AVENGERS / TELOS / THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN / SAINTS [Reviews]: All-New, All-Different.
For the first time ever, GHG is going live. What this means, is that we will — from now on! — live post our comic reviews, be it the Fistful of Comics or Sunday Stash. Thus, every time an author submits his or her review, they will go up right away. So feel free to bookmark this post ala “13 Days of Daredevil” or our “Game of Thrones” weekly review, to check out your favorite reviewers’ comic thoughts throughout the week!
And it all starts…now.
October 12 – The Amazing Spider-Man #1, Telos #1, Avengers #0, Saints #1
October 10 – Doctor Strange #1, Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen #1, Axcend #1, Rowan’s Ruin
October 9 – Invincible Iron Man #1
October 8th – Secret Wars #6, Jughead #1
Even though we are barely half way through Secret Wars we are given a glimpse of the All-New Avengers line ups with new stories of the All-New, All-Different Avengers, Squadron Supreme, A-Force, New Avengers, Ultimates and Uncanny Avengers. Whew, that was a mouthful! All these story prequels are tied around a mysterious individual studying the new Avengers teams. This issue also lays the groundwork for the fall out after Secret Wars by having the Squadron Supreme acting as the glue that holds these stories together. It’s interesting that this comic sets up the Squadron almost as an anti-Avengers team, which allows us to get an up to date status quo on all the new teams and boy have they changed. No longer are Iron Man, Thor and Captain America holding down the fort its now more in the vein of Captain America Kooky Quartet from the 60’s.
Some of the new teams are hodgepodge groupings of characters we are familiar with or left over from Hickman’s story telling. Others are coming straight out of Secret Wars with Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight!? This zero issue does its job nicely, however, seting up the tone of the new comics and getting you excited for the new lines. It also sets up the beginning of new conflicts with Squadron Supreme looking as awesome and as bad ass as their want-to-be Justice League asses could! Overall, this #0 initiative is worth a read. Unlike another glimpse comic with Point One out this week, this one actually gives you somewhat of a story and the beginning of a bigger arc. Enjoyable and The Traveling Nerd approved! 3.75/5 Captains Agree!
If you haven’t read DC’s crossover event, Convergence, then you’re likely a pretty smart character. But really, if you haven’t and your intention was to read this comic, then you will likely be very much in the dark. The whole story focuses on Telos who was the chief antagonist-turned-protagnoist (we think?) character in Convergence, attacking Brainiac because he kidnapped his family–or something. We don’t really get the chance to understand the weight of the situation, since Telos’ family is barely elaborated upon except when mentioning something about Computo. Maybe this book will go somewhere; but only time will tell with Jeff King’s writing, which actually isn’t the problem so much as there’s just no real story. Rather, the whole issue is basically one big fight that likely won’t mean much to the reader. Thank God for the artwork. Carlo Pagulayan (Incredible Hulks) provides the line work, Jason Paz and Sean Parsons are on ink duty, and Hi-Fi handles the coloring, making this a pretty book from start to finish. But unless you were a big fan of the character from Convergence in the first place, you can skip it. 2.5/5 Godbooks.
With Parker Industries up and running, the new face of everyone’s favorite webslinger gets a sheen look. Peter is running Parker Industries, inventing new technologies, and trying them out in the field (was fun seeing the Spidermobile in action), as well as fighting the Zodiac gang, and keeping his identity secret with the help of the Prowler, Hobie Brown. Dan Slott‘s writing is lean stuff, keeping the trademark snark going, and introducing plenty of plot points. Giuseppe Camuncoli‘s art, on the other hand, rubbed me the wrong way. As utilitarian as it is, the actual look of Spidey’s threads seemed a bit “off”: it seemed too much like a thin metal suit (although it could have just been a side effect of the shading and coloring, which was quite vibrant). While the story was fun, and well-paced, this new “poor man’s Tony Stark” angle for Parker seems an odd choice for Spider-Man, who should remain a lovable, loser outcast. He seems to be too much like a lower-scale Iron Man, or Batman. The thing is, those characters already exist…no need to make yet another technophile rich guy superhero. This issue is a fun read, and the additional stories at the end, introducing the new storylines for most of the Spider-Verse, was a good intro, and Alex Ross‘s cover is a thing of beauty, but let’s hope the rest of the “All-New/All-Different” Marvel doesn’t seem as jarring a tonal shift as ASM #1 does. 3.75/5 Spider-Mobiles.
Fresh off the press from Image Comics, Saints is a new series from first time comic book writer and award-winning playwright Sean Lewis with artwork by Benjamin Mackey (Twin Peaks Tarot). First I want to say that perhaps I’m not the target audience for this one — despite the GHG moniker of “Saint”, as you will — as it didn’t really grab me at any point in the story. Goth-metal band, slutty groupy, pissing in cups… still with me? That’s how it starts across the first few pages. However before things take off a hint of power is shown, with our main character, Monster Blaise, giving a healing touch to the lead singer of the band, freeing his vocals to belt out songs for the show. From there a journey begins as Monster tries to piece together the strange dreams he’s been having, meeting people he remembers from the imagery, hoping to understand their purpose. The dialog is decent and fits the story, but be ready for profanity and a slight bit of comicly drawn nudity. It’s a bit of an odd story, and perhaps as it unfolds across future issues it will become more interesting; but, for now, it won’t be one added to my subscription list. Lewis states the concept as: what if God had stepped away and the re-incarnated souls of Saints were walking among us? I think it’s better knowing this before reading the series, as it could help the reader more properly engage with the story. I know it gave this Saint a greater feel for the events in the comic. 3/5 Bibles.
If there was one character in the Marvel Universe that deserved an ongoing series, it was Doctor Strange. Well, thanks to Jason Aaron (Star Wars) and Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men), The Sorcerer Supreme finally has his own book.
Doctor Strange #1 sets the stage for what is to come. Essentially all of these years of being an interdimensional demon buster have taken their toll on Mr. Stephen Strange and the world around him.
The book sort of works as an introductory piece for what will surely be laid out in the coming issues, but Strange still finds time to lend a hand to a few patients in need.
The conflict in this book lies with the tone. The Doctor Strange we’ve come to know up until now was very serious and dark, but always wrapped in this mystical, colorful backdrop. This version is a bit different. Strange is chippy, sarcastic, charming and a bit of a ladies man. Sort of like Tony Stark wrapped in a sweet red cloak that can let you levitate. That being said, non objectively, it really works and is going to make for a unique corner of the new Marvel Comics universe. On the other hand, fans of the more classic Strange may struggle a bit. In any case, it is nice to see this book out there. 3.5/5 Books of Vishanti.
Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen #1 written by Corinna Bechko (Star Wars: Legacy), whom I had the pleasure to meet at SDCC 2015, and pencils by Randy Green (Witchblade) had a promising first attempt at bringing back the “Old Tomb Raider”. To start, the comic set up Lara’s classic world by touching up on her rock climbing, archeological background, detective skills, action heroism, supernatural story elements and remote locations that make Tomb Raider what it is. This is a well thought out storyline, however it lacks some key elements that make you want to like Lara. The writing and art, unfortunately, become too much like Angelina Jolie’s depiction of Lara Croft– which lacked character depth, and simply made her a “bad-ass overly sexualized” version. When reading you don’t like her as the protagonist, her comments and reactions are cold, arrogant and two dimensional.
The writing lacks some sort of relatability, or at least a human element that makes you want to root for her. With lines like “This had better be worth it” or when being thanked for her help she remarks “what else is new”, these are not comments that make you want to follow a heroes story. You’re left with the feeling that she’s constantly annoyed and thinks herself better than others. The artwork has also started to over-sexualize her, by posing Lara in awkward positions in attempts to show her “curves” when unnecessary. While I commend Green for giving her more muscle definition during the action, much of these shots are distracting and appear little more than fan service to those who only see Lara as a sex symbol. As a whole, The Frozen Omen #1 packed plenty of action and leaves you with a great cliffhanger during a moment of danger. Hopefully Bechko can fix these crucial hero character issues, so that fans will want to continue investing their time and money in following Lara and her adventures. 3.75/5 Bibles.
Here at God Hates Geeks, the majority of us are both Comic Geeks and Video Game aficionados. Enter Shane Davis’ (Final Crisis, Superman/Batman) Axcend #1, a story of a troubled youth named Eric Morn whose life has taken a turn for the depressed following the death of a family member. Like most young teens Eric finds a bit of escapism in the form of a mysterious video game called Axcend that spirits him away to a gorgeously drawn virtual world, that can easily be described as a mix between any of the top online multiplayer shooter offerings out there. Where Axcend excels is with its art, with an almost nightmarish rendering of the virtual world that practically pops off the pages. Where it doesn’t, is in its writing. For me, the plot feels paper-thin, as I didn’t care for our protagonist once. The use of exposition is almost mind numbingly bad. Hopefully this issue is corrected by issue 2, or else this’ll be a book thats meant to be viewed instead of read. 2.5/5 Atari Cartridges.
Did you ever watch that movie The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Jack Black? Don’t worry–no one else did either. Basically, Diaz needed change, so she went on a mildly sketchy website and found a girl in England willing to swap houses with her for a while. She gets to run around merry old England and meet a dashing man, while her english counterpart experiences a sunny California winter and is serenaded by Jack Black. Rowan’s Ruin is what happened if instead of being a cheesy romcom, the Holiday had been a horror movie– and is vastly more enjoyable. Created by Mike Carey (Lucifer, The Unwritten) and Mike Perkins (Deathlok), Rowan’s Ruin unfolds like a good horror movie, beginning with a flash forward to a frightened girl and a horrific 9-1-1 call warning of the evils of the titular house; then rolls back the clock so the reader can follow Katie’s attempt to escape the ennui of her life (and 400 square foot apartment) by swapping houses with a stranger.
The comic is also a tale of “be careful what you wish for”. Katie gets a trip to England, some excellent sightseeing, a cute English boyfriend, and a huge house to roam around in, but the house itself is not what it seems to be. The slow build of the story ensures that the reader is intrigued enough to pick up the next issue, and with only four issues in the series, you know things will progress quickly. The art is well done, and brings the vibrancy of the characters and the burgeoning creepiness of Rowan’s Ruin to life well, and the layout is definitely that of the modern age. Chat boxes are used instead of speech bubbles and iPhone screens to have Katie chat with her mom…and narrating Katie’s journey through her blog. The formatting works well and contribute to the overall tone of the story. 4/5 Crazy Crumpets.
Strange, that Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Powers) hasn’t been in this place before: Scribe of an Iron Man ongoing. But seeing how one of Marvel’s elite has served as a creative consultant on Iron Man 3, it was only a matter of time before Bendis stepped into the shell of Tony Stark. All of Bendis’ witty, trademark snark is here, as this version of Iron Man — which, despite dropping the label of “Superior”, with his new suit, combines the likenesses of all previous suits together (call him a certified Transformer, now) — sounds more like Robert Downey Jr. than all previous interpretations this side of Matt Fraction’s. So it’s also only right that Bendis’ Stark has regained the “Invincible” in the tagline, too. Bendis gives David Marquez (All-New X-Men) plenty to work with here, as one of Marvel’s finest utility artists renders fabulous widescreen action, setting up a story that fits the MCU as much as the 616.
Sadly, we don’t see Stark’s newest proclaimation, so readers will have to spend their hard-earned $4 for another issue to witness the new Iron suit change colors and/or formations. This new idea gives both Bendis and Marquez plenty of leeway for new stories and new fun, and the set-up of a major returning villain — or TWO! — is some of the finest you will read. First issues always have set-up, but Invincible Iron Man #1 plays like the perfect pilot directed by a big name director. It’s just a matter of whether the script can continue to rock this hard, and the jokes can continue to knock (just wait ’til you see Stark wave off a particular Avenger during a mid-date proposal). 4.5/5 Absent Peppers.
For someone who loves comics as much as I do and has read as many as I have, there’s a surprisingly small number of stories I can point to and say, “This is EVERYTHING I love about comics.” Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman (Fantastic Four, New Avengers) and Esad Ribic (Thor: God of Thunder) has firmly fit that category, and I’m happy to announce that Secret Wars #6 is the best ish yet. For all the delays this story has gone through, it’s been more than worth the wait, as the artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It’s almost impossible to imagine this story working without Ribic’s art. As for the story itself, this issue reveals the biggest threats to Dr. Doom’s Godhood within Battleworld and serves as a perfect beginning of the second act of this story.
The pacing and structure of this issue is perfect, as every new scene introduces an even bigger threat to Doom, culminating in an amazing last page reveal of a beloved character, all the while emphasizing the uncertainty of the future should Doom be dethroned. This issue ramps up all of the problems that have arisen as a consequence of Dr. Doom’s prior actions, setting up a climactic showdown and his inevitable downfall. For people who aren’t as a big fans of Dr. Doom as I am, there are great character moments for Spider-Man, Reed Richards, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Thanos in here as well.
Ultimately, the greatest success of Secret Wars as a whole is that it perfectly balances epic, high stakes Superhero action with intricate and intimate character work and Secret Wars #6 serves as a perfect microcosm of that larger story. This is a must read story for anybody who’s at all interested in storytelling in general. As for fans of Dr. Doom, this story is up there with Triumph & Torment and Fantastic Four: Unthinkable in the pantheon of greatest Doom stories of all time and, arguably, the greatest Marvel event of all time (Even better than Infinity Gauntlet and you can quote me on that). 4.5/5 Thanos Bibles.
Archie Comics chose this very crowded NYCC release week to debut the second series of their relaunched line. This issue has some pretty big shoes to fill because, as we all know, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples have been knocking the lights out over on the flagship title. Fortunately, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson are more than up to the challenge. Both are more than qualified to relate the exploits of Archie’s best friend. When he’s not busy putting the “graphic” into “graphic novel” and turning down Harvey awards for the critically lauded Sex Criminals, Zdarsky scripts the adventures of one of Marvel’s funniest books, Howard the Duck, while Henderson’s angular lines are familiar to fans of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. The two are a terrific mix here as they waste no time dropping our hero into a crisis that rocks him to the core of his very being: no more hamburgers in the school cafeteria! Zdarsky’s naturalistic dialogue is well balanced throughout the ensemble, and Henderson’s facial expressions and evocative body language are a treat to study.
I have got to say, though, that as a regular reader of the Sex Criminals letters column (which is quite often better than the actual comic), I expected this first issue to be a little bit funnier than it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the jokes fall flat, there just aren’t that many of them. This isn’t really the gag-a-minute pace that was more of a hallmark of this character’s previous iteration. My favorite bit, though, has to be the whole Moose-as-Hodor deal during the GoT parody that Jughead dreams in the middle of the issue after collapsing when he finds out the bad news about the burgers. But what Zdarsky chooses to do instead is actually insert some heartfelt sentiment and warmth into the book that not only offsets the protagonist’s archetypal goofiness but makes for much more of a compelling read. In just this first issue, Jughead gets a new antagonist and a definable set of goals, no mean feat for a character best known for his lack of motivation past the point of, “I’m about to devour all of the hamburgers on this plate.”
While not as transcendentally pitch-perfect as the main title, Jughead is an enjoyable slice of sequential goodness that will entertain readers, new or old. You just probably want to throw some hamburger patties on the grill before you get started because you’re certainly going to be craving one before you make it to the final page. 4/5 Infinite Burgers.
More reviews coming later today…