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 Book Review – Man-eaters #1 (Image Comics)

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

This week I picked up the first issue of the new Image Comics series Man-eaters, written by Chelsea Cain with art by Kate Niemczyk, colours by Rachelle Rosenberg, and letters by Joe Caramagna.

A young girl, Maude, introduces us to her dad as he heads off to work as a police officer. He’s investigating a particularly gruesome homicide, which turns out to be perpetrated by a cat. Not an ordinarily cat though, instead suspicion falls on any number of adolescent girls in the area who, infected by a mutant strain of toxoplasmosis, can transform into cat-like monsters who violently attack and kill anyone nearby. This change is brought on during the onset of menses, which the government tightly suppress through hormone therapy in the water. But it isn’t effective in everyone, and Maude has just got her first period.

This first issue is a lot of set up, from the principle cast to the task force that has been set up to deal with the ‘cat’ problem, with the background laid down for the status quo of the world. The series appears to owe a lot of its DNA to Kelly Sue Deconnick and Val De Landro’s Bitch Planet (its no coincidence that Maude has a Bitch Planet poster on her wall), but what I found interesting is that the direction of the series moving forward is likely best indicated by the back matter rather than the bulk of the issue. While the always relevant ‘fuck the patriarchy’ angle to the story is hinted at in the plot, it is resolved much more clearly through the propaganda in the pages following the comic, where the warnings for men and boys for cat attacks or girlfriends who may be cats are clear, despite the issue indicating that anyone can be the victim of a cat attack, especially close family members. It casts Man-eater in a much clearer light, and I expect subsequent issues to focus in on that aspect a little more, drawing on the male fear and confusion of female biology and strength. In this first issue, Cain sets up the plot well and draws a compelling character in Maude, and the simplicity of the final reveal sets the forward momentum up for the series.

Art by Niemczyk, Rosenberg, and Caramagna (Image Comics)

Niemczyk’s pencils and inks use bold lines for well defined character work, that overall is reminiscent of Tank Girl or Kim and Kim. Reteaming with Cain after they worked on Mockingbird together, there is some gruesome art here that shines through, but there are choices with layout and flow that feels very modern and relevant. The colours from Rosenberg are bright and bold, though some of the darker scenes allow her to stretch out and nail those too.

Man-eaters is off to a good start, and while it’s potential is its main selling point, this first issue is the time to jump on and check it out. Pick it up at your local comic book shop or online now!

 

Comic Book Review – The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Marvel relaunched The Punisher with a new #1 this week with the ‘World War Frank’ arc, with previous series writer Matt Rosenberg continuing on writing duties, art from Szymon Kudranski, colours by Antonio Fabela and lettering from VC’s Cory Petit.

Cover by Greg Smallwood (Marvel Comics)

Shady dealings have been going on between Hydra and Roxxon, and their respective leaders Baron Zemo and Dario Agger. Partnering with The Mandarin, they have been convincing or strong-arming UN members to recognise Bagalia as a sovereign nation. Presumably as a cover for further shady dealings. But a wrench in their plans has turned up in the form of Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher. See Frank is after bigger game than his usual gangland targets on the streets of New York, and he is set to go to war with Hydra and a whole nation.

Here Castle is as driven as ever, choosing his words carefully and only ever as a terrifying bogeyman to create maximum intimidation for his targets. While he is going after people who usually go up against Captain America or the Avengers, it’s a nice change of pace for The Punisher, And it is good to see his tactics and planning come into play to deal with that scale. Something that really bothered me in Secret Empire was the characterisation of Castle, doing things and making decisions that seemed wildly out of character and fairly stupid, so this is a welcome return to form. While the set up page indicates that this series and Rosenberg’s work on the character before takes its motivation out of the ashes of that event, it seems that is all that it is. The story here seems to be grand in scope and very entertaining, with a strong cast that I’m looking forward to seeing in action.

Art by Kudranski, Fabela and Petit (Marvel Comics)

The art from Kudranski is kinetic and dark, evoking The Punisher MAX series. There are a few moments where faces are a little inconsistent., and there are some signs or text in the art that looks like they was added as an afterthought later. But largely the issue is strong, with the explosive action given vibrant life by the colours from Fabela. The highlight however has to be the multi panelled sequence outside the lift in the Roxxon base, which was superb.

The Punisher #1 is a good start to a story with a lot of potential for fun, huge explosive action. Check it out at your local comic book shop or digitally now!

Score: 7  out of 10

Indie Comic Review – Battlecats #1-5 (Mad Cave Studios)

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

This week I’m reviewing the first volume of Battlecats from Mad Cave Studios, which collects the first arc of the series ‘The Hunt for the Dire Beast’ and contains issues #1-5. Battlecats was created and written by Mark London, with art on issues #1-4 by Andy King and on issue #5 by Michael Camelo, colours on issues #1-3 by Alejandro Giraldo and on issues #4-5 by Julian Gonzalez, and lettering and book design by Miguel Zapata.

Battlecats takes place in a fantasy world of anthropomorphic animals, mostly cats, where the titular force of highly trained warriors protect the realm of Valderia on the orders of King Eramad III. He has tasked them with slaying the legendary Dire Beast, so the Battlecats travel to the region of La Marque to fight the monster. But along the way they must deal with the rebellious Darkats, the freezing cold, and a target that may not only be too much for them to handle, but also more than it seems.

Battlecats is a very compelling read. There is a lot here that is fairly well trodden ground, but London manages to tell the tale in a way that it is fresh and original. There is a real 80s cartoon feel, but with a depth of storytelling that was often missing from those shows. London even takes an issue to backtrack and explain the world after setting up the characters and action, which at that point feels necessary rather than expository, before returning to the action. The result is a world that feels brimming with life, leaving the reader wanting more. The only drawback is that the actual Battlecats aren’t given much room to breathe and feel developed yet, but after 5 issues there is still plenty of scope to do this in future stories.

The feeling of 80s cartoon nostalgia continues into the art as well, with big fantasy action, snarling cats and powerful and terrifying monsters all deftly brought to life by King and Camelo. The action is the particular strength is this series in fact, and Giraldo and Gonzalez bring a clarity to the proceedings with their colours, with the variety of garb depending on home nation creating vibrant differences between each Battlecat.

Battlecats surprised me with how quickly I was hooked on the story, and it is well worth your time checking out. Issue #5 was out this week, with the collection of this first arc coming out next month on July 25th.

Comic Book Review – Thor #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I read Thor #1 from Marvel Comics, the latest relaunch for the God of Thunder under Jason Aaron. Mike del Mundo provided art for part one, ‘God of Thunder Reborn’, with colour assists from Marco D’Alfonso, and Christian Ward drew part two ‘The Grace of Thor’, with letters on both by VC’s Joe Sabino.

The Mighty Thor is dead. Long live Thor. In ‘God of Thunder Reborn’, after the defeat of Mangog and the destruction of both the hammer Mjolnir and Asgardia, Jane Foster has reluctantly stepped down as Thor to finally focus on the treatment she needs for her cancer. The Odinson has taken up his old mantle again, with a fancy new golden arm and a lot of hammers, and with Jane’s direction he is tracking down displaced Asgardian artefacts before they fall into the wrong hands. Meanwhile, the bifrost is under repair, and until it is fixed there is no way of accessing other realms – a big problem, as Malekith the Accursed wages his War of Realms and Thor is powerless to stop it.

In the second story, ‘The Grace of Thor’, a one eyed old Thor and his grand daughters are watching over a rebooted Midgard. After all life ended on the planet long ago, now over 200 years have passed since they seeded life there once again in the forms of ‘Jane’ and ‘Steve’. As Jane dies, Thor sombrely reveals the state of the afterlife, before flying to the edge of the universe, which is rapidly ending. And there he meets the final incarnation of the Phoenix.

I hope Jason Aaron keeps writing Thor comics for a good long time yet, regardless of who Thor actually is. The arc of Jane Foster as Thor was wonderful, and enjoyed a satisfying wrap up too while not ending her story within this world. The Odinson slipping back into being Thor seems effortless, but to maintain his God of Thunder status he seems to be effectively supported by his own version of MI6, with Jane filling the role of M, and Odin and Screwbeard outfitting him with gadgets and magics in place of Q. It means that the usual brawns over brains approach needs to be taken with an element of improvisation rarely seen from this Thor. Aaron’s script is excellent, unsurprising as these are characters he has been in charge of for years now, but the new status quo of Thor and his supporting cast is still fitting in to the ongoing narrative of the plot he has been driving for a while now.

Mike del Mundo’s art is otherworldly, and yet feels very at place here. I feel that he is even better placed on Thor than his recent run on Avengers. There are some stellar action scenes in ‘God of Thunder Reborn’, but the quiet moments in the Brooklyn resettlement of Asgardian refugees works very well too, bolstered by the warm colours that often accompany del Mundo’s pages. For ‘The Grace of Thor’, Christian Ward’s skills are perfectly suited to the grand space sequences on display, from fighting a space shark to speeding to the universe’s end, and these pages are awash with cleaner colours than the first part that suits the story just as well. Rather than feeling jarring having two stories in one issue, the two artists sync right up with their respective tales, enabling them to complement each other.

To say Thor #1 is a great start would be disingenuous and a disservice to all that came before it from Aaron and the other great artists who have shaped his run on Thor. More this is a great continuation that may serve as a jumping on point for anyone who has slept on the series up until now (but if you have you should absolutely go back and read it all in trades). I’ll miss the Goddess of Thunder, but I suspect that we haven’t seen the last of her. Regardless, get this at your local comic book shop or online!

Score: 9 Asgardian Artefacts out of 10

Comic Book Review – Justice League: No Justice #1 (DC Comics)

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

This week I picked up the first part of DC’s Justice League: No Justice mini series, the next big thing following on from Metal for the DC Universe. I dropped off Justice League a little bit after Rebirth because something about it just wasn’t clicking for me, but with writers Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson and James Tynion IV on board for this series, and art from Francis Manapul, I was certainly interested in checking this out! Colours on this issue were provided by Hi-Fi, with lettering by AndWorld Design, and cover art by Manapul.

Cover by Manapul

Following on from the Metal event, the Source Wall surrounding the universe has been destroyed. While the Green Lanterns have gone to investigate, one of the biggest villains in the DCU has wasted little time in attacking Earth – Brainiac. And he has come to warn of a far greater threat on the way, the Omega Titans, cosmic gods and world eaters that have been awoken or set in motion by the shattering of the Source Wall. And Brainiac has come to rally the heroes and villains of Earth to save his home planet of Colu and stop the Omega Titans.

No Justice kicks off pretty quickly, and while the first issue of many events like this are often full of set up and are a little bit of a slow burn, Snyder, Williamson and Tynion IV manage to set the scene while still moving the plot forward. The cast of characters is such that no one really gets much chance to shine, maybe Damian Wayne and the Martian Manhunter get a decent amount of time, and a few of the characters do feel a little out of place here, but its a nice spread overall and the set up of the plot should force some interesting team dynamics. The story itself with the Omega Titans has a lot of potential too. Think Galactus but if there was 4 of him.

Art by Manapul, Hi-Fi and AndWorld Design

Manapul’s art is very strong superhero fare in this issue. His experience in superhero comics is on full display here, juggling an array of varied characters easily with a real sense of scale to the world shaking events and some great splash panels. Hi-Fi’s colours are very vibrant, with the colourful costumes and a couple of green skinned characters so distinct it almost pops off the page.

The story is an interesting start, possibly a little impenetrable to new readers, but those familiar with the DCU, especially recent events, will get a lot out of this. The art from Manapul is very nice, and the potential for some great action sequences moving forward is very high. Check out Justice League: No Justice #1 at your local comic shop or online now!

Score: 8 Nodes out of 10

Comic Book Review – Hunt for Wolverine #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I picked up Hunt for Wolverine #1 from Marvel Comics, written by Charles Soule with art on the first story ‘Secrets and Lives’ from David Marquez and Rachelle Rosenberg, and on ‘Hunter’s Pryde’ from Paulo Siquiera, Walden Wong and Ruth Redmond. Lettering was provided by VC’s Joe Sabino, with cover art from Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Laura Martin.

Cover art by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Laura Martin

Wolverine has been dead for a couple of years. Spoilers I guess. We reviewed the final issue of Death of Wolverine here. back in 2014 While the revolving door of death in comic books made his eventual return a certainty, it isn’t like the Marvel universe has been devoid of a Wolverine in the meantime. It’s had two in fact – Old Man Logan, deposited into the regular universe following Secret Wars for reasons I don’t remember, and X-23 who took on Logan’s mantle while he was dead. For whatever reason now though, he is in the process of returning. Logan has been popping up in several other teasers to tie in to the Infinity Quest upcoming event, but Hunt for Wolverine kicks off his return proper.

The first story is action heavy and involves the Reavers turning up to try and steal Wolverine’s body, encased in the solid adamantium shell that led to his death when the molten alloy was poured over him. The X-Men turn up to foil this attempt, that turns out to be largely pointless anyway. They took the body out after his death, essentially leaving a metal shrine to Logan. Cue a big fight, followed by more confusion as to where the body actually is. Part 2 of this issue leads on from the realisation on the part of the X-Men that the body isn’t where they think it is either. What follows is Kitty Pryde recruiting several disparate groups to join the search for Wolverine, including Tony Stark and some past and present Avengers, Daredevil, and one of the other groups of X-Men.

There is a consistency with Soule that leads on from Death… to Hunt… that shows clearly through the two stories. However, as this issue focuses more on the X-Men than Wolverine himself, Soule is given the opportunity to stretch out here and does it well. A few of the characters have little to do or say, but voices like Kitty Pryde come through as strongly as that character should. The first story, ‘Secrets and Lives’, is the meat of the issue here. The action is a lot of fun, the dialogue not too distracting or overblown. While there is interesting material in the second story, ‘Hunter’s Pryde’, that part of the issue unfortunately plays out like an advert for the 4 separate series that will continue the story of Wolverine’s return and as such is less strong.The characterisations there as still great, and overall this is a well written issue.

Art by David Marquez, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Sabino

The main draw for me to check out Hunt for Wolverine was David Marquez’s art. Civil War II, while a bit of an unnecessary mess from a story perspective, was a gorgeous book. As was the recent Defenders series. Here Marquez has the opportunity to flex his artistic muscles with some great fights that seem grander than what was on show in The Defenders without being weighed down by the sheer number of characters in Civil War II. He also manages to draw everyone as distinctly beautiful, even Reed Richards with his weird neck. I was a little disappointed when I realised Marquez wasn’t drawing the whole book, but Siquiera’s art in the second shorter story is still good, despite no action taking place, with the strengths there on the character work and some very nice backgrounds.

Hunt for Wolverine is worth picking up if you are a big Logan fan and want to know where he has been and what is coming next. The art is great, and the characterisations and dialogue from Soule are good too. At times it reads a lot like an advert for what is coming next, which is pretty typical for comics, but the fact that what is next is 4 separate series, it seems a little far and unfriendly to the wallet. Even so, I think this is a good issue and worth your time.

Score: 6.5 Adamantium shells out of 10