever feel like I’m not giving enough attention to comic books, call me out. Pull me back in. Let me know what stories you want to talk about and we’ll keep this thing fresh.