Yes, they will - just don’t cancel it!
Amazon often go through a phase where they whack the pre-order price up to RRP a while before release. My guess is that it will come back down, but probably not quite as low as £95.
So yeah, keep the order on until closer to release.
X-O Manowar, Volume 1
A word of warning, this review is going to be quite spoilery as it’s more or less setting up the entire book, I’d argue that you’d have to get the deluxe hardback of books 1-3 to really get the full origin story, but that would be a hell of a lot more writing.
Italy, 402 AD. The Visigoth tribes, having fled the Hun invasion of Dacia try to eke out a space for themselves in the shadow of the Roman Empire, but when they’re not useful fodder for Roman wars, they become the victims of that same Roman army’s predations.
Following a disastrous battle in which his wife was abducted by Roman soldiers, Aric, heir to his uncle Alaric’s crown leads a raiding party against what they think is a Roman force only to discover an alien shuttlecraft. After the party is slaughtered, the survivors are taken as slaves, while a number of the Visigoth children are replaces with shapeshifting aliens. In an attempt to break his spirit, the aliens mutilate Aric - cutting off one of his hands, though his warrior spirit lives on.
These aliens are The Vine. An odd species which worships plant life and uses their captured human slaves to tend a garden on their ship. A sect amongst them also worships Shanhara - a metallic sphere which flows outwards to become a suit of armour. The Vine believe a worthy individual will claim the armour and it’s incredible power, but every Vine who’s tried to wear it dies in short order.
I think everyone can see where this is going - Aric leads a slave revolt, puts on the armour, and doesn’t die, using the suit’s power to even some odds. He’s eventually blown out of the Vine ship, and escapes to Earth, only to discover sixteen centuries have passed at home. and he’s truly a man without a home now.
That’s not the full story of volume 1 - there’s some more setup in there but I want the book to have some surprises. And so, to talk about the book itself. This was where the new Valiant universe started, and as such it had to be a strong title out of the gate. There’s a real feeling of a mission statement about the while thing, and even so it’s a cracking read. Robert Vendetti, who as noted above also wrote Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, has a great sense of pacing, with each of the 4 issues within sending on a satisfying point, telling a good chunk of story while being part of a greater narrative, and each part - even the last having some level of cliffhanger or incentive to read further.
Cary Nord’s art is accomplished, with a great balance between detail and leaving enough blank space that the scenes are easy to follow. There’s a great sense of motion during the battle sequences, and Aric and his best friend Gafti especially have very expressive faces. Aric largely carries the book on his own, so having a strong sense of who he is is vitally important.
The other thing the book does right off the bat, and helps to set the tone for the rest of the Valiant Universe is a sense of verisimilitude. The Visigoths in the past sequences wear convincing 5th century European clothes - they’re a barbarian tribe, but they’re not given the trappings of stereotypical Fantasy barbarians, nor are they made out to look like Mongols. Similarly, Alaric, the general the Visigoths are fighting, and the Emperor named are all historical figures appropriate to the year 402. Similarly, the battle in issue 1 is based on a historical battle between Alaric and Stilicho
When Aric returns to 21st century Earth, he’s confronted by soldiers carrying what look like M4 carbines, and when he takes to the sky is pursued by Eurofighter Typhoons. It gives us a sense that the oddness of the Valiant Universe has been kept hidden from the world for the most part, but the arrival of Aric on Earth changes everything.
Read on to see exactly how it does change…
Some series start off great, then they get wonderfully collected and become better still and this is one of them.
I’d read the first trade then a few months later news of an OHC hit, well, that was that, time to tradewait it - and it was a very good move because the 15 issues here form a very cohesive whole of consistently excellent quality.
On the one hand, this is a damn fine spy tale set in the 50-70s, the classic height of the Cold War era. As merely that, it would be a damn fine comic but it’s not. No, Brubaker recasts everything we know about spies by the character of Velvet, a woman in a man’s world with everything that that entails. The result is a story that is both surprising and very entertaining as we follow Velvet as she attempts to outwit a grand conspiracy.
One of the smartest moves Brubaker makes with the character of Velvet is that he sets her up with flaws and weaknesses, but they don’t undermine her as a character, instead they simply define her better, as part of her story. It sounds really easy, but how often do you come across a flawed female lead in any story? It’s quite the balancing act he’s pulled off here.
On the art, Epting and Breitweiser are one hell of an art team. The imagery they put together is excellent and there’s some brilliant subtlety in the colour palettes used to tip the reader off as to which panels are past and present. NOr is that the only great trick they pull off.
Finally, the OHC presentation is excellent. You can probably get this for around £26-28 online and it actually deserves that price. It’s three trades of top notch material and it’d cost the same or more to buy the trades.
There will be another story, no idea when, but I can wait. The only thing they didn’t do here, which they really should have, is have the last page read:
Valerie Templeton will return
Comics - Everyone Else (NOT Marvel / DC)
Birthday trades… Ok, not ones I bought for today, but ones I’ve held off reading until the right day:
The Black Beetle Volume 1
There’s an awful lot to like about this very good quality hardback from DHC and Francavilla.
On the face of it, there’s nothing new here in terms of noir and pulp tales, but what it does have going for it is a very exuberant and varied art style that really emphasises the enthusiasm Francavilla has for the book. He varies panel layout, splash pages, with a strong focus on movement and flow - it works very well.
The only concern I have is that, now he’s started this well, he’ll make the mistake of many creators and not go back to it for some years, by which time no will care about it.
Rise of the Black Flame
It could be said this is the most unfriendly to new readers story going, but in counterpoint, who would buy this to read if they were not already familar with the Mignolaverse? Probably very few people, which is just as well as within the first few pages there’s a barrage of references to BPRD’s two big arcs, Edward Grey and the Krill armour suit.
It’ll be no surprise that this is a dark and tragic story, but much of the Mignolaverse is that, so it fits perfectly.
If you’re a fan, this is essential; if not, it’ll confuse the hell out of you.
Moonshine Volume 1
On the one hand, any Azzarello-Risso collaboration is always worth a look, but I can’t say I was that impressed by this. It’s well-executed to be sure but, in terms of it being a supernatural, horror, gangster hybrid, it suffers due to the fact I recently read The Damned, which takes a different angle over similar ground, but which I found far better.
The other weakness here is I can’t see that much fuel in the tank for it continuing.
It was all-right, but with this creative pairing I tend to expect more than that.
This is coming out in September.
The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek HC
Francesco Francavilla (W/A/Cover)
On sale Sept 6
FC, 56 pages
HC, 7” x 10”
The masked American hero ventures to the Middle East incognito (as Tom Sawyer) to fight Nazis in pursuit of a mysterious object of terrible power—a weapon of unknown origin, older than the pyramids, which could fuel the Thousand-Year Reich of Hitler’s dreams. This story originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #28-#32.
Thanks, spotted Amazon was offering it for £10.03 a while back so went and nabbed it as a pre-order.
Happy birthday, Ben.
Happy Birthday Ben. I hope that you’re having a good day, although with a large stack of trades at the ready, it seems like you are.
All the best Ben - happy birthday!
Thanks for the well wishes
Forgot to say earlier, the Black Beetle trade has an excellent foreword…By Darwyn Cooke.
EDIT: Dealer Alert
This is on 40% off at FP:
£21.59 + £1 postage - so £22.59
Happy Birthday, Ben. And Rise of the Black Flame is an awesome book/story arc.
Jerry stole my line, Ben. Black Flame is Temple of Doom extra-special-extended-directors-edition awesome if you take my meaning.
For those silly fools that don’t buy the Judge Dredd Megazine, Lawless can now be pre-ordered.
Archer and Armstrong Vol.1
It’s true. It’s all true. The 1% are a shadowy cabal who control the economy, there are hidden societies inside the Vatican, using their wealth and influence. All the conspiracies are out there, working together - and against each other as they jockey for control of the world.
Beneath a creationist amusement park, Obidiah Archer, adoptive son of a preacher and a congressperson - and trained assassin - has just used his preternatural combat skills to defeat his brothers and sisters, the prize being a mission to kill He Who is Not to be Named - the evil one who stands in the way of their conspiracy.
Of course, things do not go as planned. He Who is Not to be Named is Aram Anni-Padda, immortal, poet, and drunkard, better known to the 21st century as Armstrong, currently working in a New York Bar as a bouncer for drinks, spending most of his time convincing young women to remove their bras to be nailed to the wall of the bar he works in. And when Archer meets him, they become embroiled in a bar room brawl. Of course, things go downhill from there, Archer discovers that his parents were more than willing to sacrifice him if it furthered their goals, and he realises Armstrong is a better man than he’s been lead to believe.
And so begins the great adventure, as this mismatched pair - the world-weary immortal and the naive young man team up to defeat the sect, or at least stay a step or two ahead of them. And, well, it’s really funny to boot.
The setup for the book - the interaction of the various conspiracies - is clearly influenced by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s seminal Illuminatus! trilogy, as all the best conspiracy theory stories are, but the madcap sense of humour (as opposed to Illuminatus!’ wit) makes the book feel like the craziest session of Steve Jackson’s Illuminati card game you’ve ever played.
The creationist theme park Archer grew up in has all these lovely details lampooning the actual Creationist museum (There’s a dinosaur ride, “just like cavemen used to”, and “junk science follies” with a chimp Darwin), the 1% want to stabilise the Euro by blowing up Greece, and rationalise the death of some henchmen as being able to replace them with contractors and pocket the dead mens’ pension and insurance contributions, therefore transferring even more capital away from the poor. The parodies are very broad, so if you’re a religious conservative or a free market capitalist you might be more offended than amused, but as a severe leftie I found these jokes hilarious.
Fred Van Lente’s script balances the pointed humour with a lot of fun dialogue, Archer refuses to swear, calling things “flipping bullcorn” and the like, Armstrong is by turns poetic and sardonic, and their interactions sing. Clayton Henry’s art has a nice style that’s reminiscent of the clean lines of a lot of modern US cel animation, nicely expressive and willing to ramp up the detail where necessary. Archer’s power is kind of a Taskmaster deal, he can reproduce any physical moves he’s witnessed, and there’s a very nice touch whenever he uses this power, where a dictionary definition of the different martial arts, anatomy quirks he exploits or other skills he uses are included in captions or superimposed on the panel
I really enjoyed this book, it’s a great mix of serious and funny, to the point that it stands alone as a comedy book, but when it (or the characters) crosses over with more straight-laced Valiant titles, it’s not incongruous - think back to that one issue of X-Factor where they fight the MLF, and they complain about all the jokes, and at least when they fight X-Force there’s no wisecracks. So when there’s an Archer and Armstrong/Quantum and Woody teamup miniseries (The Delinquents), it’s a jokefest. But when there’s a brief crossover between their book and Bloodshot (around volume 4 of both series), it’s more like Bloodshot has to deal with these two guys who won’t shut up - but they work well. The couple of issues in volume 2 where Archer and Armstrong are chased by the Eternal Warrior are amazing in that regard.
Marvel appear to be buggering about the supply for this omnibus - even FP says ‘stock on the way soon’.
In other news:
Saga: Book Two
This suffers from some weaknesses:
First, it can’t match Bk 1 for sheer impact.
Second, going for the outrage angle frequently ends up becoming standard when read as a big block, so it no longer becomes but more bored disinterest. A dragon wanking itself for instance. I kind of had a feeling as to what was coming before I got to the image itself.
Third, Vaughan’s tendency to kill off characters without warning means I’m simply not inclined to invest as much in the story - hey, I can play games too.
Where this volume succeeds is in moving the story through years, with the war still raging, with various characters going through their own developments. It also ends on a positive note, though doubtless more slings and arrows will be in-bound for everyone. Ghus is a lot of fun here, as is Squire. I also liked the riff on King Robot, others have TVs for head, he has… plasma screen super-size.
Staples art remains superb too, which gives the book a truly unique look.
At the point this story is at it needs a bit more of direction than it has. I can imagine reading this even in regular trades could irritate. It reads far better as a big block, but there’s a sense of wheels being spun.
Saga reads much better as a monthly book rather than collected editions.
I have to catch up on Saga, but I always found that with other stuff by Brian K Vaughan. Even going back to Runaways, the guy was a genius with a cliffhanger.
I felt the same.
This is what had me drop out of Saga around issue 20 something.
Although I do intent to pick it up again at somepoint.
Like you I also watched characters being bumped off willy nilly before I’d even developed an affinity for them or strong opinion on them.