CBFU: From the Belgian Shop – July the 20th

Are you a comic book fan? Do you want to know what’s worth reading every Wednesday when the new comics come out? Well, this segment is the place for you. Every Wednesday, I will be reviewing new trades and issues, as well as some classics from time to time. These written reviews go along with the CBFU: From the Shop video episodes, which focus on the main reviews. I try to review all stuff they didn’t touch upon, but is still worth your time. And when Sam, Isaac and Fredo aren’t filming for a week, I’ll gladly take over their main comic reviews.

For anybody wondering: this is called From the Belgian shop because I am from Belgium, obviously.

All information on what issues and trades come out every week is obtained from Previewsworld, so go check that site out if you need to know what you want to read every week.

As for the reviews: let’s get into it!

1. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 1: THE COULSON PROTOCOLS (TPB) by Marc Guggenheim & German Peralta.

This is a series that nobody was waiting for, but was inevitable. With the success of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, comics like this are unavoidable. Unlike TV inspired comics like Arrow or The Flash for DC, where they aren’t integrated in the regular canon universe, this one is a part of the regular Earth-616 universe. (For people not familiar with this term, that’s just the canon Marvel comics universe.) It doesn’t necessarily suffer from that, but it doesn’t draw advantage of it either.

Marc Guggenheim is known for his involvement in the CW DC universe, with him being the co-developer and writer for Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. He also directed the Green Lantern movie from 2011, so he’s definitely not a newbie when it comes to comic characters. He is, however, relatively new to comics, with him only having written one or two stories for Marvel previously. His lack of comic book knowledge is noticeable here.

This volume collects the first 6 issues of the new ongoing series, based on the hit TV series. The team consists of Agent Phil Coulson, Agent Melinda May, Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons, Daisy Johnson aka Quake, Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird and Henry Hayes aka Deathlok. So pretty much the regular TV team, with an addition of Deathlok, who was previously in the TV series as well. The adversary they face is, you never guessed it, former agent Grant Ward. To fully understand the dynamic between the characters and their connections to each other, the TV series is recommended. Without having seen that, I think this comic might come over as chaotic and hardly understandable.

The story itself reminds a bit of the JLA: Tower of Babel storyline from back in the days over at DC. Agent Phil Coulson (previously Batman) has thought out a way to be able to defeat any Marvel superhero (previously every JLA member), while Grant Ward (previously Ra’s Al Ghul) found a way to get to that information to destroy everybody. The story feels very mediocre and not original at all. Issues #3 and #4 of this volume are tie-ins to the Standoff event from a few months back, but luckily this event is written as such that all tie-ins are easy to understand without having to read the other stuff. Nevertheless, Standoff is a good event and I definitely recommend reading it.

German Peralta’s artwork isn’t the best either. It feels sloppy and sketchy at times, and it doesn’t help with reading this comic. It’s not entirely bad, but it’s not necessarily good either.

All in all, if I had to compare this volume with the TV series, I’d say it levels at the quality of the second part of season 1. It doesn’t suffer from the lack of direction of the first half of season 1, but it’s not as good as the following seasons. If you enjoyed the first season of AoS, this book will be enjoyable. If you didn’t, this book is not for you.

5/10 Lugos.

2. Huck (TPB) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque.

You may or may not have heard of Mark Millar before, but let me tell you: he’s a phenomenal writer. With books like Civil War, Kick-Ass and The Ultimates on his resume, he sure is one of the greatest writers at the moment. Huck is no exception in this line of extraordinary comics.

This six-issue mini series follows a young guy called Huck, obviously, who can be described as the ultimate feel good character. At a young age he was left outside an orphanage with only one note attached to the baby: “Please love him.” As he grew older, he discovered amazing superhuman abilities, like enhanced strength, speed and the ability to locate anything he sets his mind to. He was raised to do a good deed every day, and that’s exactly how he lives his life. These acts range from taking out the trash for an old lady, to giving a homeless person his hotel suite, to even going out of his way to find some random person’s dog that ran away. And he does all of this with a smile, because he was raised to do so.

After three issues or so, the story starts to develop into some sciency, conspiracy superhero sci-fi story, which kind of brings the mood a little down. But nevertheless, the book keeps going on with the pace it did, and it never loses the emotional touch of Huck’s devotion to seeing the good in everybody and everything. The ending is beautiful and leaves a great possibility for a sequel to this book, of which there are already rumors. But at the same time, it closes the story in a way that you feel more than satisfied.

The art is perfect for this comic. Albuquerque’s art isn’t the best of all artists out there right now, but it definitely is the best art for this comic. And that is more important than being good art on its own. It accentuates the emotional aspect of Huck’s actions and the action scenes always feel vivid.

This book feels a lot like a Superman comic in his early days, where the world was a sunny place and where Superman always worked with a smile on his face. It reminisces to the old days of positivism and euphoria towards superheroes, which we lack a lot in contemporary comics. A definite must read, and probably a must watch in the near future, since Warner Bros. already acquired the rights to make this book into a full length movie.

9/10 Lugos.

3. Rocket Raccoon & Groot Vol. 1: TRICKS OF THE TRADE (TPB) by Skottie Young & various artists.

First of all, these two words alone should already have you buying this book: Skottie Young. This guy gets it. He perfectly knows how to tell fun stories with loads of humor, heart and emotion. This is a loose continuation of his pre-Secret Wars Rocket Raccoon book, which he completely wrote and which he drew most of. It brings some elements along, such as the birthday party for Rocket. But if you haven’t read that book (yet), no worries, because this book is perfectly understandable on its own.

This trade collects the first six issues of Rocket Raccoon & Groot, written by Skottie Young and every story is drawn by another artist, but always with the color work of Jean-Francois Beaulieu. The first three issues in this trade are a story about Rocket suddenly being an emperor of a planet, while Groot is imprisoned there. This story is really fun and shows how cunning Rocket can be when it comes to coming up with plans of any sort. But even though this beginning is already great, the rest of the book is where Skottie’s talent as a writer really comes to fruition. These three issues are all self-contained one-shots, which can all be read on their own. They’re fun little stories, ranging from an alien rugby match to Groot being mistaken for a god. They are funny as hell, and show an amazing friendship between Rocket & Groot.

As for the art department, it’s a shame Skottie Young is not drawing this. His interior art is just beautiful all the way, as seen in books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or his previous Rocket Raccoon book. But he’s been too busy with cover work for Marvel and his creator owned series I Hate Fairyland, so other artists had to come in to draw this book. The first three issues are drawn by Filipe Andrade, which is pretty good artwork. The art fits the story well, because the tone of this story is a little darker than the other stories, so the art goes along with that. Not superior artwork, but more than acceptable. The other three issues are each drawn by another artist, respectively Aaron Conley, Jay Fosgitt and Brett Bean. Conley’s art is… not good. He’s lucky that Beaulieu (who is in my opinion the best colorist in the game) is there to color it up so that it doesn’t really feel like total crap. But this is by far the worst of the book. Fosgitt’s art, however, is extremely clean. It reminds me a lot of Looney Tunes art, which is suiting for a book like this. Bean’s art is the best of the bunch. It really feels a lot like Skottie’s art and it’s just as clean as his, so it suits the book perfectly. So all in all, the art is more than good.

Overall, this book really makes you laugh and touches perfectly on a friendship that is unique to the Marvel universe. These stories are accompanied by great art, so that makes this score more than fitting.

10/10 Lugos.

CLASSIC BANGERSEternals by Neil Gaiman & John Romita Jr.

This seven-issue miniseries from 2006 reimagines the story of the Eternals on Earth, as they were already introduced in 1976 by Jack Kirby. It is meant to be an introduction for a new audience, telling a kind of origin story, while it’s still set in the present.

Neil Gaiman was the perfect writer for this book. With books like The Sandman and Marvel 1602 he already showed that he knows how to tell an intelligent story with interesting characters. This book is no exception to that. Gaiman introduces us perfectly to these new Eternals and sets up their origin in only one issue, while already setting up the main threat as well. The characters are set up immediately and from the first issue you already perfectly know what this book is about. In the beginning it’s a little bit hard to get into, though, because the book suffers a bit from the wide range of characters which we’re not familiar with. But while the book continues, these characters develop and you start to recognise everybody more and more.

The story follows some seemingly ordinary humans, who suddenly come to realisation that they have some kind of superpowers. They are contacted by another Eternal, who tells them what they are destined for. This Eternal tries to get a group together to stop the “Dreaming Celestial” from waking up. Whether they succeed or not, is all dependent on their willingness to work together.

As for the art, there’s not much to say about it. John Romita Jr. has a lot of haters, as well as a lot of lovers. Personally, I’m in between. His art is not great, but not bad either. This book could have done with a better artist, though, but I guess Marvel wanted to play on the popularity of Romita.

Definitely a must read if you want to know more about the less explored corners of the Marvel universe.

8/10 Lugos.

P.S.: Fun fact 1: issue #3 in this series was misprinted as stating it was issue 4 of 6.
P.P.S.: Fun fact 2: this series was originally meant to only contain 6 issues, but during the process it was changed to 7.

So that was that for this week’s comic book reviews. See you all next week when I review more comics!

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig

Benno
benno.debals@hotmail.com