Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

Foreign Objectives

The Punisher #1
“World War Frank, Part One”
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
Cover artists: Greg Smallwood (regular)/Clayton Crain, Frank Cho, Mike Zeck & Salvador Larroca (variants)
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter online about how entertaining this latest relaunch of The Punisher is, so I decided to have a look despite a general disinterest in the character. While there’s a novel idea at the heart of the plot, with two super-villains trying to advance their agendas through a facade of legitimacy by way of international politics, writer Matthew Rosenberg’s take on the title character is much like those before it: the implausible single-mindedness of a vigilante who’s impossibly impervious to harm.

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Flea-Market Finds: Avengers #194

Avengers #194
“Interlude”
Writer: David Michelinie
Pencils: George Pérez
Inks: Josef Rubinstein
Colors: Ben Sean
Letters: John Costanza
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: 40 cents

My local comic shop holds the occasional back-issue sale, and lately, it’s been bumping up the discount week by week. I reaped a Bronze Age bonanza at 70 per cent off, and this 1980 Avengers comic was among the treasures I snapped up. This is the first chapter in the storyline that introduced Taskmaster to the Marvel Universe, but he’s not seen here. As the title suggests, not much happens in this issue, but it’s a great spotlight of what sets the Avengers apart from other super-hero teams in the Marvel Universe and how important the interpersonal character dynamics were to the appeal of the property then and even today. It’s a well-balanced issue from a characterization perspective. But hey, it features vintage George Pérez art as his career was just beginning to ramp up — that’s all the reason I need to shell out less than a buck for a fun back issue.

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Flea-Market Finds: Spider-Man, Power Pack

Spider-Man, Power Pack #1
“Secrets”
Writer: Jim Salicrup
Pencils: Jim Mooney
Inks: Mike Esposito
Colors: Ken Feduniewicz
Letters: L.P. Gregory
“Runaway”
Writer: Louise Simonson
Layouts: June Brigman
Pencils: Mary Wilshire
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: Joe Rosen
Cover artists: John Byrne; and June Brigman & Bob Wiacek
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics

As someone who started reading comics in the late 1970s and grew into adolescence in the 1980s, I’d read about this giveaway, public-service comic, published in 1984, and I’ve always been curious about it. When I saw it at a big flea market recently, I plunked it in the growing stack of old comics I was amassing at the show. This unusual footnote in comics publishing was one of the first of those 60 comics I read, and I was struck at how earnest and direct it was about its subject matter.

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Russian Interference

Captain America #1
“Winter in America: Part I”
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates
Pencils: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks: Gerry Alanguilan
Colors: Sunny Cho
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Alex Ross (regular)/Adam Hughes; Joe Jusko; David Mack; Frank Miller; Paul Renaud, Joe Simon & Jack Kirby; Marko Djurdjevic; Ron Garney; Mike Zeck; and John Cassaday
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

We got a little taste of what writer Ta-Nehisi had in mind with this title in one of Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day offerings this year, but it didn’t really hook me. I felt rather the same way about the first couple of issues of his Black Panther run, as I felt it relied so much on Priest’s contributions to the character that it paled in comparison. With this first full issue of Cap, though, Coates has piqued my interest. He explores the notion of a broken America beset upon by a foreign power through the lens of the super-hero genre, and there’s a great deal of potential in it. My only qualm with this issue is the scant amount of exposition that really would have made for a more accessible read, given the amount of recent continuity that factors into the script.

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What About Bob?

Sentry #1
“Sentry World, Part 1 of 5”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Brian Hitch (regular)/Kim Jacinto and Pyeongjun Park (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I don’t get it.

When writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jae Lee introduced the Sentry in 2000, it was an interesting experiment in genre storytelling – a super-hero who’d been erased from continuity because it turned out he was as big a threat to reality as he was its savior. The problem arose when Marvel’s writers and editors decided to make use of the character beyond the initial limited series. The character was wisely killed off in the Siege event book eight years ago. And now he’s back, because… because… Why the hell did Marvel bring him back? Jeff Lemire doesn’t offer an explanation for how Bob Reynolds survived his supposed death, nor is there a clear purpose to this deeply depressing story.

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Hammer Time

Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Mike Del Mundo & Christian Ward
Colors: Mike Del Mundo, Marco D’Alfonso & Christian Ward
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Sabino
Cover artists: Del Mundo (regular)/Kaare Andrews; Russell Dauterman; James Harren; Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta; Esad Ribic; and Christian Ward (variants)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been reading Jason Aaron’s tenure on the adventures of Marvel’s God of Thunder for several years now, and it remains as entertaining as ever. He takes a slightly different tack with the main story here, approaching the Norse hero from a sillier perspective at first, and it’s a lot of fun. The backup story also features his ongoing exploration of King Thor of the far-flung future and his granddaughters. Where this comic book goes awry is in regard to something that’s out of the hands of the creative contributors. The marketing and publishing strategy here is all wrong, focused solely on a short-term gain but not on building the readership. This doesn’t work as a first issue in any way. It’s built completely on Thor stories (featuring the Odinson and Jane Foster incarnations) that have come before in recent years. This isn’t an accessible gateway into Thor’s world at present, and any casual fans of the character, especially those driven to this book by a love of the Marvel movies, will be at a loss. Scrawling the legacy numbering (#707) in a little corner of the cover doesn’t rectify the problem.

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Flea-Market Finds: Gargoyle #s 1-4

Gargoyle #s 1-4
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Mark Badger
Colors: Bob Sharen
Letters: Ken Bruzenak
Cover artists: Bernie Wrightson, Jon J. Muth, Dan Green & Mark Badger
Editor: Carl Potts
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $0.75 US/$1 CAN per issue

Some comics enthusiasts and collectors scan flea markets and yard sales for treasure, for valuable comics at bargain-basement prices that they can flip for a tidy profit. I sometimes have that in mind when I peruse the tables, but more often than not, the treasures I’m looking for are forgotten stories. I definitely found one a few weeks ago when I happened upon this complete set of this 1985 limited series. Gargoyle is a rather obscure character, and I have only a passing familiarity with it from sampling a handful of Defenders issues from the Bronze Age.

The title character here is a unique one, in that he started out as a senior citizen who, in an endeavor to save his town, ends up being cursed by being cast into the form of a gargoyle. The basis of J.M. DeMatteis’s story here is to question what that gargoyle form was up to before the elderly Isaac Christians inhabited it, but as is the case with many of the writer’s works, it’s really about spirituality, the failings of the human spirit, and finding purpose through misery. As this is an earlier DeMatteis work, though, it feels a bit scattered, and ultimately, it ends up being more about a brand-new supporting character (that’s never seen again, as far as I know) than that of Isaac Christians.

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System Restore

Invincible Iron Man #600
“The Search for Tony Stark, Finale”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Stefano Caselli; Alex Maleev; David Marquez; Daniel Acuna; Leinil Francis Yu & Gerry Alanguilan; Jim Cheung; Mike Deodato Jr.; Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy & Scott Hanna; and Andrea Sorrentino
Colors: Marte Gracia, Alex Maleev, Daniel Acuna, Guru-eFX, Romulo Fajardo, Marcelo Maiolo & Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story (regular)/Alex Ross, Olivier Coipel, John Romita Jr. & Bob Layton (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $5.99 US

This has been celebrated as a major sendoff for writer Brian Michael Bendis, as it’s the last issue he’s written that Marvel has published since he started with the company 18 years ago. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying his Iron Man stories — be it those featuring Tony Stark, Riri Williams or Victor Von Doom — and I was eager to see how Bendis would wrap up the saga. Sadly, the execution here is a far cry from the strong writing we saw from him in the years leading up to this “finale.” At times, the story here is almost unintelligible, and I honestly don’t see what the point of any of it is (other than to restore several characters to their status quos). The constant shifts in art styles doesn’t help matters either. This was a disappointing final moment in Bendis’s Marvel tenure, and really, his far more focused and resonant conclusions to Jessica Jones and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) stand out to me as his true curtain calls.

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Celestial Body Count

Avengers #1
“The Final Host”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Ed McGuinness
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: David Curiel
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
Cover artists: McGuinness & Morales (regular)/Aaron Kuder, Greg Land & Jay Leisten, and Esad Ribic (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

Here we go again — another relaunched title, coming on the heels of the temporary restoration of the original numbering. I took a peek at a couple of chapters of the “No Surrender” storyline that wrapped the previous Avengers titles, and it didn’t go much for me. When I heard Marvel planned another first-issue cash grab with this latest Avengers run, I figured I’d take a hard pass, but then I saw writer Jason Aaron and penciller Ed McGuinness were involved. McGuinness’s bright, cartoony style has an appealing old-school vibe to it, and Aaron has proven himself to be skilled when it comes to playing with Marvel’s cosmic concepts. This “debut issue,” such as it is, is a lot of fun and feels a bit like a Bronze Age Avengers epic. But at the same time, there’s a certain simplicity to it as well that’s in keeping with its throwback qualities, and ultimately, it doesn’t feel terribly inventive.

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Pug Drunk Love

Domino #1
“Lottery”
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: David Baldéon
Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Greg Land (regular)/Elsa Charretier, David Baldéon, J. Scott Campbell and Rob Liefeld (variants)
Editor: Chris Robinson
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I was torn when it came to the decision to purchase this comic book. I’ve been a big fan of writer Gail Simone for years, but when it comes to Rob Liefeld creations such as Domino, I generally have zero interest in them (though some writers, such as Simone, have convinced me otherwise with runs on Deadpool in the past). A retailer friend raved about the first issue of Domino online Tuesday, so I decided to trust in his recommendation and my faith in Simone’s skills. While her trademark humor definitely offers some appeal here, the character’s original quality as an empty vessel, crafted only as a Kewl concept when she arose in the early 1990s, still appears to haunt the property. There’s a lot of fun action here, but little in the way of characterization.

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You Got Peanut Butter in My Chocolate…

Weapon H #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Cory Smith & Marcus To
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Leinil Yu (regular)/Gustavo Duarte, Dale Keown, Adam Kubert and Skan
Editor: Wil Moss & Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

Since Wolverine’s debut in the late 1970s, he and the Hulk have seen their character histories intertwined, and their popularity is undeniable. So there’s a certain logic to Marvel’s decision to create a “new” character that blends both properties. However, I put “new” in quotation marks because there’s little new to be found in this debut issue. If you’re a fan of Wolverine or the Hulk or both, you’ve already read versions of this story — multiple versions — and it makes for a predictable and unengaging read. It might be something of interest to readers who are new to comics and have only a passing familiarity with Wolverine and the Hulk, but there doesn’t seem to be enough new potential in this character concept to justify a story arc, let alone a new ongoing series.

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The X(-Men) Files

New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
“Chapter 1: New Dawn Fades”
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colors: Michael Garland
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Ryan Stegman (regular)/Marcos Martin, Billy Martin and John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Marvel appears to be pushing something of a renaissance of its mutant hero team titles as of late, so it comes as no surprise the publisher has revived this spinoff property as well, especially since there’s a New Mutants movie on the way. I was drawn in by Matthew Rosenberg’s script and its accessibility, and Adam Gorham’s art suits the eerie tone of the plot. But that plot feels like a rather familiar one, something even the script seems to acknowledge. Marvel has tried many times to revive the New Mutants concept over the years, and this one, while fleetingly entertaining, seems just as likely to be as forgettable of those that came before it.

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Seeing Red

X-Men: Red #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colors: Ive Svorcina
Letters: Cory Petit
Cover artists: Travis Charest (regular)/Dan Mora and Charest (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

It’s been three years since I read an X-Men comic, and Marvel’s line of mutant Comics hasn’t interested me as of late. I know it basically relaunched that line with a number of new titles, none of which really grabbed me. However, I try not to review only the comics I think I’ll like. If I did that, I wouldn’t really be reviewing comics, but rather serving is a cheerleader for select corner of the industry. So I decided to take a look this week at one of these new X-Men titles. With X-Men: Red #2, I was surprised and impressed with what I found. Writer Tom Taylor has crafted a story here that gets back to the roots of the property as an allegory for social change and justice. While those concepts are handled intelligently though, what really grabbed me were the powerful personalities of the characters and the delightful sense of humor that Taylor has instilled in the script.

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What Happens in Vegas…

Doctor Strange: Damnation #1
Writers: Nick Spencer & Donny Cates
Artist/Colors: Rod Reis
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Reis (regular); Phil Noto; Ron Lim; Javier Garron; Greg Smallwood; and John Tyler Christopher, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer (variants)
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

It was the cover and interior artwork that drew my attention to this four-part limited series. The number of Marvel titles I’ve been reading has diminished since the publisher stopped including digital download codes for the same copy in each title, but it’s since reinstated them. I decided to peruse the pages of this book, knowing nothing of the premise. I wish I hadn’t bothered. Writers Nick Spencer and Donny Cates offer a story delving Into the aftermath of the Secret Empire crossover event; it’s a puzzling move on Marvel’s part, given how unpopular Secret Empire was. Some of the ideas in this followup plot are interesting, but the execution is lacking and clumsy. The visuals are lovely but lacking in clarity as well.

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Flashback: The Priest-hood of the Panther

I haven’t had a chance to go see the Black Panther movie yet due to circumstances beyond my control — such as weekend company and my continued recuperation from a serious arm injury — but I’m hopeful I’ll get a chance to visit Wakanda in the next day or two.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the leadup to the movie is the mainstream media exposure of the many creators will help to shape the character over the decades. Writer Don McGregor, for example, has received a fair bit of attention for his contributions to Black Panther lore and how they’ve made their way onto the silver screen and into the minds of a much wider audience.

Personally, I’m most thrilled that writer Christopher Priest has also enjoyed a bolstered profile, both in the comics industry and beyond, for his contributions to the Panther mythos, many of which are also reflected in director Ryan Coogler’s screen adaptation. That got me thinking about how I came to be familiar with Priest’s unconventional and challenging writing, thanks to encounters with him on Usenet (look it up, younger readers) in the 1990s and recommendations from online friends.

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