Comic Review – Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #2 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I’m the relatable super hero with relatable problems! Just ask my long-lost sister from my super-spy parents with Nazi g–.” Peter Parker

Up for another comic book review this week, and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man caught my eye. This isn’t a surprise really as I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming last week and really enjoyed it. As is the usual marketing strategy of course a new Peter Parker as Spider-Man series was  launched in time with Spidey’s long overdue solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Chip Zdarsky
  • Pencils – Adam Kurbert
  • Colourist – Jordie Bellaire
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lahman

Although this isn’t the first issue in the series its pretty easy to pick up what’s going from the first couple of pages – Spidey has come into conflict with Ironheart over a misunderstanding, while he’s trying to get to the bottom of whoever hacked a bunch of old Stark brand phones and made them untraceable for the criminal underworld to use. Although that’s being set up as the long running plot driver, it isn’t really what the issue is about. There’s a lot of catching up going on in this issue, one of the criticisms of the Marvel comic universe is the massive amount of backstory (seeing as the main universe has never been rebooted) that you won’t have when you pick up an issue so you won’t have the full picture on everything. To get around that issues like this exist and we get a crash course in who this version of Peter is, his Nazi fighting spy parents and not-sister etc. We also get to see Zdarsky’s interpretation of Spidey, who is a little bit of a screw-up in this series.

Art by Kubert & Bellaire

As a tone this is very much a tongue in cheek series, there’s a high degree of self-awareness and jokes at the expense of other events going on in the Marvel Universe.

The art is focused on character interactions throughout this relatively dialogue heavy issue. Action scenes are very much limited, so Kurbert’s line skills for facial expressions and body language are put to the test. He packs a lot of expression into each character and the colouring from Bellaire helps bring these scenes to life and helps bring out the personality in each of the characters. Finally, in conversation-based issues like this lettering is key, and Lahman has done a great job in using the limited space available to properly guide the reader’s eye throughout the issue.

But, the hands. How do they look? I am constantly surprised how much of a difference taking close note of the artist’s hand drawing skills makes. Especially in dialogue heavy issues like this hands portray so much of a character’s personality and add a lot both the conversation and perception of who they are. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

This is an interesting start, don’t let my references to the amount of dialogue put you off. There is an interesting plot brewing here and the light hearted tone of the comic is refreshing when read at the same time as something like Secret Empire.

Score: 8 Really Expensive Coffees 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 Book Review – Inhumans Vs X-Men #2 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: Minor Spoilers.

“This is my home. These are my people. I will not let the X-Men steal their future.” Medusa

This showdown has been a long time coming. Ever since Marvel began to promote the Inhumans as their apparent favourite super powers by genetics team it was clear they would have to come to blows eventually. Although this is a second issue and not the natural point to pick up a first review, thanks to the promising first issue I thought it would be worth exploring further, especially following the mixed reception to Civil War II this could be Marvel pulling off a much better super team clash. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer –  Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule
  • Penciler – Leinil Francis Yu
  • Inker – Gerry Alanguilan
  • Colourist – David Curiel
  • Letterer – VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Yu, Alanguilan Curiel

Cover by Yu, Alanguilan Curiel

To give a little background as to why these teams are facing off against each other – the Terrigen Mist is floating around the planet transforming those with the right genetic code into Inhumans, but when it touches a mutant they simply perish. Considering there aren’t many mutants left in the Marvel Universe, more and more of the X-Men began to take exception to the mist. Any attempts to find a peaceful solution have now failed, and the death of Cyclops (current, not past) became the catalyst for war.

This issue focuses on an all-out battle between the two teams. Issues like this can often feel messy, however thanks to a combination of excellent writing and clear, defined art it was easy to keep up with everything that was going on. Considering the number of characters involved that was no small feat. There is only limited space for character development however, which is natural in an issue such as this. One touch I do like is the ideological differences between the two sides – the Inhumans revere the mist as if it was divine, whereas the X-Men come across as an desperate group of survivors.

Art by Yu, Alanguilan Curiel

Art by Yu, Alanguilan Curiel

As for the art, considering how much was going on it would have been easy to miss something in this issue, the clearly defined art style – the penciling and inking by Leinil Yu and Alanguilan supported the narrative keeping it clear throughout. Curiel adopted a dark pallet throughout the issue which provides a very sombre atmosphere to the conflict. There are also some very cool moments for individual characters, such as Medusa, Sabretooth and Wolverine throughout the issue. But how are Yu and Alanguilan with hands?

Can the art team draw hands? In combat heavy issues the majority of hands are grabbing, punching, deflecting etc. which can mean there is little chance for artists to show off what they can do. This is not the case when dealing with such a diverse range of power sets. From claws, to energy filled and even melting Leinil Yu and Alanguilan provided a fantastic base for Curiel to work his magic on. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

This is promising to be Marvel’s super team showdown of the year. Its been a while coming, which adds plenty of weight to the issues so far.

Score: 8.8 Little Snacks out of 10

 

Comic Review – Doctor Strange #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.

“So now I walk alone through the nameless reaches of the netherworld. Each day weirder than the last. Each new challenge liable to end with my doom or damnation or final descent into screaming madness. But you know what? I’d be lying like hell if I said I didn’t love this.” – Doctor Strange

Warning: minor spoilers.

While Adam struggles to maintain his sanity with his thesis, I’ll be stepping in to have a go at the weekly comic book review! And boy was I spoilt for choice this week! Marvel are getting into their ‘All New All Different’ series with a load of new issue #1s, designed for people to jump in on and become hooked. It certainly worked on me… Today I’ll be reviewing Doctor Strange #1, written by Jason Aaron and pencils and colours by Chris Bachalo, with inks from Tim Townsend, Al Vey and Mark Irwin, and letters from Cory Petit. This is one of the comics there’s been a bit of fuss and hype about in certain parts of the internet. Partially because Benedict Cumberbatch has taken up the role for the MCU and partially because the Sorcerer Supreme has been depicted wielding a massive axe along with his magic. This can only be a fun development.

Anyway, onto the main review. I picked this up only having a rough knowledge of Doctor Strange: He’s the Avenger with magical powers who isn’t the Scarlet Witch. That was about it. And considering the massive expansive history behind nearly every Marvel character it could have been easy for this comic to be impenetrable to new readers. But no, the first page is one of the best openings I’ve seen in a first issue for a comic book (Saga would also stand out… for very different reasons…), it gives you a narration from Doctor Strange with the background decorated with panels from his old comics. These panels are unedited so they have that cool vintage comic look about them. You get a good feel for the type of guy Steven Strange is and an overview of his backstory. Oh, and unlike Doctor Fate for DC Doctor Strange is an actual Doctor.

doc strange 2The art style naturally shifts to a more modern tone right away, Chris Bachalo’s art is top quality as you’d expect, although you rarely see the character eyes in the way they’re drawn! The story itself is pure set up, the migration before the storm as we see Strange deal with a variety of supernatural entities. We also get a feel for his place in society, unlike say Captain America he walks down the street and nobody takes notice. At least until he appears to start talking to himself and shuffling/moving in a weird way, then people just avoid him or are weirded out by him. Actually, if you see him doing that he’s likely going toe to toe with some big horrible magical nasty that feeds on our souls, but he’s treated like a crazy drunk. He makes the point that he isn’t surprised by this, and in fact if you see a drunk or a homeless person talking to themselves, give them a bit of cash, they could actually be saving you from soul devouring monsters!

We also get a look at his magical allies, his supernatural hang out bar and a feel for how magic works in this world (warning for anyone wanting to give it a go: you’ll need to drown a lot of bunnies! This is the price you don’t see Harry Potter pay on screen…)

Finally, we get an epilogue that sets up the direction of the rest of the series. Which looks very cool.

If you’re a long-time fan of Doctor Strange though, I could see this being a bit of a slow comic. It’s designed to get the new readers in and there’s a lot of getting to know the Doctor, who long term fans of course already do. That being said, it’s a very good set up and I’m sure will rock as a series, so read it anyway!

Final Verdict

Well done Marvel, I’m hooked. I’ll be following this series and if you want to get hyped for the upcoming film, like Doctor Strange or just want a superhero with more magic and less muscles then this is perfect for you!

Final Score – 9 Psyche Leeches out of 10!

Comic Review – Civil War #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 7.5 SHRAs out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Wars #1

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

This week saw the start of Marvel’s new Secret Wars event, an 8 issue mini series in which the regular Marvel Universe (Earth-616) and the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610) collide, heralding the end of both worlds and the multiverse itself. Amongst the new tie in series that will be coming up, several comics will revisit old defunct or What if? stories too. Secret Wars is written by Jonathan Hickman, with art from Esad Ribic, colours by Ive Svorcina and letters from Chris Eliopoulos.

“The multiverse is dying. Only two universes remain. Today, Earths collide”

Secret Wars opens in Manhattan on Earth-1610 in the Ultimate Universe, and with the universal incursion imminent Nick Fury and Reed Richards plan to strike first – to save themselves by eliminating the other Earth. Little does Fury know, Richards is working with The Cabal, a group of villains from Earth-616 including Thanos, Namor, Black Swan and Terrax, for some alternate goal. Tony Stark leads the charge, with huge ships appearing above Manhattan in Earth-616. But despite the surprise attack and the firepower, the metahumans of the Marvel Universe start to fight back and win. The X-Men, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Fantastic Four and an array of other characters slowly destroy the ships. But they also fear the incursion too, and Earth-616 Reed Richards (keep up) and the Fantastic Four have been arranging a ‘Resurrection Ship’ full of scientists to escape the collision of the two worlds, and to rebuild the human race elsewhere. This obviously goes wrong, and plan B seems to be to teleport certain choice heroes into the ship and escape in it. As the worlds collide, the universes glow white-hot and then die, with the final page simply:

The Marvel Universe

1961-2015

The Ultimate Universe

2000-2015

The story continues next week, but it’s a pretty explosive ending. Those who escaped on the ark/resurrection ship will presumably form the main cast of Secret Wars, including Thor, Reed Richards, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Star Lord, but where it will go from here and how it will end up is anyone’s guess. Somehow the universes will be smushed together and we’ll have a new Marvel Universe.

As a first issue this was pretty impressive. What I have read of Hickman’s work on Avengers or Fantastic Four is very much in line with this, if a little more high-concept, but I think that will be played up in the coming issues. This is an action packed introduction to the story (and the FCBD Secret Wars #0 isn’t totally necessary, though it was pretty good). To totally unfairly compare it to the start of DC’s ‘worlds colliding’ story in Convergence a few weeks ago this was a lot more fun and cohesive, but also much harder to follow if you are even a casual reader, let alone using this as a jumping on point. I dabble in Marvel, and currently only follow 3 books regularly, but consider myself to have a basic working knowledge of the universe. This was dense. Though the only thing that didn’t make a huge amount of sense to me is why Fury and Stark from the Ultimate Universe seem to be so easily and totally bent on taking out Earth-616 rather than working together to find a solution like superheroes would.

Ribic’s art was largely very strong, with the actual action and the scale of the attack looking stunning. The only shaky moments in the art were with a few of the faces of various characters, where they didn’t quite look like a face anyone would actually pull, the most obvious of which was She-Hulk about halfway through. But the bulk of the issue looks great, and Svorcina’s colours make the action and all of the many explosions look intense and vibrant.

If you’re a Marvel fan, you’re probably going to check out Secret Wars. This first issue was a lot of fun, the stakes felt high and I’m genuinely interested in where it goes next. If you don’t really follow Marvel at all… this might not make a lot of sense to you, but you may enjoy it anyway! I really did, so I’m going to see what happens to the survivors of the incursion and what sort of universe we’ll end up with at the end. Pick this up at your LCS or digitally!

Score: 8 Incursions out of 10