Amazing Spider-Man #612 (Marvel Comics)
by Mark Waid & Paul Azaceta/Joe Kelly & J.M. Ken Nimura
While I don’t follow this title faithfully, I do have to give Marvel credit for its novel publishing approach for the series as of late. With rotating creative teams for each story arc, it allows casual readers such as myself to cherrypick which issues we want to read; in other words, I get to follow creators instead of the creation. The main story is the handiwork of two creators I like to follow: Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta. They’re already proven that they work well together (see Boom! Studios’ Potter’s Field), and I love the noir tone they establish in the opening scene. The story takes an unexpected turn after that, as Waid taps into American frustrations over corporate bailouts to transform a classic Spidey villain into something of a hero of the people. It’s a weird, unexpected development, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the incorporation of a highly topical element into this super-hero plot. Azaceta’s work here reminds me of the loose, moody linework that Tommy Lee Edwards contributed to the unusual but entertaining Marvel 1985 limited series penned by Mark Millar and published last year.
With the backup feature, frequent Amazing Spidey contributor brings his artistic collaborator from Image’s I Kill Giants into the Marvel fold. It’s a pleasure to see the super-hero publisher shine a spotlight on the more unusual and unique style of someone like J.M. Ken Minura, who’s mainly known for creator-owned and indy-comics work. Unfortunately, this story calls for something of a vamped-up look, as Spidey’s sex life factors into it heavily. Minura’s manga-esque, sketchy figures are far from sexy. The characters also almost all look like little kids. There’s a disconnect between the dialogue and the visual style of the piece. 7/10
Nola #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Chris Gorak, Pierluigi Cothran & Damian Couceiro
I really don’t know what to make of this story about an angry, young New Orleans woman, and the main reason is that I wasn’t given enough information about the premise. Honestly, I have no idea what the story is. On the surface, it seems to be about a victim looking for revenge or justice, but that’s just based on the title character’s design and actions later in the comic book. There’s far too much of a disconnect between the flashbacks and the flashforwards,and that gap makes for confusion rather than an intriguing mystery. Furthermore, the young Nola isn’t the most likable character; everyone around her warns her of the destructive course that she’s chosen, and she ignores those warnings. And her actions at the end of the book don’t seem righteous; instead, she comes off as a criminal. There’s no hint of an explanation; it almost feels like some pages were omitted. There’s definitely potential here, but some missteps in storytelling choices bury that potential in confusion.
Damian Coucerio is the latest in a series of artists with a similar style. It’s one we see so often in Boom titles that it’s almost like a house style for the publisher. Couceiro boasts a Michael Lark/Paul Azaceta-esque style that suits the darker leanings of this story. It’s especially effective in the more grounded scenes; he conveys the characters’ humanity incredibly well. He also does a fine job with a double-page spread that conveys the devastation that befell the Big Easy as a result of hurricane Katrina. 5/10
S.W.O.R.D. #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Kieron Gillen, Steven Sanders, Jamie McKelvie & Craig Yeung
This title is a spinoff from Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s stint on Astonishing X-Men, and there’s enough potential in the concept of S.W.O.R.D. — an agency dedicated to protecting the Earth from alien invasion and activity, a la Men in Black — to merit further storytelling. Unfortunately, writer Kieron Gillen’s scripts (for the main story and the backup) assumes the audience has read all of those X-Men stories. And not only is Astonishing required reading, but so is Marvel’s ongoing “Dark Reign” storyline; hell, to appreciate Gyrich’s role fully, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with various Avengers storylines dating from the 1970s up to the 21st century. It’s a shame this isn’t a more accessible read, because Gillen includes some great ideas in the plot. The Mentalist-like robot locked up in the dark recesses of S.W.O.R.D.’S orbital base is a fascinating and thoroughly creepy character. While the conflict with Gyrich is a little cliched, Brand’s attitude is thoroughly entertaining, and Gillen’s snappy dialogue keeps the story moving along at a fun pace.
The good news, art-wise, is that Steven Sanders’s style in the main story is fairly consistent with that of Jaime McKelvie, who illustrated the backup story spotlighting Lockheed. The bad news: Sanders’s work, with its many elongated faces, pales in comparison with McKelvie’s. It’s not that surprising, since the latter artist has collaborated with Gillen closely on Phonogram from Image Comics for the past couple of years. Still, one can also see that Sanders is trying to maintain some consistency with John Cassaday’s style as well, and he captures the sterile, utilitarian nature of S.W.O.R.D.’s headquarters. 6/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.