Tag Archive: Top Cow

A huge week for comics this week and so it was hard to pick what five to give you folks reviews on. We continue to steer clear of the major Marvel event with Avengers vs X-Men mostly because it would be hard to jump into right now and I don’t want some of the other great titles to get lost. We also have a new comic from Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead that highlights our indie pick. And DC maintains the course. So, here is this week’s Pullbox!

DC – Green Lantern Corps #10 – John Stewart’s verdict has been passed down by the Alpha Lanterns, but even the Guardians are somewhat shocked that they’ve called for Stewart’s death. Guy Gardner won’t be having that though!

John Stewart always seems to be a moral compass for the Green Lantern Corps and issues that tend to be polarizing seem to always surround this character. So this story that deals with duty, honor, commitment, and a lot of other military-like values really does a great job of sticking true to form. On the other side of the coin, the brash Guy Gardner stays true to form as well as he orchestrated Stewart’s prison break. What’s most interesting though is how the rest of the Corps has rallied around Stewart and his big break out from prison is only the beginning of what looks to be an epic fight between the Alpha Lanterns and the Corps in the next issue. Plus, it will be interesting to see how the more villainous acting Guardians react to all this even further down the line. Right now, this is probably the best read of the Green Lantern monthlies and this issue continues that trend as well.

DC – Red Hood and the Outlaws #10 – Never a dull moment is to be had for our three favorite rejects. Shortly after the Night of the Owls incident has calmed down, Roy, Jason, and Kori are having some quiet time with loved ones. But right as Red Hood was in the middle of something, Starfire is visited by some old friends from her home planet and she is called back into action to fight for them…and Roy and Jason come along for the ride!

This is one of my favorite books of the ‘New 52’ and much of it revolves around the dynamic that Arsenal (Roy Harper), Red Hood (Jason Todd), and Starfire all have with one another. Plus Starfire may be the best drawn character in DC right now. I’m not sure exactly where this storyline is headed, but with possibilities of Starfire’s sister being involved, it could have an old school Teen Titans feel to it, which could be an interesting aside from how the book started and then the brief Night of the Owls interlude with Mr. Freeze. All I know is that this is usually near the top of my reading list every month and although this issue was a little slow, it’s yet to disappoint as a whole. Not to mention I’m absolutely loving Kenneth Rocafort’s art on this series. It’s just very visually striking and I love how he makes things stand out or blend together depending on the message needing to be sent.

Marvel – Winter Soldier #7 – A sleeper agent named Leo Novokov that Bucky Barnes trained years ago has been forcibly awakened. With no mission and little recollection of his past, all he wants now is vengeance on Bucky for what has happened and he will do anything to accomplish this, including forcibly removing anyone and everyone that is related to Bucky in any way from the picture. I think he’ll get the message.

Ed Brubaker’s work on this book so far has been absolutely stellar. Tying Cold War era spy story motifs into modern super heroes has been brilliant and the dynamic between Bucky, the Black Widow, and their handler should be turned into a handbook for a lot of other writers out there when it comes to interaction. Couple that with an intriguing story where Bucky’s past as Winter Soldier keeps coming back to haunt him in ways where there is always some crazy twist and this has been a fun and enjoyable ride thus far and I can’t wait to see how it continues from here. 

Marvel – Daredevil #14 – With the Omega Drive supposedly taken out of the picture, the five families of Mega Crime are in shambles after taking themselves out trying to get it back from Daredevil. Matt Murdock is indeed mighty pleased with himself. Until he is suddenly teleported to Latveria and must face the wrath of Victor von Doom who had his own plans for the Omega Drive!

Daredevil has been a constant joy every month and this issue leaves us on yet another cliffhanger as Matt Murdock’s world goes from bad to worse. His sudden disappearance is once again destroying his personal life and his crimefighting life may be down the toilet as for revenge for disposing of the Omega Drive, one of Doom’s cronies has infected Daredevil with nanites that are meant to remove all his remaining senses. And without his other senses to guide him, Daredevil is all but lost. I can’t wait to see how he gets out of this one next month. Maybe a little help from his friends, the Avengers?

Top Cow/Image – Hardcore #1 – A top of the line assassin named Drake never sees his targets. At least not in person. No, this assassin uses advanced technology that allows him to ‘plug-in’ to those close to his targets, monitor them for several days, and the pull the trigger with no one the wiser. They simply think the person has gone mad. And just before the puppet triggerman is done away with, Drake jacks out. But what happens if someone tires to do something to Drake’s body while he’s jacked in?

Part of Top Cow’s ‘Pilot Season’ two years ago, this one shot by The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman has finally been turned into a monthly and it definitely looks intriguing as the twist in this first issue is a doozy and sets up an exciting start to this series. With Drake suspended in stasis while his consciousness is in another’s body, he has only 72 hours to use the borrowed body to save the real one that is under attack right now. Chock full of action, this book looks to be something that everyone should add to their pullbox right now if they enjoy a little conspiracy theory stuff thrown in with their violence as this book blew me away.

Embrace the Darkness

Jackie Estacado may be the current prime Darkness wielder, but it’s corrupt taint is centuries old and has been influencing man for far longer than anyone can imagine. And as Jackie just learned in the comics after a confrontation with his estranged sister, he isn’t the only one with the ability to tap into its dark power like he had previously thought. Building on that idea, 2K gave us a preview of a new narrative cooperative game mode for The Darkness II called Vendettas, where four other Darkness wielders are teaming up to bring the fight to the Brotherhood and lend Jackie a hand he may not even realize he needs.

Once we picked real life co-op partners and settled into our chairs in front of some consoles, the new characters we could choose from settled into their own chairs around a poker table and began to plan their next move on how they would assist our dear Jackie’s fight while remaining hidden to him.

Starting off, we were introduced to Dr. J.P. DuMond. The descendent of a Creole family who settled in New Orleans over a century and a half ago, DuMond was a respectable doctor. But he was also a curious man and wished to re-discover some of his family’s roots by practicing a form of Louisiana Voodoo that he would use to heal his patients of their dark energies and store them in dolls. After some time though, he had accumulated a few too many dolls and was forced to keep them in a black metal box, which he nicknamed his Box of Tricks. When even that became too much, DuMond buried the box, hoping returning the evil to the Earth would rid him of the horrors he had compiled. Then a hurricane happened to hit New Orleans and the box was unearthed and came to the attention of the Brotherhood, who were drawn to this psychic sickness and its weaponization possibilities like moths to flame. Burdened with this responsibility, DuMond fights to protect the box and unleashes some of his “tricks”, upon those who would use it for nefarious means. DuMond’s favorite? Black Hole, which opens a vortex up in time and space and unleashes dark magic upon all those nearby and consumes them like maggots on a carcass. DuMond also has his Midnight Stick, which he uses as his Dark conduit to heal his allies as well as inflict harm on his foes as he can use it to wield what some would say is low-level telekinesis.

Next was Shoshanna. An agent of the Israeli Intelligence Agency, Mossad, Shoshanna is as by the books as they come. Israel has been aware of the Darkness for decades and has been training operatives to deal with it, and the Brotherhood, as necessary to prevent any type of worldwide conflict where it could prosper. She wields the Arm of the Night, a sawed-off shotgun infused with Dark essence. A heirloom that has been in her family for over 75 years, the Arm is interesting as it has unlimited ammo, but only four bullets a clip and is slow to reload so is best used for only dire situations. Her accompanying power is Gun Channeling. The Darkness’s infatuation with death-dealing technology allows Shoshanna to fire an even more powerful blast from the Arm, often dealing a one hit kill.

Next we came to Jimmy Wilson who looks like he belongs more in the WWE than fighting the Darkness. Not much is known about Jimmy and you don’t need to know much. He looks like WWE Superstar Sheamus except he’s Scottish and not Irish. But he hates the English just as much and believes the Brotherhood is simply the English trying to take over the world again. Whatever his motivations, Jimmy is an excellent fighter and uses his Darkness infused hand axe to deal death up close and afar when he flings it like a boomerang. Jimmy is actually the closest to the Darkness of the four, but is often too drunk to understand as he can motion his axe to summon darklings to his aid. Jimmy simply thinks of them as his special drunken fairies though and lovingly refers to them as his “Little Jimmys” (suddenly sounding more like WWE wrestler R-Truth) when he sends them into the fray.

Finally we came upon Inugami. Although he may not be as connected to the Darkness as much as the others, Inugami’s sword Kusanagi has been feeding on the souls of the innocent and the damned for more than 2000 years now. The ancient beginnings of the Brotherhood would use the sword to perform countless innocent sacrifices to their Darkness infused priests and soon the sword became as possessed as the wielders and would search for souls to feed on. It is said that the Darkness will leave the sword once it has feasted on 10,000 damned souls, the same amount of innocent souls it consumed while in Brotherhood hands. Looking to fulfill this curse, Inugami is on a thankless quest to bring death to those who would wrong others. But, there’s a catch. For every night he fails to kill an evildoer, the sword takes a small chuck of Inugami’s life force equal to one year off his life. So far, the sword has sampled Inugami 17 times. Inugami can call upon the Darkness in the sword to perform Swarm, an attack that sends a cloud of miniature demons after enemies and tears them apart like locusts on crops.

“This was a great opportunity to grow the universe. So we went to Paul Jenkins, who wrote on the comics and wrote both games, and told him to make whatever he wanted for four new characters. Our only direction was we needed four and that they needed to be strong enough that they could support a game all on their own. And at first he seemed intimidated by that, but then he realized the opportunity as well and just ran with it,” said 2K Producer Seth Olshfski on the idea of creating these four original characters.

Once settled in, I picked J.P. and my partner picked Inugami. Playing through the first two levels of the co-op narrative we began with rescuing a character who isn’t necessarily Jackie’s favorite person in the world, but figures he owes him one and so once rescued by the four, will serve as your “handler” of sorts as his Darkness knowledge has made him invaluable to many and will send you on missions looking for ways to harm the Brotherhood’s operations in New York. Although not as cool as Jackie’s quad wielding Darkness abilities and set up as more of a traditional two-handed first-person shooter, the need to work together and the clear differences between each character are evident from the get go. And the banter between each character adds a unique comedic twist to the story that compels you to push forward to see how everyone will continue to interact with each other.

“We knew the single player game would be heavy. Jackie’s life is not easy. And the things that happen to him are not pleasant. Jackie’s stories never end with puppies, rainbows, sunshine, and happiness. That’s what you want for single player. But a game you’re playing with friends? You don’t want that strong emotional moment while you’re on a headset with other people. You want more of a gallows humor you would have talking about how you’d blow up when the grenade came down while you’re fighting in the trenches. And that idea of a dark comedy helped inspire where we went with the narrative co-op,” said Olshfski when speaking about the tone of Vendettas.

After completing our pair of story missions, we were introduced to the Hit List mode, which are separate missions from the main co-op narrative campaign, but still fit in to how the four work together and how they face off against the Brotherhood. We were shown a middle level Hit List mission where the four must take down a Brotherhood big wig that works for the local news station. Unwisely, my partner and I chose new characters to get a different feel of the game with, me going with Shoshanna and him with Jimmy. I say unwisely because the difficulty level definitely spikes as you progress further in the modes and not having leveled these character up like we had J.P. and Inugami left us at a distinct disadvantage when Brotherhood minions began swarming us for the climatic final battle of the mission on the news building’s rooftop. After several deaths we were able to overcome the level, but clearly leveling up your character’s powers in earlier missions will be key to progressing through either Vendettas or Hit List. An interesting note we learned while playing this mission though was that although you can play Vendettas by yourself if you so choose, there are many missions in Hit List that require the co-op assistance of a friend. Looks like I had better go back to work on actually leaving my hole in the ground and making some friends then!

“Vendettas as its own game, is enough of a game that you could put it in its own box and sell it. Early in development, we felt the core pillar we needed to support was in service to the story. We talked about competitive multiplayer and some other things, but narrative based co-op was it because we could tell a really interesting story. A lot of people tack on the multiplayer aspect at the end because someone says they have to. This was our plan from the very beginning,” said Olshfski when I asked him about just how much of an experience people can expect from this new mode. If that is true and The Darkness II is akin to two stories in one with this new, intriguing, and highly polished mode, then I think this is going to be a game that will please a very wide audience for a variety of reasons and I can’t wait to personally embrace the darkness come February 2012.

An interesting week this week as it was a rare 5th Wednesday in the month. And when this happens, typically there is a shortage of comics and this month’s victim was DC. Only a couple of DC titles were released and nothing of any note. So, to still meet our required five, I’m going to look at three Marvel comics that at least had a few decent titles come out and a pair of indies. Enjoy!

1) Marvel – Uncanny X-Men #2: As the X-Men continue to try to work their way through Mr. Sinister’s army of clones to get to the headman himself, the remaining Celestials are making an interstellar beeline for Earth, infuriated that their sleeping brother has been tampered with in such a way. Can the X-Men get to the root of Sinister’s plan before the Celestial turns everyone on Earth to dust?

The plan that Mr. Sinister lays out is one of the most nefarious schemes we’ve yet to see from any X-Men villain and puts him in the running again with guys like Bastion to be the number one threat to the X-Men’s plans of a peaceful existence. To see his new power levels and how he handles many of the X-Men’s heavy hitters like they were rag dolls makes you wonder how the heck Cyclops is going to find a way out of this one and compels you to keep reading this awesome series re-launch story arc.. Not to mention I want to see what is going to happen to Emma and how they’re going to reattach her arm when she leaves diamond form.

2) Marvel – Daredevil #6: Daredevil is still trying to get to the bottom of this international terrorist organization conspiracy while saving his new client from becoming the latest loose end tied up by these criminal power players. On top of this we finally learn about the new and mysterious Bruiser who looks to be able to brush off Daredevil’s best moves like they were nothing. Can Daredevil overcome this and save his new friend?

Daredevil has surprised me every issue so far as it finds a way to creatively find a way for Daredevil to overcome each situation thrown his way and this issue doesn’t disappoint as Daredevil’s unique radar sense saves the day for him twice. Tempered by some light humor and cool action sequences, this monthly should be in your pullbox for the foreseeable future even if not a diehard fan of The Man Without Fear as the high quality of this monthly may turn you into one.

3) Marvel – X-Men Legacy #259: Not sure whether to join Cyclops or team with Wolverine in Westchester, Rogue and the rest of X-Men who have returned from Shiar Space are having a tough time coming to a decision. When Rogue meets with Magneto though and hopes to borrow his thoughts to maybe come to a decision herself, she sense something familiar piggybacking on Magneto’s consciousness. Once brought together, Emma finds that each of the space farers have a fraction of this consciousness and once pulled together, a blast from the past looks maybe return to the fold.

With a dwindling number of mutants in the Marvel continuity, the chance to bring back a thought dead character is always refreshing and I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming. If successful, it can add a new dynamic to whatever team chosen by this mystery character while also bolstering ranks. The biggest downside of this issue though is we mostly already know for the most part who from the space farers goes where in terms of Schism, but the return of this new character still makes this a worthy title to pick up and is definitely worth it as our extra Marvel title this week.

4) IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4: Old Hob finally catches up with Raphael as we come to learn just why Old Hob is still so adamant about taking out all the turtles. Just when things look to be their darkest though, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo finally catch up with their wayward brother and once this fearsome foursome reunite, Old Hob starts to realize he may have bitten off more than even he can chew.

Basically closing this opening arc while reintroducing old and new characters alike in a way that should please all diehard old-school TMNT fans, the future is wide open for this book now that Raphael is finally brought back into the fold. The only question now is what threat will emerge to take on the Heroes in a Half-Shell now and just what will happen to Old Hob when he has to report to his mysterious masters that he has failed. Old and new TMNT fans alike should be reading this fresh take on some of our favorites heroes as this book looks to really start amping up now and looks to only improve on an already solid start.

5) Top Cow – The Darkness #95: Jackie is in trouble and from an unsuspecting source: his sister. Revealed to also be a Darkness wielder, Jackie starts to learn just how long the Darkness has been around and has to make a tremendous sacrifice in order to get out of the harrowing situation he finds himself in once again.

Wrapping up this 6-issue story arc as the Top Cow universe prepares for their universal re-launch, which seems to be the theme in comics in 2011, we see Jackie continue to make sacrifice after sacrifice to expel the evil that is the Darkness from the world while trying to avoid the temptation that always come with wielding so much power. The twisted demonic action that has been a staple of this monthly continues and only looks to increase as we steadily approach what will likely be a landmark 100th issue as this sets up the next great story arc for this monthly that will kick off explosively in the next issue. If you haven’t read The Darkness before, now would be a good time to get into it, especially with an awesome looking game related to the franchise coming out in February.