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Published on February 24th, 2014 | by The Prodigy

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What’s In My Bag Issue #14

By Mike Seibert

In this Special Issue: Shout-Outs and Picks from the Geek Nationals (on Twitter)!

In each issue of What’s In My Bag, I recap and review three individual single issues from my bag of recently read comic books. The order listed is not necessarily by preference. Also, be advised that minor spoilers may abound, but are generally in reference to previous issues only or other happenings that may relate to the issue being reviewed.

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I’ve decided to postpone the latest instalment of picks for the Geek Nation Podcast team for this Special Issue, highlighting suggestions from some of the Geek Nationals that I interact with on Twitter. One of the things that excites me most about being a part of BJ Shea’s Geek Nation is the sense of community; and I really enjoy interacting with fans of the Podcast. This website especially, is built for fan contributions and interaction. That’s why I thought it important to get these shout-outs rolling sooner rather than later. I’m excited and I hope this becomes an ongoing thing in What’s In My Bag. If you have a comic book that you’d like to see me review here, just drop a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @Seibert_Mike.

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From Jayme Beddingfield (@mebeddingfield on the Twitter):

Listeners of the Podcast might remember Jayme as the author of the Emerald City Nights series.

Below is a link to her interview from last December about the release of The Death of Miss Mind Shift: Emerald City Nights Volume 2: http://bjgeeknation.com/2013/12/13/bjgn-12-13-13-hobbit-godzilla-emerald-city-nights/  Both of her books are currently available on Amazon and are definitely recommended!

Jayme was one of my first Twitter Followers and we’ve had several interactions about suggestions for comic books to read since. When I reached out to her for recommendations for comics to review here, she gave me three picks. I’ll save the other two for another time (but they ARE coming!). Today, I’m going to take a look at:

All New X-Men #20 (Marvel)

I’ve always been a fan of the X-Men characters, but I had not picked up an ongoing X-Men comic book in years. Why, you ask? Well, the 90’s happened. I used to be all in; I read EVERY issue of EVERY book, and got roped into each and every crossover “event” that ran across the line. It just got to be too much. The quality of the books dipped and there was an over-saturation of titles. So one day, I just dropped them. All of them. And I didn’t miss them. Until this book came out. Being a sucker for time travel stories, as well as being a super-fan of Brian Michael Bendis’ writing; I was easily roped into this new series that sees the classic 1960’s X-Men pulled into the present day.

It was a great gimmick, and a good jumping on point for new readers, as well as lapsed readers like myself. I’m twenty issues deep, and the novelty has not worn off for me. The fun part of this book for me is seeing these classic characters written almost as they were during the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby era. The original X-Men really feel like they are 1960’s teenagers that are trapped in our modern era.

One of the cornerstones of good X-Men stories are the use of great alternate timelines and nightmare futures, like Days of Future Past and Age of Apocalypse. It’s fascinating and a little mind blowing that today’s Marvel continuity can actually be one of those “nightmare futures” for these past versions of the X-Men.

I also really like that these kids are starting to grow up and out of their original molded identities. Most of these divergences are happening with Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, what with her powers developing at an alarming rate not seen in the original timeline. There’s also some flirty romance with Hank McCoy/The Beast that was NEVER addressed previously, but I think it really plays here. It’s an exciting dynamic that now, in the wake of Battle of the Atom, that these kids can’t go back to their own time, even if they wanted to!

I’m not so thrilled about the new costumes, but the reasoning behind them still makes me chuckle. Anyone who has ever had to deal with teenagers knows that “cosmetically and hygienically” is the most polite way of explaining why one needs to change their clothes! I’m also not so sure how I feel about the recent addition of X-23 to the cast. Seeing the cover image of young Cyclops kissing what is essentially a female clone of Wolverine, is just…weird to me, given all of the (future) history between Scott and Logan. I also think it muddies the waters a little bit when other, modem X-Men characters join this team. Keep it to the original five!

What do you think of any of these recent changes?

Come for the writing and stay for the art; All New X-Men is a must read!

 

From Jon (TheJ_Hoe on the Twitter):

I don’t know about anyone else, but my Twitter interactions are relatively compartmentalized. I have all kinds of individuals that I chat about individual things with, but Jon is one of my favorite Twitter friends because he’s into just about everything I’m into: He’s a die-hard Seattle Seahawks fan (Go Hawks!), drinks lots of beer and listens to KISW, as well as reads comic books. Of course, he’s gonna be my buddy! TheJ_Hoe recommends:

Uncanny Avengers #15 (Marvel)

As a weird side observation, I just now realized that most of the last year’s Marvel NOW! Titles have since dropped the NOW! From the covers. I suppose that makes sense, given that soon there will be another “wave” of “All New Marvel NOW!” books hitting the stands. Wonder when that happened?

Anyhow, the basic premise of Uncanny Avengers is that in the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men, Captain America assembles (see what I did there?”) a new Avengers team comprised of both X-Men and Avengers; a Unity Squad whose mission is to promote a healthy image of mutants and humans (super humans?) working together for the greater good. Things do not go well…

Here’s the deal: this is not my favorite comic book. But I’m not going to poop on anyone’s recommendation, and I know I’m in the minority here. I also totally get why this comic is so popular.

The artwork is consistently fantastic. Visually, it’s impossible to go wrong with runs by John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men), Daniel Acuna (numerous Avengers and X-Men books), and now Steve McNiven (Civil War, Wolverine: Old Man Logan).

But the stories are just so bonkers! I give writer Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force) a lot of credit for weaving a lot of connective tissue between the Avengers and X-Men’s shared histories, but I just feel like things are WAY too complicated for a casual reader here. Anybody who doesn’t have a firm handle on the last twenty years of X-Men and Avengers continuity will be so lost trying to read this book.

It took me a long time to figure out what my issue with this comic book is, and now I’ve figured it out: It’s just that Uncanny Avengers is not very user friendly to newer readers. The alleged flagship title of the Marvel line should be the MOST user friendly book they publish, not one if it’s most convoluted! Unfortunately, I feel like its comic books like this that scare casual fans away. Whenever a new movie comes out, I wonder what kinds of comics those fans can read, because this isn’t it! On the other hand, if you ARE a long time reader, you will get a lot of bang for your buck with Uncanny Avengers. There is a lot for hard core fans to like here.

That’s the reason why I don’t dislike this comic. I love the art, and I can keep up with the bizarre twists and turns the stories throw at me. I may be a little tired of the Apocalypse Twins, and may think that this story relies a little bit too much on Rick Remender’s own Uncanny X-Force book, but I do still enjoy this comic. Certainly enough for me to keep buying it…

I’m also very interested to see if any of this issue’s shocking deaths actually stick or not. I’m leaning towards not since some of these characters appear in several other books also! That makes it so hard to take death seriously in comic book anymore…

Do you think that Uncanny Avengers is intimidating for new readers, or am I out of my mind?

 

From Evan Franke (@eknarfer on the Twitter):

Evan has had a few of his E-Mails read on the BJ Geek Nation Podcast before. They are always thoughtful and insightful, even if Rev can’t pronounce his name correctly half of the time!

Like me, Evan is a fan of Brandon Jerwa and Mark Rahner’s Special Ops (Thursdays on BJGN), and has even recently proclaimed himself to be their sixth confirmed listener (I’m number five).

I really like Evan. He’s a very normal, intelligent, and grounded guy. I also appreciate that he is a fan of our little website and podcast from outside of the Seattle area.

When I first started promoting this website and What’s In My Bag, Evan sent me a Tweet asking if I could review web comics, in addition to regular comic books. Honestly, I don’t really check out a whole lot of web comics and keep most of my reading to standard comic books. However, I’m always excited to try something new, especially on the recommendation of a fan. Evan recommended I check out:

 

Hunter Black – Book One: Betrayer’s Blood (Big & Tall Tales, Inc. – Self Published)

On Evan’s recommendation, I did check out this web comic at www.HunterBlackComic.com But as luck would have it, the publishers have recently released two collected volumes that are available for digital download on Comixology. Having a collected edition now makes this comic a comic BOOK! And at $0.99 each, these books are a bargain and are highly recommended! The first book contains 50 pages and Book Two: Whetstone has 63 pages; which is a far better deal that paying $3.99 for a 22 page Marvel or DC book digitally. (I have a debate/rant in me about digital vs. print, but I’ll save that for a different day and a more appropriate format).

Hard Boiled Fantasy, the banner under the title on the website, is the perfect description for this comic. This is the tale of Hunter Black, a cold-blooded killer-for-hire, who is betrayed by a cabal of unknown clients. Years of working in a prison mine have given him a fatal wasting disease, and only his magic sword can keep him alive long enough to get the only thing that still matters to him: Revenge!

The first thing that grabbed me was the visually stunning look of William Orr’s artwork. I love that the coloring is done in grayscale. It’s not exactly black and white. Actually, much like the characters, the entire world of Hunter Black is in shades of gray. The only color used, appropriately, is red; the color of blood. I like that, but I like more that it is used so sparingly. Actually, there’s also a little bit of yellow used for showing expression in the eyes. But, it reminds me of something Robert Rodriguez said about using flashes of color in the Sin City movie; using “color as a weapon” to grab the viewer’s attention.

Admittedly, it did take me a few pages for me to warm to the unique look of the characters. The designs are basic, and have a heavy animated/cartoon vibe to them. It seems to me that there’s a lot Genndy Tartakovsky (Star Wars: The Clone Wars 1st series) influence to the art. The action is very dynamic and fans of Samurai Jack would love this comic.

Writer Justin Peniston makes Hunter the perfect archetype of a grim anti-hero. From the first few pages, I picked up a nice Boba Fett groove, crossed with some Punisher for flair. Hunter doesn’t speak much or often, but his words carry weight. Using his internal monologue also helps the reader know what’s going on without being too heavy on the exposition.

There’s also little dashes of humor peppered throughout. There’s a great ongoing gag between Hunter and his ghostly companion that cracks me up.

Not really being up on web comics, I was pleasantly surprised how well the segmented web comic translates into a full book. On the other hand, this unique format grabbed ahold of my attention, and before I realized it, I had devoured the entire comic!

One thing that is missing from the published comic book version of Hunter Black that is on the web comic is a quick blurb from the creators below each page. Kind of like a commentary, that adds to the experience. Personally, after I read the comic book; I went back to the site and went through each page individually (as originally published) just to read the commentary, much like one would after watching a DVD, then listening to the commentary track. Suggestion: maybe if there is ever a larger print version of Hunter Black, maybe add the commentary as supplemental pages?

Book One of Hunter Black was a really fun read, and I am excited to rip into Book Two; I am hooked! Unfortunately, there will come a time that I am totally caught up and like Evan, I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting for the next page of the comic to be published on the site. A good problem to have.

But as cool as the stories are, the thing that impresses me the most is that this is a self-published labor of love for these folks. Justin Peniston, William Orr, and letterer Jacob Bascle are just regular folks, like you and me. Well, maybe a little more talented that you and me, but I sorely doubt these guys are in this for fortune and glory; they are just excited to share their passion with the world. And that’s something I, and any Geek National that contributes here, can definitely relate to!

You catch up with Hunter Black weekly at www.HunterBlackComic.com and follow Justin on Twitter @HunterBlackComx

 

Next Issue: More Picks for the BJ Geek Nation Podcast team!

 

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Like what you’ve read? Be sure to let us know using the comments below. Didn’t like it or disagree? Even better! Just please be sure to leave a comment and start a conversation.

Any and all feedback is appreciated!

You can Follow Mike Seibert on Twitter @Seibert_Mike and use the #WhatsInMyBag


About the Author

BJ Shea's Geek Nation is always looking for contributors. If you have watched, read, or played something that you think Geek Nation would like to read about, send your review to BJgeeknation@gmail.com and your review might get published!



2 Responses to What’s In My Bag Issue #14

  1. Evan says:

    Thanks for taking the time and care here Mike. I appreciate getting to be in the company of great fans and to get your presepctive on all three of these books.

    I hope you continue to like Hunter Black as much as I do. I am especially happy now that it comes out three times a week!

    Keep up the great work! “See” you on Twitter.

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