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

Comic Review – Black Panther #3 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“It is time that flesh bow down on his knee again.” Tetu

Black Panther 3

Cover art by Stelfreeze & Martin

This week I was faced with an interesting choice of comics to review. You’ll see a lot online talking about Captain America: Steve Rogers #2, and no new series caught my eye. Fortunately, one comic stood out to me out of the regular bunch I was due to pick out this week: Black Panther #3, written by Ta-Neshi Coates, art by Brian Stelfreeze and colours by Laura Martin.

The issue picks up from Tetu’s point of view. He’s the leader of the Nigandan army who earlier in this arc incited a riot in Wakanda. He feels T’Challa (Black Panther) has been neglecting his duties and his traditional routes. He sees himself as the spirit of Africa and T’Challa as all that is wrong in the modern world. The comic proudly portrays the spiritual connection in African traditions, backed up by vibrant colours. T’Challa is struggling with his duties as leader of a country, he fights for the world and his country, in the meantime there are so many other fires he doesn’t have the time to put out. There are a few plot threads at play here, and although separate they each feel important to the overarching narrative.

Black Panther 3 interiors

Art by Stelfreeze & Martin

As for the art, Stelfreeze has produced something special here. So many individual panels stand out as miniature masterpieces and somehow makes the scene somehow feel like it’s all a part of something much larger, complementing the narrative. The desert scenes in particular at the beginning and end stand out for me.

On a side note, I feel I need to spend more time taking the art into account in my reviews. I have already discussed the main aspects of it for Black Panther #3, however what I need to make this meaningful is a consistent point of comparison across everything I review. Fortunately there is a classic test to measure the skill of an artist. Can they draw hands? So, here goes –

Can Stelfreeze draw hands? Yes. Yes he can. I was surprised when I took the time to look, not that they looked good (the rest of the art had already confirmed Stelfreeze’s skill as an artist) but at how well he was able to capture the personality and gesture of each character in their hands in every scene. The gesture communicates both the character as a person and what their currently saying. So yes, 10/10 for hand drawing skills!

(Editor’s note: I’m expecting Kit to review the hand drawing abilities of artists in all his reviews from now on)

Final Verdict

Black Panther is one of the series I look forward to every time it comes out. Yes this is issue 3, but it’s probably the best so far in the current run. I seriously recommend picking up issue #1 and catching up if you aren’t up to date already.

Score: 9.5 War Dogs out of 10

Comic Review – Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)

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

DC’s Rebirth continues this week, and if my total failure to pick up a few of last week’s one shots yesterday is anything to go by, it is going fairly well for them. It’s at least selling well, and most of last week’s Rebirth output seems to be going down positively too (check out Kit’s review of Batman: Rebirth from last week). This week in particular I was looking forward to Wonder Woman: Rebirth, having dropped off the character since the end of Azzarello and Chiang’s New 52 run. The return of Greg Rucka to the series has had a lot of people excited (myself amongst them, as he is one of my favourite writers), and on this issue he was joined by the two art teams of Matthew Clark on pencils, Sean Parsons on inks and Jeremy Colwell on colours for the first 14 pages, and art from Liam Sharp and colours from Laura Martin for the last 6 pages. Jodi Wynne lettered the whole book.

WWrebirth

Cover by Sharp & Martin

Wonder Woman: Rebirth is a comic about truth. More specifically the lack of it. Diana of the Amazons finds herself disconnected from the people she is saving, in part because they are unsure of who she really is. And they are not alone. She thinks back on her life up to this point, and much of it is split between two different realities with an uncertainty that goes right back to her birth: was she formed from clay, or is she the daughter Queen Hippolyta and Zeus? Faced with a schism of her own past and questioning her whole life, Wonder Woman uses the Lasso of Truth on herself, tying it around her arm and asks herself who she really is. Diana, princess, daughter of Hippolyta, tenth queen of the Amazons. And she has been deceived. And she intends to find out who has done this to her and, possibly more importantly, why?

This is a story about the fluidity of serialised storytelling and the malleability of the origins of superheroes, but it is also a metatextual look at the inconsistencies and complicated facets of Wonder Woman that appear both presently and in her past. The initial disconnect with the women she saves at the start of the issue represents a disconnect with the audience, which Rucka deftly renders into a story point that leads up to Diana literally crushing and stepping out of symbols of her New 52 guise. In that way, the issue continues the Rebirth theme that someone is fabricating reality. However, here it feels much more personal. Rucka’s Wonder Woman is intensely reflective here, but rather than wallowing in self doubt as the character has recently, she maintains a graceful strength in the face of her doubt with regards to reality itself. It’s this simultaneous intensity and care to her introspection that displays a perfect characterisation from Rucka that will serve as a through line as the story moves forward.

Art by Sharp & Martin

Art by Sharp & Martin

Both of the art teams are very strong in Wonder Woman: Rebirth, and while they are distinct from each other the transition works in a way that feels natural rather than jarring. Clark and Parsons produce a sharp and familiar rendering of Diana (with a superb double page spread of her smashing through the lies), with Colwell’s bright colour palette rounding off the art in the first section that feels rooted in the New 52 stylistically. When she essentially steps out of her New 52 costume and heads to Olympus for answers, the comic switches to Sharp’s slightly finer lines and rich, overgrown visuals that almost moves the whole genre of the book to more of a classical fantasy leaning – something that suits the character and her world just fine. Sharp’s gorgeous art is completed with colours awash with an ominous sunset from Martin, resulting in a dark and brooding tone that makes the air around seem thicker with heat and dread.

When Wonder Woman returns in two weeks it will be as one of DC’s twice-monthly books. Interestingly, Rucka will be splitting these into alternating stories that presumably will intertwine or connect down the line, but will be set at different times in Diana’s life. Each of the two will have a different art team, which will provide an internal consistency within the story while also giving each a great deal of distinction. The first story, set in the present day, is ‘The Lies’. This will presumably be picking up where this Rebirth issue left off and Liam Sharp will be continuing with that. If his work on this issue is anything to go by, that is going to be a hell of a good book and I hope Laura Martin is sticking around to colour it. Issue #2 will be the start of the alternative story ‘Year One!’, which has a reasonably self explanatory title but I expect will go into where some of these lies and fabrications have taken root. This story will be drawn by Rucka’s Black Magick collaborator and all-round excellent artist Nicola Scott, and the preview art shows a much brighter and youthful take that I’m looking forward to just as much.

Wonder Woman #1 cover by Sharp

Wonder Woman #1 cover by Sharp

When DC first announced that several of their books would be going twice-monthly I was worried. After Wonder Woman: Rebirth I’m still worried, but more for my bank account than my ongoing interest in DC Comics. The set up for the series is compelling, but the quality in the whole creative team in this issue and seeing one arm of what is to come working so well here is what will be bringing me back in two weeks. If last week is anything to go by head to your local comic shop soon before it sells out, though I think DC are reprinting all of the Rebirth books anyway so keep an eye out. This is definitely one to check out.

Score: 9 Crushed Helmets out of 10

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

Comic Review – Star Wars #1

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Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week saw the start of a new Star Wars comic. Not just any Star Wars comic though; a new in-canon Star Wars comic (I think, I’m still finding it hard to tell what counts and what doesn’t). There have been plenty of comic book stories taking place in the rich world that George Lucas created, many of them very good. Dark Horse had been publishing these tales for over 20 years, but once Disney acquired Star Wars it was only a matter of time before the license reverted back to Marvel Comics. At the start of last year it was announced that this would be the case, starting in 2015. And here we are, with Star Wars #1 out now and other series on the way too, including Darth Vadar and Princess Leia comics out over the next couple of months (short previews of which are in the back of this issue).

Star Wars is being written by Jason Aaron, with art by John Cassaday, colours by Laura Martin and letters from Chris Eliopoulos. The story is set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, shortly after the Rebel Alliance gained a huge victory over the Galactic Empire by destroying the planet-destroying space station, the Death Star (sorry if that is a spoiler I guess, but the film is 38 years old). The Rebels aren’t taking a break though, as the Empire is still very much in control of the galaxy and all their leaders are still alive. A transport from Tatooine arrives at a huge Imperial weapons factory. Han Solo steps out, and plays the part of Jabba the Hutt’s emissary, here to make a deal to provide the factory with raw materials. This is all part of a plan for the Rebels to strike and destroy the factory, as Han’s bodyguards reveal themselves to be Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa (with R2-D2 accompanying them, and Chewbacca and C-3PO elsewhere on the planet). Shockingly, things don’t go quite as smoothly as planned, due to the arrival of ‘The Negotiator’ and the alarms being sounded, making it far more difficult for the group to destroy the facility, and escape unscathed.

I’m not going to lie, this was one big fun nostalgic ride for me. From the ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’ first page, my brain immediately started the John Williams score as I turned over to the double-splash STAR WARS, and then a page of opening crawl. I was right back in. But if the aim for this new series was to rely on nostalgia alone, it would have been doomed to fail from the start. Fortunately that was not the case, and with Jason Aaron on board for writing duties I wasn’t particularly worried about that either. As soon as Han swaggers off the ship, it’s clear Aaron know exactly how to write these characters. The pace of the story is brisk and enjoyable, but remembers the point at which it is supposed to be set. This is most clear in the actions of Luke. He knows what he is doing, he has certainly improved and is making progress down the Jedi path, but a master he is not and he has already started to overestimate his abilities (this being before he takes a trip to the swamps of Dagobah for intensive training involving running around with a small wizened alien as a backpack, and unhelpful lessons about fighting yourself).

Cassaday’s art is superb, with character likenesses being more like comic book representations of the actors, rather than a reliance on photo-realistic interpretations which can sometimes be more miss than hit. The action is dynamic, with a highlight being the depiction of Luke’s lightsaber movements, each stroke appearing as multiple blades as he arcs it through the air, Colour work from Laura Martin is excellent too, adding a depth to the art ranging from the void of space and the dark shadows of ship interiors and cages, to the vibrant electricity of production lines and tasering dustbins/robots.

This comic did nothing to lessen my enthusiasm for Star Wars in 2015. In fact it made me want to watch episodes IV, V and VI immediately. The story is in it’s infancy, but I’m sure it is going to be a fun ride. Pick this up at your local comic shop (maybe one of the several thousand variant covers) or digital comics platform now. Unless you hate Star Wars. Why did you click on a review of a Star Wars comic then? Odd.

9 Wookies out of 10

Comic Review – Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

There were a lot of great comics this week, but as it was ending (and I forgot to pick up Outcast #1) I decided to review the finale of the Serenity: Leaves on the Wind mini-series. It was published by Dark Horse Comics, as I think all or most of the Serenity comics have been. Leaves on the Wind #6 was written by Zack Whedon, with pencils from Georges Jeanty, inks from Karl Story, colours by Laura Martin and letters by Michael Heisler. I don’t think we’ve made it a big secret at The Lost Lighthouse how much we love Firefly and Serenity, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to pick up this series.

Leaves on the Wind has been the first story, after a couple of one shots, that follows on from the events of the Serenity film. For those unfamiliar with the short lived Joss Whedon sci-fi series Firefly and the feature film Serenity that continued the story (though I find it hard to believe anyone reading this site hasn’t seen either), the story follows the crew of the ship Serenity, led by Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, as they take odd jobs both legal and illegal to try and make ends meet. Nine months after the events of the film, where Mal and his crew unleashed damning information about the ruling Alliance government to the whole ‘verse, they are laying low. Following complications during child birth, the crew are forced to leave Zoe at an Alliance hospital to save her life, even though her status as a known criminal ensures her incarceration after medical treatment. The series then becomes focused on finding and rescuing Zoe, taking care of her newly born child and encountering the new resistance born out of the signal Mal released. This final issue sees the crew finally locate Zoe and stage a grand rescue from a prison planet. A pretty simple, but very well executed conclusion. The twists and turns in the story, a few of which come to a head in this issue and particularly in the cliffhanger at the end, are really where the meat of the story comes from and I don’t really want to spoil any of it.

The story is really solid, and there are some great appearances from old favourite characters that are unexpected and completely serve the story rather than feeling like fan service. Zack Whedon nails the dialogue and personality of every member of the crew, getting the almost lyrical quality in the speech that served the show so well spot on (“This job can’t go but one way. Turns out you’re beyond your depth, I ain’t gonna drag you back.”). The art is great too. Jeanty captures the look of each of the actors who played River, Kaylee, Mal, Zoe and the others without making it photo-realistic, which often looks clunky and a little bit valley-of-the-uncanny. As with his work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer continuation comics, his faces resemble the actors they are based on but as they would be in an actual comic, so it fits well. The rest of the art team do a great job bringing this all to life, especially the colours from Laura Martin. The pick up in issue #6 looks gorgeous, and considering how may people are wearing brown and it takes place in a desert, everything is really clear and vibrant.

The only drawback, if there is one at all, is that this comic very much depends on you being familiar with these characters. The story is written well enough that you can entirely follow what is going on through the series without having ever watched an episode of Firefly, I’m just not sure you would care about anything that happens. I’d still recommend checking it out, and if you like it then try the show. If you are a Firefly fan, definitely pick this series up. It is a really strong continuation of the series we all loved, and I really hope there is more. Check the series out, and try to track down all 6 issues of the mini-series if you can (or read it digitally!). If you can’t manage it, or can’t be arsed, Dark Horse will be releasing a hard cover of the whole of Leaves on the Wind in November. So check it out then!

Score: 9 Powers in the ‘verse out of 10