Comic Review – Secret Wars #9 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. He missed reviewing them while he tries to write up his PhD thesis, so every other week he’ll be reviewing of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Despite taking time off from writing for the site and doing these weekly comic book reviews, I have still managed to find time every week to head down to my LCS to pick up the latest comic book releases every Wednesday. This week saw the release of the finale of Marvel’s Secret Wars series, their summer event of 2015 and the series that essentially informs the make up of the current Marvel Universe. I reviewed the first issue back in May, and I ended up following it and a decent number of the tie-ins as the Marvel Universe crumbled apart and became Battleworld until October. Since the start of the ‘All New, All Different’ Marvel, I’ve shifted dramatically from being largely a DC fan to really dropping the number of books I’m reading from over there in favour of all the excellent books Marvel is currently putting out, and Secret Wars was really the trigger for that. As with the rest of the series, the 34 page finale to Secret Wars was written by Jonathan Hickman, with art from Esad Ribic and colours by Ive Svorcina, with letters from Clayton Cowles.

Secret Wars began at the the end of all things, when Earth-616 (the normal Marvel universe) and Earth-1610 (the Ultimate universe) collided. A small number of Marvel heroes escaped on a ‘life raft’ ship, but the rest of reality was destroyed. Battleworld rose up in it’s place – a patchwork reality made up of fragments of universes, constructed and ruled over by Victor Von Doom, now with immense cosmic powers and known as God-Doom. Over the course of the series, the cracks in the world started to show and the survivors of Earth-616 conspired to take down Doom and attempt to reassert some semblance of the universe they once knew.

The finale begins with Black Panther and Namor facing down Doom, with T’Challa wielding the Infinity Gauntlet to engage Doom in a huge cosmic throw-down. But that was merely a distraction (a really pretty distraction…) to buy Reed Richards time to talk to Molecule Man, the source of God-Doom’s powers. This all leads to a final confrontation between Reed and Doom, age-old enemies, for the sake of reality itself. When the dust settles, the story shifts to 8 months later back in the Marvel universe, on the ‘Prime Earth’, bringing us in line with the current timeline and providing a reasonable roadmap of how we got there.

Event comics often fizzle out at the end, either due to the finale focusing too much on setting up the next event or storyline, or just not quite sticking the landing. Secret Wars manages to not only side step this and deliver a conclusion that managed to be both cataclysmic in scale in parts, and in others a deeply personal conflict between life long enemies, but it did a good job of setting up the new status quo, or at least giving a satisfyingly comic booky way for how it happened. With Secret Wars Jonathan Hickman has delivered a huge blockbuster event that never dragged or felt like it was treading water (and so the addition of an extra issue may well have been necessary), and after years of the impending death of all things, the series ends on a renewed focus on life and hope for the future.

A big part of why this event has been so enjoyable has been the art. Throughout, Esad Ribic has illustrated a bleak and intense Battleworld full of brilliant, show-stopping scenes (the Groot sequence in issue #8 was possibly my favourite), apocalyptic fights and emotionally resonant personal moments. T’Challa and God-Doom’s cosmic brawl is high concept and stunning to look at, but it’s the up-close struggle between Doom and Reed and the fury on their faces that stands out in this finale. Ive Scorcina’s colours round out the excellent art to show a dark, burning, war-ridden world as Battleworld falls, before switching to a brighter and clearer palette to go along with the hopeful turn for end of the book.

A lot has been made out of the delays to the series, but while I do think that ending up with the final issue leading in to the All New All Different Marvel universe coming out 3 months after that new universe has already started seems like very poor organisation on Marvel’s part (and I have no idea what the cause for it was), ultimately the delays to the book shouldn’t have an impact on the book’s quality. Contrary to that, the delays probably ensured that every issue had the same art team behind it, so when Secret Wars is all collected and re-read the delays won’t matter. What will matter is the consistently excellent art work that has the focus that the story required and deserved.

When Secret Wars started, at least for the first issue, I thought it was a good looking book that was the most enjoyable of the events last summer, so I felt it was worth continuing with to see how it all played out. From the second issue onwards, the scale of the story and the writing and art made Secret Wars one of my favourite books, with the end of every issue leaving me hungry for the next. An encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel universe is absolutely not necessary to enjoy the story, though not knowing much may take some of the impact out of a few scenes. If you’ve not been keeping up with it, I’d definitely recommend tracking the previous issues down or picking up the collection when it comes out in March.

Score: 9 Molecule Men out of 10

Comic Review – Civil War #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

More Secret Wars tie-ins are coming out from Marvel every week, with varying quality and relevance to the main event series. Some are entirely new concepts, while some have been based on classic storylines that are being retold or continued, like Old Man Logan or Planet Hulk. So far I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried, but the Secret Wars series itself is especially strong for a summer event. This week Civil War #1 came out, a new spin and continuation of the hugely popular 2006 series by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. This new series was written by Charles Soule, with pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, colours by Sunny Gho and letters from Joe Sabino.

Civil War follows the original plot of the Superhuman Registration Act, a government initiative to have all masked heroes have their identities known to the government and to be trained properly before going out to fight crime. Tony Stark thought this was all a great idea, while Steve Rodgers (quite rightly) considered this a breach of civil liberties, leading to most of the heroes of the Marvel Universe siding with Iron Man or Captain America and fighting it out. In the original series, the Civil War eventually ended. Not so in this new tale (which bears the Secret Wars banner on the cover and the same intro, but seems totally unconnected to the Battleworld).

The story picks up during the prison clash, but this time the prison detonates and many heroes are killed, along with 15 million others in the city. 6 years later the country is divided. Literally divided down the middle, with the east side of the USA dubbed ‘The Iron’ and led by President Stark, and the west presided over by General Rodgers, known as ‘The Blue’. After all these years a peace treaty is organised on the bridge where the two sides meet. Each man is joined by one of his most trusted compatriots, the former by She-Hulk and the latter by a Peter Parker in what looks a lot like MCU Falcon gear (presumably because The Blue seems like a lot of open expanse, not a lot of buildings to web sling around). Steve and Tony meet and discuss terms, more land for The Iron, more resources for The Blue. But before they can get any further an attempt is made on Cap’s life, and the negotiation breaks down as soon as it has started. He and Peter depart, certain that the war can only end one way.

The potential for these retellings of classic stories that has come out of Secret Wars has been exciting to see, providing the opportunity for these tales to go towards a far more extreme end, rather than something that shakes up the MU status quo in some small way before ultimately being righted or changed again due to the nature of serialised superhero comics. Soule has done just that in Civil War, taking what was already a fairly bleak and grim story and making it even more so, resulting in an America that we never would have seen in the original story without it being savagely retconned a few years later. While there are a few narrative jumps as to how we got there, the real meat and strength of the issue comes when the two former comrades are negotiating. The character work is great, and there are some nice concepts like The Punishers and the Bullseye Boys teased which could be a lot of fun in the later issues. Yu’s art shines when showing off the landscapes of The Iron and The Blue, the latter particularly looking desolate but beautiful. The grizzled look of the two men, especially Stark who is starting to look a lot older even in 6 years, adds weight to the never ending conflict between them.

Civil War is a great ‘What if?’ tale if the question you ask is ‘What if the original Civil War never ended and was also far more depressing with loads more death?’. You don’t need to be reading Secret Wars to enjoy it, and the writing and art are both very solid. Check this out at your LCS or digitally.

Score: 7.5 SHRAs out of 10

Comic Review – Thors #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Secret Wars continues to roll on, and this week I picked up the first issue of the Thors tie-in to the event, under the ‘Battleworld’ banner. Thor writer Jason Aaron continues on with this story, with Chris Sprouse on pencils, inks from Karl Story, colours by Marte Gracia and letters from Joe Sabino. It was published by Marvel Comics.

For those unfamiliar with Marvel’s summer event, Secret Wars takes place after the regular and Ultimate universes have collided. The resulting ‘Battleworld’ is an mismatch of different territories each with it’s own heroes, villains and borders, all ruled over by Victor Von Doom as their creator and god. To help him rule, Doom has the Thors – a police force made up entirely of worthy hammer-wielders. Hot shot Ultimate Thor ‘Thunderer Thorlief’ and his partner Beta Ray Thor have been called to a crime scene where they find a dead body. This is the fifth one found in a different fiefdom, and the investigation has been designated an ‘allthing’ – all hands on deck. The partners give out orders to various other Thors, including Storm and Groot (“I am Thor”) to chase up leads and find out the identities of the victims… or victim, as it turns out they are all the same person. A serial killer is murdering the same woman over and over again, and Thorlief and Beta Ray need to figure out who before anyone else dies, before Doom gets involved and they lose their jobs.

Jason Aaron was doing a great job on Thor, and I’m glad he has continued on with the series in a way through Secret Wars. Here he writes a gritty detective story where the cops are hammer wielding gods, played straight and complete with classic tropes such as a bar scene and a shady back alley informant. The setting seems completely alien to these characters, which is why it seems to work so well. The pencils from Sprouse use oppressive shots and angles that fit in perfectly with the detective elements, and the inks and colours from Story and Gracia add heavy shade and darkness to complete this for a great looking book.

Thors is a lot of fun, and a great addition to the Secret Wars world. Thor as a detective is the sort of mix up that shows the potential of the Battleworld setting really pay off. It isn’t necessary to read if you just want to stick to the main title, but neither is Secret Wars needed to enjoy this. This was great, check it out at your LCS or digitally.

Score: 8.5 Mjolnirs out of 10

 

 

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 39 – Whatever, I Don’t Care

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, brought to you by The Lost Lighthouse.

This week we chat about Crimson Peak, Twin Peaks and the Peak District (not really), the footage for Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, terrible criticism about Marvel’s A-Force, and we discuss Simon Pegg’s comments about sci-fi, while Gary makes awful jokes about hawks and Adam doesn’t care.

Also this (spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 1-4) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGLkIyZSCR8


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If you have any thoughts. questions or opinions on anything this week you can as always get in touch through Facebook or on Twitter @lost_lighthouse, email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk or sound off in the ‘leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the podcast page on the website.

Comic Review – A-Force #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Another week, and the third Marvel review in a row. This week A-Force #1 came out, one of the first tie-ins to Marvel’s big summer event Secret Wars (review of issue #1 here), following some fairly ridiculous commentary that I will talk about later on. A-Force is written by Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson, with pencils by Jorge Molina, inks from Molina and Craig Yeung, colours by Laura Martin and Matt Milla and letters from VC’s Cory Petit.

Secret Wars started with the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe colliding, ending both universes and the multiverse itself.  From the second issue, it appears that this collision resulted in a reconfigured reality known as ‘Battleworld’ – a world ruled by Doctor Doom and divided into numerous regions, each presided over by a baron or baroness. One such fiefdom is Arcadia, the “feminist paradise” ruled by the baroness She-Hulk, who protects the area and it’s citizens with an all-female team of heroes called ‘A-Force’. When a Megalodon (giant prehistoric shark) attacks during a routine patrol, Captain Marvel leads Ms. America, Sister Grimm and Dazzler to deal with it before it harms any civilians on land. During the fight, the actions of one member of A-Force violates the border rules of Battleworld, bringing the punitive functions of the Thors, the enforcers of Doom’s absolute rule, to Arcadia. As She-Hulk struggles to fight against these laws she risks the safety of all of Arcadia, but the alternative is giving up one of their own to life imprisonment on ‘The Shield’.

SW Map.jpg

I was worried going in to some of the Secret Wars tie-ins that they would feel impenetrable to new readers, especially those looking to check out this female led book. The first issue of the main event did feel somewhat closed to those without any firm knowledge of the Marvel Universe, the second felt like more of a clean slate for the story. A-Force echoes the latter, with the basics of Battleworld covered in a summary on the fourth page (after a gorgeous double page splash of Carol Danvers leading her patrol in the skies over Arcadia), and each major player given the bare essential background early on in the issue (for example a green box stating ‘Jennifer Walters SHE-HULK. A-Force team leader. Baroness of Arcadia. Green’.). The writing is brisk, exceptionally tight and compelling, with each character (even the few I didn’t actually know or was more unfamiliar with) feeling fully realised and well rounded. Bennett and Wilson have a great handle on these characters, and the story at this point seems disconnected enough from Secret Wars to be self-contained, while still being shaped and informed by it. The art team of Molina, Yeung, Martin and Milla does a really nice job here too, bringing the superhero action to life and balancing the varied characters and colour palettes well. There is a vibrancy and enthusiasm, despite the dark undertones and cracks in Arcadia, that make this a real pleasure to read. And Captain Marvel punching a giant shark may be one of my favourite panels I’ve read all year.

A Force

Credit: Marvel Comics

I’d be remiss to not address the New Yorker piece about A-Force ‘Looking at Female Superheroes with 10-Year-Old Boys’ by Jill Lepore. In the article, she asks why the Marvel superheroes all look like pornstars (apparently she watches very niche porn where everyone wears spandex leotards, but fine), ignoring the variety of body shapes and characters that the comic presents. Instead she chooses to heavily criticise and rather than actually do any of her research, relies on the knee jerk reactions of two 10-year-olds and her own preconceptions of comics to undermine the importance of the book. The fact she both says that “Thor became female because he’s a Norse god and I guess he can be whatever he wants” and “Captain America became black” speaks to a lack of the most basic internet search that would indicate that neither of these statements are in fact correct, and has instead opted for the sensationalism response instead. The odd thing is that the article actually has a seemingly well researched section about DC Comics, William Moulton Marston and the creation of Wonder Woman.

I’ve not linked in the article, frankly because I don’t really want to give it any more clicks. I will link to G. Willow Wilson’s response, because she manages eloquently take the high road, without seeming angry (like I haven’t) and delivers an impassioned rebuttal. I’m rather fond of how she closes it out too:

“I have been a little cheeky thus far, so let me close by saying that I imagine Dr. Lepore and I want the same thing: better, more nuanced portrayals of women in pop culture. What I don’t understand is why someone in her position would, from her perch a thousand feet up in the ivory tower, take pot shots at those of us who are in the trenches, doing exactly that.”

I really enjoyed A-Force #1 and on top of following the series throughout Secret Wars, I hope that the series continues in some form after the Marvel Universe is put back together. Will you get more out of this if you’re up to date on Marvel, Secret Wars and all of these characters? Maybe. But even if you’re not, this is a great story with a well written cast of kick-ass, but just as importantly nuanced, characters. Did I mention Captain Marvel punches a giant shark? Buy this at your LCS or digital comics platform.

Score: 9 Megalodons out of 10

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 26 – Dynamite on Horses

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, brought to you by The Lost Lighthouse.

This week we chat about the lo-fi ultra-real Fantastic Four film coming up, Suicide Squad casting, the terrifying Amazon Echo and Bioware being generally nice folks, while Gary doesn’t like almost all of the news and Adam starts swearing about people that say how many sleeps there are until Xmas. It’s mid-November.

No main talking point this week, but Gary in 60 Seconds is back. This time Gary tries to sum up 1982’s Conan the Barbarian in less than a minute. Does he make it?

VIIletter

If you have any thoughts. questions or opinions on anything this week you can as always get in touch through Facebook or on Twitter @lost_lighthouse, email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk or sound off in the ‘leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the podcast page on the website.


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