Comic Review – Avengers #21 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Let us enjoy that victory together, Brother Stark! In the Avengers’ tub of hotness!” Thor

Cover by Caselli & Martin (Marvel)

I’m back with another comic review. This week, picking up from Adam’s War of the Realms round up last time, the Avengers are getting back into the swing of things and refocusing on the other threats around the world.

The current Avengers run has been consistently outstanding, and while I enjoyed the War of the Realms a lot I’m really looking forward to seeing what battles they’ll be fighting next! This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Jason Aaron
  • Artist – Jason Masters
  • Colour Artist – Jason Keith
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna
  • Cover Artist – Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin

The War of the Realms is over and the battle is won. The Avenger’s are taking a well deserved break while Blade is on his way to pick up the good fight against the creatures of the night. We get to see the team relax and some enjoyable casual banter between Earth’s mightiest heroes. I enjoy these moments, they help the team feel more real and it helps develop the relationships between the characters. With this being a team series individual development for each character is more limited than in their own series, however Aaron’s writing is on point to give the team a chance to express themselves, help any new readers get sighted on who they are and what they’ve been going through in this run. We get reminded of the present threats to the Avengers – the vampires, Squadron Supreme of America (really looking forward to this clash!), the Russians and even Atlantis and the mystery around some of their opponents continues to deepen.

Art by Masters, Keith & Caramagna (Marvel)

Master’s art throughout is details and has a sense of calm to it. Working with Keith they bring an grounded feel to the issue, slowing the rampant pace from the War of the Realms to something where we can really see our heroes relax. The expressions and details on the characters works well to communicate their feeling in conversation, and I do appreciate the image of Iron Man shamelessly wearing his mask (apparently only his mask…) in the Avengers’ hot tub!

The cover art by Caseilli and Martin shows a victorious team which sets the tone for the issue. This is a time to take stock and get ready for the next challenge.

Final Verdict

This run continues to be something I look forward to every time it comes out. If you want a chance to hop on board now is the time and this is the issue to do so with. The events of War of the Realms I’m sure will lead to interesting stories for the likes of Thor, and the current take on Hulk has been really interesting. I’d highly recommend this series to anyone.

Comic Review – Modern Testament Vol. 4 (Insane Comics)

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

This week I’m reviewing the fourth and final volume of the Modern Testament: Anthology of the Ethereal series by author and creator Frank Martin. Volume 4 is another collection of three short stories (one split into two parts) published by Insane Comics, each illustrated by a different artist. Each story in Modern Testament takes a biblical or mythological being and places them in the modern world, following how they adapt to our times and how they choose to aid or affect mankind. As Martin says in his letter closing out the book, he saved the big guns for this final volume.

The first story, split into parts 1 and 3 in the volume, is ‘Better the Devil You Know… Than the Devil You Don’t’, with both illustrated by San Espina and with colours by Adri Pratama. A spin on the classic deal with the devil story, abusive husband Jack laments his financial situation, screaming at his wife and daughter. The devil appears to him in disguise, offering an extensive contract to trade Jack’s soul for enormous wealth. In part two, the devil comes to collect.

The art in this tale is the strongest in this volume, and the story the most compelling too. There is a solid twist that keeps it fresh, and the devil himself is brilliant and threatening as the lord of the underworld should always be. Espina and Pratama team up to create oppressive and dark looking art that 100% fits the mood.

The second story is ‘God Complex’, with art by Martin Szymanski and colours by Miguel Marques. An eminent and popular scientist calls a press conference to announce that he has discovered the theory of everything, one of the most elusive concepts in modern science. And in response, a bored God (capital ‘G’) applauds from the back of the auditorium, before telling his creations what he really thinks of them.

God Complex is the most depressing of Volume 4, and considering the subject matter it also manages to be the most nihilistic. That makes it immensely enjoyable, if you are a terrible cynic like me. The art boasts some of the more impressive visuals in this volume too, as God takes the scientist Professor Florence on a reality-bending tour.

And the final story finishes out the Horsemen of the Apocalypse theme that has spread across all 4 volumes, drawn by Anthony Pugh and coloured by Julian Dominguez. In ‘At Death’s Door’, Cain visits a depressed and out-of-shape Death, and tries to get him to embrace his role again. But the inevitability of his job, and how little effort it seems to be for him, has made him disillusioned. So Cain must try to get him back into being Death again.

The art in ‘At Death’s Door’ is simple but effective, belying the status of the characters involved. The story itself is a fun end to the theme that has played out across Modern Testament, ensuring that the collection and entire work finishes strong without taking itself too seriously.

Verdict

Modern Testament Volume 4 is a fitting end to a strong series, and is well worth picking up. You can order it online physically or digitally!

Comic Review – Modern Testament Vol. 3 (Insane Comics)

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

This week I’m revisiting the Modern Testament: Anthology of the Ethereal series by author and creator Frank Martin, Volume 2 of which I reviewed a while ago. Volume 3 is another collection of three short stories published by Insane Comics, each illustrated by a different artist. Each story in Modern Testament takes a biblical or mythological being and places them in the modern world, following how they adapt to our times and how they choose to aid or affect mankind.

mt3-1The first story is ‘Shoulder Djinn’, illustrated by Lucas Urrutia and with colours by Ezequiel Dominguez. Tommy struggles with supporting his sick mother and falling behind with paying the bills, while hearing constant advice for what he should do from an evil red djinn on one side, and a good-natured blue djinn on the other. When it comes to breaking a few laws to get the money he needs, or doing the right thing, the two djinn confront each other. But it is down to Tommy as to which one he listens to.

Shoulder Djinn takes the old devil on the shoulder story and gives it a twist. Its a quick yet challenging story that questions the nature of influence and free will, and even brings into question whether Tommy is even hearing the djinn at all. The art is simple but evocative, with strong colour work that washes out when the djinn are talking, with just the two figures taking focus with their bright ethereal colours.

mt3-2‘The Abandoned’ is the shortest of the three tales, drawn by Francesco Conte and coloured by Macarena Cortes. A mother chastises her son over his failing grades, leading to an argument about his absent father for what is clearly not the first time. A transformation in her son leads to questions about how human his father was, while darker questions about the nature of his conception also arise.

The second story in this volume was an effective tale, if a little heavy handed, looking at abuse, its long term effects and how people deal with them. Of all these stories so far, The Abandoned is the clearest example of using the mythological creatures to tell a story that could easily be told with regular people, making it that much more engaging. The art feels claustrophobic and heavy, with the brief transformation of the son taking on a hint of body horror before quickly receding, which made the story beat all the more effective.

mt3-3Finally, following on from the theme in the final story in Volume 2, the third tale in this collection was ‘Down With the Sickness’, drawn by Joaquin GR and coloured by Matej Stasko, was about another Horseman of the Apocalypse – Pestilence. As with the story of War, this was again perhaps the most light-hearted story. Adam Prescott, CEO of the Apollo company, is dying. And to public outcry, he devotes all of the resources of his company to saving his own life. But his final doctor, Pestilence, has a few uncomfortable truths to reveal to Prescott about the nature of life and death.

The inevitability of the message behind Down With the Sickness was very strong, if pretty depressing. Of the three tales in Volume 3 this was the most entertaining, with razor sharp dialogue and wit. The art was low on action but the bold line work and skillful facial work made it stand out.

Verdict

Modern Testament Volume 3 is another fun read with more strong dialogue from Martin and three interesting stories each with a morality to its core. All three art teams turn in very strong work, while remaining distinct and appropriate for the story too.  You can check out Martin’s Facebook page here, or order Modern Testament direct from Insane Comics either physically or digitally.

Comic Review – Modern Testament Vol. 2 (Insane Comics)

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

This week I’m reviewing Modern Testament Volume 2 – a collection of three short stories published by Insane Comics that was sent to me last month by the author and creator Frank Martin, with each tale illustrated by a different artist or art team. Each takes a biblical being struggling to fit in and adjust to the modern world, as they try to find meaning or remain relevant.

schoolyard monsterThe first tale is ‘Schoolyard Monster’, illustrated by Adrian Crasmaru. Joey has a common schoolyard problem – bullies. Specifically another kid named Rudy, who is seemingly the ringleader for all the other children. But after being pushed down in the mud again after school, the mud around Joey starts to coalesce into a silent and stoic golem. And the next time Rudy hassles Joey, he is in for an unwelcome surprise.

Schoolyard Monster is an engaging tale with a framing device that plays up the ‘careful what you wish for’ story beat. The art was scratchy and rough (in a good way!), with detailed and heavily expressive facial work and an almost watercolour palette, that gave an overall feel that reminded me of Jeff Lemire’s work.

 

great huntThe Great Hunt’ was drawn by Igor Chakal and coloured by Stanislav Leanov, and tells the story of two big game hunters heading out on safari to bring down a beast of unimaginable power – a behemoth. Despite warnings from the reserve warden, the pair head out to seek the monster they have heard so many rumours about. And obviously that all works out fine for them.

This second story was probably my favourite of the three. It was simple, it had strong and natural dialogue, and I do enjoy a tale of idiotic hubris. The art was especially good too, with nice renderings of a savanna environment and a really oppressive and claustrophobic edge as darkness falls. The behemoth itself was terrifying to behold, and the ensuing action was fantastically brutal.

 

warFinally ‘What is He Good For? (Absolutely Nothing)’, drawn by Noreus Teves and coloured by Laura Ruggeri, was perhaps the most light-hearted yet chilling story. An injured war veteran relaxes aboard a cruise ship, his family somewhere else on deck, and he is approached by a mysterious stranger. This man hands over his business card ‘War – Horseman of the Apocalypse’, and shows he isn’t joking by showing visions of the savagery he has had a hand in over the years. Having been content to sit back and let humanity do most of his work for him, he has now come up with a plan to speed up his end of the apocalypse. And it involves the cruise ship.

This final tale was entertainingly bleak, with an arrogance behind War that was a lot of fun to read. The art was bright and laid back and light on action, with the vibrant ‘vision’ page to the right accounting for most in the story. instead focusing more on body language and facial expressions with some fairly heavy line work that worked well.

Verdict

Modern Testament Volume 2 is a fun, quick read with strong dialogue and three intriguing tales that show a lot of potential in the writer. The art in each is distinct and suits the story, as well as being great to look at. You can check out Martin’s Facebook page here, or order Modern Testament direct from Insane Comics either physically or digitally.

Comic Review – The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I picked up The Punisher #1 from Marvel Comics, the start of a new series written by Becky Cloonan and drawn by Steve Dillon, with colours from Frank Martin and letters from Cory Petit. The Punisher has long been one of my favourite Marvel characters (an issue of Garth Ennis’ MAX  series was one of the first single issues I ever bought), and with Cloonan writing and Dillon returning to the character for art duties, and after Castle’s turn on Daredevil Season 2, this was definitely one of my most anticipated books of 2016.

Punisher

Cover art by Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire

In the warehouse district of Brooklyn, gangsters Face and Olaf are preparing a shipment of EMC, a new drug that creates incredibly strong soldiers out of normal people. Their boss, Condor, wants the shipment ready to go tomorrow, so it’s all hands on deck. Nearby, the DEA are putting together evidence and finishing the paperwork that means they can finally take down the operation the next morning and close in on Condor. Unfortunately, that paperwork slowed them down just enough for Frank Castle to jump in line and bring his particular brand of justice down to Brooklyn.

I don’t want to go into more detail than that, you’ll have to read the book to find out the motivations and twists yourself. Which you should absolutely do. Cloonan kicks off excellently in this first issue, delivering a Frank Castle that is, as he should be, a force of nature. A boogeyman that turns up and just wrecks shop. And he does it in complete, deathly silence. Characters familiar with his work know better than to underestimate him, and the others scrabble around in a panic as they pointlessly try to take him down. The DEA are almost played for fun here, with all the work they’ve put into the case totally wasted. And the people that The Punisher has pissed off? It should be very interesting to see how they plan on taking Frank down.

Punisher page

Art by Steve Dillon & Frank Martin

Dillon’s return to drawing The Punisher is fantastic, and as an artist that has rendered some fairly gruesome violence over the years, the ‘Parental Advisory! Not For Kids!’ warning on the cover is well earned. Frank’s take down of the gang is kinetic and brutal, with some genuinely unsettling panels. But perhaps the most grisly is Face’s “trophy wall”. The colours from Martin complement Dillon’s heavy line work, with the explosive action retaining a brighter hue to contrast against the earlier shadowy and washed out scenes with The Punisher lurking before his attack.

Also that cover from Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire is insanely good.

This was a great return for The Punisher, with a tight and intriguing opening issue with great action. As forces rally themselves against Frank Castle that action is only going to intensify, and I can’t wait to see how far the book pushes or where Cloonan takes him. Pick this up at your local comic book shop or digitally.

Score: 8.5 Cinder Blocks out of 10

Comic Review – Squadron Supreme #1 (Marvel Comics)

Kit is taking over the weekly comic book review because Adam is in the unenviable position of attempting to finish off his PhD.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Atlantis has risen… Now watch me make it fall again!” – Hyperion

This week I should be doing coursework, and not writing comic review. Should. But I know where my priorities lie! Procrastination! So, what’s to be looked at this week? Well it hasn’t been released with a huge amount of fan-fare (as far as I’ve seen…) but Squadron Supreme (written by James Robinson, artists: Leonard Kirk, Paul Neary and Frank Martin) caught my eye. Why? I’ll get into that properly in a moment, but it’s a comic I’ve heard a bit about online before. I liked the concept and I’m sure many of you will too, I just hadn’t tried it.

Who are the Squadron Supreme? Well, we get introduced to them in the first few pages. They’re a group of heroes who have formed a “League” of sorts, to fight for “Justice”. We have Batman Nighthawk, Superman Hyperion, The Flash Blur, The Green Lantern Doctor Spectrum and Wonder Woman Power Princess. Who have united to form the Justice League Squadron Supreme. This is not subtle. It is not meant to be subtle. Marvel and DC have been ripping characters off each other for years, and this is Marvel’s take on the Justice League. Our heroes aren’t entirely the same though, most of them just have a very similar power set and pretty similar backstories…

But, the key difference here is they’re all from different universes that have ended. Why you may ask? Actually, that’s my biggest criticism of the comic. They know who did it, and we get a vague justification, but no real explanation. For a first issue this makes for a pretty glaring hole. Anyway, the team, survivors from dead universes have combined their might to make sure this never happens again, that this universe will never suffer the same fate and those behind the destruction of their homes will pay.

SquadSo who did it you may ask? Well, it was Aquaman Namor. And we kick things off with a fierce battle between the Squadron Supreme and Namor and his Atlantic forces. They’re out for revenge and Namor admits he did what he must, and shouldn’t be held to account because all he did was hasten the deaths of their dying realities. Well, OK. A bit more of an explanation here would be nice. This seems to tie in to Secret Wars? It’s not clear if it does. A hint for where to get more info would be very nice. Anyway, the battle does not go well for Namor.

We see the sorts of heroes this team is made of. They may be like the Justice League, but they cross the line the real team won’t. They kill. It feels like very family territory if you’ve read or watched Justice League: Gods and Monsters or similar. Public support around the world is mixed for the team, some loving their brutal ways. Meanwhile, a hero prepares to take on these extremists. The original Human Torch, Jim Hammond. He fought alongside Namor and Captain America in World War 2. He’s back, with his old (now literally) team mate and the Uncanny Avengers to take on the Squadron.

The art looks great, the fights are action packed and have these cool blur effects on them, the colours are vibrant and the whole thing comes together really well.

Final Verdict

I like the idea behind this, it’s fun to see a take on the Justice League that does manage to feel original if going over slightly familiar ground. I love the art… but… there are some issues: it felt too short, the whole thing was 23 pages long, and a page or two more for some exposition would have been really useful. I knew of these characters and I needed a little guidance, this is meant to be an issue #1 where complete newbies can join in. Still, I want to know what happens next and I’ll give issue #2 a shot myself!

Final Score – 7.5 DC Clones out of 10!