Cannonball: New Mutant, Avenger … Parent?

I was surprised, but not shocked, to find that my friend Sam was going to be a father. The older I get, the more serious my friends’ relationships become. Some are married. Some have kids. So it goes.

Sam’s 32, though I’ve only known him for a few years. I met him in college. Grad school maybe. So that’s 2007-2008. He’s a responsible guy who everyone can count on, but still, a kid? I had some concerns. I know that he’ll be a great dad, but how’s his relationship with the mother? Hell, who is the mother? Did they plan this? Are they a good couple? Does she even deserve someone as good as my boy Sam?

Years ago, my friend Thom passed an ultrasound image around the office saying, “Look what I made.” The way I found out about Sam was more low-key; he didn’t even tell me himself. I found out online, when I saw this:

Cannonball, Smasher, and Their SonAVENGERS WORLD #17
BEFORE TIME RUNS OUT!
• How did things get to be the way they are in the “Time Runs Out” story? Find out here in AVENGERS WORLD!
• Cannonball and Smasher face their greatest adventure yet…parenthood!
• Can the new parents survive an encounter with the SHI’AR IMPERIAL GUARD?

My friend Sam Guthrie. My boy Cannonball. New Mutant. X-Man. Avenger. Best guy.
Having a child with Smasher? The Imperial Guard Smasher? She and Sam are a couple? I always hoped Sam and Dani would have ended up together. I loved their chemistry last time I saw them together. And he did have that thing with Lila Cheney, though they may be too different to ever work it out.

So I had to do my research on this Smasher. Izzy. Isabel Kane. Formerly known as Isabel Dare (though no one can really say why). From Iowa. Was an astronomer until she found an Imperial Guardsman’s goggles in her family’s corn field.

IMG_0053So she’s family oriented. And she’s from the heartland. She can fly and she can kick some ass. So that’s a good foundation as far as compatibility goes.

She had a good heart. And was up for anything. But I barely knew her. And the next time I heard about her, she was bailing from a dinner with the Guthrie family. “Shi’ar stuff. … An obligation,” she says. So she has a sense to duty, but maybe a work/life imbalance. Hmm.

Art tries to tell us that love is all about grand gestures. So Sam called in few favors, followed his lady into space, and offered to save her ship from attack (and thus prove himself worthy of being the partner of a Smasher). But she wouldn’t hear it.

Cannonball and Smasher. Partners.Good on you, Izzy.

So, they cannonballed and smashed and of course saved the day. But there’s something scarier than space creatures the size of a Shi’ar ships. Parenthood.

IMG_0049IMG_0050Sam’s a good hero and a good man. Even Mentor of the Imperial Guard had to recognize this: “Sam Guthrie, Cannonball of Earth, you have earned the favor of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. You are a worthy partner for Smasher, and will being honor to your new family.” You’re goddamn right. But Izzy also proved herself Sam’s equal. They’re partners. They’re a team.

IMG_0052So yeah. I’m convinced. Izzy gets my approval. I haven’t known her long, but I already know that she’s good enough for my boy Sam. But now I wonder … is he good enough for her?


Artwork from Avengers #2 by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña, Avengers #5 by Jonathan Hickman and Adam Kubert, Avengers World #17 by Frank Barbiere and Marco Checchetto, and New Mutants #17 by Zeb Wells and Leonard Kirk.

The Shopping List 12-2-10 and 12-8-10

The Demon Returns!

Yes, I return. Man, I’m not getting back on time with these. To be fair, I spent last Wednesday through Saturday in Portland, OR. Great city. Visited some great shops: Cosmic Monkey Comics, Floating World Comics, Things from Another World. I also found the Oni Press and Dark Horse Comics offices. Nothing to see at Oni, but Dark Horse’s foyer has a life-size statue of Concrete that is totally creepy.

Well, better late than never. Here we go.

Shadowland #5Daredevil #512Shadowland: After the Fall #1Three-fer!!!
Shadowland #5
by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan **
Daredevil #512
by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston, and Marco Checchetto ****
Shadowland: After the Fall #1 by Antony Johnston, Marco Checchetto and Roberto De La Torre ***

Oh no, Shadowland is over! What am I going to do with the money I’ve spent on these issues? Oh, right. Buy something better.

Shadowland goes out singing the same song it came in on. Too much action. Questionable plot. Inconsistent art ill-suited to the story. And since Marvel thought these three books were needed to wrap up the same plot points, I thought I should review them together.

After five issues of fisticuffs, Iron Fist uses his chi to heal Matt, who then pulls a Ed Norton on the Brad Pitt of a demon possessing him. Maybe they should have tried that 100 pages ago. It’s an idiot plot, plain and simple. The heroes then have a “Wow, that was crazy. WAIT! Where’s Matt?” moment. Where’s Matt? He’s in church. (Murdock’s religion is an interesting facet that’s most been ignored for the past decade. Hopefully, when he makes his return, it’ll be a bigger part of Daredevil’s character.) Another outgoing sequence involves Kingpin taking control of Shadowland and unlocking Typhoid Mary’s DUN DUN DUH secret fourth personality! Stupid.

This last issue of Daredevil acts as an epilogue, setting up each of the characters going forward. It’s not a bad book, but no more than perfunctory. It’s the sort of wrap issue that needs to be published to wrap up/launch stories, rather than tell a story on its own. Foggy is loyal to the end (and beyond). The Kingpin does anything to get what he wants. Dakota North always has more knowledge and skills than anyone thinks. Diggle and Johnston know the characters.

Isn’t it about time Foggy gets some character growth? The only time he’s really interesting is when he finally snaps and yells at Matt for being an ass. Let’s give him a girlfriend, a new job, some sort of life away from Matt. Now that Murdock is out of the spotlight, this is Foggy’s chance, but in what book? Black Panther’s taking over the Daredevil numbering and I don’t know who his supporting cast will be. And yes, I’m still bitter that Panther and not Gambit is becoming The Man Without Fear. No matter how many issues they shoehorn him into, declaring his new position, nothing has helped it seem less arbitrary.

As I said, Daredevil #512 served as an epilogue. Matt and his supporting cast have all been shaken up and placed back home. So what does this leave for Shadowland: After the Fall? Much of the same, but focusing on Ben Urich and Detective Kurtz. Each is tasked with finding Matt  Murdock, despite the fact that it was never proven he’s Daredevil and that they don’t want to find him in the first place. The issue is told in clashing first-preson narrations, much like Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman. For the most part, it works. The issue’s best scene involves a Murdock monologue in the form of a confessional micro-cassette left for Urich. Matt knows he screwed up and rather than take the weight on his shoulders like he’s always done, he admits “Daredevil’s no good for me anymore.” After that, we can flash back to last page of Daredevil #512: Matt walking on a desert road, a cook without a kitchen.

Along with colorists Matt Hollingsworth and Morry Hollowell, Marco Checchetto and Roberto de la Torre turn in some nice pages. The foursome make Daredevil and After the Fall moody, but not overly dark. Telling a gloomy story in the four-color word of comics is an interesting task. It’s like the chapter of Gotham Central that featured the Teen Titans. Simply muting colors can ground even the most fantastic elements. This is where Shadowland proper failed. Whether his work was colored by Christina Strain or Guru eFx, Billy Tan’s work on the book was too bright. Hell’s Kitchen is a dark place. The book deals with ninjas and evil spirits. It is no place for bright spandex.

Detective Comics #871Detective Comics #871 by Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla ****

I know this came out two weeks ago, but I just bought it. It’s been a few big weeks and I have a small budget. Reviews were positive, so I picked it up this week. I’m glad I did.

Snyder’s inspiration for his run was the idea that Gotham is a black mirror. Its criminals are dark reflections of its hero: Two-Face is a reflection of Bruce’s dual nature, Joker the opposite of Bruce’s rules and boundaries. So, with Dick Grayson under the cowl, how will Gotham respond? Hearing that, I was hooked.

Snyder’s first issue doesn’t drop any revelations on you, but it is a solid read. Snyder gives a more unique personality in 22 pages than Grant Morrison did in 6 issues of Batman and Robin, and it’s easy to see why – the amount of time spent outside of the costume. We care about the hero because we care about the person under the mask. No personality under the mask, no drama. Dick spends time with Alfred and my boy Commissioner Gordon, making his mark on the legacy.

Speaking of the Commish, Snyder also writes a back-up tale starring Gordon. It’s mostly set-up, and hinges on a reveal of his son James. I have no idea who James is. Because of that, the story has no impact on me. Oh well.

As effective (or not) as these stories are, most people will be fixated on the art. Jock (on the Batman story) and Francesco Francavilla (Commissioner Gordon) have widely disparate styles, but both are enjoyable.

Jock relies on the jagged images he used on The Losers and his Batwoman issues of Detective Comics with Greg Rucka. Because this issue does not feature any of the classic Batman baddies, and I’ve never seen him draw Batman, this looks like Jock designing the book from scratch instead of using the work of others as a starting point. It’s truly his. Thumbs up.

Francesco Francavilla is a new name to me. If Sean Phillips only drew in a widescreen format, it would look an awful lot like this. Frankie also colors his own art, setting the tone by bathing entire scenes in oranges and blues. Simple, creepy art. I’m bummed that his current work is on the aforementioned Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. Not even his art can make me pick up an unproven book like that.

Flash #7Flash #7 by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins ***

Geoff Johns is a good writer with a bad tendency. He feels the need for aspect of a story to fit its theme. That theme is then used to bash us over the head. WE GET IT! BOOMERANGS COME BACK AND SO DO THE BAD THINGS IN LIFE! Not clever. Be smarter. A villain has daddy issues? That’s just fucked out. We hate it when heroes have overused origins, why are rogues any different? All this said, Identity Crisis is the only exposure I’ve had to Boomerang, so a full background is appreciated.

Francis Manapul gets the month off with Scott Kolins taking his place. I’ve been reading though Johns’ first run and Kolins art is great. The pages can have anywhere from one to eight panels, but each of those panels is packed with information. All that is only display here, but something is not quite right – it looks like a bastard son of Manapul. Kolins attempts the soft geometry that the book has had so fa, but should just stick to his own style. Also, for the past six issues, I’ve been in love with Brian Buccellato’s colors. He gave a painterly quality to Manapul’s art. He does the same here, but it doesn’t work as well here. Much like some of Simone Bianchi’s art, the shading becomes dark too easily. To be fair, I have heard artists complain about printed books being darker than they planned. I must judge the book on the book though, and it can be an eyesore.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around” is a bit of a speedbump (sorry). Hopefully next issue’s Reverse Flash spotlight won’t be reverse good.

Heroes for Hire #1Heroes for Hire #1 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Brad Walker ****

A local store gave out free copies of the Heroes for Hire book that came out around Civil War. That edition never took off, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it wasn’t that good. Lucky for us readers, Abnett and Lanning take the idea of employable vigilantes and make Marvel’s newest non-team a great read.

Heroes for Hire is like a football game without any downtime. No penalty flags, no timeouts, just bone-crushing hits and 50-yard bombs. As Control’s (Misty Knight’s) personal hit squad, a variety of characters including Falcon, Black Widow and Moon Knight swoop in, have a great moment and swoop out. Finally, someone (both character and writers) focuses on each character’s specialties, rather than taking the chaff with the wheat.

Speaking of chaff, Brad Walker is on art duties. In Guardians of the Galaxy, he made Rocket Raccoon look like a rabid dog. Here, he makes Natasha Romanova look like a man. An ugly man. He puts some nice emotion in his faces though; Falcon looks like he’s truly having fun, grinning that he knows who’s behind all this. It’s strange, but it’s like he’s learning to draw backwards. He’s got the subtlety down, but he needs to work on his basic faces.

Teasers and covers suggest we’ll see more cameos in the future by the likes of Iron Fist and Ghost Rider. Perhaps DnA can make me interested in Rider for the first time. I’ll be back to find out, at least for issue #2.

Secret Six #28Secret Six #28 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ***

I say but what I have said before. Secret Six is great. J. Calafiore is a good artist, but this is all Gail Simone. She comes up with crazy plots and her characters bounce of each other in completely logical ways to great comic effect, much like Peter David does in X-Factor. Nothing new here. I don’t care that I couldn’t follow the final Skartaris climax, it’s about the characters. Ragdoll, Black Alice and even Giganta each get their chance to shine.

Plot-wise, I’m interested to see how many of the remaining members of Bane’s team stick around in service to Amanda Waller. Suicide Squad is a book I’ve never read, but really need to track down. It seems we could be inching closer to that book’s idea. As long as Simone is around, I will be too.

The Shopping List 9-9-10

Another short list this week.

***** = Loved It
**** = Really Liked It
*** = Liked It
** = Didn’t Like It
* = Hated It

Daredevil #510Daredevil #510 by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston and Marco Checchetto ***

Like Captain America and Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil is such a dynamic book because of its supporting cast. From old favorites like Foggy and Elektra to newer additions like the Black Tarantula, they help keep the book unique. Each person adds a new facet to the events. That makes these Shadowland tie-in issues quite enjoyable. Foggy is mostly absent from the main miniseries, so it’s nice to see him show up here. On a related note, I’m so glad Ed Brubaker brought Dakota North into this book. Her scenes have brought some great non-superpowered action, especially this month. By focusing on the non-hero characters, Daredevil showcases an important side of the proceedings that is forgotten elsewhere.

We get yet another meeting between heroes discussing whether to take Matt out, with the addition this month of the Kingpin. Diggle and Johnston write a nice Wilson Fisk, who let’s not forget may be responsible for some of this, but also has as stake in taking Matt down. After all, how can a crime boss succeed in a city without crime? This issue also furthers the Hand conspiracy. In the past months, we’ve seen the new devil-inspired outfits on the Hand soldiers, but it’s a group of black-clad ninjas who attach Foggy and Dakota. This is even bigger than Murdock’s possession, which means the true antagonist has yet to be revealed.

Marco Checchetto shows up on penciling duties this month. He doesn’t have the flair of Roberto De La Torre, but his work suits the story just fine. On another art note, why are John Cassaday’s recent covers so boring? Look at his covers for Planetary, Astonishing X-Men, or the Irredeemable/Incorruptable books. They are all far and away more exciting that the work he’s turning in here.

Lines are being drawn for the big confrontation at the climax of this series. Let’s hope the fallout brings this book back to the level it was only a short time ago.

Daytripper #10Daytripper #10 by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá ***

Last month, I said I wasn’t sure how this final issue could top #9 as a finale for the series. It didn’t. It is a good issue, but it does not wrap up the themes Bá and Moon have explored in Daytripper as well as well as the last issue. I won’t get into the story too much, but I will say that after nine months of unnatural deaths for Brás de Oliva Domingos, it’s nice to see him live something resembling a full life.

There are no exciting set pieces like the flooding kitchen last week. This issue is more about complex emotions. The body language and facial expression of Brás’s wife when he tells her his plan says more than a caption ever could.

Daytripper is a well written, beautifully drawn series about the fragility of life and the importance of filling your days with the people you love. Pick up the trade. And once you’re done, share it with someone.

Invincible Iron Man #30Invincible Iron Man #30 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca ****

Superhero comics don’t have enough car chases. They’re such a staple of action movies, but you rarely see them in comic pages. Rather than have Tony Stark and Sasha Hammer have a tête à tête over a conference table, Fraction and Larroca place them in a car speeding down the highway. In case that wasn’t enough, Sasha finds the time to put the moves on Tony, while he’s driving. It’s a great way to up the drama and visual action in what could have been a floating head scene. One question: If they’re in Seattle, can someone tell me why Tony’s steering wheel is on the right side of the car? None of the panels give an idea of side of the road he’s on, so I can’t decide if he’s driving a European car or if Larroca made a mistake.

After a few months of spinning wheels, Fraction and Larroca have revealed part of Hammer Girl’s mission, shown off a hi-tech Sasha Hammer, as well as the Iron Man and Maiden, and tied the book back to its first arc, “The Five Nightmares.” Some fresh action and real plot development make this my favorite book of the week.

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