Serials: Punisher, Spider-Man, Captain America

Amazing Spider-Man # 795
"Threat Level: Red, pt 2" by Slott, Gage, Hawthorne, Pallot, and Gracia

This issue is as much a done-in-one as it is a teaser for the "Red Goblin," the name for Norman Osborn's merger with the Carnage symbiote.

For all the Marvel Universe change-ups that characters go through -- Peter is moving into an apartment now that he's a failed CEO, while Loki Laufeyson is the new Sorcerer Supreme -- this issue still manages to feel like a traditional Marvel team-up book. Peter goes into work as the Daily Bugle's science editor, only to be summoned by Loki to repay a favor for him: to return to Peter his wealth. I read this issue and had a fuzzy memory of this, wondering, "Could it be...?" and found it on CBR to confirm: this is referring all the way back to Straczynski and Romita Jr's run in issues 503/504, when Peter helped Loki save his daughter (one of many) from an evil enchantress. This is the strength of Marvel Legacy: that there are no hard reboots, and that every story exists. It tickled that comic book reader bone inside me to see that.

Spider-Man doesn't take the offer too well, frustrated at his situation and how his previous deals with magic have resulted, and ends up breaking a magical containment cask for the Fire-Wasps of the Faltine. It leads to a very standard team-up between the two of them, where a Fire-Wasp murders an innocent man, so Peter uses his one favor to turn back time, to before he broke the cask.

On the face of it, it's a very typical Marvel team-up, but you'll learn a little bit more about the character of Loki, Sorcerer Supreme. This is great for me: through the lens of Peter Parker I've already experienced a bunch of the Marvel Universe: Mockingbird, Silver Sable, and now Loki, Sorcerer Supreme. A competent done-in-one that handles one of the greatest strengths of a shared Marvel Universe.

Captain America # 698
"Out of Time, pt 1" by Waid, Samnee, and Wilson

Last issue, Captain America was frozen (again) by a terrorist organization, and in this issue he thaws (again) to a drastic new future he never saw coming! The same terrorist organization, Rampart, unleashed a bomb that triggered deformities in some people, and killed most of the Marvel Universe's heroes. Business owners began charging exorbitant amounts of money for clean air, water, and other basic goods, creating a social dichotomy: wealthy elites who lived in clean areas and wore branded "A"'s on their forehead to denote their status, while mutants who had no choice but to live in dumpsters wear "Y"'s and "Z"'s.

It's a chilling future, and I didn't think Waid/Samnee had a dystopia in them! For all the things that have changed -- there's an bipedal talking dog mutant, drone shooters named "rapidtroops," a guy disfigured like the Toxic Avenger of the 1980s, and worst of all, Captain America doesn't even have his "America" anymore, a term bastardized by the elites who value it with a fetish -- Steve Rogers is still the man that stands up for the little people. After the traditional stories that started their run, I'm excited to continue this sci-fi underdog story from Waid/Samnee.

The Punisher #221
"Punisher: War Machine Pt 4" by Rosenberg, Vilanova, and Lowridge

It's amazing how much Rosenberg condenses into the first half of this issue. Last time, we saw Frank fly down into the ocean in the middle of combat with S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers in War Machine armor. The first half is a comeback story of how he repaired his armor, and then, the second half is what he did after he got it fixed. Spoiler alert: he kills a lot of people in both halves!

It's all a ploy to get the despot General Petrov out of hiding, which he does -- by threatening a nuclear bomb! Cue next issue! Great serial storytelling from all three of my comics this week.

My favorite kill of the issue: Frank does his best "Jaws" impression on one of General Petrov's goonies, while ice-fishing:
Is "No! Go away!" just the perfect thing to say when you're about to get murdered by an soaking robot-man from the ice that you were fishing?? It's the same kind of ludicrous, over-the-top murder that you'd expect from Garth Ennis's run, played with just as straight a face. It's both charming and extremely disturbing, a tone that the team has managed spot-on for this run.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Injustice: Gods Among Us Years Two through Five

by Tom Taylor, Brian Buccellato, Bruno Redondo, Mike Miller, and more

In Year One, Superman murdered the Joker! This is what happened next. Years Two through Five explain Superman's transition from murderer to dictator, in an extremely decompressed manner. Around Year Four Brian Buccellato took over the scripts, from the original creator Tom Taylor.

Year Two: The Guardians of Oa try to intervene in Superman's plan for world peace, and Hal Jordan becomes a Yellow Lantern, permanently.
Year Three: John Constantine tries to stop Superman setting off a war of magic
Year Four: The Gods of Olympus intervene
Year Five: Plastic Man breaks Superman's supervillain prison, while Superman takes the next steps to quelling Batman's resistance.

For me, this was a binge-read over the course of a few weeks during the winter holidays. I find that ironic, since the whole Injustice series was originally made as a weekly digital-first title, to be digested week-by-week. The constant cliffhangers made for a just-as-excellent binge-read. So instead of a write-up proper, here's some selected moments from the series.
Lex wows the Justice League by revealing their "secret" identities. Elseworlds are refreshing, because in the normal DCU, you wouldn't be able to see situations like this!

Bizarro Superman makes his debut in Year Four, a test-tube creation from Lex Luthor. When Emperor Superman questions Lex about his involvement, there's this nice usage of Lex's heartbeat that clues us in to the situation. Only in comics could you do something like this, a very cool way to convey the information.

 The art was varied across the whole five years, but for the most part remained consistent with DC's "house style." Bruno Redondo probably held a good amount of issues. Here is just a nice action panel of punching.

A cool way that explains why Bizarro Superman has the reverse-S logo on his chest.

Year Five: Eel O'Brian adds a touch of humor to the dour life of Emperor Superman.

Crazily enough, the story doesn't even end on Year Five. Instead, it leads to a different universe with a focus on Harley Quinn, in the Injustice: Ground Zero miniseries. Who knows when I'll be able to get to that...?

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Daredevil: Back in Black Volume 3: Dark Art

by Soule, Garney, and Milla

Dark Art collects five issues, 10-14 of the 2015 series. It's a storyarc focused on a supervillain called "Muse," an artist that makes obscene artwork out of his victims. Here's his "bibliography," of sorts:
  1. An abstract mural composed of the blood of over 120 people
  2. A full-studio floor tableau of several Inhumans, murdered doing ordinary things like sitting on the couch and the toilet.
  3. The murder of Tenfingers, from Back in Black Volume 1: Chinatown
Obviously Matt isn't too excited about this, and his A.D.A. life intertwines with his night life, as he's responsible for serving the man whose studio was broken into for exhibit 1. Turns out, the owner is charging admission to see the awful piece of art, so Matt gets to close the studio for public indecency.

Muse seems to have superpowers, able to murder slews of regular people and super-powered Inhumans. To him, he gets to carve immortal lives out of his victims and turn them from people of insignificance to lasting art. It's otherwise a straightforward Marvel superhero story, except Ron Garny and Matt Milla just crush it on the visuals. In atypical fashion, they collaborate for the full five issues, not needing a fill-in artist. This splash page of Muse in the sewers is one of my favorite, for the perspective, the colors, and the linework. It's crazy that each brick is drawn on there.

The stark use of color reminds me of Frank Miller's Sin City, an appropriate tone to set for this darker Daredevil. I love looking at Garney & Milla's Daredevil, a presence of shadows and red boxing gloves/boots. Take a look at this two-page fight between Daredevil & Karnak. Karnak is an Inhuman Lieutenant who has the uncanny ability to "find the weakness in any person or thing," and over the course of this fight the two are trying to figure each other with great narration by Matt. Here is the scene for your pleasure.

In this age of digital comics, it's extremely easy to whip up a cover collage, so I've done that very thing for Dark Art. Together they tell an extremely abbreviated story of Daredevil's struggle with Muse.

Unfortunately, Muse is another member to be added to the revolving door of supervillainy, so you can cross that off your bingo sheet. Another trope to mark off is that someone close to the hero endures a trauma or death, and, in this one, it's Blindspot (Sam Chung, first introduced in Vol. 1: Chinatown) who gets his eyes gouged by the murderer.

Standard superhero fare elevated by the superb art team of Garney & Milla.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Serials: Daredevil #598, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #41, Spider-Man/Deadpool #27

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42
by Slott, Smith, Pallot, and Weber
"Bury the Ledes," back-up story "Spider-Sense & Sensibility," and gag page "The Many Costumes of Spider-Man"

It's a throwback to classic Spider-Man as we see Fancy Dan and the Enforcers! They're part of a larger story involving Daily Bugle reporter Betty Brant, her deceased husband Ned Leeds, and an underground mob plot about the (falsified) Battle of "Blood Creek."

Spider-Man plays more of a side character her, where Betty takes the main stage. "Blood Creek" was her husband's story, before he passed away, and so events happen to spur Betty on to finish his life's work. The whole thing comes off as a traditional, play-it-safe, Spider-Man crime story. No character development here, but it's not needed. Slott would be great as an animated series writer for this reason. He's very good at weaving plots together and teasing storylines early. The characters don't need to develop so much as their situations change.

Following is a shorter story about Peter's birthday, and his spider-sense. It has a very charming way to convey spider-sense that makes it worth the read alone.

Capping off the annual is a page of Spider-Man's costumes -- a fun way to look back at years of Spider-Man, and Dan Slott's 10 years there!

Daredevil #598
by Soule, Garney, Milla
"Mayor Fisk"

Man, talk about decompressed! Everybody walks around New York City and contemplates Muse's new art (remember him?) on city buildings, until he makes one of the Punisher.

Cue next issue, except, well, now you have to wait a month. It helps that Ron Garney is back on, but there's a disturbing amount of pages where there's a massive panel of nothing. . . did I really need a half-page of the back of Wilson Fisk's head? Could you have picked a better angle to

At least when Bendis decompressed his stories, he had oodles of dialogue to focus your eyes on. Here it's just tracts of unused space.

Spider-Man/Deadpool #27
by Thompson, Bachalo, and Hepburn
"Area 14" part 1

Reading this issue along with Daredevil just shows me how they're worlds apart. Thompson hands in a creative script that challenges the reader to take multiple reads to "get" it, utilizing both artists to jump back and forth between two different scenes that build on each other, technically and emotionally.

Those last few pages make Deadpool a sympathetic character in a way I've never seen before. Both Bachalo and Hepburn are perfectly suited for this style of storytelling, injecting their visual humor into each page, despite having utterly unique styles. They really squeeze the story out of each page, and this would make a great jumping on point for anyone. (So would last issue!)

This is the best comic book I read this week, if not the best comic book I pick up monthly.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Trades: File under 'J' for Justice League: Origin, Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3

Justice League Volume 1: Origin
by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams

The Justice League 2017 film strongly follows the plot of this six-issue collection, so if you've seen that, you can just replace Steppenwolf with Darkseid, and you've got the story here. As for this review, well: come for the Jim Lee art, and stay . . . for the Jim Lee art. The script in this story doesn't call for much depth in this ensemble book, opting to introduce members of the Justice League one-by-one as caricatures. Green Lantern is the cocky man who thinks he can do anything, Wonder Woman is the battle-hungry Amazon. . . Superman doesn't do much beyond asking "What can YOU do?" to Green Lantern and punching Darkseid.
Each issue had a cover that did a pretty good job of explaining its innards, so I've collaged them above.
Marvel's take on the Justice League, the Avengers, worked because it organically brought together these characters that people had already gotten to know as individuals, for a cause that only they as a team could overcome. It didn't hurt that they were all located in New York City either. In Justice League: Origin, the super-heroes come together because of Darkseid's Parademons placing macguffins in major cities, like the Green Lantern's Keystone City or Aquaman's Atlantis. The heroes don't get along, not in the Marvel manner that heroes mistakenly get into, but in a teenage, who-can-piss-farther kind of way that doesn't garner any sympathy. This book is full of super-heroes bickering, fighting, and insulting one another, along with the widescreen moments, two-page spreads and splash pages those entail. In other words, it's long on action, but short on soul. Read JLA instead.


It becomes a running joke, to make fun of Batman for having no superpowers:

We've seen Cliff Chiang's take on the Wonder Woman gauntlet scenes. Here's Lee's:

When the U.S. president asks if the group has a name, Barry Allen proudly tells them:

Oh Barry.

Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3
Collects issues 10, 16-21
by Brian Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Mark Bagley, and covers by David Mack

Bendis has this way with words that allows you to understand his characters. They speak with this maturity that allows them to express what they're feeling, and sometimes I get a little jealous of it. If only I could express myself with such maturity!

Anyways, there are two stories in this volume. Issue 10 is an abstract comic about J. Jonah Jameson's job for Jessica Jones, to find out Spider-Man's true identity. It's a character piece for Jonah as much as it is for Jessica, with a great gag at the end. I say it's an abstract comic because it challenges the format. Gaydos's paints are sometimes single-page splashes, and there are barely any panels separating disparate scenes. Dialogue is mostly placed on the side, but still in a recognizable way that you know who's saying what, for example, the below 3-page sequence.
That's right, that's three comic book pages up there.
Jessica's "hallucination" of
Kilgrave, the Purple Man,
in her Jewel costume

A creatively fun, and funny issue from the team. Issues 16-21 tell the story of "The Underneath," a six-part epic started by an intruder in Jessica Jones's bathroom. . . Mattie Franklin, A.K.A. the Spider-Woman! It leads Jessica all around New York, stopping by Jonah Jameson once more, as the foster father of Mattie, and sets up vague hints at Jessica Jones's history. For people coming in from the Netflix series, that might seem a little familiar. Mark Bagley draws the hell out of these flashback/dream sequences, depicting Jessica Jones back when she had a super-hero alter-ego, Jewel.

What makes Alias so good is that its hero isn't perfect. She's a flawed person in a flawed world, but she knows the difference between right and wrong, and that difference matters to her. So she'll go to great lengths to save people, and when Mattie goes missing, it's important to Jessica to find out what happened to her. You see everything that works about a crime noir story, work in the Marvel Universe, and you find out about the dirty corners in what you thought was a squeaky clean Manhattan.

Read more Alias:

Happy (Lunar) New Year!

Variant Cover by Bernard Chang
For me, the Lunar New Year is Chinese New Year, but there are several other cultures that celebrate this date as well.

I have been fairly Americanized, but I pick up on things from my parents, who immigrated in the 80s'. We set the table with traditional food like steamed chicken, roast pork, Chinese cupcakes (not sure what these are called), fat choy (hair-like black noodle), and other delectable goodies. We pour rice vinegar into different cups and offer the food to our deceased ancestors, praying for good fortune and prosperity. We light incense around the home to pay respects.

The fat choy is a long and wavy noodle (technically a bacterium), meant to represent the length of our wealth. We're not supposed to wash our hair on New Year's Day, lest we wash off the luck for the entire year! And we must wear new clothes on New Year's Day, symbolizing the start of a new year and forgetting the misfortunes of the previous. One of my favorite dishes is a fermented black bean dish, which goes beautifully with rice.

The lion dance is a traditional dance to ring in the new year, where men in masks lead a lion to eat a ball of food representing wealth and good fortune. To see this integral part of my life represented in comic book form, one of my favorite media of entertainment, is very gratifying.

Gong xi fa cai (恭喜发财)! Happy New Year! 

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Serials: X-Men: Red #1, VS #1, Quantum Jack #1

Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack #1
by Fabian Rangel and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

This is a fun read, evoking the cinematic action of the cartoon. I guess the conceit of this miniseries is that Jack is not a samurai -- in different issues, he's a space pirate, a luchador, different "quantum" possibilities of the original universe. You get the sense of scale here, with Jack's space pirate gang stealing a portable prison, holding some kind of divine person.

Space Pirate Jack thought he was just doing a gig, but now he gains a sense of duty in protecting this being, diverging from his values as a space pirate. The action is fun here, and there's certainly some story, but it's not enough for me to continue at $3.99 an issue. I'll wait for the discounted trade.

VS #1
by Ivan Brandon and Esad Ribic

Anything with Esad Ribic's name is an instant buy on it. The creators bill this as a "space gladiators" story, so it's kind of like Hunger Games, but ridiculously beautiful.

Two separate scenes occupy this issue: a pulse-pounding flashback battle between space gladiator Satta Flynn's team and some other team, and (what seems to be) a scene in the present where (gasp!) Satta has amputated his leg and is watching that flashback battle on a vid screen. It's an expert use of time here -- how does past Satta get out of the situation we saw him in? What is current Satta going to do without two legs? It makes him a sympathetic character and gives me all these questions which I'm hungry to answer for next ish.

X-Men: Red #1
by Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar

The world needs a story like this. It seems that the X-Men's story of persecution will always be relevant, and now that Jean Grey is back from the dead (the adult Jean Grey, not the teen Jean as seen in "All New X-Men."), she wants to find a way forward for the world, recruiting the help of superheroes like Namor of Atlantis, T'Challa of Wakanda, and Nightcrawler along with the geniuses of the world to brainstorm with her.

Beautifully drawn by Mahmud Asrar, you see what makes Jean such an inspiring character, from the initial rescue scene of a mutant teen, to another rescue of a baby, to Jean's speech at the UN to recognize the mutant nation. Classic superhero drama at its finest, with a modern take on Charles Xavier's original dream of human-mutant peace.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Happy Valentine's Day!

Did you ever exchange Valentine's cards in grade school? One of my favorites was a Transformers one of Optimus Prime. I don't remember what exactly it said, but if I had to guess, I'd give it this: "Valentine, you're made of sterner stuff!" or: "You've got the touch, Valentine!"

Now that I'm an adult, but I'm still into things like the Transformers, I get to have Valentine's that are more raunchy, or tongue-in-cheek. Below are some that I've compiled for your Valentine Cards enjoyment. E-mail them! Text them to your loved ones! Regale them with pictures of Spider-Man!

Hover over the image to get the image source.

Mark Bagley's Spider-Men, from Amazing Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Book 4 (a reprint of Amazing # 404)

Brian Bolland's Joker, from the Killing Joke

Nick Bradshaw's variant cover for Phoenix: resurrection #1

Ed McGuiness's Professor Charles Xavier

Giuseppe Camuncoli's Green Goblin, on the cover of Superior Spider-Man # 28

Happy Valentine's Day to you and your loved ones!

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 3: Here There Be Monsters

by Paul Jenkins, Damion Scott, and Paolo Rivera
collects Issues 11-14 of the 2003 series

This is actually my second reading of this TPB. I bought it at a convention for dirt cheap, and then bought it digitally, also for dirt cheap. Issues 11-13 is a Lizard story titled "The Lizard's Tale," while 14 is a standalone story with paints by an early Paolo Rivera. Man, check out that cover. So creative. So energetic.

I guess it took my two readings for me to "get" the story of "The Lizard's Tale." I didn't like the art much then, and I still don't favor it now. It's far too manga-influenced and exaggerated for what I now understand is -- get ready for it -- a crime noir take on the Lizard.

This story's got it all from the genre: a man on the edge, an ineffective hero, a hard-boiled cop. And most importantly: an unreliable narrative. Curt Connors comes to Peter in a plea for help and faltering attempts to hold the Lizard persona at bay. He can't get over the death of his wife, and it's doing a number on his psyche and his son Billy. But you're never quite sure who's in control: the Lizard or Curt, and Curt's account of a mysterious explosion at a rival's laboratory doesn't exactly ring true to Peter. The transition from Issue 11 to 12 will make you double-take, and it's a clever use of an unreliable narrative.

SPOILER: Peter finds out that Curt was in control the whole time, and using the persona of the Lizard to enact his deeds of revenge, to feed his inner id and need for rage. It's a nasty retcon that throws an otherwise tragic character under the bus -- and while some might disagree with it, I think it's genius. I believe it, and it's relatable. Everybody has this reptile brain that tells them ugly things, but we live in a civil society, and we want to keep that civil society. When Curt makes this reveal, he's telling us that it was him all along, a very human answer to a typically superhuman comic book. His transformation into the scaled monster was merely a reflection of the ugliness inside him. It's only when his son innocently calls for him that he snaps out of it, and willingly turns himself into the police. In fact, Spider-Man had nothing to do with bringing Curt to justice, and he's a bystander to Curt's downward spiral.

Sometimes that's how life is. It just happens and you can't do anything about it. No amount of punching or wisecracking will solve your problem, and even when you win, you lose. This was a twist for the Lizard that came out of nowhere -- and it could have used a different artist to match the tone. The colors should have been more muted, and the anatomy should have been more realistic. That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story for its deceptive take on an old character.

Issue 14 is an untitled one-shot from the perspective of Joey, a New Yorker who has cerebral palsy. His parents let him outside so he can watch the city, and as it turns out, he's one of Spider-Man's biggest fans. It's a pensive slice-of-life kind of story that Paul Jenkins does a good job with, telling us about his life and the sacrifices his family makes for him to help him. While he can watch Spider-Man zip around the city, there's a monster watching him -- Morbius, the Living Vampire!

Spider-Man's been tracking Morbius down, and when the two meet on the rooftop, a brawl ensues -- and Joey has a front-row seat to it.

Predictably, Spider-Man wins, ending the action of the issue, but then Spidey does something unpredictable. He unmasks before Joey so he can see his face.

There's a lot in that moment to take in. When Peter puts on his best smile, Joey sees the man behind the mask, and he learns that there's a sadness behind that. It's so much that Joey even says he feels sorry for Spider-Man. This is the kind of point that Jenkins tends to get back to. For all his high-flying adventures, it sucks to be Spider-Man. And when Joey finds out, so do we.


Damion Scott draws the hell out of this page. I love the second panel there of the lizard. at the same time that you see Spider-Man falling down, he's crawling down. You have to re-orient yourself from Panel 1 to Panel 2, which makes for a fun read.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One -- The Complete Collection
collects digital chapters 1-36 (single magazines 1-12) and annual #1
by Tom Taylor, Mike Miller, Bruno Redondo, and more

So, this title came out as a video game tie-in. I dabbled in the game myself, watched a few videos, but never bought it to play. I was more interested in the story, so I finally sat down with the Year One digital trade paperback, and binge-read the first year.

It's an interesting experience, just on a meta-level. The digital chapters are told in 1/2 pages, so that you can easily scroll through them. Basically 90% of all my comic reading is on my convertible laptop now, so it was unique, almost tailored for the landscape orientation of the laptop.

Take, for example, these two 1/2 pages. There's a natural break in between each page, that allows us to pause between Harley getting gassed, and Harley waking up. It's a useful storytelling device that allows the creators some more control over how we read the comic book, for example, because I've certainly had situations where my eyes wandered ahead on the same page, and inadvertently spoiled the page for me!

If you haven't heard of Injustice: Gods Among Us, here's a recap: Joker concocted a mix of the Scarecrow's fear toxin with Kryptonite and engineered a situation where Superman hallucinated that Lois (and their unborn child) was Doomsday, and so Superman murdered his wife, and the whole city of Metropolis, in the mistake. It caused him to mistrust the entire planet and so he took a hard line on the planet's woes, overthrowing dictators and whisking super-villains away to an unnamed area. Batman takes caution against all of this, and would prefer that super-heroes leave politics to humanity, and so he forms his own band of heroes as a resistance.

It's kind of like Marvel's Civil War, but with the Justice League, on a slower burn and much more believable. You could see yourself rooting for and against either side, because they both aren't awful people, but they're doing more and more awful things to get what they want. It's a Justice League story that wraps around the entire DC Universe, and Tom Taylor employs that to the fullest, creating combinations that you don't see normally, like when the Martian Manhunter shapeshifts inside Wonder Woman's body to threaten to cut off the oxygen to her brain (oh snap!). Or when Harley Quinn holds a psychotherapy session with th' Main Man, Lobo. This is a great story not because of these shocking events that occur to these characters we'd otherwise never expect. It's a great story because we believe in the characters and how they shape the events around them. Annual #1 is a brilliant character piece on Harley Quinn, and how she can be her own character now that the Joker is gone.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is an exciting blend of familiarity and novelty, and an example of what you can do when you give your whole toys -- your whole universe of toys -- to some talented people to play with.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Serials: Unbeatable Squirrel Surfer, Spider-Man: Threat Level Red Pt 1

Amazing Spider-Man #794
"Threat Level: Red Pt 1" by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Stuart Immonen

Now that "Venom, Inc" is over, Spider-Man can get back into the swing of things, pun. . . not intended. Immonen and von Grawbadger make the visual indication that we're back in Spidey's world, not Venom's world, and I mean the "Spidey" part too. Peter Parker hasn't unmasked in several issues, choosing to focus on his Spider-y life, and in this issue, the focus is on one villain from yesteryear: Zodiac, the man who assembled the Zodiac Key and understood a year's worth of happenings in the world.

Zodiac breaks out of his prison with 1 hour left in his year's worth of knowledge, so Spidey's on the clock to beat him. . . and beat him he does, with a twist! You don't need to know much about Zodiac beyond the intro blurb, so it results in a solid done-in-one issue with a neat and tidy "A" story, and a shocking "B" story on the last page.  Spoiler alert: Wouldja believe. . . Norman Osborn and the Carnage symbiote?

This is gonna be a good one.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28
"The Forbidden Pla-Nut, Pt 2" by Ryan North and Eric Henderson

That cover is after John Buscema's cover on Silver Surfer (1968) #4. But for most people, it's really their first introduction to that iconography. I think Unbeatable is the closest you can get to a modern Marvel comic. There's lots of callback to the larger Marvel universe, with threats of Galactus and Squirrel Girl teaming up with the new Doctor Strange, and there are these cute little annotations from the writer on the bottom of most pages. It's usually a little joke that expands on the page itself.

When we first saw the "surfer hunks" from last issue, I knew that there was something off, and it pays off here: turns out these guys are scam artists who go from planet to planet, heralding the (false) coming of Galactus and promising that they can ward them off in exchange for material goods. Squirrel Girl doesn't like people who take advantage of others, so she unknowingly gets in a tangle with. . . Norrin Radd, the true Silver Surfer!

Unbeatable is one of Marvel's most consistent, consistently fun comic books. While it modernizes established Marvel mythology, it plays with them in a way that evokes the free-spirited optimism of the silver age.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter

Daredevil: Back in Black Volume 2: Supersonic and Mockingbird Volume 2: My Feminist Agenda

Daredevil: Back in Black Volume 2: Supersonic
by Soule, Buffagni, Sudžuka, and Milla. Annual by McKenzie and Del Rey

This paperback collects three stories:
  • #'s 6-7: "The Elektric Connection," in which Elektra beats Matt up a ton
  • #'s 8-9: Matt's team-up Chinese casino heist with Spider-Man, in "Blind Man's Bluff"
  • Annual #1: a story with Echo and Klaw, and a backup story with Gladiator.
The fast pace of stories keeps you from lingering on any low point in particular, a welcome break from today's decompressed comics. It struck me how similar to James Bond this book was. Daredevil meets spy thriller in this second volume. Like the way the romance ended abruptly in Casino Royale, Elektra's role in the story ends abruptly when she finds out that she's been mentally manipulated. It's almost a non-story, refreshing to me in that it didn't mince words or panels. In the most obvious nod, like Bond has to win a high-stakes Poker game, like Matt Murdock , a la Casino Royale.

HIGHLIGHT: In "Blind Man's Bluff," Daredevil and Spider-Man take the hydrofoil from Macau to Hong Kong, and Spidey can't help but enjoy himself:

He goes parasailing from the hydrofoil using his webs! (hm, but wouldn't he need a parachute?) And in the next page, he's convinced Daredevil to parasail with him! What a great character moment. Spider-Man acts as this younger brother to Daredevil, quick to joke and adds a lightness to Daredevil's life. When they part, he even warns Matt about the black costume phase: they can really do a number on you, he says. What might normally be considered a nuisance with his wisecracks, he acts as a poignant foil to the darkness in DD's life.

Read more Back in Black:

Mockingbird Volume 2: My Feminist Agenda
by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk

Chelsea Cain's spy thriller comes to a conclusion in the second storyarc, issues 6-8. Apparently, Hawkeye had murdered the Hulk in the larger Marvel Universe, and Bobbi receives a complimentary ticket to a "nerd cruise" to the Bermuda Triangle, amidst the controversy. Bobbi's offered information from a mysterious stranger that may exonerate her ex-husband (they were married?), leading to a murder mystery in international waters!

The writing is wry and smart, with plenty of snappy dialogue and there are brief humorous, creative asides that move the story. Manny Mederos does backup material, including a "how-to" guide with corgis and yoga, and there's this single-page bird's-eye view of five different cabins, as Bobbi and company assess the murder.

The whole page is a cute teaser with the reader. You can play "where's Waldo" and spot a slew of Easter Eggs (like the corgis in the hall on the right edge!), along with a clue, if you don't get too distracted. I had to re-read it myself to find it! The creators are playing with the format, and it makes for a fun, creative read that evolves the genre. Chelsea Cain, prior to Mockingbird, had never even written a comic book. But you wouldn't know any better otherwise.

Definitely worth a read: this comic's got it all -- superhero intrigue, a smart protagonist, nerd easter eggs, the Bermuda Triangle, and Mercorgis.

My god, Mercorgis.

There's a Mockingbird-centric New Avengers story bundled here, issues 13-14. It too was tied in with another Marvel-wide event, Fear Itself in this case rather than Civil War II. The larger story is that of the New Avengers and their new liaison Victoria Hand, but the focus is on Mockingbird's miraculous revival thanks to a combination of, again, a Super Soldier serum and the Infinity formula. Wasn't this how Bobbi got her powers originally?

Anyways, it is serviceable but pales in comparison to Cain's depiction of Bobbi: where she is generally an agent of her own story, in this one she's a subject to another person's decisions and a bit player in the larger world of the Avengers.

Follow chezkevin on rss | twitter
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Stats a-go-go