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Comic Book Reviews: 'Wolverine and the X-Men,' 'Spaceman,' and more

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Went to the comic book store this weekend, bought some stuff. Artist Marcos Martin’s work on Daredevil #5 (Marvel Comics) – his first full issue in what I hope will be a long, classic run – was a delight. The final issue of writer Jonathan Hickman’s fighter pilots of the future/father vs. son/time travel saga The Red Wing (Image Comics) was trippy and touching; seek out the trade when all four issues (superbly rendered by artist Nick Pitarra and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg) are collected. I wish I was equally affected by Hickman’s current work on FF (Marvel), the much-hyped new formulation of the Fantastic Four, with Spider-Man replacing the recently-extinguished (i.e., “killed”) Human Torch. I’ve been disappointed by the inconsistent art and focus on peripheral players like The Inhumans and the Kree. More needs to be done to make Spidey feel more essential to this book. To borrow a phrase from a departed friend: Flame on, dammit! (BTW: Was the new issue really the climax of the “Four Cities” saga as has been advertised? Didn’t play that way to me.)

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #1(Marvel Comics; monthly series) Once the rebel student, now the headmaster: Ex-Weapon X Logan opens The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning with headmistress Kitty Pryde at his side. But on the first day of classes, the mutant administrators must the survive the fearsome threat of… building safety inspectors. Aesthetically snooty, mutant hating building safety inspectors, to boot! You can imagine how well the examination goes, given that the new facility — part mansion, part earthbound space station; built by brainy beast Hank McCoy — is buggy with glitches, infested with “interdimensional gremlins,” and occupied by the most dangerous teenagers in the world. WHAT’S GOOD: Jason Aaron’s witty scripting, Chris Bachalo’s quirky, expressive artwork, and a light touch makes for an inviting welcome. QUIBBLES: Maybe a touch too light? A scene between Wolverine and child-villain Kade Kilgore, the new Black King of The Hellfire Club, lacked the requisite menace. FINAL THOUGHT: The “regenesis” of Marvel’s X-Men is off to a solid start.

SPACEMAN #1(Vertigo; 9-issue maxi-series) Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso – creators of the acclaimed, award-winning underworld epic 100 Bullets — travel to dystopia in their latest collaboration.  A genetically engineered man-ape/ape-man named Orson designed to survive the rigors of space exploration makes a meager living fishing for scrap metal from the waters of an environmentally and economically wrecked world. He gets caught up in a kidnapping case involving the adopted child of movie/reality show stars. (Good to see trash pop and celebrity worship will survive the global meltdown.) Meanwhile, flashbacks (or flash-forwards?) find Orson executing a perilous mission on a stormy, sandy, crimson planet. WHAT’S GOOD: A richly realized creative world, complete with its own quirky colloquialisms and slang, and an immediately engaging central character. The artful transitions between time periods highlight the strong, confident storytelling. QUIBBLES: No matter how much you quirk it up to make it unique, “future dystopia” is now a cliché milieu. Been there, despaired that. The argot takes some getting used to – but you will. FINAL THOUGHT: I’ll follow Azzarello/Risso anywhere, as long as great characters like Orson are leading the way.

ON MY “TO DO” LIST: Catching up on Marvel’s “Spider-Island” extravaganza now that it’s finished. People I trust have been buzzing about it. Did you guys enjoy it?

More comic book reviews next week.

Twitter: @EWDocJensen

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