Bookwyrm’s 10-Word Comic Reviews & Recs: X-Men Prime, Cosmic Scoundrels, Lazarus & More

I don’t think you guys understand how much I like writing these articles for you. In order to find the best comics this week had to offer, I actually endured the entire issue of the SUICIDE SQUAD / BANANA SPLITS special. Seriously. I read the whole thing — and survived. But not without scars. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t review. To be honest, I’m still trying to purge the damn thing from my mind.

This week, Kitty Pryde finally gets to lead the damn team; we get to see what it would be like if Bill & Ted had become space thieves instead of time travelers; Willy Wonka meets Battle Royale in a fight for all the marbles; a Russian spy does things that don’t directly influence American politics; and a girl named Forever didn’t volunteer as Tribute, but she’ll be damned if that doesn’t stop her from getting her murder on.

Here are this week’s issues that #RocktheRack:

X-MEN PRIME #1
Publisher: Marvel
Story: Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak & Cullen Bunn
Art: Ken Lashley, Ibraim Roberson & Leonard Kirk with Guillermo Ortego

What The Trades Say:
RESURRXION BEGINS HERE! In the wake of their war with the Inhumans, the X-MEN are at a crossroads. Where do they go from here? Luckily, one beloved X-Men has the answer to that question: Xavier’s dream comes full circle as KITTY PRYDE returns to the X-Men, ready to lead them in their mission to protect a world that hates and fears them. The next chapter of the X-Men’s saga starts here!

What Bookwyrm Says:
The X-Men were my gateway into comics. I started watching Fox’s animated series when I was in elementary school, and it hooked me from the start. When everyone was arguing over who got to be Wolverine on the playground, I called Gambit from the beginning. (Of course, he got pretty popular as well, but Wolvie was always the favorite at my school.) Over time, I’ve lost touch with the X-Men. The movies, overall, have been a disappointment (though there have definitely been some standouts), and further cartoon adaptations just couldn’t capture the magic of the early 90’s. I haven’t paid much attention to OG mutant team since I was in high school. With this number one, I figured it would be a good time to jump back in.

Budding comic writers, take note: This is how you lay the groundwork for a new multi-series arc. Spinning out from this one comic is X-MEN GOLD #1, X-MEN BLUE #1, and WEAPON X #1. And, believe it or not, they’re all set up rather well. And in a single story, no less. Normally, this is the kind of thing that would make me cringe — using one issue to set up multiple books. But here, it was done so well that it didn’t bother me at all. All three plotlines are simple enough, and they all intertwine nicely.

For those like me who are starting fresh, here’s the recap: “Returning to Earth after a series of adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy, former X-Man Kitty Pride discovers that she’s not the only one starting a new chapter. In the aftermath of their war with the Inhumans, the X-Men find themselves out from under the threat of extinction and with an uncertain future stretched out before them…”

Did you miss that Inhumans crossover event? No worries — Storm is here to clear up what happened and why it’s important. Confused about some of the relationships hinted at here and there in the dialogue? There are flashback panels to help. This really is a great jumping-on point for new readers, and a well-written one at that. Each of this issue’s three writers (one for each of the spin-off series listed above) are excellent plotters and wordsmiths, so that really comes as no surprise.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Kitty steps up, and we all bow down. Excellent start.


COSMIC SCOUNDRELS #1 & #2
Publisher: IDW
Story: Matt Chapman & Andy Suriano
Art: Andy Suriano

What The Trades Say:
Space-faring bachelor scalawags Love Savage and Roshambo — along with a little mothering from their ship’s AI, Mrs. Billingsley — shuttle from job to job and continually find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Despite their best efforts to look out only for themselves, they usually end up involved with alien crooks, shady black market baby schemes, and space sickness-inducing drugs. They’re on the loose and on the run — from everyone!

What Bookwyrm Says:
Taking a peek at the resume of these two, I understood immediately why I loved these issues. Andy Suriano worked on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, while Matt Chapman is a writer for Gravity Falls and a co-creator of internet darling Homestar Runner. This series started out as a webcomic, but IDW has put it in print and on your local comic rack. And damn, I’m glad they did.

Right out of the gate, this stuff is hilarious. First of all, the main characters zip around space in a ship called the SS Fistpuncher. And yes, it is shaped like an arm with an abnormally large fist on the business end. The look and feel (not to mention some of the dialogue) is straight out of the 80’s, so if you’re looking for a retro homage that kind of (okay, blatantly) makes fun of the era it’s paying homage to, this is your book. I can already tell I’m going to be sticking with this one for a while.

In the first issue, our heroes take a thing from a ship. Hijinks ensue. In the second issue, our heroes open the thing they took from the ship, and it’s not what they were expecting. More hijinks ensue. The plot details really aren’t very important, to be honest. It’s a fun story, and the jokes are rapid-fire. Seriously, there’s something to laugh at on every page.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Time to party with the Space Bros. I couldn’t stop laughing.


UNFOLLOW #17
Publisher: DC / Vertigo
Story: Rob Williams
Art: Mike Dowling

What The Trades Say:
History is reversed. The world has changed. Larry Ferrell has seen to that. As confusion reigns across the globe, deep in the Venezuelan jungle, the remaining members of the 140 put down their smartphones and pick up their rocks. Only one can come out of this alive.

What Bookwyrm Says:
If you haven’t heard of UNFOLLOW before now, here’s a primer: a dying social media mogul leaves his billion-dollar fortune to be split evenly between 140 random people — or, rather, whichever ones are still alive once he finally dies. Their stories take the world by storm, and they race to take each other out.

“I offer you a parable for our times,” the mogul states. “A magic box sits in your pocket with all the knowledge and music and entertainment of the world contained within it. If you opened this box and looked down into it, how could you ever possibly look up again?”

Those lines get an entire page to themselves, and they deserve every inch of that real estate. This book is filled with powerful stuff. Sure, the story is engaging, but that’s not necessarily why you’re reading. You’re reading because it’s not hard to imagine something like this playing out in real life. Because this isn’t some kind of superhero fantasy with supernatural powers or talking animals (okay, well, there is a talking animal, but he’s another story). This is a parable of a world gone wrong. A world we’re dangerously close to inhabiting already.

It’s the kind of book that you read with a lump in your throat, considering you have no idea who’s going to survive and make it to the next page, much less the next issue. Everyone is expendable, and a sizable amount of the main cast has already been shuffled loose the mortal coil at the beginning of this issue. And a few more join them before its end.

Also, if you’re just now hearing about this book for the first time, well, you’re already a bit late. Issue #17 is the penultimate issue of the series, which will be wrapping up at the end of next month. But the entire story has been released in two trade paperbacks so far, and a third is soon to follow. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a complete omnibus released in time for the holidays this year. And I’m planning to pick it up. I love these kinds of stories — stories that hook you with an intriguing premise, then make you rethink the world around you once you realize that it’s only intriguing because it feels way too damn familiar.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Eerily accurate social commentary — with a kill count, of course.


BLACK WIDOW #12
Publisher: Marvel
Story: Chris Samnee & Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee

What The Trades Say:
IT ALL LEADS TO THIS! All the secrets? All the lies? All the vengeance? It all ends here.

What Bookwyrm Says:
What I learned in this comic: Black Widow has a heart, Tony Stark has a heart (mostly black, but it’s there), Maria Hill has a heart, and I have something at least vaguely resembling a heart. (Full disclosure: the last couple pages got me. Maybe it’s the whole kids thing.)

Samnee and Waid led a well-received run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, so the idea of them taking on a year-long run with Marvel’s resident badass Russian former spy sometimes-Avenger had lots of Marvel fans pretty excited — and for good reason. The run has been fantastic. But, alas… as all good things tend to do, this one is coming to an end.

In this issue, the duo finish their story, tying together bits of Natasha’s past with the present. The Red Room has made a reappearance during the storyline, and with it a whole new generation of potential assassins. Samnee and Waid, over the course of twelve issues, have crafted a story that are both global and personal, and the whole run is a worthwhile addition to any collector’s longbox. That said, let’s get into this final issue.

The fights in this issue (you knew they’d be there; what’s a Black Widow story without some ass-kicking?) should make Widow fans proud, as Natasha not only displays her excellent hand-to-hand combat skills, but also more than a bit of brainpower. For me, the highlight of the issue was a silent section toward the middle where Natasha makes her way back to the girls. It really speaks to the quality of the art when the pages can be filled with emotion without a single word appearing in the panels.

If you’ve been following along for the past year, this final issue is a good payoff. If you’re picking it up for the first time, it’s a solid issue that might make you want to go back and check out the entire run. Regardless, it’s a solid recommendation.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
There’s lots to love for Widow and Marvel fans alike.


LAZARUS #26
Publisher: Image
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark

What The Trades Say:
“Cull,” Part Five! Vassalovka strikes. The Beast is unchained. Forever suffers a devastating loss.

What Bookwyrm Says:
I knew something about this series looked familiar. Turns out the team of Rucka and Lark were the minds behind a DC series I used to love back in the day called GOTHAM CENTRAL. If you were a DC fan in the early 2000’s and that book wasn’t on your pull list, you had problems. It’s what Fox’s Gotham could have been had Bruno Heller bothered to look up anything but character names when he was brainstorming the project.

(Mind you, I haven’t watched any of it since the second season opener. After that sh&#storm, I’m never going back, no matter what they do. However, that Cameron Monaghan is a damn good Joker. But I digress.)

LAZARUS is the kind of book that comes along once in a blue moon. It’s an original idea with an excellent storyteller at the helm and a true artist at the pencils. The way Lark uses contrast in his panels is one of the most effective I’ve ever seen as far as creating moods. The man’s a damn master. And Rucka is a man after my own heart as a writer. He doesn’t rely on exposition and info dumps to create his worlds; instead, he drops little hints and subtle bits of information in every issue. That way, the reader gets to know the world as they get to know the characters. While it can make pacing difficult at times, it’s the best way to create total immersion.

For those unfamiliar with the story, let’s dig into the background a bit. In LAZARUS, the world has been divided up among sixteen different families who run it like something out of the middle ages. The haves and have-nots are clearly defined here, and each family has a chosen champion (a “Lazarus”) who represents them in combat.

Fans of the book have had to wait almost six months for this issue, but was it ever worth it. A Big Bad gets a hell of an introduction, and some questions about the protagonist that have been around since the series’ beginning are answered.

I know I didn’t talk much about the issue itself. That’s because I don’t want to spoil a second of it. If you read comics at all, this one deserves to be in your list. Just add it, then make a note to thank me later. While you’re at it, pick up the previous volumes to catch up. This is an incredible story, and I can’t wait to see where the team takes it from here.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Masterful combination of epic storytelling and fantastic art. Don’t hesitate.

Looks like the Big Two made a bit of a comeback this week. I’m still loving all the indie books I’m discovering, but it’s nice to see that the standard superhero rags can still put out some quality stuff on occasion. Regardless, that’s all for this week, folks. Until next time, this is Bookwyrm saying, “Read ’em if you got ’em.”

Ryan Haddock10 Posts

An award-winning author, avid reader, occasional roleplayer, and father to three young geeks-in-training, Ryan loves a good story in any medium — from books and movies to comics and video games. In addition to the above, he is also a dedicated Whovian, a superhero enthusiast, and a Browncoat who just can't seem to let it go. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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