Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – Marvel' Category

I Miss the Reigns Down in Africa

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th April 2016

Black Panther #1
“A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 1″
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Stelfreeze (regular edition)/Stelfreeze, Olivier Coipel, Felipe Smith, Alex Ross, Skottie Young, Sanford Greene & Ryan Sook (variants)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I’m unfamiliar with the other works of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, but his CV certainly gave me reason to anticipate this new title and what I expected to be a new take on the King of Wakanda. The character’s mainstream profile is about to take a giant leap thanks to its role in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie, and Marvel’s movie to launch a new Panther title ahead of the flick’s release certainly makes a lot of sense. However, many of the storytelling choices made in this inaugural issue don’t make sense. Coates builds on T’Challa’s history here, yes, but that appears to be all he does. This opening chapter in the new series is so completely immersed in the character’s history (especially in the past decade or so) that it promises to be almost completely inaccessible to new readers. Hell, I was a big fan of the complex and challenging BP penned by Priest years ago, and I was often at a loss as I made my way through these new pages. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – The Son of All-New, All-Different Marvel

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th January 2016

It’s pretty clear why Marvel keeps relaunching its entire line — it works, at least in the short term, when it comes to shoring up sales. As a long-term collector and comics enthusiast, I find it a bit frustrating. But there’s another aspect to the relaunches that appeals to me: it seems to instill in the publisher a greater willingness to try new things with familiar characters. While Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” is far from perfect (as I’ll elaborate on below), some of the titles certainly do live up to the label — as limiting as it is. When you call all of your comics “new” and “different,” it’s a pretty clear signal that another relaunch is forthcoming once those descriptions are no longer accurate.

Now, onto the reviews… Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques: More All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on 13th December 2015

Last week, I wrote a trio of quick reviews about some of Marvel’s new titles, launched as part of its “All-New, All-Different” line, the latest in its series of rebrandings, relaunches and renumberings. While I believe this never-ending effort to start over, do over and overflow store shelves with first issues focuses on short-term gains rather than the growth of a longterm audience, I do welcome the fact that the publisher seems more willing to try new approaches to its long-standing properties. Of course, by going with such a limiting term as “All-New, All-Different” sends a clear message that this direction will be as fleeting and short-lived as those that preceded as those that came before it.

In any case, just as there’s no shortage of new Marvel books to read, I’ve got no shortage of thoughts on them. On to the reviews… Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques: All-New, All-Different Marvels

Posted by Don MacPherson on 7th December 2015

While the blog has been silent in recent months, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading comics or had many thoughts on what I’ve been reading. Now that I’m trying to renew my efforts to write about comics (and related pop culture) more frequently, I’ve been jotting down some quick notes about various recent releases, and I realized a number of the things I wanted to say revolved around recently launched (or relaunched) Marvel titles as part of its new “All-New, All-Different” initiative/branding. With so many of Marvel’s titles being priced at $3.99 US or higher and including a digital download code, I’ve been more willing as of late to give some of the publisher’s new efforts a shot, since I can recoup some of my costs.

So, away we go… Read the rest of this entry »

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Election, Extortion & Exsanguination

Posted by Don MacPherson on 18th May 2015

Captain America: War & Remembrance trade paperback
Writers: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Pencils/Cover artist: John Byrne
Inks: Joe Rubenstein
Colors: Bob Sharen & George Roussos
Letters: Jim Novak, John Costanza & Joe Rosen
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $12.95 US/$15.75 CAN

If the cover price cited above seems a little low for this softcover collection of a classic run from Captain America from 1980-81, there’s a good reason for that. This review is of the first printing of this trade paperback, originally released in 1990 (a quick Google search reveals the book was reprinted several times in the years since, including in what appeared to be a hardcover edition). I’ve got stacks of comics, graphic novels and collected editions lying around my place I’ve never gotten around to reading, the reasons being as numerous and varied as the material itself. The books have amassed as a result of impulse purchases, bargains and review copies I’ve received over the years. I’ve been meaning to put a dent in my figurative and literal pile of unread comics, and that’s why War & Remembrance made it into my reading rotation recently. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bend It Like Bendis

Posted by Don MacPherson on 21st January 2015

Powers #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Oeming (regular edition)/David Mack and David Marquez (variants)
Editor: Jennifer Grünwald
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment/Icon imprint
Price: $3.99 US

I’m an early adopter — not when it comes to technology, per se, but with a number of comics titles that have debuted outside of the mainstream over the years. Powers debuted at Image Comics back in 2000, before co-creator Brian Bendis was a vital cog in the Marvel machine. The creator-owned has soldiered on and prospered from Bendis’s rise in the industry, even following him over to Marvel. I was a big fan of the series from the start, and it debuted at the height of my reviewing “career”; I think I’ve even got a pullquote on the first edition of the first collected edition. Somewhere along the line, I lost touch with Powers, though. Either I missed an issue, or I maybe I decided since newer issues didn’t seem to make it to the top of my reading pile on a given week that it was time to move on. My memory is that the stories started seeming a bit repetitive to me, perhaps more in terms of atmosphere than actual plot. Like I say, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. Read the rest of this entry »

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Exit Wounds

Posted by Don MacPherson on 4th September 2014

Death of Wolverine #1
“Death of Wolverine, Part One”
Writer: Charles Soule
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Steve McNiven & Jay Leisten (regular)/Alex Ross, Pascual Ferry, Joe Quesada, Leinil Yu, Skottie Young & Steve McNiven (variants)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

It was inevitable. They killed Captain America. They killed Spider-Man. They killed the Human Torch. But not really. It was just a matter of time before the comics division of Marvel Entertainment got around to “killing off” what is arguably its most popular and bankable character. Does it matter how he “dies?” No. Does it matter who’s responsible? God, no. We know going in Logan isn’t going to die. It’s one of the inherent flaws in intellectual properties and pop-culture icons — they always stay the same, except for those brief periods in which they don’t. But the notion of killing the unkillable character is also a guaranteed way of piquing curiosity. Reading Death of Wolverine is the equivalent of comics rubbernecking. You know there’s nothing for you in it, but you can’t look away. To be honest, from an administrative point of view, I was a bit curious about this limited series, if only about editorial choices, if anything else. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Unthinkable

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th August 2014

Variant coverNew Avengers #22
“We Are Not Brothers”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Kev Walker
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Dale Keown
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

This issue of Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers (which really ought to be titled Marvel’s Illuminati, because this group’s actions aren’t really those of heroic Avengers) struck me as a particularly noteworthy one. In terms of story, it’s one of the strongest episodes in the run, getting to the heart of the real conflict this gathering of Larger Than Life Men has contended with from the start of the series. And visually, it stands out as one of the weakest of the run, in that the style in which the characters are presented this time is a wholly conventional one for the genre. Hickman sums up the central theme of this series perfectly here, but artist Kev Walker’s approach to this sullen and dramatic script seems like a poor fit for the subject matter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Flea Market Finds: Spirits of the Earth

Posted by Don MacPherson on 19th July 2014

Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Charles Vess
Letters: Gaspar Saladino
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $18.95 US/$22.95 CAN/£11.50 UK

The local Sunday flea market was defunct for a few weeks as it searched for a new venue, its previous locale becoming unavailable to it a little while ago. It found its summer home at a downtown curling club, and when I drove by a couple of times, the parking lot indicated sparse attendance. A few weeks ago, I found myself in the area on a Sunday afternoon, and looking at the time, I realized there was about a half hour left before it wrapped for the day. I had nothing on the agenda at that moment, so I pulled in and checked it out. There wasn’t much in the way of comics to be found. I saw one vendor who specialized in some back issues, all priced pretty too high. One doesn’t go into a flea market looking for comics valued by means of a price guide. One is after bargains; once in a blue moon, I haul some boxes to the flea market and blow them out, most of them for 50 cents apiece.

On my way out after a quick 10-minute reconnaissance of the market, I spied something on a table just 15 feet from the door. It looked like Spider-Man, and it looked like a book, so I took a closer look. Sitting there in pretty good shape was a hardcover copy of Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth, a graphic novel of which I was aware in mostly a passing fashion. On top of that, it was a first printing of the 1990 book. The dust jacket showed a little wear but no tears, marred only by what I assumed was dried little bits of Play-Doh that flaked off easily. The price tag: three bucks. With only minutes left before the venue closed, I offered the grizzled old guy behind the table two, and he accepted. I fished a toonie out of my pocket, gave it to him and made off with what I felt was practically treasure (at least at that price). Read the rest of this entry »

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Weird Webs

Posted by Don MacPherson on 8th October 2013

Variant coverMarvel Knights: Spider-Man #1
“99 Problems… One of Five”
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Marco Rudy
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Rudy (regular)/Carlo Barberi (variant)
Editor: Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Marvel decision to revive its Marvel Knights brand is well timed, as it’s given the publisher an opportunity to publish a Spider-Man comic for Peter Parker purists who might prefer their Spideys amazing rather than superior. I’m also pleased to see the Marvel Knights label is being reserved for somewhat unconventional material and to emphasize the talent crafting the comics rather than the icons in the stories. Matt Kindt’s star is definitely on the rise, as is Marco Rudy’s — oddly enough, mainly for work they’ve done on DC titles. I found their take on Spider-Man to be unexpected, unusual and experimental, and I’m always pleased when I find something new in the world of a decades-old character and a genre that many could easily argue has seen it all. That being said, there are more than “99 Problems” in this story, as a couple in the plot and art kept me from connecting to the material as much as I wanted. Still, that Marvel and these creators took the chances they did with these characters is a welcome development that merits a look. Read the rest of this entry »

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… And Beyond

Posted by Don MacPherson on 14th August 2013

I can relate to the sentiment Iron Man expresses in the above image. It’s summer (well, summer’s almost over, actually), so it must be time for another Marvel crossover event. I haven’t had much interest in the publisher’s tentpole crossover titles in recent years and I’ve avoided plunking down my hard-earned cash for them as of late. But I shelled out five bucks (well, less, after discount and after I sold the included digital download code in this book) because I’m genuinely interested in writer Jonathan Hickman’s work. The good news: this is a crossover event for Hickman fans. The bad news: this is a crossover event for Hickman fans.

Variant coverInfinity #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis & Jim Cheung
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos & Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Adam Kubert (regular)/Arthur Adams, In-Hyuk Lee, Marko Djurdjevic, Skottie Young, Mark Brooks & Jerome Opena (variants)
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

After reading this first issue, I was struck by a number of elements, both positive and negative. First of all, this is a pretty good value for $4.99; it’s an oversized comic that’s dense in its construction, both plot-wise and visually. That being said, some of the opening material reprints pages from Marvel’s Infinity offering from this year’s Free Comic Book Day. I also noted Marvel is finally capitalizing on the profile bump and interest in Thanos from the after-credits scene from the Marvel’s The Avengers movie from last year. That conscious decision to craft Thanos in the image of his big-screen counterpart includes the incorporation of the grotesque emissary/agent with whom Loki communicated in the flick. Infinity promises to be everything a big crossover event should be: universe-spanning, colorful and replete with a diverse array of super-hero characters. There’s just one element missing: accessibility. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ultron Legacy

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd June 2013

Age of Ultron #6Age of Ultron #1Age of Ultron #s 1-10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, Alex Maleev, Butch Guice, David Marquez & Joe Quesada
Inks: Paul Neary, Brandon Peterson, Roger Martinez, Roger Bonet, Alex Maleev, Butch Guice, Tom Palmer, David Marquez & Joe Quesada
Colors: Paul Mounts, Jose Villarrubia & Richard Isanove
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US per issue

I’ve made a point of avoiding big super-hero event books in recent years, and given that DC hasn’t really done one since launching its New 52 line two years ago, that means I’ve steered clear of Marvel’s big event books. I ended up reading the first two issues of Age of Ultron, though, because my local retailer offered them for a buck apiece a few months after their release, and I borrowed the remainder of the series, mainly because I was interested in writing about the book rather than seeing how things turned out. One of the biggest complaints about these event books is how they ultimately don’t matter in the long run, how they promise big, sweeping, universe-altering changes, but those are undone or reversed in short order. Well, Age of Ultron takes that approach to the extreme, hitting a cosmic reset button in the final issue. The events of this apocalyptic and time-travel story really don’t matter. They serve to set up other stories and characters in Marvel’s line of titles that didn’t need this particular catalyst. Ultimately, it’s a waste of time and money. And it suffers from the same flaw so many people are complaining about in regards to the recently released Man of Steel movie: there’s nothing fun about it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Women’s Issue

Posted by Don MacPherson on 29th May 2013

Variant coverVariant coverX-Men #1
“Primer, Part 1 of 3″
Writer: Brian Wood
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales & Olivier Coipel
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Coipel (regular)/Arthur Suydam, Joe Madureira, Milo Manara, Skottie Young and Terry Dodson (variants)
Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Brian Wood’s return to the world of Marvel’s mutants was a surprising but intriguing development, especially given the all-female lineup for this new title. And since I’m a fan of his writing and Olivier Coipel’s distinct style and figures, I looked forward to delving into this latest iteration of X-Men. I found something in these pages I didn’t expect at all: disappointment. Though the narration boasts a lofty, intelligent tone, the story is rather impenetrable, and Coipel’s artwork, though attractive, is confusing, failing to convey vital information. What defines this series more than anything else is the fact all of the characters are women, but characterization, how these women interact with each other and the weird world in which they find themselves… Wood barely touches upon these elements. This feels like a failed opportunity, but maybe the creators can capitalize on it in future issues (but I doubt I’ll stick around to see them). Read the rest of this entry »

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Rocket Man

Posted by Don MacPherson on 23rd February 2013

Variant coverNova #1
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed McGuinness
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Marte Garcia
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: McGuinness & Vines (regular)/Adi Granov, Marcos Martin, Joe Quesada/Danny Miki & Scottie Young
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I don’t have any particular affection for the Nova concept, nor has my previous exposure to this new incarnation of the character (on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon) fostered a particular interest in him. But I have to admit to having a soft spot for the bombastic, basic super-hero storytelling of the creative team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. The maturity and nuance Loeb brought to his writing more than a decade ago isn’t to be found anymore, but his latest approach has been to bring a more traditional, fun tone to the genre, which is reflected by the over-the-top, cartoony qualities of McGuinness’s style. Their performance on this latest project is certainly straightforward and capable, but it was a little underwhelming as well. This is the beginning of an origin story, and so far, I’m not invested in these characters. After reading the first issue, I found I wasn’t all that interested in seeing what comes next, nor was there much of a hook to lure me back to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mission to Mars

Posted by Don MacPherson on 6th December 2012

Variant coverAvengers #1
“Avengers World”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Dustin Weaver (regular)/Steve McNiven, Esad Ribic, Skottie Young & Mark Brooks (variants)
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Jonathan (The Manhattan Projects) Hickman brings his sensibilities and talents — both in terms of content and design — to the mainstream Marvel Universe. Sure, he had a much-lauded stint on Fantastic Four, but now he’s working on the publisher’s flagship property. His style isn’t a perfect fit for the Avengers, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And what’s more, it’s definitely a radical deviation from how the title team has been portrayed in recent years. Hickman starts things off with an event-sized plot that seems to unfold apart from the rest of the shared continuity. It’s refreshing to see not all cosmic-level storylines being spread out over the entire line of Marvel super-hero comics. The end result is a story that’s big in scope, but since it’s not crossing over everywhere, the focus seems to be on storytelling over marketing. Read the rest of this entry »

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