The Ultimate End ultimately disappoints in this week’s #NerdsRead pull list. It’s an unfortunate swan song for an alternate universe that was once full of promise. Meanwhile The Goddamned shocks and awes. Need something a bit more lighthearted, though? The Lumberjanes start off on a new adventure with brand new, badass counselor Seafarin’ Karen!
Check out all of our reviews below and let us know what you think in the comments!
Author: Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
Be still my heart. Seafarin’ Karen – you are glorious. In a fantastic debut issue for latest artist Carey Pietsch, the Lumberjanes set off on a new adventure going head to head with a new camp counselor. April – still obsessed with maritime everything – is attempting to get all of the water-based badges. But when the other girls fail to keep up with her knot-tying skills new, gruff counselor Seafarin’ Karen tells them all they succeed together or they fail together. If April wants her badge, everyone has to get the knots right.
April takes the girls’ failure personally and thinks that Karen’s implying that they aren’t much of a team. They obviously disagree and are determined to prove it. But when they go to have a heart to heart with Karen they find her in a stand-off against a group of selkies. They think she stole one of their pelts so they stole her boat. The girls track down the Bear Woman to try and get some help but before they can accomplish anything Karen gets angry and loses it… and turns into a werewolf. Even the girls aren’t surprised by their counselors suddenly turning out to be supernatural.
All New X-Men #2
Author: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics
For better or worse, the last seven years of X-Men comics have been reckoning, more than any other subject, with the role and perception of Cyclops. From his time as the de facto leader of the mutant race, to the face of humanity’s potential destruction, to the voice of rage and revolution, Scott Summer’s evolution often mirrors the direction the X-Men comics are heading at any given time. In a post-Secret Wars universe, with Cyclops dead following an implied abortive attack on Attilan, for once, Scott’s not the one defining his place in the universe. Instead, his disciples are doing that for him.
The new volume of All New X-Men started off a bit slow with a lot of table setting and reestablishing character dynamics but this second issue narrows the focus to the young, time-displaced Scott Summers facing off with a group that idolizes the man he’s meant to become. For the Ghosts, Cyclops is an unknowable force of rebellion, a being fruitlessly thrashing against the machine and they’ve styled themselves in that image. Young Scott just sees them and, to a degree, himself as someone defined by an often misguided, homicidal, incredibly flawed would-be idol. The rest of the issue doesn’t quite stand up to that discussion, mostly focusing on Hank and Bobby feeding the Bamf that powers their teleporting VW bus and Idie and Evan working on car stuff. Even a slight digression to discuss Bobby’s sexuality ends up going really nowhere.
Writer Dennis Hopeless has always taken a no-bullshit perspective on X-Men nostalgia and Scott’s complicated relationship with the man he’s meant to become is indicative of that view. It’s a great discussion that paints a fascinating portrait of a character who was often ignored during Brian Michael Bendis’ generally solid run. Less successful is Mark Bagley’s art, which splits the difference between cartoony hijinks and slightly dated looking fashion. It’s a problem Bagley has had in the past, notably during his time on Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and it’s not fixed here. Thankfully, Hopeless’ portrayal of Scott is a strong enough anchor for a weak b-story and less than exceptional art but it’s a book that’ll need to flesh out the rest of its cast and premise in order to excel.
Ultimate End #5
Author: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s near impossible to overstate how important the Ultimate Universe has been for Marvel over the last 16 years. It’s a move that arguably saved the company from bankruptcy, one that provided the imagery and style for the company’s now world-conquering film franchises and introduced Miles Morales, arguably one of the most important new characters of the last decade. It deserves a better ending than this.
Billed as a finale to the Ultimate Universe as its best parts get jammed into the newly formed post-Secret Wars universe, Ultimate End sees the line’s main architects, Brian Michael Bendis and his longtime artistic collaborator Mark Bagley, attempt to wrap up many of the universe’s long-term stories and provide a satisfying ending for many of the characters. They universally fail in this task. It’s an issue that, while it features dozens of both the 616 and 1610’s biggest characters, focuses solely on Miles, Peter Parker, and Tony Stark, characters Bendis is writing in other books, and wantonly kills off the rest of the cast off-panel in a goofy as hell two-page spread that’s been broken into a 70-panel grid.
For all his many, many strengths, Bendis has rarely been able to stick the landing in a series finale and this is one of his biggest failings. Much like Age of Ultron before it, Ultimate End #5 provides only lip service at giving an end to a story, much less a universe with more than a decade of history, instead serving as mostly an advertisement for the upcoming Spider-Man series. Ultimate End #5 is a commercial you have to pay $4.99 for and is such a comically dickish move from Marvel, especially towards one of their most beloved, lucrative properties. All in all, it’s a heartbreakingly disappointing comic, especially for those who loved the Ultimate Universe and it casts a pall over Miles’ upcoming series.
The Goddamned #2
Author: Jason Aaron
Artist: R. M. Guéra
Publisher: Image Comics
On the third page of this week’s The Goddamned #2, a man threatens to “gut fuck” the biblical Noah. On the first page, a main stands amidst the corpse of a dragon and screams into a puddle of blood. Halfway through the issue, a group of starving, cannibalistic children leap upon the immortal Cain and attempt to feast on his flesh. It’s a comic that, depending on your taste in violence, obscenity, and the use of sex and sexual assault as a motivating force for characters, is going to ride a very narrow line between high camp, low art, and genuine obscenity.
In a lot of ways, The Goddamned is the Jason Aaron story you’ve read so many times before in a way you’ve never ever seen. With brutally weird, post-apocalyptic fantasy art from R. M. Guéra, Aaron casts Cain as a nihilistic force of vengeance against a God who’s thoroughly punished him for his homicidal sin but there’s a bleakness here that’s unparalleled. Cain’s sadness is palpable as he walks into an ambush, hoping to be murdered by a pack of cannibals. There’s the same running monologue that’s going to feel familiar to readers of Scalped, Ghost Rider, Southern Bastards, Wolverine, and Men of Wrath, but the artistic touches and the sense of a very real paradise lost that makes for a comic that feels wholly, wretchedly unique, and horrifying.
The violence, implicit and explicit references to rape and sexual assault and general blasphemous obscenity isn’t going to play for everyone but there’s a sense of purpose here that elevates the material in unexpected ways. At so many times, The Goddamned could feel like the Book of Genesis by way of Hot Topic but it’s fascination and reverence for biblical apocrypha and establishing of character makes for a fascinating, blood-soaked comics reading. It’s the revenge comic it feels like Aaron has building to for decades and it’s one built on broken bodies and a twisted shattered earth.