Posts Tagged ‘Marvel NOW!’

The cover to Guardians #1 gives us a glimpse of McNiven’s fantastic pencils. Property of Marvel Comics.

By Alex Headley

My favorite Marvel Comics team is back and their debut issue definitely delivers. Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven have crafted an adequate beginning to a new saga of Cosmic Marvel comics and while it’s not perfect, it delivers new concepts to pique my interest and pays just the tiniest bit of homage to what has come before. The book opens up with a focus on Peter Quill AKA the Star-Lord and his relationship with his father. It’s all very personal and dramatic and shows that this book is going to be a little more personal than the last volume, which focused almost entirely on cosmic zaniness. We also get a great little exchange showing off a very roguish Quill that reminds me of Captain Kirk or Malcolm Reynolds. Bendis has definitely done his sci-fi homework and put and effort towards making this feel both familiar to the genre and true to its Marvel roots. Made up profanities, weird aliens and and big laser guns all pepper the book and give it a lived in feeling that is appropriate. Though ‘Flark’ is a much better obscenity than the newly introduced ‘Krutack’, at least in my opinion.

This isn’t just Quill’s book though and Bendis does an apt job of getting each of the team members a bit of action. Rocket Racoon, Groot, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora are all here and joining the cast is none other than Iron Man. Stark still seems a bit of a cash grab addition to the cast but I’m willing to see where things go with it, especially if it ensures the book is a priority for Marvel. A Badoon invasion of Earth gives everyone a lizard-alien to shoot at and make a few one-liners in the midst of battle and gets the ball rolling on what seems to be book’s first major arc. Bendis doesn’t waste a lot of time on setup here, only giving us a brief conversation between Quill and his father, the King of Spartax on Earth’s importance in the Galaxy. I don’ know much about the Spartax as they aren’t nearly as popular as the Kree, Skrulls or Shi’Ar.

McNiven delivers some great stuff in this issue, the scenery is especially notable. It’s easy for space centric books to feel empty and bland (you know because it’s space) but McNiven fills the background with lots of pretty lights and distant planets. The battle sequence is good too with lots of dynamic lighting as weapons are fired and things explode all around our heroes. Most important, since he’s obviously the star of the series, of all McNiven’s  Rocket Raccoon is pretty great, the best I’ve seen outside the Rocket and Groot miniseries from few years back. Drax is exactly as he was in the last volume and Groot has gained some pretty lights but is otherwise unchanged. What doesn’t work for me at the moment though are Gamora and Star-Lord’s costumes. They lack any real sense of personality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad a woman swinging a sword and dodging gunfire is actually wearing armor for a change but the lack of her signature cape or skull motif is disappointing. Star-Lord looks like he stepped out of Mass Effect, which isn’t really a bad thing but again it seems like very little of his classic look has made it back. The patterns are there but I miss the bigger helmet and the coat. Iron Man’s armor is fine but his red and gold stands out as super-gaudy around the rest of the team.

By Alex Headley

The cover to Age of Ultron #1 is pretty cool. The gold foil on the print edition is a little cheesy though, what is this? The 90s? Property of Marvel Comics.

Much has been said of Age of Ultron over the last couple of years. Originally teased in Bendis’ Heroic Age of Avengers and seemingly pushed back for the sake of AvX, issue 1 has finally arrived. And it’s a doozy. Brian Micheal Bendis and Bryan Hitch throw us right into the thick of things, Ultron has already won and the Earth has been enslaved by golden robots. Only a few heroes remain, including a grim and gritty Hawkeye that has no qualms about shooting fools dead with a crossbow. While I’m not a fan of heroes killing, I have to say that Age of Ultron #1 has won me over for what it is. A great big ‘What If?’ tale. At least that’s my takeaway as far issue one goes. I struggle to think how this book will mesh with the current continuity seen in Marvel NOW! and to be honest that’s just fine with me. World shattering events are a dime a dozen in comics, and especially so in Marvel, so the concept of a self contained epic story that puts these characters in a new light without damaging what creators are doing in their own stories is very appealing to me. Recasting Marvel’s cast of characters as the last holdouts of humanity in a bleak sci-fi adventure story is fun and exciting but there is no need for it to be canon. I’m fine with beginning the story in progress, it gets us right into the thick of things without the overdone all is lost but the heroes win at the last second ending we’ve all come to expect from a big event like this and instead delivers something new (at least for the moment, time will tell if that changes as the event rolls on). I like that the bad guy has already won, it gives the event a new twist and casts these characters into a tale that twists the genre a bit and in my book, that’s a good thing.

Now let’s get to the actual issue. Hitch is at the top of his game here, delivering bleak landscapes and jarring, bone-crunching violence with great ability and talent. His faces still aren’t great here (they never have been the best in the biz) but the emotion still comes through thanks to Bendis’ excellent dialogue. I’ve given Bendis a hard time in the past, but it really does seem like the guy has found a new rhythm and depth to his prose lately and I’m slowly coming around to it. His X-Men stuff has been great and this issue is more of that in a way. He works best when his characters are in the thick of it, with bit emotions and dire consequences at stake. In that regard, he’s perfect for this dystopian future. He seems to trust Hitch implicitly as well, there are fewer word balloons in this issue than in anything else Bendis has ever written I think and he lets Hitch do a lot of the heavy lifting, telling the story with quick, choppy action sequences and big bold panoramas of a devastated New York. It’s quite good. The story itself is quite interesting, if a little bleaker than I typically like my superhero comics but as I said above, I’m down with an out of canon ‘What If?’ romp through the Marvel U, and the lack of Marvel NOW! branding on this issue seems to suggest that’s what we will get. I am more than a little confused as to who Spider-Man is at the moment. He seems like good ol’ fashioned Pete but is that just Otto becoming more like Peter or has Peter regained control of his body somehow? I don’t care too much but it’s a question in the back of mind. Still, I’m very interested in seeing how this little even plays out. I may skip out on the tie-in issues for now but I think I’ll pick the main 10-issue book.

What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments.

Sorry for the late and incomplete update today guys. I’ve got a new work schedule and it’s been cutting into my writing time in a big way. But here are my reviews for the week so far. I’ve added short, one/two sentence reviews for the ones I haven’t gotten to yet. The rest will come tomorrow or Friday. Stick with me guys!
By Alex Headley

The Brian Lee O’Malley variant cover to issue 1. It’s pretty cool. Property of Marvel Comics.

Young Avengers 1
Dammit, this book is awesome but I don’t need to buy more comics. Kieron Gillen is obviously enjoying himself with this book and while its opening issue is a little disjointed and chaotic it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
It’s also got a lot of (teenaged) heart. Billy and Teddy are one of the best couples in comics(gay or otherwise) and I’m glad to see them developed in such a natural way that also moves the plot forward in a big way. But my favorite part is the opening sequence with Kate Bishop and Noh Var. Gillen has given Noh Var more personality in three pages than Marvel has been able to do in years. Kid Loki is hilarious too of course and I like that he is making his way into the greater Marvel U. That said, I don’t know a thing about Miss America Chavez but she seems like a powerhouse. I’m sure her attack on Loki will make sense soon. I do hope Patriot will be involved in the book at some point though. Jamie McKelvie does a stand out job in this issue. I really enjoyed the art. His style is expressive and kinetic in a way that really sells the action I also loves the big splash page of the Skrull attack on Hawkeye and Noh Varr. I was completely unfamiliar with his work before reading this issue but I think he is one to keep an eye out for. I’m not sure if ill be adding this to my pull or not, both because of my financial limitations and the disjointed feel that I mentioned before, the pacing is a bit off but that’s something that can be fixed in future instalments. I think Gillen really wanted to introduce each character from the get-go and while he succeeds at that it takes a little weight away from each character as well. Did any of you read issue 1? What did you think?.

Avengers 3
Avengers 3 is disappointing. Not because the script is bad or the art is ugly but because the team and the concept promise so much but the execution doesn’t quite deliver. That said, its still a Hickman book with gorgeous visuals from Jerome Opena so it’s worth a read. But the central conflict with the Garden is so rushed to its conclusion in issue 3 that it hurts the overall narrative. I’m left wondering if Hickman wasn’t just trying to tie this opening arc up while he had Opena on hand and the arc wouldn’t be split between artists. My fears about the large cast are realized here too. How do you make Captain Universe work on a team? How do you introduce three or four new characters in a cast of 24. It’s obviously a challenge and one that the boom doesn’t live up to. Smasher seems interesting but only really gets three lines. Hyperion looks cool but never speaks( although his fight with Hulk is fun) and to anyone that doesn’t know about Captain Universe, the character makes no sense here at all. The resolution of the conflict is sudden and jarring because of her presence and makes pretty much the entire cast unnecessary. Still, the birth of a new human race is interesting , especially because of solicitations for later issues teasing the return of New Universe. Likewise there are some good lines in the book. Thor gets a great moment, as do Spider-Man( still Peter here) and Wolverine. I hope the next issue slows its pace a bit and at least introduces these new characters properly before moving on. Adam Kubert joins Hickman next issue and while I’m sad to see Opena go, any Kubert is good for a comic.

The cover to FF3 is quite fun in a throwback, early Marvel/Jack Kirby kind of way. Property of Marvel Comics.

FF 3
FF 3 is great fun. This is just a excellently crafted book that delivers on its core concept flawlessly. Fraction and Allred don’t quite top themselves from last issue(Mole Man attack!) but  we get a great sequence with Ant-Man and Darla that Allred clearly has a blast illustrating. Darla is really growing on me as a character and it seems like Fraction will be using her as a point of view into the zany, sci-fi madness that is coming.  I sincerely hope the Yancy Street Internet jerks become a recurring theme. I also love that the students seem like they will have more involvement going forward. Some of them are quite memorable and I can’t wait to see where the plot takes them. John Storm’s return to the present last issue really kicks this series into high gear and sets some very interesting things into motion. It also possibly spoils some events in Fantastic Four but I’m sure something clever and unexpected will happen to keep us in suspense over in the other title. It certainly adds a bit of meta guessing game to the books that is fun to speculate about. This is my favorite book from Marvel NOW! Because it has just been so consistently fun. I can’t this book and not smile as I do and that experience makes it more than worth it’s price tag and it’s place on my pull list.

Justice League 16
Exciting and new. Justice League 16 is bigger than Atlantis invading. It’s about expanding the New 52 in the most meaningful way since it launched. It’s the genesis of the new JLA and an expanded DCU in general and its very exciting, I think Justice League of America will be a fun book to follow. The hero vs hero thing at play with Aquaman is a bit of a tired comics thing these days but at least Aquaman comes off as genuine, even if Batman of all people should have been a little more level headed. The comic rationalizes this by telling us again and again that hundred have just died and the stakes are high. Superman and Wonder Woman react appropriately for their character’s portrayal but Batman and Aquaman were all buddy buddy last issue so his impatience seems out of place. Still the fight with Orm is full of impressive visuals, Ivan Reis knows how to craft a visceral environment for the big fight and you can really feel the super-powered punches landing. Reis is quickly becoming one of the industry’s super-star talents and I’m glad he’s on such a high profile book. Cyborg gets the spotlight here in a great way and I’m thrilled to see him getting some development and importance in the team. The backup feature starring Shazam continues to impress too. Black Adam is a little one dimensional at the moment but its a great origin story for Billy and a good introduction to DC’s magic side. Billy may be more of a brat these days but that just gives him room to develop later.

 

With 2012 in the books, and Marvel NOW! in full swing, I thought I’d take a look at five characters poised to have great years in the Marvel-verse. Most of these characters had great 2012’s, or were recently positioned in books that should make them shine. So, without further ado, here are the five characters I’m watching in 2013.

5) Bruce Banner – now that Indestructible Hulk is ongoing, expect to see a lot more of the Bruce Banner side of the character. So far Mark Waid has made a point of defining Dr. Banner’s role in the scientific community, and it looks like this trend will continue in 2013. Mark Ruffalo and Joss Whedon did a lot to move Bruce past his image as a tragic, brooding (boring) character, and it looks like Waid and Marvel are smart enough to run with what they started.

4) Wolverine – Yes, I actually think Logan will be worth watching this year. After what Rick Remender put him through in Uncanny X-Force and his developing role as the new Professor Xavier, this character has more opportunities for growth than he has had in years. It will be hard to get away with “type casting” Wolverine as the stone cold killer he has traditionally been, and I’m looking forward to what writers like Jason Aaron and Brian Bendis do with him. I’m much less interested in Savage Wolverine, which seems like a step backwards…I’ll be avoiding that one.

3) Spider-Man – Slott earned himself a few enemies with Amazing Spider-Man #700. However, the result of the “Spider-Ock” event has left us with a very interesting character to watch. Apparently Spider-Man is going to spend much of 2013 wrecking the reputation he has worked so hard for the last 50 years. Spider-Man is almost always more interesting when things are going badly, so this should be an intriguing year.

2) Psylocke – Remender’s work with Betsy Braddock fundamentally altered her outlook on life, but it also secured her place as an “A-List” X-Man. If you need more proof of this, Psylocke will be headlining the new volume of Uncanny X-Force and featuring in the all female X-Men. I’ve been a huge fan of the character as long as I can remember, so I’m looking forward to seeing her grow into her role as a major player.

1) Cyclops – For the first time ever, Scott Summers is a bad guy. Given, he’s trying to do some good, but after AvX, he’s really on the outs with everyone, including his own team. This is a great opportunity for Cyclops to grow into a role other than the face of the X-Men (since Wolverine has taken over that role “officially”). I expect Bendis to have a lot of fun with Slim this year, especially considering his younger self will be running around as well.

By Alex Headley

Both Marvel and DC relaunched their brand in big ways in 2012. Mostly that involved heroes flying/running at you.

There is no denying that 2012 has been a big year for comics. The New 52 ( yes it started in 2011 but the meat of it was this year) hit its stride, giving DC its biggest numbers in years. Marvel NOW! Is just getting started but we’ve already seen an impact from it. November was a huge month for the comics. But more than finances, the last year has been good for creators. Marvel and DC seem, to me at least, to be far friendlier to writers and artists than in a long while. Marvel NOW! seems to be all about the creative side of things. Think of the way it was marketed: Mark Waid and Leniel Yu, Rick Remender and John Cassady, Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena. The creators are just as important to those books as the characters involved. It was the same with DC. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. All these guys got to leave their mark on some of the biggest names in comics.
It’s a model that seems to be working for both publishers and one that spins directly out of Image’s recent success with new iPs from specific creators like Hickman, Robert Kirkman and Brian K. Vaughn. The New 52 has thrived off of series that let the creators run wild. Look at Demon Knights, Animal Man, and Wonder Woman. Those books brought new ideas to those characters, taking the titles in new directions and exploring new sides of the core cast or where almost entirely new. Marvel NOW! is taking big risks too, bringing back the original X-Men, combining mutants and Avengers and taking Peter Parker out of the mask.
There finally seems to be a real effort on both companies’ part to expand the diversity of their line as well. Both companies offer more genres in their books as well as a more landscape in the titles that better reflect the diversity of the real world. DC has 9 ongoing titles starring female characters in the lead role. Marvel has only 4 but there are several ladies on each team book, Marvel’s hallmark. It’s a big leap forward. Minorities are better represented as well, even if some of the books that could have best reflected that change were canned for one reason or another (I’m looking at you Static Shock and Mr. Terrific) and some obviously deserving characters still don’t have their own series ( Cyborg!). The industry is still dominated mostly by white guys writing white guys but progress is being made, however slowly.

This is now the most popular superhero team in the world. Crazy, huh?
Property of Marvel Comics (Also Disney)

On top of the Marvel and DC comics, the publisher’s have done well in other media. DC continues to put out high quality animation in the form of DVDs and television series. Cartoon Network’s DC Nation, though its had a rough patch as of late, is a big deal. Likewise, Marvel has seen success with Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes( yeah it was cancelled but only so that Marvel could move forward with a Avengers toon of their own). That’s not to mention the two wildly successful films The Dark Knight Rises and Marvel’s The Avengers. The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time. Not bad for a team of formerly B-list heroes directed by a guy with more failed TV series than fingers. Sony released The Amazing Spider-Man and while it wasn’t as big as the other two, it did give us Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, so it was worth it. All three films were undisputed hits this year and 2013 only seems like it will continue the trend of comic book films dominating the box office. Man of Steel, Thor:The Dark World and Iron Man 3 all promise to be big hits. We can also look forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2 and a potential Justice League film in 2014. Joss Whedon is also working on a SHIELD live action series. Whedon back on TV working Marvel properties can only be a good thing. For DC, Arrow has been well-received and there seems to be a Wonder Woman series titled Amazon in the works.
Outside of the big two, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead has truly become a powerhouse property. The long running series has always receive critical praise and been a fan favorite series but AMC’s television adaptation has turned it into a blockbuster franchise. Telltale Game’s adaptation of the zombie epic recently won game of the year at Spike Video Game awards. And a FPS title is coming from Activision in 2013 starring the AMC original characters Darryl and Merle. The series is one of Image’s top selling titles right alongside Kirkman’s other project, Invincible both of which hit the landmark 100 issues in 2012.
I think that non-superhero stuff is the best it’s ever been in comics. The Walking Dead is part of that. As is the excellent Manhattan Projects, BKV’s Saga and the eminent return of Sandman.

One of the most popular comic book franchises. Not a superhero in sight.

In addition to the overall higher quality of work being put out at the moment, there are more ways than ever to get what we want. Digital distribution has been embraced by all the big names in the industry, meaning that we don’t even have to leave the house to get our fix. While I still prefer to get my comics from my local comic shop, the digital option is nice to have. Comixology offers weekly sales and that let’s readers pick up books they might otherwise ignore or miss. Trades are still a big part of the industry as well, giving readers a way to catch up or enjoy a series without having to wait a month to get our fix.

Despite all the good stuff going on, there are still issues. Most recently, the retirement of Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger is troubling for the line and maybe says some negative things about how that imprint has been treated since the New 52. Berger was responsible for bringing us pretty much every one of the awesome Vertigo series we have loves over the years, like Sandman. Gail Simone was recently fired in a very public way that sours some of my praise on DC’s diversity in their creative teams. On the Marvel side of things, its hard not to notice that comics are more expensive than ever. Marvel is the brunt of the problem here for me. Lots of books are bi-weekly now and even more have a $4 price point. Couple that with the reduction in page counts throughout the industry and you have an increasingly expensive hobby. At least the 3.99 DC books give you a second story to enjoy, sometimes putting the spotlight on interesting characters or new creators. Double shipping is a big problem. Another worrying trend is the return of variant covers. DC is releasing 52 for the first issue of JLA, one for each state, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Marvel isn’t better about it. They have been been absolutely in love with variants this year. Variants can be fun but upwards of $12 is a lot to ask for a picture of Deadpool dancing to Gangnam style on the cover of Avengers 1. Its just overkill. On the bright side all those baby variants are giving Skottie Young a lot of work.

by Phil Gibson

Merry Christmas Eve!

Both Alex and I were at a wedding last week, so reviews are running a few days behind. I had plenty on my pull list, and for the most part, I was really thrilled with what I read.

All-New X-men #3-4

We’ll start with the series I am feeling the most conflicted about at the moment. Bendis was at his best in issue #3, as he made me feel sorry for Cyclops, even after he refused to take responsibility for everything he did as the Phoenix, including murder Professor X. As I said in Episode 2 of our podcast, Cyclops is a guy who thinks like a hero but is in no position to actually be a hero at the moment. Bendis does a good job of capturing this dilemma. Scott Summers is leading his revolution and “saving” new mutants from the humans, but I’m not sure if he has any idea what his actual purpose is. The revolution people keep talking about in this series just seems like Cyclops gathering up all the new mutants and protecting them from the humans. It would be easy to say that Bendis is forgetting to define Cyclops’ purpose here, but I am interpreting the events in issue #3 as a sign that Scott really has no clue what to do with his new status as an “X-ile” (ok, that was bad) other than try to keep playing the good guy.

While issue #3 does a good job of focusing on the shortcomings of Cyclops, issue #4 is a mess. Bendis spends way too much time with dialogue here. Without action to keep things moving, the issue gets bogged down explaining how everyone is feeling about the current situation. I hope this is a fluke, because Bendis is at his worst when he gets verbose. I’m still optimistic about the series as a whole, but issue #4 made me just a little nervous.

Incredible Hulk #2

This series is just plain fun. Waid has managed to take what Mark Ruffalo started in The Avengers and use it to redefine the relationship between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Instead of treating him as a tragic figure trying to keep his demons in check, Waid has Bruce using the Hulk to make Tony Stark finally take him seriously. The results are a few pages of fisticuffs between Hulk and Iron Man resulting in a much more equitable relationship between Tony and Bruce.

Waid does a great job of making Bruce’s approach to science novel from Tony Stark’s here. Whereas Stark uses what he know to build new things, Banner is dreaming big and then inventing the knowledge to get there. Stark lives in the world of science fact, whereas Banner lives in the world of science fiction. This makes sense, as Banner’s condition is an accident of unexplainable science, whereas Stark’s development of Iron Man was totally deliberate.

I’m really excited to see where this series is going, and I hope Waid keeps experimenting with the relationship between this new Bruce Banner and the other big shots in the Marvel Universe.

Thor: God of Thunder #3

Jason Aaron is on fire with this series. It is looking very possible that this could end up being my favorite Marvel NOW! title, and the reason is simple: Aaron isn’t afraid to write a fantasy story. As I’ve said before, this is a much more mythical Thor than we’ve seen before. Aaron reinforces this with an Iron Man appearance. Thor diminishes Stark’s ability to understand what is going on in the world of the gods, showing again that his affairs as an eternal entity are much larger than the temporal concerns of the Avengers.

We also learn just a bit more about Thor’s history with Gorr, the God Butcher. While we have no idea how, this issue tells the reader that Gorr’s rampage is somehow a direct outcome of his first encounter with Thor. Once again, Aaron isn’t giving us all the information. There is very little exposition here (Bendis should take note), just bits and pieces of history as the main plot moves on.

I can’t wait for issue #4 of this series.

Uncanny X-Force #35

My favorite series of the year is over, although it is getting a relaunch in January. I was really sad to see this lineup go after falling in love with the characters during Remender’s run. Issue #35 doesn’t give us much story, it’s more of a love letter to the readers to remind us why we enjoyed this team so much. In particular, I’m really sad this is the last time we’ll see Remender write Deadpool for a while. He underwent some serious development in this series, showing us that, beneath all the wise-cracking, there is a deeply conflicted soul trying to be a hero. Wade and Evan have a great moment in this issue, and I sincerely hope we haven’t seen the last of their very brotherly relationship.

Speaking of development, Remender makes it clear that, while this is Wolverine’s team, it is Psylocke’s book. The story, from issue one, has absolutely tortured Betsy Braddock, causing her to deal with loss, guilt, and self-loathing due to the killer she has become. Remender has done a great job of reconciling her character history with her personality, and brought her to a new place. Her reward for giving up the assassin – she finally gets a partner without a dark side (you’ll see what I mean in the book).

Wolverine is also in a very different place than he was 35 issues ago. The killing finally gets to him in a big way, leaving Logan in an unsure state about his place in the world, which sets up perfectly for his spot in Remender’s Uncanny Avengers. My only concern is that the multitude of people who are writing Wolverine will fail to adjust their approach to the character to incorporate this shift (I’m thinking especially of Savage Wolverine).

Overall, the strength of this book is that it wraps up the series nicely while transitioning perfectly into Marvel NOW! We’ll see if Sam Humphries can follow up Remender with an Uncanny X-Force that is worthy of the title.

By Alex Headley

The cover to Demon Knights 15 Property of DC Comics

Demon Knights 15

Paul Cornell’s run has been nothing short of brilliantly imaginative and fun. Dungeons & Dragons inspired bar brawls, fire breathing dinosaurs, rhyming demons and Avalon all make for big, fun adventure. Unfortunately, issue 15 falters a bit in its pacing and storytelling. Things just happen too fast and I get the sense that it’s entirely because this is Cornell’s last issue. The big fight in Avalon, the return of Merlin, the aftermath of all the stories so far, and the set up for the future are all here and it just doesn’t quite mesh. The dialogue is still fun and witty, the betrayals are both inevitable and enjoyable and the core group all get some good lines. That’s great, but this also has ties to the origin of a lot of things about the DCU. Namely, the creation of Stormwatch and the importance of magic. Merlin says some intriguing things in his short time on screen but none of it carries the weight that it should. Likewise, Lucifer’s threats and musings aren’t nearly as interesting here as they have been in previous issues. There isn’t too much else to say other than the issue is mainly disappointing because it’s Cornell’s last and we all know he is capable of so much more. At least we have the rest of his run to look back upon fondly.

Fantastic Four 2

The cover to Fantastic Four #2 has a classic Jack Kirby feel to it. Property of Marvel Comics

Issue 2 is still largely setting up for things to come, but damn is it a charming look at Marvel’s first family. Everyone in this issue just has so much personality on display. Matt Fraction doesn’t waste a single panel or line of dialogue. Short scenes are all he needs to establish these characters, build relationship, tension and plot. Again, Reed Richards and Scott Lang take center stage here as the two discuss the unstable cancer that is infecting the Fantastic Four and the nature of the group’s trip into the space and time. It’s a plot point that grounds the levity and playfulness on display in a good way.   But the opening pages, where Ben threatens the Yancy Street gangs before leaving, are the most touching. The Thing is a loud expressive character known best for his silly catchphrases. But Fraction gives him a lot of heart behind all of that bluster and noise. Bagley seems to have really gotten a handle on drawing the big ol’ rock too, making some of my gripes with last issue irrelevant here. Medusa meeting the FF kids may be the best moment in the book. It’s quite funny and cuts to the core of both Medusa and Susan Storm quite well.  Johnny Storm and his girlfriend Darla have some humorous interactions here but we still know very little about the character. We still haven’t seen the suit that she will supposedly be wearing in the FF series.  The only downside to this issue at all in my opinion is that it still isn’t moving the plot forward very quickly and you kind of need to be reading FF to appreciate all the interactions here. It’s a fun story but ultimately one that doesn’t do too much.  The two books are practically different chapters of the same tale at the moment and while I’m sure that will change as things go along I still get the feeling that it’s a big intentional. Much like the X-men and Avengers have their big family of titles, it feels like Fraction is up to the same thing here. I’m still enjoying the series, but I’m eager for things to get started in earnest. I guess that means Fraction is doing something right.

All-New X-Men, All-New Bendis? Property of Marvel Comics

Join us for Comic Critique Podcast Episode 2

Reviews, previews, and general Comic talk ensue as we dive in to the first month of Marvel Now!, Batman’s Death of the Family, and just take a critical look at some of our favorite books.

Visit us at comiccritiqueblog.wordpress.com

Contact us at comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com

You can stream the show  here or download it at our podbean website. The show should be up on iTunes sometime in the next day or two here.

Please send any feedback, questions, or other musings to comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com

By Alex Headley

This was a pretty great week in comics for me. Avengers 1 may prove to be the best Marvel NOW! book in the bunch. Action Comics is always a treat and Rotworld kicks into high gear in Animal Man and Swamp Thing 15. I also picked up issue 14 of Demon Knights, I missed it last week somehow but I’ve liked the series since it launched. Read any of these books? Let me know what you thought in the comments.

A variant cover for Avengers #1. My favorite of the bunch to be honest. Property of Marvel Comics.

Avengers #1
Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena’s opening issue waste no time at all jumping right into the thick of things. Their first arc, Avengers World, is huge in scope. But five words really sum it up nicely. “We have to get bigger.” That’s really what Marvel NOW! seems to be about and Avengers has just proven to be the flagship title to hammer that home. As the issue opens, we are reunited with Marvel’s six iconic Avengers; Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow. This is the big six from Marvel’a wildly successful film and it does indeed seem small compared to the threat we see in these pages and the things the Avengers have found themselves up against in the past. So, as Stark says in the opening pages, the solution is simple. Expansion. By the end of the issue 12 heroes have answered Cap’s summons and Hickman promises that the cast could expand up to 24 characters. This seems like a great way to introduce new readers to the Marvel U at large. You could almost pick this issue up having seen nothing but the movie and a basic understanding of the comics shared history and be ready to go. It does a great job of taking a group of iconic characters and throwing them off in the deep end. It’s a great way to approach a first issue, especially a team title filled with big time characters. Hickman doesn’t waste any time telling us who these guys are but seems confident that the iconic cast is part of pop culture and let’s them speak for themselves. And he nails it.
Such  a big cast seems like a lot to juggle but Hickman’s hallmark is big, grand storytelling and that is definitely what is being set up here. Hickman’s  is definitely a planner and I’m sure he has a timeline set up to best utilize such a big cast. There seems to always be a big thesis to hammer home in his work; a theme that everything works toward and I suspect the big theme here will deal with the big questions. Origins of the universe, the nature of humanity. These new godlike characters really reinforce that idea. I’m very much interested in learning more about Ex Nihilo and the other characters in this sort of pantheon of beings. If nothing else they are all visually striking and have interesting powers. This really hits home thanks to Opena’s beautiful work on the book. I first got a look at Opena during his Uncanny X-Force run and was absolutely blown away. His style has a gravity to it that really works on this book. Avengers 1 is the real flagship title of Marvel NOW! and it’s a classic in the making. My only complaint is the double shipping of the book. Twice monthly at 3.99 is a little painful. Still for such a quality title it’s not a problem. What really worries me is what Marvel has to do to keep it on time. Artist changes are coming as early as issue 5 and as we’ve seen with the New 52, quality can suffer when art duties are passed between too many hands. Still future concerns don’t detract from an awesome first issue of Hickman’s run.

The excellent Fiona Staples variant cover to Action #15. Property of DC Comics

Action Comics 15
Grant Morrison’s big imagination is on full display here as he explores the nature of the 5th dimension and classic Superman villain Mr. Mxylpyx ( I found lots of different spellings for that, odd considering the name’s importance). The structure of the issue can be quite jarring, especially coming right out of last month’s issue, but that happens with Morrison on occasion. Still, the conflict is interesting and looks like it will be the uniting concept for some of the ongoing plot points in the run so far. It’s nice to see an underused villain and concept make an appearance in the New 52, especially since its been teased from the beginning and sci-fi is typically the best way to go with Superman stories. It’s easier to challenge an all powerful character when you mess with his perception of reality and time. I still think this arc would be better served with a little more room to breathe. Big things happen here, reverberating all the way back to before Clark was Superman and even before the end of Krypton. The backup feature by Sholly Fisch  adds a great deal to the story here and is almost necessary to fully understand and appreciate the main story. It’s a charming tale with a bit of a Bill Willingham’s Fables feel to it. I love that series so any touch of it is great. The art in this issue isn’t the best for the series. Mostly because of the back and forth between the two artists on duty here. Rags Morales has been great throughout this run and the second artist, Mark Probst, does a great job on his pages but the transitions just don’t work for me here.

Morrison’s run end next month. I’ll be sad to see it go but Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel will be taking over, giving Supes a new suit and looking at Krypton a little more closely. I loved Andy Diggle’s run on Daredevil and his Thunderbolts series was pretty much universally liked.

Animal Man 15
I picked on Rotworld a bit last month,  stating that the two titles were a little too symmetrical. Well, the books definitely have differences this week. Swamp Thing feels dark, moody and desperate. But Animal Man 15 is a book in which Frankenstein stabs brains and shoots Gorillas. Also, Beast Boy wears a beret. It’s great.
DC’s Frankenstein is a great character and I am happy to see Lemire using him so much after his series was cancelled ( the character has seemingly joined the cast of Justice League Dark). Animal Man has become a kind of team up book and that really helps it stand apart from Swamp Thing. Constantine, Steel, Black Orchid and Beast Boy all get moments to shine. Rotworld is really filling out too. The notion that small bands of survivors are put there in a Mad Max kind of world is fun. New Gorilla City, New Gotham, The Patchwork Army. These are things that make it feel like a living, breathing place and not just an event or temporary change (this is something I thought Flashpoint did very well too and was the key to that event’s success). There is a lot to explore. As such, the flashbacks are a little jarring. They take the reader out of the world that most of the issue spends so much time building that it doesn’t quite work. The story itself is solid and emotional but maybe it could have been paced differently. Despite that minor complaint, Animal Man 15 does a lot of thing right.The series is still a must read and I don’t see that changing while Lemire is on the book.

The cover to Swamp Thing 15. My favorite cover of the week as well. Property of DC Comics

Swamp Thing 15
As I said in the entry above, Swamp Thing has a dark and depressing tone. This is appropriate since everyone in the DCU is an undead rotting nightmare. Swampy has met fewer friendliesn on his journey than Buddy Baker has in Animal Man and things don’t get much better when he arrive in Gotham. Snyder is the architect of the Batman Family right now and its nice to see his two worlds colliding a bit here. The twists and turn in this issue are great, both in the main story and in the flashbacks to Abby Arcane’s fight before the world got all rotty. The flashbacks are so strong in this issue because in a way, the Arcane family is the true star of this book. It’s been that way since #1.  The art continues to be great, it’s bathed in shadow and despair, even Swampy looks darker. He isn’t quite his usual green self. A nice choice by the colorist to depict his waning power. Yanick Paquette is a favorite of mine and while this issue isn’t his best, his two page splash in the middle of the issue is just fantastic.

 

Demon Knights 14
Demon Knights has been a great series that really gives the New 52 its flagship “alternative genre” title. It’s full of almost exclusively obscure characters, some of which are completely new like Horsewoman and Al Jabr. Paul Cornell has created an eclectic cast and story to accompany them. The latest arc puts the cast in Hell while searching for Avalon. Cornell has crafted a team book that focuses on filling out an oft unexplored portion of the DCU but one that is more important than ever. Demon Knights ties in with Stormwatch and Justice League Dark in a big way, and the title is seemingly the beginnings of the superhero concept and the birthplace of magic in a way. Magic, as I’ve said before, has become the driving force in the DCU much like super science is in the Marvel Universe. Demon Knights gives us a glimpse into that and defines some truly fun characters in over the top sword and sorcery situations. If you have ever liked the fantasy genre I highly suggest you pick up this series. At least give Cornell’s run a look as it has been non stop fun month in and month out.
A big change up in the story is coming soon when Cornell moves off the book and 14 really kicks the story into high gear in preparation of the change up. The three forces that are aligned for battle should lend the next issue some great action sequences.

by Phil Gibson

Alex got his comics reviewed earlier, now it’s my turn. This week I’m looking at a trio of second issues from the Marvel NOW! imprint: Thor: God of Thunder #2, Uncanny Avengers #2, and All-New X-men #2. Be ye warned, there may be SPOILERS ahead.

Thor: God of Thunder #2

Well, he did ask...Property of Marvel Comics

Well, he did ask… Property of Marvel Comics

I read this issue twice, because the first time I didn’t really like it. It seemed a bit superficial, especially since most of the issue is spent on one fight with very few words exchanged.

The second time through, however, I enjoyed this issue tremendously. Esad Ibic is doing a phenomenal job on the art for this series, so everything is beautiful to look at.

I wasn’t sure I like Aaron’s approach in this issue initially. Something I liked a lot about issue #1 was the juxtaposition of young, current, and old Thors’ encounters with the God Butcher.  There was little to none of that in this issue, just a young Thor with an axe fighting off a would-be God Murderer. The end of the issue, however, manages to remind the reader just different this Thor is. The God Butcher has no idea what a God of Thunder is until Thor hits him with a bolt of lightning, and it would not be the least bit surprising if that moment solidified that identity. This Thor cannot lift Mjolnir yet, and he is trying desperately to prove his worth. It’s an interesting study in the life of an immortal.

What really makes the issue interesting, however, is the readers’ lack of knowledge about the God Butcher’s motives. Thor implies that he may know what would drive a being to murder immortals, and the Butcher obviously despises the gods, but the reader is left out of the loop for now. I finished the issue wanting to know more, which may be Aaron’s entire goal since he is stuck trying to push out two issues a month. I expect #3 to be full of more story than is present here, but #2 does a good enough job to keep me reading.

Uncanny Avengers #2

Remender is killing it with this series. From the opening issue the scribe is doing what he does best, which is giving us a look behind the motives and misgivings of people drawn to a single cause. Here we start with a distraught Wolverine at the brink of giving up on Xavier’s dream, who is even more hacked off when he finds out Captain America is making a mutant team with Cyclops’ brother instead of him. Meanwhile, the incident from issue #1 ends up proving Cap’s point, that Alex Summers may be one of the only mutants who can build a bridge with the human race.

On a side note, one of the common gripes about issue #1 was that no one knew why Thor is on this team. Remender deals with that complaint in efficient fashion here, as the god of thunder at once points out the scale of the mutant-human conflict and the tragedy that the two races haven’t been able to work things out on their own. A god should not have to intervene to resolve differences between people that should not exist, and it is kind of pathetic on our part that he has to.

Scarlet Witch shows why she is more than just a mutantProperty of Marvel Comics

Scarlet Witch shows why she is more than just a mutant Property of Marvel Comics

We also get a great insight into Rogue and Scarlet Witch. With Rogue, issue #2 starts to explain why she is a great fit for this team. In addition to being incredibly resourceful with her powers, Rogue has a unique experience with being a mutant villain who became a mutant hero, while Scarlet Witch is trying to redeem herself for decimating the mutant community. Rogue’s anger at Scarlet Witch is juxtaposed against her on struggles to be accepted by the X-Men.

Speaking of the Scarlet Witch, Remender manages to cast Wanda into a light that I haven’t really seen her in before – as a mutant. She’s been an Avenger so long that you forget whose daughter she is and what race she belongs to, especially since she is responsible to decimating the mutant race. But here she is a mutant who is a little more than a mutant, as she points out. Rogue can steal her mutant abilities, but she’ll never know how to use magic, a balance that captures the Scarlet Witches’ nature perfectly.

By the way, Red Skull is scary as hell in this series. I wasn’t sold on using him as the villain in this series initially, but now, he’s the worst possible thing that could happen to the mutant community at this time –  a genocidal, maniacal bigot with the power to persuade huge groups of people to his side. The Uncanny Avengers will have their hands full in this series, and I’m absolutely thrilled about it.

All-New X-men #2

Things start to get a little nuts in All-New X-men #2
Property of Marvel Comics

I wasn’t thrilled with issue #1 of this series, but Bendis is starting to sway me a little bit more with this outing. The dialogue is still forced in certain places, and there is too much exposition, but the characters don’t take themselves quite as seriously as they did in the first issue, which is funny considering how much Beast’s little time-travelling stunt immediately results in potentially catastrophic happenings. Within the first 5 pages, young Beast finds out old Beast is probably dying, young Jean Grey knows she is dead, young Cyclops is going through an identity crisis, and young Angel doesn’t even want to know what happened to him (good call Warren). The only person not going through a total crisis is Iceman, whose future self is pretty much the same with a different coat of paint.

Most of this issue is spent with the characters in a state of chaos, which suits Bendis better than a linear events. Potentially cataclysmic events are getting made very quickly, with the present day X-Men scratching their heads to figure out what they are supposed to do.

There are some cool fanboy moments here, such as when Wolverine sees the young Jean Grey for the first time. In additional, Stuart Immonen is the perfect artist for this series. One thing I can say for Marvel NOW! is that the publishers did an excellent job matching artists with titles. I have yet to see a book with bad art (that may be because I only buy good books, but whatever).

I am growing more optimistic about this series. Hopefully Bendis doesn’t end up using some ridiculous gimmick to fix everything at the end of this arc, because I am really enjoying seeing things spin out of control.