Comic Book Review – Captain America #4 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I’m reviewing Captain America #4 (or #708 with Legacy numbering), written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan, colours by Sunny Cho and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna, with cover art by Alex Ross.

Cover art by Alex Ross

Steve Rogers is still trying to make up for what was done in his name, and with his face, when Hydra took over the United States. He’s lost the trust of his government and the American people, and is now rushing to the aid of Sharon Carter, Agent 13, who has been working with the government and has been captured during her latest mission. Cap goes in alone, tearing his way through a base full of goons before coming up against an opponent who’s battle abilities rival his own. Meanwhile Sharon is questioned and tortured by members of the mysterious Power Elite, the next group who are looking to take over the US!

Coates’ run so far on Captain America has been thrilling, and in this issue he shows off a deep and clear understanding of the character, as Cap narrates over his fights. See Cap is an idealist, and truly believes in America and the ideals it should stand for. It’s why he is the Captain of it. But his issue increasingly lies with people who call themselves patriots but act like nothing but, people who “swear by the flag one day, and set it on fire the next”. Even without a familiarity with Coates’ non-fiction writings (with which you should get acquainted), it’s difficult not to see the commentary here on the current climate in the United States. The plot here is good, and it’s ties some of the best Cap stories in the past 20 years is a big plus, but it’s the characterisation of Steve Rogers this commentary that makes the book shine. More is being done and said with the aftermath of Secret Empire here and with a more deft hand than in the event itself.

Art by Yu, Alanguilan, Cho and Caramagna

Yu’s Cap is fierce with a real sense of power. For such an action-heavy issue, nothing drags and it feels kinetic and brutal. At the same time, the interrogation scenes with Sharon are dark and ominous, allowing the threat level in both scenes to come through very strongly. The colours are slightly washed out and dulled, which suits the tone and the base environs of the issue.

Coates and Yu’s Captain America is my favourite book on the stands right now, and goes to the top of my reading pile whenever it comes out. The art is strong and the plot and character musings are incredibly timely. Don’t sleep on this. Pick it up at your LCS, and the first 3 issues if you haven’t already read them!

Comic Review – Avengers: Shards of Infinity #1 (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“That is truly a worthy dream to strive for Avengers. And I’m a dreamer too.” – Captain America at his boy-scout best

If you somehow hadn’t noticed, Avengers Infinity War is fast approaching and I for one, am very excited to see it. Marvel naturally are getting their tie ins and spin offs set up, including one shot issues like this – Avengers: Shards of Infinity. These comics are in circulation to build up hype and increase engagement before the film. There are a lot of Marvel films out there now, and for first timers I can see how it may be a little intimidating to get involved. These comics help bridge that gap which is why I’m thought I would give it a look at get the word out on it. This comic is brought to us by:

  • Writer – Ralph Macchio
  • Artist – Andrea Di Vito
  • Colour Artist – Laura Villari
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham

Some of the exposition, or character narrations are a little on the nose if you know your way around the Avengers at all (if you’ve seen Captain America Civil War you know it all!) but there is a certain charm to the simplicity of this story. The bad guys with their overly complex evil plan and the cheesy one liners are a lot of fun.

The characters are a little bit one dimensional. They are very much outlines of themselves. This isn’t a criticism though, this comic is intended for people who don’t know their way around Marvel and need to get to grips with who is who.

Di Vito and Villari’s art very much reflects the simple story being told. The characters are sporting their classic costumes, their colours are vibrant and draw the eye and the action is clear and easy to follow with the lettering is clear and unobtrusive, not distracting from the action scenes.

Final Verdict

This made me feel like a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon again. There are villains. They want to take over the world. The Avengers want to stop them using their own unique skill set. The plot is wrapped up in one issue you can get through very easily.

For a longer term fan, there isn’t a huge amount here. But if you know someone you want to get into the world of Marvel comics, it’s the perfect gift!

Score: 8 Moon Bases out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Empire: Omega (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“The war is over. All around me my country is regaining what it lost. Healing. Rebuilding. So why am I here?” Captain America

Well Secret Empire is finally complete. It’s been a series not without its controversies, from the backlash against Steve Rogers – a character created by Jewish comic book writers turning to the very far right  to issues around Magneto’s portrayal as a pro-Hydra villain on one of the comic book covers (he very much stays pro-mutant, anti-Hydra throughout) but for me I think there was very much value in the story it sought to tell, as can be seen in a previous article of mine – ‘Captain America and the Rise of Hydra’ (warning, contains political rambling!), found here.

I didn’t however, review issue 10 of Secret Empire. This was honestly because I found it a little disappointing. The series finale felt rushed with a ‘Cosmic Cube fixes the world’ ending and for me personally what I saw as the key idea the writer Nick Spencer was trying to get at wasn’t properly addressed, i.e. Captain America going Hydra being a metaphor for the rise of far right populism in America. That was until now. I picked up Secret Empire Omega a little tentatively, at a high price and off the back of an ending which didn’t quite hit the mark but as I’ll explain, for me Spencer added some of the ideological struggle to the epilogue of this story the ending was sorely missing.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Andrea Sorrentino
  • Additional Art – Joe Bennett with Joe Pimentel
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham

The plot to Secret Empire Omega is necessarily simple. Now the fighting is over and the clean-up beginning Steve Rogers, both good (Captain America for reference) and bad (I’ll refer to as Captain Hydra for lack of a better term) clash again. This time in an ideological debate rather than hand to hand combat. There’s a line from Captain America that may communicate Spencer’s feeling on this that he himself may have wanted more time to dig into this during the main series – that when he saw his enemy there wasn’t time to talk, only fight and close the series out. Omega also touches on what the longer lasting impacts of Secret Empire will be – Captain America’s emotional scarring and loss of influence globally (think how America will be post-Trump), the death of a significant character and how other characters are coping now its over.

There is a key message in all this as well, if you read Captain Hydra as a metaphor for modern America – You allowed this to happen. Captain Hydra blame Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, US politicians and pretty much everyone but himself for his rise to power. It’s possible to read this as a criticism of those with influence in the real world where Trump was elected, which was only possible because of the state of the US to begin with.

I was a little cheeky with this review and had a flick through one or two of the other early reviews before writing. There’s more I wanted to say than normal and it helped to see if I was missing any other major points. One of the reviews I read criticised the artwork, that Sorrentino’s portrayal of the two Cap’s out of costume not distinctive enough. I noticed this as well but actually liked that they were less distinctive. They look very similar and that’s the point. They’re the same or at least the same bar ideals and the point made earlier – that Captain Hydra could take the power he did because of the actions of Captain America amongst others means the line between them is currently a little blurred. There’s a sombre tone to the art in this issue, with a grey pallet used for Captain America and red for Captain Hydra. I feel the art was exactly how it should have been for this issue.

Final Verdict

I have complicated feelings towards Secret Empire as a series, but there was an intent with the story which Spencer sought to tell. If you’d asked me before reading this I would have said the point hadn’t been made properly, now it has. On balance, I would rate the series as a whole at 7.5 out of 10, starting close to 10 but moving down to maybe a 6.5. I would have liked to have seen a more optimistic note struck for the other characters than Cap with all this coming to an end as the series does have a fairly downer ending, that isn’t to say it’s bad though. This issue really helped make the ending much more satisfying for me.

Score: 8.25 Legacies out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Empire #0 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week saw the start of Secret Empire, the latest event from Marvel comics that marks the culmination of over a year of build up in Captain America Steve Rogers. We’ve been assured that this will be the last major event from Marvel for 18 months after this 9 issue series (although I don’t know if this issue counts as 1 of 9, or 0 of 9…), which is definitely a good thing since everyone is feeling serious event fatigue. Not that every event has been bad (Secret Wars was great), but a break in the constant story interruptions, world resetting, series ending and new #1s is certainly welcome. Here is hoping that Secret Empire leads us into that break on a high. Secret Empire #0 was written by current Captain America (both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson) writer Nick Spencer, with prologue art by Rod Reis, main story art by Daniel Acuña and letters by VC’s Travis Lanham. Cover art was provided by Mark Brooks.

Cover by Mark Brooks

Following on from the events started in Captain America Steve Rogers #1 in May 2016 and the Pleasant Hill event, Captain America has had his reality rewritten by the Red Skull and a sentient cosmic cube in the form of a little girl, known as Kobik. You may have heard about it when the internet melted down as a result. In the new reality, Steve Rogers was recruited by Hydra at a young age to be their spy, and so unbeknownst to all of his allies, Captain America has always been an agent of Hydra. Over the last year he has been maneuvering and scheming his ultimate plan to take over the world, now finally revealing himself and his allegiance to all who thought they knew and trusted him.

I won’t go much more into details of the plot, but Secret Empire #0  is action packed and a thrill to read. Spencer has weaved a layered and complex plot with the fall of the greatest Avenger and his betrayal, and the time he has spent with the character really pays off. The most puzzling aspect of this issue is therefore the question of why this is a #0 rather than the opening issue of the event itself? Zero issues typically set the table for the event, and recap the plot leading up to it for anyone that might not have been following. But Secret Empire #0 seems to be essential reading and an integral part of the story, and it would be confusing and a shame for readers to miss out due to that #0 rather than #1 on the cover. Also I don’t know why Tony Stark is back in the land of the living. I read Invincible Iron Man too and as far as I was aware the only Tony was RiRi Williams’s AI. Is this the AI? Because there was definitely a man inside that can at one point. Those quibbles aside, the storytelling in this issue was great.

Art by Daniel Acuña

As for the art, it is consistently strong throughout. The prologue from Rod Reis is a gorgeous and ethereal opener that displays the weight of the story to come. Acuña’s art throughout the main story is similarly incredible, jumping between some fantastic action that stretches from New York, to Earth’s orbit and the skies above Sokovia, and the dark, heavier moments that drive the plot and show the determination and grim resolve behind the master strategist with his efforts aimed at dominating the world rather than saving it. Acuña’s bold art makes these latter character moments really land, with the surprise these heroes are experiencing feeling really genuine.

Secret Empire is off to a good start, with strong art and a story that feels like a real payoff to a year of story. Issue #0 feels like essential reading for the plot, and even then it may be a little impenetrable to new readers. Even so, I definitely recommend Secret Empire #0,  which you can pick up at your local comic shop or digitally now!

Score: 8 Helicarriers out of 10

 

Pick up the first two volumes of Spencer’s Captain America Steve Rogers run here and here!

Comic Review – The Avengers #6 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I’m reviewing issue #6 of The Avengers from Marvel Comics, written by Mark Waid with art by Mike del Mundo, colours by del Mundo and Marco D’Alfonso, and letters by VC’s Cory Petit. This is the end of the first arc since the series (and team) restarted in the wake of last year’s Civil War II event.

Cover art by Alex Ross

The current team is made up of Vision, Hercules, Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Wasp (Nadia Pym), Thor (Jane Foster) and Captain America (Sam Wilson). These are the current (or one of two current) iterations of these heroes, which is only an important distinction in that this is a full-on, multiple team superhero time travel romp. Vision, in a very ‘what if you killed Hitler in the crib’ move, abducted long time Avengers villain and time travelling douchebag Kang while he was still a baby. That ended fairly badly. But Captain America seemed to think it was a generally good plan, and the execution was the problem. Bigger and more complicated is how Sam saw their take down of Kang. So he assembled more Avengers – future Vision, the founding members (Giant Man, Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), Iron Man, Hulk, Thor (Odinson)) and a few other past members (Captain America (Steve Rogers), Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Namor, She-Hulk and Black Knight). Then these folks split into three teams and attacked Kang and his strongholds across the timeline. Weirdly, this still isn’t going very well, to the extent that Giant Man and the original Wasp are being erased from time, which in turn means the Avengers never happened.

Does that sounds confusing? Probably. But it is well written confusing. This arc has been huge fun action, mercifully disconnected from the major goings on in the Marvel Universe, probably due to it largely taking place across time. Waid has a great handle on all of these characters, and while the size of the roster in this issue and the last precludes many character moments, there remains some good Parker quipping, and a lot of Vision and future Vision dialogue.

Art by del Mundo and D’Alfonso

Mike del Mundo’s art is not what you would typically expect for an Avengers book, but it is gorgeous to look at and suits the epic and twisting time travel plot. It almost swirls across the page, and despite often not having any backgrounds to speak of the panels are so stuffed with action and characters that you rarely notice. The character art is very strong too, with some fantastic looks of shock and surprise on a lot of Kangs and Kang minions. Although the colour palette is a little washed out, it is brilliantly vibrant and often brings a warmth to the book that rounds off the art very well.

As the end of an arc, I can’t really recommend The Avengers #6 as a jumping on point from a story perspective as you are likely to be fairly lost, but it is a strong and very enjoyable conclusion to this first arc and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll be carrying on with it and you should check out the next story. I can however recommend it purely based on del Mundo’s fantastic art, which is worth picking up the book for alone. Check out The Avengers at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 8 Kangs out of 10

Adam’s Top 5 Films of 2016

Here are Adam’s five favourite films of the year.

We’ve been a little behind on content over the last few months, due to every one of us being busy as hell, but I didn’t want to see the end of the year without sitting down and figuring out which were my favourite films of this year. I think I’ve been the the cinema more times in 2016 than any other year in recent memory, and have seen more non-genre films too. Reflecting back, there were a lot of good films, a lot of not so good films, a few very bad films (looking at you BvS) and not that many that I would call ‘great’. As such, I struggled with the 4th and 5th choices between a few films that I enjoyed, but didn’t quite hit the mark. I thought Fantastic Beasts, High Rise, The Hateful Eight and Ghostbusters were all a lot of fun (well, The Hateful Eight was maybe not ‘fun’), along with a few other highlights like Arrival and Suicide Squad (just kidding, that was also hot and messy garbage), but ultimately my list boils down to the following. Beware some spoilers:

5. Star Trek Beyond

star-trek

The third entry into the ‘Kelvin’ timeline of the Star Trek movie reboot was also the first not helmed by J.J.Abrams. Beyond was largely free of the winks and nods that were necessary in the first, but possibly weighed down the sequel Into Darkness, and embraced at least to a degree the whole ‘five-year mission’ aspect to Star Trek. As a result, there was a real feeling of adventure in this installment. In addition, the cast at this point are all working so well together that their interactions are a real joy to watch, especially Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto as Bones and Spock. New character Jaylah was a stand out, I hope we see her in the next film, and the Federation station Yorktown was stunning. The bad? The enemies weren’t brilliantly fleshed out, the Beastie Boys finale was a little too cheesy, and no satisfactory explanation was given for why there was a motorbike on an alien planet. But a fun sci-fi adventure film all the same.

 

4. Deadpool

deadpool

The long gestating passion project from Ryan Reynolds and company that no one seemed to have any faith in comes in at number four for me, while I think a lot of comic book film fans would probably put it a little higher. This was undoubtedly one of the funniest films this year, with a surprising hit rate of gags (although they come so thick and fast that any misses are immediately forgotten in laughing at the next joke). Considering the budget Fox gave it, the film looked great too, though I think most of the budget went on the highway scene. The plot was serviceable, in a sort of early-X-Men film sort of way, but the charm of the film’s cast and the strength of the humour allowed it to shine. The same can’t be said for Fox’s other mutant offering of 2016, X-Men Apocalypse, which somehow managed to resemble the first two entries in the franchise without any of the heart. Still, Deadpool was a definite success. Here’s hoping that the sequel manages the same.

 

3. Doctor Strange

doc-strange

Doctor Strange was the second Marvel Studios of the year and the first origin film they have put out in a while, which was something that they got a fair amount of criticism for, largely unfounded in my opinion. They largely seemed to revolve around similarities to the first Iron Man movie, an 8-year-old film, and complaints about basic three act structure that 90% of movies adhere to. Sure, with the subject matter they could have taken a few more risks, but injecting magic properly into the MCU was something that the movie going public may have struggled to swallow, and plenty of other risks right down to the method of conflict resolution made this an interesting watch and one of the three films I considered to be great this year.

I think Doctor Strange was the apex of internet analysis on every little bit of casting for one of these films, and everything has already been said over the controversy of casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, or people upset that their ideal choice for Stephen Strange wasn’t picked. Everyone in this piece was great (yes, yes, great article about how the Marvel villains are underdeveloped. How original, every site ever), Cumberbatch played the arrogant surgeon brilliantly, and I could watch a whole film of just him and Chiwetel Ejiofor just having a chat. The real star of the show though was just how gorgeous the film was, with almost every instance of mind-bending magic and reality shifting looking superb.

 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One

I’m writing this having just got in from my second viewing of Rogue One, and I’m pretty happy with my placing it at number two. Rogue One has proven that reports of reshoots don’t always spell disaster, and that at least so far, there isn’t an oversaturation of Star Wars. If we get a tonally different Star Wars Story every other year in between the main story, I think I can handle that if they are going to be this good.

In Rogue One we got a proper war story, showing the struggles of the rebellion and that victory isn’t always easy, clean or pleasant. It humanises the Rebel Alliance, especially without the Skywalker clan or the inclusion of any Jedi or lightsabers. The cameos bordered on a little gratuitous at points, with whole scenes including a computer generated version of a long-dead actor. I really enjoyed the nods to Star Wars Rebels though, and the plugging of a decades long literal plot hole was also welcome, if a little convenient. All the new characters were strong, with Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO being the standouts for me. The gorgeous vistas of Scarif and Lah’mu also gave a nice break from the usual desert environs of the Star Wars Universe, even if Jedha didn’t.

 

1. Captain America: Civil War

civil-war

If Rogue One was concerned with going back and filling in its universe’s continuity, Civil War was the culmination of years of storylines and was all about moving forward, even more so than the last Avengers film Age of Ultron. For me, the third Captain America film delivered on pretty much every promise it laid out for itself. With a huge cast it was in danger of being overly full, and was jokingly referred to as ‘Avengers 2.5’ by many on the lead in, but this was a Captain America film through and through. The climax of the thread started in The Winter Soldier, Civil War managed to juggle the personal plot of Cap and his best friend, drawing in the whole Avengers gang in the process as they were told that in the wake of saving the world several times with surprisingly modest body counts, that the whole world wanted them to answer to governments with agendas. Disagreements start, friends start punching each other. People get incarcerated in hilariously complicated prisons.

What worked was the lack of a world ending threat, which will make the impact of Infinity War felt that much more. These people have been playing these characters for so long now that they have them down completely, but I think this is the best performance Robert Downey Jr. has put in as Tony Stark. And by circumventing a few potential origin stories in favour of injecting some new characters straight into this film, we got the brilliance that was Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland as Black Panther and Spider-Man respectively. Marvel may still need to pull the trigger on the death of an Avenger to make a threat seem real, but Civil War shifted the MCU into a very interesting place in the lead up to Infinity War and the proper introduction of Thanos. We may have to wait until 2018 for that, but I would be surprised if we didn’t see some hint of what is to come in one of the three Marvel Studios films out next year.

cvim

And that is it! What were your favourite films of the year? What did you think of any of the above films? Let us know in the comments!

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 78 – One Wolf

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, our fortnightly pop culture news and reviews podcast!


Download this episode (right click and save)

Big News

This week we chatted about the Spider-Man Homecoming and for some reason, Transformers: The Last Knight trailers, The Last of Us Part II and Gotham City Sirens.

2016 Review

This week we go through our top 3 video games, films, books and TV shows from 2016, with a few lists from others too!

Adam

Video Games

3. Alienation

2. Gone Home

1. Uncharted 4

TV Shows

3. Daredevil

2. Stranger Things

1. Westworld

Comics

3. Wonder Woman – DC, by Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp and

2. Superman – DC, by Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi

1. Black Widow – Marvel, by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid

Films

3. Deadpool

2. Doctor Strange

1. Captain America: Civil War

 

Ian

Video Games

3. Pokémon GO

2. Star Wars Battlefront

1. Doom

TV Shows

3. Luke Cage

2. Planet Earth II

1. Stranger Things

Books

2. The Devil You Know by Erin M. Evans

1. Hero by R.A. Salvatore

Films

3.  Captain America: Civil War

2. Midnight Special

1. 10 Cloverfield Lane

 

Now Playing – Reading/Watching/Playing

Adam – Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray/Mad Men on Sky/Bioshock Infinite (Bioshock Collection) on PS4
Ian – The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi/X-Files/Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Check out any of those through those Amazon links and we get a kick back! Or you can go through here.

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.Fancy supporting our site? Head on over to our Paypal donation page! It’s completely optional, set your own price! Even £1 helps us with hosting costs and we’d really appreciate it! Cheers!