Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

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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We Are the Champions (Well, Not Us, But Them)

VariantChampions #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Humberto Ramos
Inks: Victor Olazabo
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Humberto Ramos (regular edition)/Alex Ross, Mark Brooks, John Tyler Christopher, Jay Fosgitt, Rahzzah, Art Adams, Mike Hawthorne & Scottie Young (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Mark Waid’s writing for a long time, but I have to be honest – what drew me to this comic wasn’t the creative talent, but rather the characters. Marvel’s new generation of teen heroes have been standouts of its line for a while now. Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man (formerly Ultimate), Viv Vision and Amadeus Cho as Hulk have all proven to fascinating additions to the Marvel Universe. Mind you, I was confident that Waid would make the most of these heroes and offer stories in keeping with the established characterizations that made them interesting in the first place. That confidence proved to be well placed. But what surprised me about this debut issue was the fact that it wasn’t these colorful teens who stole the show. Instead, it was a socially relevant message, one of hope and responsibility.

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Casualties of War

VariantPower Man and Iron Fist #6
Writer: David Walker
Artist: Flaviano
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Sanford Greene (regular)/Afu Chan (variant)
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

This week, mainstream comics chatter was all about the events of Civil War II #3 — the unexpected death, the ethical debate, the clash between commercial and creative decisions in corporate super-hero comics. It was certainly an interesting and even thought-provoking read, but it didn’t really advance the larger plot of the event all that much. But what seemed to go under people’s radar this week was another Civil War II-related title, one that poses its own engaging and challenging ethical questions and one that touched upon some real-world tumult and controversy. In many (perhaps most) instances, a crossover tie-in issue of an ongoing super-hero title can interfere with the larger plots, characterization and themes of a series, but Power Man and Iron Fist #6 is one of those rare examples in which the writer capitalizes on the crossover concept and does his own thing with it while also maintaining consistency with the concepts imposed upon him or her. I’ve enjoyed this title from the start, but writer David Walker offers up his strongest issue yet with something that starts out poignant and personal, shifts to something satirical and silly, and ends up delving into real and relevant issues.

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I Miss the Reigns Down in Africa

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.

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

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…

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

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…

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Quick Critiques: All-New, All-Different Marvels

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…

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Election, Extortion & Exsanguination

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.

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Bend It Like Bendis

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.

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Exit Wounds

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.

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