Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Venom 13.4: Circle of Four - Thoughts so Far.

Okay, we're into part 5 now. This one scripted by Remender himself.

So how does it fair?

Freaking fantastic!
This issue finally starts getting more towards what I expected from this arc. The characters feel more authentic, and not like the caricatures the previous issues came across as. The story is starting to wind down, but the action is picking up too. It has an awesome cliffhanger at the end that just makes you want to scream "OH HELL YES!"

To be honest, I was getting to the point where I just wanted to give up on this story altogether. I didn't want to do this entry. I couldn't pawn it off on anyone. Believe me, I tried everything even bribery to do that. So I finally said screw it, I'll just read the damn issue and get this out of the way...

Boy was I glad I did. This issue was perfect. The character voices are on key. The humor is on point and organic without being forced and overabundant. The story details are fluid. The ideas come across as fully formed. Nothing is just shoved to the wayside. All around this issue has been what makes comics fun to read and has the depth I've been wishing the previous had with the concepts they presented.

I'm looking forward to the final chapter now. From where I once was waivering I'm now excited about this story again.

More to come on this as the story comes to a close next week! Finally, we're in for one hell of a ride!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Preview: Venom 13.4

The preview for the fifth part of Circle of Four is up on CBR.

Venom 13.4 will be released this Wednesday the 29th of February.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A few thoughts on Avengers Academy Issue 26

It was a good read, and interesting. Very light on X-23 but what it did use was pretty dead on accurate so no complaints. There seems to still be an undertone of Hazmat's jealousy of X-23 with X-23 oblivious to it. There's a one panel allusion that Mettle might be developing a crush on X-23, but nothing really explored yet on that front.

Some of the lines of dialogue in this issue really stuck out to me. "When you think you're a hero, everyone else looks like a villian." It's a line that speaks directly to egos and how self-perception clouds actions and perspectives. Granted it came from what could very well be a villian, it's still a very valid point. When you self-proclaim you're something, you won't see the actions you do that harm others as bad from your own self-perceived infallibility. Hank Pym also had a follow up line against that though that was highly enlightening. "To be redeemed you have to take responsibility for what you've done. And you have to be sorry." A line that speaks directly to the heart of the above hero quote too. When you refuse to be wrong, refuse to be questioned, or feel the need to blame others for your own mistakes, you can't be redeemed because you'll always be making the same mistakes without remorse. These are both great lessons that should be more actively taught in this day and age. I'm grateful they made their way into this comic that's all about growth and maturing.

Overall a very interesting read, but not much to talk about on the X-23 front. So be sure to buy a copy yourself to see how it's all unfolding including the reveal of the future selves leader. This issue was a fantastic and deep read!

Marvel May Solicits for X-23

CBR has the May solicits up from Marvel.

For X-23 fans this means Avengers Academy and the Vol. 3 Premiere Hardcover of her v3 comic that Marvel seems to be calling her 2010 comic.
They've also corrected the solicit this time so it lists issue 21 instead of 22 on her TPB.

• Both issues tie-in to AVENGERS VS. X-MEN!
• The Utopia and Gen Hope teens have come to the Academy…as prisoners?
• Sebastian Shaw strikes!
• Guest-starring Wolverine, Hawkeye, Hercules and Captain America!
32 PGS./Rated T …$2.99 (EACH)

When an offer to join Wolverine collides with an offer from the FF, X-23 is forced to decide wheter she wants to continue her life as an assassin — or take a break and see what it’s like to be a regular teenager. Then: What could possibly go wrong for Hellion and X-23 on an already disastrous night? How about being kidnapped to another galaxy by the Collector? Plus: Jubilee guest-stars as X-23 returns to Utopia, to decide once and for all what direction her life should take. After all this time spent deciding who she will be, will X-23 permanently choose a team, as well? Collecting X-23 (2010) #17-21.
120 PGS./Parental Advisory …$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5281-1
Trim size: standard

Venom 13.3: Circle of Four - Thoughts So Far

Well, we're over the mid point hump. So how did this fair?

For Ghost Rider, Red Hulk, and Venom it was pretty good.

For X-23, it seems they let the lack of knowledge shine. While we got futures from the others, X-23 only got the immediate present.

I'm not sure what I was expecting. I was thinking maybe they'll dive into her solving the Kimura problem without it being a quest for revenge and finding her family again. Maybe they'll dive into her mother being in hell. Maybe they'll show her growing into her own hero before it all goes bad.

Pretty much all we got was a really brief touching moment of her "I have a soul realization" followed by her taking delight in destruction. Then it bled over into her calling triggerscent a pheromone and attacking Wolverine while still concious of her actions.

Since this is hell though, I can let a lot of that slide since it was supposed to be conveyed as nightmares gone real. Considering how guarded Laura is with her thoughts and memories it wouldn't surprise me that even the devil himself couldn't get a bead on her real fears and dreams. I'm not sure if that was intended, or just a happy accident. There's no clear push to establish that for the audience.

The ending pact seems odd, but we'll see how that goes. Considering everything X-23 has overcome, it could prove to be interesting to see how that pact is handled later after ample amounts of research is done into the character. Plus it does setup a potential sequel if the pact isn't dealt with in this arc.

Overall, this issue just illicits a kind of shrugged whatever on the X-23 front from me. It's picking up though over how it started. It's still not quite where it could have been. Overall this just feels like a classic throwback to old comic adventures but without the 'anything matters' feel to it or attention to detail. I hope the buildup here to suggest that's changing does indeed change though. Lots of promise here, but without any sense of it was intentional or not.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Preview: Venom 13.3 and Avengers Academy 26

CBR has the previews up for comics being released on February 22nd.

Venom 13.3 and Avengers Academy 26 in particular should both have X-23.

Venom 13.3 looks like it could be a fantastic issue with what it seems to cover. If handled with care at least. So we'll see. Thompson's side show's promise, but Venom wasn't the one that was having canon/character accuracy issues anyway. It could nose dive quickly with the others, or it could prove that they were just saving the best for here and the rest.

Avengers Academy 26 is continuing on where the previous issue left off and could prove rather interesting for the unknown future of the Academy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Venom 13.2: Circle of Four - Thoughts So Far

Well we've hit the midway point now. Part 3 in a 6 part crossover.
This issue to me was definitely better than 13.1 was. It still has its flaws though sadly.

Most notably, the liberal usage of contractions X-23 is using without reason other than being hurt. Previously she's used them only to punctuate a point in defiance, but here with all the injuries it feels out of place and forced. Injuries and confusion like this you would think would create a sense of falling back into her natural speaking patterns, away from pretenses. It could be argued that it's from her will to persevere and be defiant towards X-666, but again that focus to move through the pain and shock of not healing she seems to evoke, would push her words back to what's familiar to her. Being defiant towards X-666 doesn't seem right either as Laura has previously shown X-666 doesn't bother her, and isn't worth her notice. It feels odd, could be warranted, but just doesn't feel natural compared to previously when she's done it in her ongoing.

We get to see a return of the bodyguards though and that was a highlight. We also get an answer to a question we pretty much already knew the answer to. That question is about whether or not she has a soul. I guess it's nice in a way since it did prove it to X-23 without a doubt, but her ongoing had made her seem to have long outgrown that question.

How X-666 was dealt with was rather marvelous, and really helped make me want to like this issue. It was quite fitting and satisfying.

All around decent read with some minor flaws. The artwork is great to boot with the return of Sana Takeda. Sadly, personally the biggest highlight for me was the insert towards the end about when X-23's ongoing returns. After three issues of this, I'm ready for a return to the ongoing's style with a quickness. This event so far has really felt like an excuse to mock the other comics more than really add anything to them.

13.3 looks like it should be a decent read with everything this issue has been setting up, so keep your fingers crossed that this event just keeps getting progressively better!

I didn't miss the ample amount of metaphors within this issue in particular either. I just didn't feel like commentary on them were needed with it outside the purview of this blog's focus. Stuff like how Venom used the Evangelist's 'good book' to defeat a brain that controlled emotion didn't feel like something audiences would miss or something I needed to bring up along with many other small metaphors scattered throughout with Red Hulk and Ghost Rider. Plus the statements this has now made with the Venom and Toxin symbiotes having souls based on Blackheart's comments to X-23 just didn't feel like it needed to be discussed. Though the Venom symbiote having a soul does lend more credence to the Ichor theory.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Circle of Four - Random Theories on Ichor

Okay, I've made it pretty clear I'm entirely biased on the Antithesis.
X-666 is lame, annoying, and only surface level jabs that are boring and meaningless. Encephalon is just typical brains vs brawn type cliches. The Evangelist is pretty much what's expected for an alcoholic.

Ichor though... He's surprising. Not what you would expect completely for Ghost Rider. Fits on a surface level as much as the others. She's hellfire doing good and Ichor is Godlike liquid doing evil, but is it really that simple? The weapons don't seem to mesh either. Swords against chains? They don't seem as much opposites compared to the others, like pom poms vs knives, brains vs brawn, and a bible vs guns.

Let's start with the name Ichor. It's a two fold thing. Ichor is from greek mythology for blood of the gods. It's also an anagram for choir, the word used for a group of angels. This includes how they are specified. Angels fall into what's called The Nine Choirs. The Nine Choirs are Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Archangels, and Angels. The hierarchy order tends to vary from religion to religion, but the choir names tend to stay. Cherubim, Archangels, and Angels are also part of the Heavenly Host, otherwise known as the army of God. Being of the heavenly host can also be a word play about being blood from that which hosts heaven/created and owns heaven. Which brings us back to blood of the gods. His appearance seems to play up both nods though the writing seems to solely be using his "Blood of the gods" nod so far. At this point though, only a third of the story has been released. His design and name overall show a rather deeper thought process involved compared to the rest.

So how does blood of the gods play into this? Well let's think about this for a second. What is it? Well in the greek references in specific it's a goopy like thick substance that's considered to be something only immortal gods could shed. It's also been used in relation to the blood of Christ which brings us back to the christian angelic references and heavenly host connection of Ichor's design. According to Lovecraftian lore, it acts and is described much akin to how the symbiote that comprises Venom acts. This includes how it seemingly abandoned the host it had when Ghost Rider defeated it. It left him in a crumpled heap as if Alejandra had broken the curse the mirror gave. Could it really be that simple and quick for a name derived from immortal beings?

What if it's not that simple? What if Ichor in particular was never the antithesis to Ghost Rider at all? There were 5 people that stared into that mirror if you think about it. Flash and the Symbiote could count as two. Plus with Ghost Rider being from hell and literally made of a hellfire demon, maybe she was immune to the mirror. What if Ichor is really the Antithesis to the Venom symbiote instead? The evangelist is pretty much directly tied to Flash Thompson, so the symbiote was seemingly skipped in this ordeal. Add in this is a plan from Blackheart, the son of the devil. A demon with ample arrogance that constantly causes him to make grand mistakes which backfire.

If this is the case, it makes Ichor the opposite to the symbiote. The weapon is blades/swords vs organic tendrils, a more natural opposite than metal hellfire chains. The venom symbiote being an alien that's evil incarnate now which feeds on negative emotions. Does this mean that Ichor may be more complicated hiding in a sea of characters that are only surface level cliches? It'd make for an interesting twist to say the least, would catch fans off guard, and would be something more up to what one would expect from Remender. He has a habit of hiding more complex ideas behind aspects that make you miss them at first until he's ready to use them. So is Ichor really the anti-symbiote that feeds off of positive emotions? A being who is 'good' but made to do evil right now like Venom is evil but being made to do good through Flash?

Personally I rather hope so. It'd yield an interesting twist. It'd create a new angelic like symbiote character to add to the Marvel stable of characters, and present interesting twists to what has been a rather bland story so far. It'd also put down some interesting groundwork for the upcoming Venom issues set to deal with hunting down Symbiotes. Besides of course Venom's own reaction to Toxin in earlier issues. Those are symbiotes of its own race though. Ichor would be something entirely new and without any complex alien race backstory to be concerned about anytime soon. Something that could be fun to play with and use within the confines of Marvel for all kinds of things in the future if they decided to dive into a 'divine' celestial symbiote angle much later. Then again, that's how Venom himself started too. Just a one off idea created from Secret Wars that grew into something much much bigger that quickly became a fan favorite.

Ichor represents a lot of possibilities and potential stories to tell using anyone from the Marvel universe. The parallels alone seem like too much to pass up, and I for one hope they use them to their advantage to give us something spectacular when we least expect it. Just imagine the sparring Ichor could have with the science created Anti-Venom. The self-proclaimed righteousness of a religious zealot against a being who literally is blood of the gods could make for some rather interesting stories and banter.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong in this too and Ichor could just be a simplistic idea of angelic liquid doing evil's bidding used against the Hellfire demon that punishes sinners. That's not as simple as I made it sound either. So let's hope if this is the case, they do go deeper into the complexity between these two. Zarathos, a demon who can be wielded by the host fighting Ichor, a liquid 'angelic' being that can't be controlled by his own wielder? Ichor of the heavenly host, a soldier made from the blood of gods against Zarathos, a hellfire bounty hunter/demon gone rogue? Liquid made metal holy swords against metal hellfire chains. Sounds good on paper, but just feels like it really lacks punch to it if that's the case. Still seems too simplistic and surface level reflection... (Which is entirely possible as intention due to how Thompson was in control at the time the reflections happened and it was just a mirror afterall. I might be looking too deep, but I expect deep from comic books.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Preview: Venom 13.2

CBR has the previews up for comics being released on February 15th. This includes Venom 13.2, part 3 in Venom: Circle of Four.

This go round has art by Sana Takeda, and seems to be a large improvement over what 13.1 gave us. So here's hoping.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Venom 13.1 - Thoughts so far

Venom 13.1 is part 2 in the Circle of Four storyline, and it has hit shelves today!

So time for a quick rundown of how it's coming across. Part 1, if you read it, gave us a quite angry X-23 that's tired of being violated. It did nod some of her more recent stories like being an advocate for 'respect' towards women, but may have gone overboard on trying to make her sound poetic.

Part 2 though, so far is different. I was wrong about Ichor. He's the Antithesis to Ghost Rider. Glad to see they picked up and ran with his name's nod to blood of the gods. It's a bit of a shame he's knocked out of the fray so early though. Out of the 4, he was the only moderately interesting one and could have easily grown into something worthy of being part of the Marvel stable of characters. The rest are rather boring cliches as fitting as they may be. The alcoholic vs a preacher, military brute force against a psychic/empath, and the outcast vs a popular cheerleader girl. (I kid you not, she keeps cheering "I'm nuanced! I'm nuanced and you're not!" Hard to tell if that's a pot shot at the ongoing, or trying to play up the ongoing's commentary about self-professing being worthless to defining oneself. Actions speak louder than words. She plays up a lot of irony, but not enough to salvage the cheerleader as anything other than annoying.)

Ghost Rider really takes the spotlight in this issue more than the others, while other tidbits again are starting to feel mildly forced. X-23's parts in particular especially feel this way with the taunts thrown at her and the randomness of her stopping to ponder the moment. Flash fits to a degree and considering his personal arc, it's passable. Red Hulk's parts feel rather boring really. Overall, this comes across like a story thrown together by writers that only have deep knowledge of Ghost Rider and Venom. The rest feel way off the mark and ignoring their own personal histories from their comics.

Overall, this issue I hope doesn't reflect what's to come. If anything, it's starting to make me really miss the X-23 ongoing with how contrived and yawn inducing this characterization comes across. It borderlines on insulting, but it's hard to tell if that's intentional or not as yet. It could be because they are stretching Remender too thin across multiple titles. I'd rather not think this is intentional from the man that gave us the Dark Angel saga. Maybe it's being hampered by how it was seemingly group written, so everyone's style is coming out somewhat muddled.

This is only part 2 though. So be here next week as part 3 hits shelves with this title having nowhere to go but up!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

CBR Interviews Liu As She Bids X-23 Farewell.

CBR has an interview up with Marjorie Liu that covers a range of topics from X-23 to her upcoming work in Astonishing X-Men.

It might answer some final questions you may have lingering about X-23, including some tidbits about Julian and what she would have done later in the title. It's a sad time to see this comic go, but much thanks goes out to Ms. Liu for allowing us this ride while it lasted.

January 2012 Sales Rank

January shows a slight rise in the charts while sales seem to dip again slightly from the cancelation effect. The premiere hardcover shows a clear decline as well, but possibly not from lack of interest as it wasn't advertised very clearly. Personally, I never even saw it in book stores. So this leads me to wonder how much of the sales dip is caused by Marvel and not from lack of interest. Probably didn't help matters it was released on a day most sites blacked out in protest of Marvel supported PIPA and SOPA.

As always, you can check out how previous issues and TPBs/Premiere Hardcovers did in their month of release over in the Sales Rank section.

X-23 v3 #20
Cover Price: $2.99
This issue was ranked 87 out of 300 according to ICv2 which is based on Diamond U.S. to comic specialty stores. The issue has sold an estimated 20,730 copies to them.

X-23: Chaos Theory Premiere Hardcover
Price: $19.99
This premiere hardcover ranked 99 out of 300 according to ICv2 which is based on Diamond U.S. to comic specialty stores. This number does not reflect total volume sales through bookstores.

X-23 Daken: Collision TPB
Price: 19.99
This tradepaperback ranked 73 out of 300 according to ICv2 which is based on Diamond U.S. to comic specialty stores. This number does not reflect total volume sales through bookstores.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Preview: Venom 13.1

CBR has the preview up for the next part in circle of four. Venom 13.1 will be hitting shelve this Wednesday, the 8th of February. Be sure to check out the next part in this hellish romp for the new age temp Fantastic Four.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name...

...Would still have thorns.

X-23 is a creation that's nearing her 10 year anniversary, but there are still some questions that fans have about her. For instance, and haste to get to the point, her name's origins.

X-23 is the 23rd attempt at creating a genetic twin of weapon X for the Facility. She has no ties to the weapon X project at all other than Dr. Rice's father who stole the initial blood sample at the cost of his life. The clone processes were failing due to Logan's DNA degradation for whatever reason(his mutation, or the age of the sample), so Laura's mother used unorthodox means in secret to create a success. Those secret trials took 23 attempts to work. X-23 the name also refers to the variation on her 23rd chromosome that makes her female instead of male. The 23rd chromosome pair is what determines gender under (for lack of a better term) normal circumstances. Hence she is named X-23 (23rd chromosome pair XX = Female, XY = Male). It's multi-referential on many levels. There's more behind that name, but those are the pertinent facts that matter.

That's not to say X-23 suffers from gender identity issues. This is why the genetic twin over clone aspect comes into play and one of the many reasons why simply writing her as a female Wolverine doesn't work(the others being her backstory, education, and training). X-23 was created via a mixture of techniques that mimics cloning but also mimics fertility treatments in how it was creating a zygote for implantation. She is entirely female born and raised, if albeit under unorthodox means. Her genetic stock exhibits the same powers as Wolverine, but also exhibits traits from her mother due to how she was created. She does have Wolverine's exact X-Gene(his mutant powers), but it is implemented in a body that's the same as what's commonly refered to as a test-tube baby/daughter created from the DNA of two parents. Her DNA also isn't subject to the same degradation that Logan's was. It's a pure corrected sample that can be used to create "true" clones. At least in the Marvel sense. 

A clone is defined by being created asexually by a single progenitor cell or organism. Which according to X-23's origin stories, isn't how she was created. That was the original intended target specimen creation of the Facility though, and why Xander Rice calls her "clone" repeatedly to dehumanize her and demean X-23. It was his way of taking verbal jabs at Dr. Sarah Kinney, Laura's mother, for her success where he failed. A success that, in his mind, undermined his superiority to her and was an assault on his pride as a scientist. Let's be perfectly blunt about his character. He's an egotistical douchebag.

Venom Issue 13: Cirlce of Four - Thoughts So Far

Erm, I'm not sure what the hell that was I just read. I've got mixed emotions on it right now.

Reflecting on only the X-23 parts...
One minute I'm scratching my head wondering how story elements apply like blood that's been to hell and back(X-23's ongoing went into the hell of her own mind, and not real hell, but it could be someone else's blood for that)*. Other spots seem to be okay though the written voice for this X-23 is hard to really get into with how angry it's being delivered. Some spots are awesome. Some spots are again rather headscratching like the genetic twin comment which looks like it was randomly changed from clone to genetic twin(clone is the soulless debate, genetic twin is a much heavier issue, but it can slide because of self-perceptions of the character and the anger her voice is carrying that may hinder pure rational thought on the issue). To be fair though, genetic twin is more accurate than clone per the previous minis and ongoing, and I am glad to see it used as opposed to continuing the derogatory clone remark that Dr. Rice perpetuated onto Laura that confuses many fans.

While I'm scratching my head one moment, they then throw curveballs that are awe inducing. (Symbiote hybrid X-23 clones, that's just pure win.) There are other spots that are fun and interesting too, but at times it feels like they are using references and sites for the information as opposed to having read the material itself that came before. At least that's how it feels for X-23. Her parts come across as information from quick conversations, wiki references, some reference sites, and some creative liberties. Some of it works really well, some it is head scratching inducing. All of it kind of screams not having the time to dive into the character themselves for a firmer grasp of the persona and history. There are some nice nods to X-Force via the cloned 'sisters', but then they diverge reflecting more of a "gotcha" moment than really adding to the previous elements of her stories. All things that could have been easily found on any fan blog, fan forum, or reference site though, and lack a feeling of depth to them as yet.

The ending anti-thesis baddies are interesting though. X-666 is pretty much the exact opposite you'd expect, but the one that really caught my attention as wow was Ichor(the anti-thesis to Venom**, which is also an anagram for choir and is a greek god reference). I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for designs like his. Out of the 4 shown, I hope Ichor remains and grows into something more in the Marvel universe.

So far, Circle of Four is promising, but I'll save final judgement for when all the puzzle pieces are out and put together. It's worth checking out, but be warned. It might leave you scratching your head inbetween moments of awesome.

*It is someone else's blood for the portal. The exact wording is "The blood of a mortal who has been to hell and back." X-23's blood is only a vial that was used for the X-23 symbiote hybrid bodyguards. This dissmisses any Valkyries or other Norse beings as well since they aren't 'mortals.' More than likely it's just the blood of the girl he shoves through the mirror moments before.

**Correction, later in the event it's revealed to have been the one for the Alejandra Ghost Rider.

A Few Thoughts On Avengers Academy Issue 25

This issue had some great throw backs to old comics, but was really lacking on the X-23 side.

To sum it up, we really only get two quick blurbs. One of which was covered in the preview.

1. Hank Pym thinks X-23 heals slowly and hasn't full developed her powers.
This could be misdirection or simply Hank's lack of knowledge on Laura as yet. He has been rather preoccuppied with the other students, and has lacked sound judgement so far as the issue reflects in Jocasta's words.

2. Hank Pym has access to the X-Men database.
Again this brings into question above, but it also shows he rarely references it. There's also the question of how much if anything there is of X-23 in the database.

That's pretty much it for this light on X-23 read. It was a fun comic to read, but everything else, like future Finesse's similiarities to DC's Nightwing costume, is outside the purview of this blog.