Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

Teed Off

Taskmaster #1
“The Rubicon Trigger, Part One”
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Colors: Guru e-FX
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Valerio Giangiordano (regular)/Nick Bradshaw and Mike Henderson
Editor: Chris Robinson
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve always appreciated Taskmaster as a villain, as his “photographic reflexes” abilities have always proven to be clever in the hands of skilled writers. That proves to be the case with Jed MacKay’s take on the mercenary as well, so what we get is a fun, action-oriented romp that celebrates the connections throughout the Marvel Universe. I think the book, unfortunately, is hampered by a couple of factors that seem beyond the creative team’s control: bad timing, obviously, and a disconnect between the tone of this story and how it’s being marketed to its potential readership.

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Creepy Crawlers

Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler #1
“Haunted Mansion”
Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Alan Davis
Artist: Alan Davis
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Davis (regular)/Ben Caldwell (variant)
Editor: Jordan D. White
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I was blown away by Jonathan Hickman’s retooling of the X-Men franchise with House of X and Powers of X, with the injection of world-building, politics and sociology. But when I checked out the first issue of the relaunched X-Men series, I didn’t find the same level of inventiveness and complexity. As such, I decided not to delve into the various new X-related titles coming fast and furiously from Marvel. But when I saw that Alan Davis was contributing to this related one-shot, my interest was re-engaged. Davis’ art is stunning, of course, but I was also keen to see him reconnect with Nightcrawler, a character with whom he was closely associated from his run on Excalibur years ago. Unfortunately, this one-shot really never rises above the level of hum-drum, and at this price point and with these normally spectacular talents involved, I expected a lot more.

Ready, Fett, Go!

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #1
Galaxy’s Deadliest, Part 1: Ghosts of Corellia”
Writer: Ethan Sacks
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Colors: Arif Prianto
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Lee Bermejo (regular)/Dave Johnson, Kaare Andrews and Michael Golden (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Given the popularity of The Mandolorian as part of the Disney+ streaming service’s launch last fall, it should come as no surprise that Marvel is releasing a bounty-hunter title set in the Star Wars universe. And while I don’t follow Star Wars comics much, my interest was piqued thanks to appreciation of The Mandolorian. Now, this title doesn’t feature that character, but rather Boba Fett and Bossk, a couple of bounty hunters from the original trilogy, but I decided to give this comic a go anyway. Unfortunately, I found little here to hold my attention. The plot – about a bunch of nefarious characters looking to get even with a former ally – feels hackneyed, and the art seems more focused on cool poses and pinup moments rather than telling a clear story. This is a wholly forgettable story that will likely appeal only to the most dedicated Star Wars fans and completists.

Black and Blue

Silver Surfer Black #1
“Black, One of Five”
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Tradd Moore
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Tradd Moore (regular)/Nick Bradshaw, Gerald Parel, Ron lim and Mike Zeck (variants)
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I haven’t been following Donny Cates’ work at Marvel in the last couple of years, but he’s certainly generated a buzz. So when my local comics retailer urged me to check it out, touting the weirdness and wonder of the book, I decided to take the plunge. Visually, the book doesn’t disappoint. The colors are vibrant, and the fluidity of the linework and designs are dazzling. The story reminds me of the sort of philosophical tone one finds in the scripts of J.M. DeMatteis, and Cates challenges his audience. Unfortunately, everything about the plot — the struggles, both internal and external — is so utterly alien, I found it difficult to connect with the subject matter. I applaud Marvel for taking a chance on something so unconventional for the super-hero genre, but for me, the story didn’t quite stick the landing.

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Avengers… Disassemble Those Guys

Savage Avengers #1
“Chapter One: Once Upon a Time in the City of Sickles”
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: David Finch (regular)/Simone Bianchi, Deodato, Moebius, Skottie Young and Leinil Francis Yu
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

Marvel has the licence for Conan comics back in hand, and it’s clearly looking to capitalize on it. And when I say “capitalize,” I mean financially, not creatively. Teaming Conan with a group of the Marvel Universe’s iconic anti-heroes seems like a fun notion at first, but it also seems like fodder from hack fan fiction. Aside from cashing in on the 1990s Kewl factor that serves as the foundation of this concept, I don’t see the point at all. There’s no suspense here, nothing on the line. These characters aren’t going to grow, and they’re not going to lose. So aside from the novelty of Conan’s fish-out-of-water story, Savage Avengers doesn’t have a lot going for it.

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Web of Lies

Superior Spider-Man #1
Writer: Christos Gage
Pencils: Mike Hawthorne
Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Travis Charest (regular) Mike Hawthorne, Marco Djurdjevic, Emanuela Lupacchino, John Buscema and Skottie Young (variants)
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Given the recent release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in theatres, the timing of this latest Spidey spinoff title is great. There’s definitely an interest out there in alternate versions of the familiar web-slinging hero, so bringing back the Otto Octavuis incarnation of the hero makes sense. However, he comes with a lot of baggage. The character’s history is convoluted, but writer Christos Gage does good job of providing the much-needed exposition. Still, there are some obscure and pretty random characters involved in this story, so even a longtime super-hero comics readers such as myself will find themselves feeling a little lost at times. Furthermore, this new title apparently flows from the events of Spider-Geddon, which serves as another barrier to accessibility. But the greatest challenge with this second go-around for Superior Spider-Man is the central protagonist’s arrogance; this is a story of a quest for redemption, but getting the audience to root for such an unlikeable figure seems daunting to me.

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‘Heart Aches

Ironheart #1
Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artists: Kevin Libranda & Luciano Vecchio
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Amy Reeder (regular)/Jen Bartel, Stephanie Hans, Jamal Campbell, Humberto Ramos, Luciano Vecchio and Skottie Young (variants)
Editors: Alanna Smith & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the various Iron Man titles toward the end of his tenure at Marvel Entertainment, and Riri Williams was one of the more interesting characters to arise in the course of that run. At first, it felt a bit like Eve L. Ewing, a writer and academic who’s new to the medium of comics as far as I can ascertain, didn’t quite have a strong a sense of the beats and pacing necessary to hold my attention as well as Bendis (who, in all fairness, has been at this comics game a long time). But in the third act of this issue, everything came into focus. Ewing’s sense of who Riri is, what drives and what’s missing from her life all made for a compelling, relatable read. And the twist revealed at the end was something I should have seen coming, but didn’t — and I loved it.

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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
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
Writer: Jim Salicrup
Pencils: Jim Mooney
Inks: Mike Esposito
Colors: Ken Feduniewicz
Letters: L.P. Gregory
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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