Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

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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Flea Market Finds: Tomorrow’s Avengers Vol. 1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 1 trade paperback
Writers: Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Roger Stern, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Scott Edelman & Stan Lee
Pencils: Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom & John Buscema
Inks: Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta, Pablo Marcos, Al Milgrom, Howard Chaykin, Terry Austin, Bob Wiacek, Dave Hunt, John Tartaglione & Joe Sinnott
Colors: Stan Goldberg, Petra Goldberg, George Roussos, Irene Vartanoff, Al wenzel, Glynis Wein, Phil Rachelson, Janice Cohen & Don Warfield
Letters: Herb Cooper, Charlotte Jetter, Annette Kawecki, Dave Hunt, Karen Mantlo, Joe Rosen, John Costanza, Denise Wohl, Irving Watanabe, Jim Novak & Sam Rosen
Cover artist: Al Milgrom
Editors: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman & Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $39.99 US/$43.99 CAN

A few months ago, I got a chance to pick up this trade paperback and Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 2 for a paltry $20 (total, not each). It was too good a deal to pass up, and I relished the chance to read this Silver and Bronze Age material. That sort of classic material is almost always entertaining, be it for its campiness, bombastic qualities and even as fine representations of the craft of comics. That’s what I hoped to find here, and there was some of that entertainment to be had. But unfortunately, what this book spotlighted more than anything was how the publisher and the creators tasked with these original Guardians comics really didn’t know what they wanted to do with these characters and concepts. The late Steve Gerber was known for his unconventional and avant-garde storytelling, but his scripts later in this book read like ham-fisted attempts at classic Star Trek episodes featuring few characters anyone’s going to like at all.

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Flea Market Finds: M.O.D.O.K. Assassin

M.O.D.O.K. Assassin #s 1 & 2
Writer: Christopher Yost
Pencils: Amilcar Pinna
Inks: Amilcar Pinna, Terry Pallot & Ed Tadeo
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: David Lafuente (regular)/Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Christian Wars (variants)
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US each

My latest perusal of a deep-discount bundle from my local comic shop takes us back again to the 2015 “Secret Wars” event, in which Marvel offered up a litany of alt-reality worlds and interpretations of its characters. M.O.D.O.K., thanks to his unusual and striking design, is a popular Marvel villain among many fans, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise that one of these limited series might focus on him. I really wasn’t expecting much from these two comics; after all, comics spotlighting villains can be a challenge, as the reader rarely has someone for whom s/he can cheer. But writer Christopher Yost, best known for his animation scripts but no stranger to comics, delivers a wonderfully fun concept that makes the most of the temporary, anything-can-happen premise of the patchwork Battleworld that serves as the backdrop for all of these “Secret Wars” spinoff titles. The bargain bundle that contained these comics only included the first two issues of the run. I was surprised to find there are three more episodes to the title (the story seems like a four-partner would have been plenty), but I’ll be keeping an eye out for those other chapters, given how entertaining the first was.

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One Plus One Equals Four

Marvel Two-in-One v.2 #1
“Fast Burn”
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: John Dell & Walden Wong
Colors: Frank Martin
Editor: Tom Brevoort

FF origin backup
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Editor: Darren Shan

Letters: Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Jim Cheung (regular)/Alex Ross, Arthur Adams, Mike McKone, John Byrne, Jon Malin, Jack Kirby & John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

One of the first trade-paperback collections of comics I ever acquired was Marvel Two-in-One: Project Pegasus book; this would have been back in the very early days of book-sized reprints of comics in the 1980s. I still have that trade paperback; it’s worn to hell, but I absolutely love it. I got on board with the team-up title trend with DC Comics Presents in late 1979 or early 1980. I was mesmerized by the logos for two heroes on the cover of each issue. I quickly gravitated to The Brave and the Bold, and after taking the plunge into the Marvel Universe in the mid-1980s, I eagerly sought out issues of Marvel Team-Up and, of course, Marvel Two-In-One. The 1980s were the heyday of those team-up titles. Attempts at revivals never had the same staying power as those original books.

I’m hoping the same can’t be said of this relaunch, which offers strong traditional super-hero storytelling tempered with a more modern sensibility toward characterization. And should the publisher keep top-tier talent such as Jim Cheung on the book, I’d say there’s a strong chance it could make a nice, long go of it.

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Flea Market Finds: Runaways (Battleworld)

Runaways v.4 #s 1-4
Writer: Noelle Stevenson
Artists: Sanford Greene & Noelle Stevenson
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artist: Greene (regular)/Phil Noto & Stevenson (variants for #s 1 & 2)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US per issue

With the new Runaways TV series well underway now, I figured it would be a good time to delve into a set of comics of the same title from 2015 that I picked up for a song a couple of months ago. During its Secret Wars crossover series from that year, Marvel published a diverse array of limited series set in the weird, patchwork landscape of the World That Doom Built. Runaways (which carried “Secret Wars” and “Battleworld” branding on the covers) focused on various teen heroes. Writer Noelle Stevenson manages to achieve a nice balance between a dire, deadly tone to the story and a more irreverent side that’s in keeping with the youthful, oddball qualities of the characters. Unfortunately, the book was hindered by a couple of things. Firstly, like all of these “Secret Wars” spinoffs, there was a sense of the impermanent and inconsequential nature inherent in the alt-universe premise of the larger crossover, and secondly, I was constantly distracted by the fact that only one of the characters from the original title from which this spinoff derived its title was included in the cast of characters.

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The Strong Protect the Weak

Captain America #695
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Chris Samnee (regular)/Alex Ross, Mike McKone, Adi Granov, Jim Steranko & John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee… Off the top of my head, I can think of only one other active creative in comics today that’s as well suited to one another and as successful in storytelling (Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, for the record). It’s clear that after the tremendous success of their landmark run on Daredevil in recent years, the writer and artist have their pick of projects at Marvel Entertainment. They moved onto Black Widow after DD for a solid, entertaining 12-issue run, but their renegade spy thriller didn’t have quite the same personal impact. While I’m surprised Waid has chosen to return to Captain America (after leaving a lasting mark on the character with his classic run with artist Ron Garney in the late 1990s), I was eager to delve into what he and Samnee had in store for us. After reading the creative team’s inaugural issue, I’m pleased to report there’s definitely the promise of something memorable. And perhaps even more than that; this might be a classic. It’s a relatively quiet and straightforward start, but it’s so positive and idealistic, it’s definitely the right response to the year of divisive, dark Cap stories that preceded it.

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Flea Market Finds: Captain America: Madbomb

Captain America & the Falcon: Madbomb trade paperback
Writer/Pencils/Editor: Jack Kirby
Inks: Frank Giacoia & D. Bruce Berry
Colors: Janice Cohen, Phil Rachelson, Michele Wolfman & Don Warfield
Letters: John Costanza, Gaspar Soladino & D. Bruce Berry
Cover artists: Kirby & John Romita Sr.
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $16.99 US/$27.25 CAN

It’s always fun when Diamond Comic Distributors has a clearance sale, as my local comic shop, without fail, capitalizes on it and offers a diverse array of product at deep discounts to its clientele. Which brings me to the 2004 Captain America & the Falcon: Madbomb collection. Part of Jack Kirby’s heralded return to Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, his run on Captain America is a keystone in comics history – one I hadn’t read before. Now, I must confess, while I appreciate the creativity, genius and foundational talent of the late Jack Kirby, I was never a huge fan of his work, at least as a younger comics reader and enthusiast. What’s noteworthy about this classic Cap run is that Kirby was the sole creative force; he’s even listed as the editor. That shows in the storytelling, and especially in the occasional clunkiness of the writing. Fortunately, there are still some powerful political notions at the heart of this story. While it shows its age a fair bit, there were moments when the story resonated and made me consider socio-political realities of the now. To achieve that sort of connection with a reader 40 years removed from the original crafting of the story speaks to why Kirby was so successful and integral in comics years ago and why he remains an ever-present force in the medium even years after his death.

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Doom’s Date

Infamous Iron Man #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Alex Maleev
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

As I’ve written previously, I purged a significant number of Marvel titles from my pull list, ultimately deciding I wasn’t getting enough out of them to merit the $3.99 US price of admission, but there were a few Marvel books that survived the cull, and Brian Michael Bendis’s two Iron Man titles were among them. I enjoyed this issue because its pairing of both the protagonist and antagonist with other Marvel characters with which they share links (either personal or thematic) put me in mind of the classic team-up titles of the 1970s and ’80s I so enjoyed as a kid. Mind you, this issue is low on action and big on dialogue, and as a mature comics enthusiast, I was just fine with it. I continue to follow Infamous Iron Man because it’s essentially a great character study of a long-standing Marvel figure. Unfortunately, that history is also the book’s greatest liability, since the knowledge of the continuity leading up to this point in Doom’s life is rather integral to one’s full appreciation of the story.

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Will O’ the Wasp

The Unstoppable Wasp #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Colors: Megan Wilson
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Elsa Charretier (regular)/Elizabeth Torque, Nelson Blake II, Skottie Young, John Tyler Christopher & Andy Park (variants)
Editors: Alanna Smith & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I was surprised at how quickly the Wasp, only recently introduced into the Marvel Universe, was spun off into her own series, and while I liked the character concept and design, I wasn’t sure I’d bother to check this new book out. Ultimately, I decided to give it a whirl, and I’m thrilled that I did. While some dour drama can dominate more prominent titles in the Marvel title, there’s a small corner of the line that focuses on fun and a broader appeal. The Unstoppable Wasp falls into that latter category, and I hope it develops a following like other recent female-led books from the House of Ideas.

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