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Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine is a beautifully absurd comic book. Writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert keep the comic moving at a frantic pace, twisting and turning as they introduce crazy concept after crazy concept. There are enough brilliant over-the-top ideas in Astonish Spider-Man and Wolverine to sustain an on-going for years – and yet the duo tear through them with a speed that makes all of Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine seem like a delirious blur.

And yet, despite that, Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine reads like a tribute to the glorious ridiculousness possible within the confines of mainstream comic books – giant metal-faced sentient planets! robotic dinosaurs! guns that fire the energy of creation! a diamond-encrusted baseball bat as a means of time travel! There’s a surreal magic to Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine that marks it as one of the highpoints of Jason Aaron’s work on Wolverine. It’s funny, awe-inspiring and even occasionally moving.

Blood brothers...

Blood brothers…

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Mark Millar & Brian Michael Bendis’ Run on Ultimate Fantastic Four – Vol. 1 (Hardcover)

The Fantastic Four, as originally imagined by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were an instant overnight success for Marvel. Although perhaps Spider-Man would go on to surpass them as the most recognisable creation from the comic book publisher, the four were intrinsically linked with the spirit of newness and pop science that defined comic books in the sixties – the run was so iconic that I’m even considering placing an order for the two volumes of Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four Omnibus, even though I find Silver Age comic books tough to read. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the characters were among the last to be coopted into Marvel’s Ultimate line, an experiment designed to essentially start their characters from scratch again to attract a new audience. However, depite the late arrival of Ultimate Fantastic Four – four years after Ultimate Spider-Man and three years after Ultimate X-Men – the talent involed in the launch of the series suggests that Marvel was trying to get this version of the family off to the same flying start as their mainstream counterpart.

That's gonna put a dent in local real estate prices...

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Richard Donner & Geoff Johns’ Run on Action Comics – Last Son, Escape from Bizarro World, Superman & The Legion of Superheroes & Brainiac

In light of the recent announcement that the villain of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot will be General Zod (brought to the screen by Terrence Stamp in Superman II), we thought we might take a look at the run which reintroduced Zod to comic book audiences (written by the director of the first two films).

You kinda figure that Geoff Johns would be the perfect fit for Superman as a character. I mean, no character needs to re-engage with his roots while seeming fresh and renewed quite like the modern Superman. Despite his iconic status, the character hasn’t really registered on global pop culture since Richard Donner brought him to life in Superman, the first of the modern superhero films. Fittingly enough, legendary director Donner joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for the first half of the run – if you needed any more indication that this was a pairing to be excited about, consider the fact that Donner gave Johns his first “in” in show business, working as the director’s assistant. If you needed any more, take a look at how perfectly illustrator Gary Frank draws the Man of Steel, making him look like Christopher Reeve. However, although the run is entertaining and engaging, it can’t help feeling a little incomplete – as if Johns is spending more times aligning the pieces on his board rather than playing with them. Still, it’s a pretty damn good collection of Superman stories that Johns and Donner have put together here.

Superman is adrift no more...

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Wednesday Comics: Sgt. Rock & Easy Co.

Earlier this week I reviewed Wednesday Comics, a rather spanking anthology from DC Comics. I kinda figured, however, it might be worth my while to break out some of those fifteen stories on their own (but not all of them) and discuss them, as it’s easy to lose sight of a particular writer/artist’s work in an anthology. Now we’re going back to a “new” old bunch of pulp characters.

Sgt. Rock & Easy Co. is an interesting choice for the anthology. Although it’s a war comic, it was only introduced in 1959, long after the end of the conflict and in the twilight days of the newspaper strips that this anthology is meant to reproduce. It’s inclusion arguably speaks more to the desire by DC to create a nostalgia for a long legacy that never quite existed than it does to the character’s popularity or place within DC continuity. Sgt. Rock & Easy Co. is one of only three non-superhero strips included – the post-apocalyptic adventures of Kamandi and the Strange Adventures strip, following Adam Strange: Space Hero – and it seems a logical fit if the goal was to create the impression of a large interconnected tapestry of DC history. After all, the only thing as pulpy as a superhero story is good old fashioned war yarn.

That's the closest you'll come to a splash page in this storyline...

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Wednesday Comics

Hawkman unsheathes his knife and crawls into the gasping T-Rex’s jaws, thinking “Sadly, this is not the craziest thing I’ve ever done.”

– Hawkman

Wednesday Comics is an amazing little experiment, a bit of comic book nostalgia delivered by some of the most talented people in the business with a smile on their face and a skip in their step. For those who don’t know, DC Comics – always the more boldly experimental of the two major companies – ran a twelve-week collection of newspaper comic strips. Fifteen strips bundled together, the reader was offered one page of a given comic at a time on a super-sized newspaper sheet, with a full story told week-on-week. It was a bold little experiment and while the whole is almost certainly greater than the sum of its parts, there’s much to love here.

There in a Flash...

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