Review: All-New X-Factor #1

Written by Peter David
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico

Two in one day? Lucky, you, getting to read my trite analysises. Analysi? Analyses!ImageThis is the new start of the all new X-Factor series since Madrox’s detective agency closed their doors. Luckily for us Peter David decided that the end of the Multiple Man’s story was not the end of X-Factor’s story and he’s back with a team led by Polaris, the daughter of Magneto.

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First, I have to say as far back as I remember picking up new comics I remember reading comics by Peter David. Hoping to be considered cool by my brother who liked the Hulk (even though girls and football were his only concerns at the time) I picked up the classic and epic run by Peter David and Todd MacFarlane on the Incredible Hulk. I soon realized without my brother’s approval those were amazing comics and I’ve been a fan of Peter David ever since. I am incredibly happy his health scare last year did not end his comic career. I think I was as concerned for him at that time as a family member.

ImageBut now we are at the All New Marvel relaunch of X-Factor and I have to give an honest review and not just fanboy service to an idol. This issue starts with Gambit being recruited by Polaris after a botched theft Logan interrupted. Gambit is the reader’s perspective being slightly morally ambiguous and leery of a superhero team sponsored by a large corporation. Quicksilver shows up to check on his half-sister and the unlikely and tenuous trio head out on their first mission as the All-New X-Factor.

While not an action packed start to a series, this issue is still a well crafted work of humorous dialogue. Knowing and understanding these three characters’ recent history (the last X-Factor series and the short lived Gambit series) will help you appreciate David’s work at tieing this new story into the history and continuity of the 616 universe. The dialogue is well written and builds on a streamline narrative David is developing, but I honestly can see how some people may not enjoy this issue. If you’ve read David’s other work, he writes mutants more akin to Chris Claremont (concerned with planting seeds which will build long running narratives), and you must be aware that while a single issue may not blow you (although they definitely can) the long form story he builds will be worth it in the long run. Sometimes it isn’t even about the story as much as it is about helping the reader truly understand each character he is writing in a way many writers may gloss over. This has caused some to say his X-Factor run is hit-or-miss, while they are actually missing his character development due to a slightly ridiculous narrative. As a first issue this may not be the best way to pull new readers aboard but those missing a Peter David story will enjoy it.

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As for the art, it is actually decent. Carmine’s work is slightly reminiscent of Kaare Andrews, but still his own. This issue is not quite up to his work in the Punisher mini series which ended Greg Rucka’s run. Yet the art is not bad in any way. It helps move the dialogue with well used facial expressions, something occasionally missing in comics. He actually pays attention not just to story but to the character interactions.

All-in-all, you’ll like this issue if you enjoyed the majority of the last X-Factor series. This should become a welcome addition to your weekly pull list. If you didn’t read the last series I honestly recommend giving this a good college try. What may be lacking in intense action is made up for in well written and well thought out character interactions and dialogue.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

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Review: Black Widow #1

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Phil Noto

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What do you expect from a Black Widow series? I honestly have never been too thrilled with any of her stories apart from those by Warren Ellis during his Secret Avengers run. With that said, I was excited to have a writer who helped tell the story of one my favorite non-Marvel characters (Grifter) come aboard and add to the continuity of the 616. Phil Noto is also an excellent artist with an unique style. So although I normally could care less about a Black Widow story, I was surprisingly interested in this series.

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The story is a mixture showing Natasha Romanova’s mental cunning, physical prowess, but also her personal emotional faults and weaknesses. This spin on the character is not a huge leap from previous incarnations and similar enough to the movies’ character to attract both old fans and new readers. Edmondson does a great job of showing the range and abilities of the Black Widow. While I don’t think this is a breakout issue that completely relieves my concerns that the character lacks the depth to carry her own on-going series, it is done well enough that I am interested in seeing a further continuation of her story.

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While Noto’s art may turn some off, his grungy, destructed yet still soft style creates a great atmosphere which sets it apart as a unique series at Marvel and helps contrast the two sides of Black Widow’s character Edmondson tries to expand upon. The consistent use of beauty marks on her face is a nice touch by the artist as well. Noto also gives interesting angles and helps keep the story moving. While a lot of art is functional in mainstream comics, in many ways Noto is able to lift the story by not looking like anyone else’s work. But that can also hinder his appeal to some who may be interested in only polished and slick mainstream art styles.

ImageThis is a solid start to a series based on a character I didn’t believe I would find much interest in. I’m still interested to see if this will turn into a long run (I doubt it) but it does add a dimension to the 616 that isn’t found in many other current series by Marvel. I’m enticed enough to stick with this series and see how it plays out. While it may not be to the level of Hawkeye, I think this is still the best entry in the solo series surrounding this character.

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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2014 All-New Marvel Now Preview Review

2014 (as every year) promises to be a big year for Marvel. Whether Marvel can exceed or even meet expectations is anyone’s guess. But given previous entries in the comic industry and even previous years of large promise (2013 being one of them) what can some of our true expectations be for the coming year? If you’re coming here for a review of this week’s comic books, I apologize. This is a review of the preview of Marvel’s year to come. It’s like political pundits’ predictions on 2016’s presidential candidates, except this is something you care about!

ImageShort Lived Yet Eternally Praised

To start things off, this coming March has one series that I’m incredibly excited about and that is Moon Knight under the creative vision of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. Moon Knight has always been an underdog at Marvel with an extremely hardcore cult following but has at best achieved sixty issues in one volume, and more often than not has not passed thirty issues. Because of this I think it is safe to say that this won’t be a long on-going series, so don’t get your hopes up, but apart from one volume Moon Knight usually runs at least twelve issues, so we should at least get a year worth of stories this time around.

With this series also brings another aspect which does not bode well for the longevity of the run: Warren Ellis. Now, I love Warren Ellis. I’m a hardcore fanboy of his and I think anything he touches is gold. He could write My Little Ponies and I’d probably become a bronie. I usually don’t read novels, but I made the time to read his books. I hunted down an entire run of X-Force he plotted (not scripted) just because his name was on the books. So I’m a huge fan of his. But, with Marvel he doesn’t do long runs. He never has. Iron Man, Secret Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, Thunderbolts, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Nextwave, Starjammers, Wolverine, Storm, X-Man, Hellstorm, and Thor all had great issues by Warren Ellis, but no one run of his lasts longer than twelve issue. Well, with the giant sized issues in Astonishing X-Men, maybe more, but still. Doom 2099 and Excalibur are the few series which lasted but both were in a period where the miniseries Pryde and Wisdom came out (another by Ellis, but even I can’t get behind a Shadowcat/Pete Wisdom team-up).

The fact of the matter is we are most likely to get six to twelve of the greatest Moon Knight stories ever told. Ellis won’t overstay his welcome, so Marvel will either cancel the series or place an up-and-comer on the book who may not be awful, but behind Warren Ellis, he/she won’t be able to compete. Come December of this year the cancellation notice will already be out.

ImageAt least Liefeld Won’t Replace Him At Marvel

Nathan Edmondson may not be a familiar name with most who read exclusively Marvel comics, but he is anything but a rookie newcomer. Edmondson has worked on a few issues in the Ultimate universe, but this year is transitioning to the 616 to bring us tales of the Black Widow and Punisher is two separate series. The Punisher always does well and has a strong following, and after the Avengers movie I think fans are open to a Black Widow series if done well. Hopefully Edmondson has read Secret Avengers #20 by Warren Ellis to understand how to tell a good Black Widow story.

Nathan Edmondson is best known for bringing life to the solo career of Grifter. For those who don’t know, Grifter is a cross between Hawkeye with a little bit of Wolverine’s healing powers. He works with teams, but is still a loner character at heart with a complicated past. From writing all of these attributes I strongly believe that Edmondson will do a great job on both of these titles. But there is still a catch: Edmondson is also not well known for long runs. He typically has a story to tell, and then he is done. How does someone get replaced by Rob Liefeld unless they are just finished with their story or sick of their editor? With Edmondson and Ellis entry into the All New Marvel Now Part Two (or whatever they’re calling it), and with Alex Alonso’s acknowledgement that renumbering actually boost sales, I get the feeling that Marvel is not actually looking at these series as long on-going runs, but rather solid stories on short runs to boost familiarity with characters to encourage their cinematic and television goals. I don’t say that to be extremely negative, but rather something we must acknowledge as fans as the industry is starting to change forever. The one positive thing is if they are looking for shorter runs and multiple renumbers, some of the better writers out there not interested in long on-going series may be reentering the ranks and delivering higher caliber stories with less throw away issues between the stories that matter. Hopefully Edmondson, Ellis, and Matt Kindt are the just the forerunners and we’ll start to see many more skilled writers putting their spin on the 616 who haven’t before or in a long time.

ImageThe Dead-Wedding

As of yesterday the puzzle was complete and we got our glimpse into the wedding of Deadpool and presumably Death (probably Death). While I’m sure this is not going to be an epic event, it will most likely be a somewhat amusing entry in the Deadpool legacy. The latest run (or the Post-Way Run) has been a bit of a hit or miss for me. Some of the retro issues I thought were great, but the introductory story arc just felt flat. Daniel Way and Joe Kelly are two guys you don’t want to follow behind, but even then, with an extremely funny comedian co-writing the series I had high expectations and they were never met.

So what does this puzzle and the promised storyline show us? Not really anything. It is another reminder of how polarized people are on this subject of the new Deadpool series. Some people hate (and there is no hyperbole in using the word “hate” here) this series and so they hate the idea of the story that this puzzle represents. People won’t read Marvel now (Marvel Now now?) because of this advertisement. Heaven forbid a company tries to solicit excitement and anticipation in a series.

In all honesty, this will probably be a throw away storyline, but not the end of the world. It may turn out to be humorous and amusing read, but even if it doesn’t it probably means they’ll put the Deadpool series on sale on Comixology around this time so you can pick some of those up for dirt cheap and reread the series that you loved. So shut up.

ImageSuperior or Amazing or 2099 or Ultimate?

Let the speculations begin! The series that everyone hates to love (but we do, don’t we) is being hyped up with the Goblin Nation storyline and the apparent absence of the final issue of the storyline in the solicitations. Hmm? What does that mean? Well, probably just that it is coming out in April and that the April solicitations haven’t come out yet, but go ahead and guess something else.

With the return of Peter Parker to the big screen in 2014, most people’s expectation is that Parker will return in the pages of the comics. There’s a problem with that expectation though. Superior Spider-Man has not only become a fan favorite but also has received high critical praise and has solid numbers in sales. Dan Slott has also be given a large amount of creative freedom at Marvel. Because of those two reason, unless Dan Slott is finished with that story, I don’t think Superior is going anywhere.

We also have Spider-Man 2099 now in the 616 mix and the never-ending rumors of the end of the Ultimate universe and the introduction of Miles to the the 616 as well. With Kaine and Spider-Girl along for the ride I assume it is safe to say that the next big Marvel event will have the Scarlet Witch proclaiming, “No more Spider-Men/Women/Girls.”

But Dan Slott is jumping to the Silver Surfer (we can talk about that later) and although he is a fairly prolific writer, he isn’t like Bendis or Hickman and tends to stay on one book at a time. He’s typically focused on a character(s) and their story, so there is a possibility that Dan Slott maybe passing the reigns on Spidey to another writer and at that point in time it truly is anyone’s guess what would happen.

ImageInhuman Expectations

In a move that proved on social media whether or not you were a geek, the news that Matt Fraction was replaced by Charles Soule of the the Inhuman series came out almost at the same time that some dude with a beard said something racists and also proved that most people on Facebook don’t understand the difference between “free speech” and “free market.”

But, the real issue here is the creative differences which caused Matt Fraction to be split off of a series which is supposed to set the new course for the changing tide of the 616. To some this calls into question the actual creative freedom offered to writers and artist at Marvel. To others, they’re still wondering who the Inhumans are and why is Thanos having a son a big deal.

With Joe Madureira at the helm of the art, there are still many who most likely do not care who is writing the book and merely look forward to his energetic style. And whoever is writing this book will play second fiddle to Mad Joe who is an industry favorite and made his mark on the X-Men from the Age of Apocalypse to Onslaught. Apart from Jim Lee, his images are some of the most iconic for X-Fans from the 90s (maybe including the preceeding and following decades as well).

So what does that mean? The first issue will have record sales.

Soule is getting a lot of acclaim for his indie title “Letter 44” which actually is extremely good even if I’m not that impressed with the artwork. With a touch of indie-cred and the touch of an industry legend this book with reach out and draw people in who may not have regularly read this series.

But there are still two unclear things: Soule and MadJoe. Soule is a wild card in that not much is known about him and to have the reigns of the anchor-title of the all new Marvel Now is a big weight to bear for a rookie. He hasn’t done anything to make anyone doubt his abilities as a comic writer, but he hasn’t really proved he can hang with Bendis, Hickman, Fraction, Aaron, or any of the other heavyweight veterans Marvel has at their disposal. This will be his trial by fire, and while I wish the best for him (mainly because I really want the best for the Inhumans) we’ll have to wait and see on him. Joe Madureira on the other hand has a reputation not unlike John Cassaday. He has a wide following of fans, but there are always rumors of him being behind schedule and generally late on projects. Sure he delivers the goods, but if he’s late enough that another artist has to fill in for a few issues will that turn fans off of the series? We’ll have to wait and see.

ImageSurfing With An Alien

Dan Slott and Mike Allred: either you’re already on board or you’re cursing their names. These two take over the original herald this year with a Doctor Who type spin on the Silver Surfer. Dan Slott is an unashamed Whovian so when the news broke that he would be restarted the Silver Surfer series, but this time he would be giving him an companion, it wasn’t really a huge surprise. If nothing else it sounded like an original and possibly fun spin on the Surfer. The question everyone is asking is: Will it be fun, though?

Of course. Mike Allred is a fun artist. Dan Slott is a fun writer. Will either of them reshape the way we view the Marvel Universe? No, but for twenty-three pages a month you’re going to have a lot of fun on whatever quirky adventure these two decide to take you. That’s a fair promise.

Apart from killing Peter Parker, Dan Slott generally creates very fun and energetic reads. Often I feel the advertising department at Marvel oversales his comics, but they’re still good. Even his She Hulk run wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t as good as Peter David’s run, but it was still fun. And Mike Allred’s art always gives the whimsy and fun feel to comics that are reminiscent of the best of the Silver Age. So I strongly stand behind the stance that this will be a fun comic to read. I’m sure Silver Surfer purist will be upset by a slightly lighter touch on Norran Radd, but with the last name “Radd” maybe you shouldn’t take him too seriously.

ImageCall Mark Harmon!

The announced first event this year for Marvel involves the death of the Watcher and I would presume the mystery surrounding whodunnit. While DC has proven they are fairly capably at delivering superhero murder mysteries (Final Crisis and Identity Crisis), Marvel rarely goes near this genre apart from Dakota North or the CrossGen series Ruse. Yet if you look at the creative team (Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato Jr) this isn’t too far out of either of their comfort zones.

While Deodato isn’t well known for his murder mysteries and until recent years was best known for half-dressed, busty women, his shadowy style will play extremely well into a noir feeling mystery story. Jason Aaron, on the other hand, wrote the impeccable and dark series Scapled prior to his flights of fun humor on Wolverine and The X-Men. While he isn’t as strongly and consistently on the mark as Warren Ellis, Aaron has proven he has the ability to jump between serious and humor similarly.

But what does this mean for the series? Well, the Watcher will die, but no one will really notice except for those few that seriously thought that Earth X was actually part of the 616 continuity and the events from Infinity were ushering in that time. Silly people, Jim Krueger is a false prophet. My guess though is that we’ll find that someone in the Fantastic Four was sick of all voyeurism and took a little trip to the moon to pop a cap in that monstrous head. If I’m wrong, I’ll just delete this blog and refuse to admit I ever stated that.

I honestly think this looks like it will be a fairly interesting event series. With all of the past events that Marvel has put out it is just important to remember that the status quo will most likely not change that much, everyone will eventually come back from the dead, and whoever is actually guilty of the murder will be basically forgiven within a year or as soon as it is inconvenient for whichever writer is helming that character’s core book. But that doesn’t mean that the series itself won’t be entertaining and engaging while it occurs. We all hyped ourselves for an epic battle royal against Ultron thanks to an incredibly deceptive titled series last year, so the main thing is to just enjoy the premise and whatever may happen leave your expectations and all the hype behind. Remember: if you could write a better comic you probably would.

 

So goodbye, Marvel Now, and hello, New Marvel Now. Let’s hope we get more this year than just a slightly more diverse Ms Marvel. Check back next week as I start working through and reviewing this year’s all new number ones!

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Review: Avengers Assemble 22

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis
Art by Paco Diaz and Matteo Buffagni

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I have not read much in the way of this series. I honestly didn’t make it through Bendis’ first arc finding that some of his most boring and pointless dialogue in his career. It felt a forced and rushed job. That being said, I ignored the book once DeConnick took it over since I’ve never really connected to her writing. Her writing is in no way bad and I hate that I feel I have to say this, but it also is not because she’s a she. So of course, the only reason to pick this up was Warren Ellis. Let’s be honest, he is one of the greatest comic book writers of our lifetime and he would easily be in the top ten comic book writers of all time, if not in the top five. From absurd humor to dark and intense drama he’s mastered it all with a rare ease to flow between styles and genres. So, yea, that’s why I picked up this book.

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To be honest, it was an entertaining but forgettable issue though. That is not to say it is poorly written or a bad issue. I think for what ComicCodes.com is for, this is the perfect issue. If you like these writers then it is worth reading but I don’t think people will clamor to add this to their collections. To give credit to both writers’ talents this does not feel like an issue written by two writers. Their styles blended well to create a humorous and lighthearted issue. The frivolity of the issue was also a pleasant take on the Avengers compared to Hickman’s epic yet heavy and serious core titles. While not everyone may enjoy the ways certain characters are portrayed (some people get upset over a lighthearted approach to Banner/Hulk) I thought it was fun.

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As to the art, I in no way thought it was bad, but at no point did I feel it added anything extra to this issue. It was straightforward and to the point, but it wasn’t stiff or boring. It didn’t excel the book to new heights but no one would turn this book down because of the art. Could I possibly be any more tepid on it?

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So while not the greatest read, it was fun. The true DeConnick and Ellis fans are so hardcore, they’ll pick this one up anyways. To the rest of you, if you’re looking for a frivolous yet enjoyable Avengers read after Hickman’s dense and serious Infinity narrative then this may be the book for you.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

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Review: Trial of the Punisher 2 of 2

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Leinil Yu

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This issue (in conjunction with the previous issue) is efficiently written and expertly penciled. All-in-all, these two issues are fantastic examples of comics at their best. The story told within is crafted perfectly for the tale being told and the execution of this story also hits the mark. This story is a great example of the types of stories that can be told perfectly in comics, but not as well in any other medium.

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While this story may fall under some radars, if you are a fan of the punisher or court room dramas I cannot insist you pick this up more. The whole story paints a great portrait of who Frank Castle really is. All along the notion that he is mentally ill is constantly thrown around, but by the end you realize not only is he perfectly sane, but he may also be one of the smartest people in the room.

ImageGuggenheim tells this narrative through a War Journal perspective that gives great insight into the Punisher’s thought process while not giving away the end game. Guggenheim draws the reader in by throwing them off balance with presumably obscure and coincidental bits of information. He also makes the obvious move of bringing Matt Murdock into a court room drama set in the Marvel Universe. Having his lawyer perspective played out in the scene gives snippets of their relationship away while also being a great cameo for those of us that love the Marvel continuity. I can honestly say that there was no part of the writing of this issue that I didn’t love. It was so well done, that when I was finished with issue one I wanted to go back and reread both issues immediately. If anything, issue two feels slightly better written than issue one, but it is fairly nominal in difference.

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I believe this issue may contain some of Leinil Yu’s best ark work I’ve seen in comics he’s drawn. He steps up his already great game and delivers not only some of his best work, but also crafts a well told story through his art. Some artist can get too obsessed with working outside of conventional paneling that they can lose focus on the story they are trying to tell. Yu brings in just enough traditional panel work along with nontraditional schemes to make a court room drama actually seem exciting. If I could fault any one detail, there is a panel where Matt Murdock is smiling that makes him looks villainous. It actually works, but that one panel stumped me for a second and I had to read that page again.

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I cannot stress how much I recommend this issue (and the first one in this two issue series). The lack of a Punisher series right now has created a vacuum, and these two issues have filled it. After Rucka’s run and Guggenheim’s two miniseries, Nathan Edmondson has a very high bar set for him. For those whose last Punisher series was Frankencastle, not so high a bar.

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Rating 5 out of 5

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Review: New Avengers 11

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mike Deodato

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In the midst of the crisis at hand with Infinity, the destruction of Attilan, the release of the Terrigen mist, and with a majority of the Avengers (or at least the only ones we care about, but good try Mighty Avengers) off world fighting the Builders, the Illuminati have to deal with an incursion of an Earth from a different dimension again. As they gather to deal with the impending doom, the Illuminati are summoned to talk to the Builders from the parallel universe of the incursion. These Builders explain why they are going to destroy the Earth in their universe, and it begins to dawn on everyone (including the reader) why the Builders in the Infinity series are so focused on destroying the Earth, and possibly the meaning behind the words spoken by the Builder in Infinity #4 who died at the hand (and hammer) of Thor. Maybe that was less of a threat and instead a warning. Also Doctor Strange is exorcised, even Thanos appears to be weary of the Black Swan, and Terrax takes a nap. Image

Critiquing the writing by Jonathan Hickman in this issue is difficult for various reasons. One reason is he is often laying extremely vague and subtle questions whose answers that may not be answered for many issues. Even after eleven issues, The Black Swan is still very much a mystery. So with that said, often there is a feeling that you should possibly know more than you do while you are reading the issues, but possibly you can’t because you might not know for several more issues to come. This actually makes the entire series extremely re-readable as was Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. Another reason is that this is part of a much larger picture. When people refer to comics as graphic novels because they are embarrassed of saying they like comic books it often bothers me, but I feel as though Hickman writes with each issue being like a chapter in a book. In that way, critiquing his issues alone for a story or plot (or the appearance of the lack of either) is like reviewing a single chapter in a book. The one critique that may be made about Hickman’s writing is often the lack of characterization. Some characters seem to be here just to be here like Doctor Strange or Beast while Namor and Black Panther are being built upon and developed. As much as I love Namor and Black Panther, I would love to see more growth from Doctor Strange in the same way. Even Doctor Strange’s possession didn’t appear to affect him before, during, or after, but I felt that was a great moment to really drive into some of his insecurities or maybe his strengths. But with that small criticism, honestly, this is a fantastic and fun read. As much as I love to check out and reading something fun and exciting like Superior Spider-Man or FF, this book has been a great high-brow read in terms of Marvel Comics.

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Mike Deodato is fantastic as always. He is slick and clean, and his use of shadows to develop muscle tones and expressions has made him one of my favorite artists at Marvel since his Amazing Spider-Man run almost ten years ago. I have heard other artists critique his work for appearing derivative of a digital art program, but as a comic reader I absolutely love it and don’t care. With that said, I’m obviously extremely biased of his work, and always think everything his does is amazing and brilliant. He’s possibly the only person that could’ve topped Steve Epting on this series.

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With all of that said, I will say, don’t just jump on board and start reading here. You’ll be lost. Some people who have been on board since number one are still probably a little lost. But also, if you are enjoying the Infinity series, reading these tie-ins and really this whole series from the beginning will only make you enjoy everything about Infinity even more so. Hickman’s entire New Avengers and Avengers runs so far have built up to Infinity and also appear to be laying ground for path after Infinity. As an entire collective work this is one of the best written and smartest reads mainstream comics have put out in a long time.

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Rating 5 out of 5

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Review: Superior Spider-Man 19

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman

Image*Warning Slight Spoilers Ahead*
Completely undue of anything on Slott’s or Stegman’s  part, even with all the fury and energy and fast paced fun that makes this a great superhero comics, this issue has a worse rating than it should. That is due to the marketing on this book which is causing this issue to have a lower grading than it probably deserves. Ever since about Amazing Spider-Man 690 (maybe a few before) Dan Slott’s run has been hyped that each issue is Earth shattering and will have a huge effect on the Marvel Universe. This is coming from the same department that also hyped up Age of Ultron which was also a well written series, but hyped beyond belief. Look, whoever is in charge of this stuff, we all know that Slott is a great writer and has an ability to tell fantastic stories about a character we should technically all hate, but somehow we don’t. And he tells these stories with great energy and passion thanks in no small part to Ryan Stegman who appears to have started channeling Todd MacFarlane from his heyday. All-in-all this is a fantastic book which I could enjoy much more without the promise of HUGE change in every issue, which I just don’t feel it delivers. I mean, after issue 700, you can do fun stuff, but nothing is going to live up to that. Even with bringing Spider-Man 2099 into the 616 continuity, you still cannot top issue 700. So just stop trying to sell this to us like it’s a flu shot we don’t want. We know we’re going to like and you have us hooked. Stop with the hype machine.

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And that’s really it. The writing is great and the story is good too even with Deus Ex Machina used to save Spidey (They happen to have a machine that just happens to fix everything?). The issue is predominately exposition with not much action at all, but Slott is able to keep a steady and fast pace which still makes this a fun and exciting read. And the art is only getting better. Ryan Stegman is on track to become the next great artist on call at Marvel. His art is gorgeous in this issue.

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Now, here is a little talking point for anyone who has read this issue: As Superior Spider-Man tries to unlock Peter’s past memories; there is a sequence of four panels where a shadowy figure seems to emerge from being buried underground. Apart from Miguel being now in continuity, this may be the most exciting thing about this issue. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion…

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Rating 3.5 out of 5

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Review: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man 01 (of 05)

Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Marco Rudy

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There are two important things to realize about this issue. First, this is a Peter Parker issue, I would assume in continuity prior to Doc Ock’s possession. Second, if comics could be graded in terms of video game difficulty, with, say, Romita Jr being a normal, this is an expert level comic.

Marco Rudy’s art is exquisite. It runs the gamut of styles but still feels like a cohesive piece from start to finish. His lack of standard paneling or sequential story telling makes this not a comic for new comers to the world of comic books as I said above. This is a book for lovers of art that pushes the boundaries of how stories can be told visually. Due to this lack of standard paneling each page feels like a splash page, but are so busy they feel like art work at a museum worth your eye’s dedication and focus to soak in barrage of energy and emotion coming off every masterpiece. Fans of traditional and realistic art may not enjoy this issue at all, but those who are up for an indie Spider-Man experience this comic will be a visual feast. And although I usually don’t mention colorists unless they do a poor job, Val Staples does a gorgeous job with Marco’s impossible artwork.

With all of that said, Matt Kindt has to be given credit for developing and writing a story not only with freedom to tell with abstract art, but also to have a story and theme that completely work with the art. Any other story with this art may wind up being a jumbled mess of conflicting ideas, but this is the perfect tale for Marco’s art.

Matt Kindt was a writer I knew nothing about a month ago, but with his work on DC’s Villain Month, Infinity: The Hunt, and now this series it is becoming obvious the Matt is an incredibly diverse writer. He has a simplistic approach with The Hunt which is completely done away with in this story’s often abstract and frenetic pace and plot. I’m not sure if he will become another Warren Ellis or Zeb Wells, but as of right now I’m excited and look forward to what else Matt Kindt is going to bring to comics.

One warning for this comic: beyond it being a challenging read, it is also not a comic made for portable devices. I highly and strongly recommend you picking up a physical copy of this comic. I’ve read it both ways, and due to the abstract nature of the story telling the full pages in your hand make this a much more enjoyable read.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

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Review: The Trial of the Punisher 1 of 2

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Leinil Yu

ImageI picked this issue thinking that possibly it would be the connection between last year’s Punisher War Zone miniseries and a prequel to the current Thunderbolts series.  I quickly realized this is just a standalone story, yet one that is still firmly set in continuity of the whole Marvel Universe. It is difficult to say when exactly this occurred in continuity, but that feels relatively irrelevant.

ImageI have always enjoyed the Punisher when he was set up as Marvel’s Batman. Not that he’s a costumed dark knight who never kills, but rather even if he’s not the smartest or strongest person in the room he’s methodical enough to always make it out and never rely on luck. When I started reading this comic it became very apparent that this is the character trait that Marc Guggenheim is going for in this Punisher story, which was the same in his War Zone miniseries last year. Marc does a fantastic job building up the drama and delivering an authentic feeling court drama featuring the Punisher. I don’t think I’ve ever read a mainstream comic like this. I’m sure there have been Daredevil comics with intense courtroom drama, but I’ve never read them. Because of that, this feels very fresh and new to me. Marc is also a fantastic writer, and has a great way of crafting dialogue with punctuation and dialect to drive scenes and help you understand the characters. Even without the art, just by reading the dialogue I would not find it difficult to picture this entire comic in my head. He really goes above and beyond in this issue to draw the reader in to the story.

ImageI know I may get some flak for this, but I’ve never entirely enjoyed Leinil Yu’s art. He is a fantastic artist, but I think from the Secret Invasion story line and his artwork on New Avengers prior to that, I never liked how he drew women, especially Spider-Woman. He took an elegant female character and made he feel harsh and scratchy. With that said though, his art work is perfect for this book. He does a great job of making the expressions of characters, especially Frank Castle, subtle yet powerful. Also, with my prior criticism of his work, in this book he makes the strong female character attractive and stays away from making her feel harsh or giving her large angular cleavage.

ImageIf you are a fan of the Punisher, this is a must read for you. Especially if you were a fan in the 90s, and the violent turn taken in the Garth Ennis line of this character’s series wasn’t your favorite spin on the Punisher, this turn back towards moderate, still dark and violent but not gory, storytelling is very enjoyable and feels like a solid continuation on Greg Rucka’s fantastic run.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Review: Infinity 3

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Jerome Opeña & Dustin Weaver

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Previously in Infinity:

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The latest issue in Marvel’s latest event is an excellent issue if you have been paying attention so far. And by paying attention I mean reading Hickman’s Avenger series since the beginning of Marvel NOW. This is not a jump on event, and even though the adjective-less Avengers had a four issue prelude to this event, All 17 issues of that series and all 8 of the New Avengers are vital reads to fully enjoy and understand this series. This event, unlike DC’s current Villains Month, is an event that the dedicated will truly enjoy and comprehend, but may very likely annoy and turn away any casual reader. But that’s kind of what Hickman does.

The art for this book is fantastic. Opeña and Weaver’s styles are similar enough that at no point did I feel a disjointed break in the story telling, unlike in the final issue of Age of Ultron. Both are skilled and realistic artists and they do a great job. They are excellent examples of what most fans expect from their art in mainstream comics. They have great power and skill at telling a story which at some points could very easily become convoluted and mismanaged by a weaker artist. There is a page featuring Black Bolt’s simple retort to Thanos that is kept coming back to after I finished reading the book. I’m unsure which artist drew that page (I believe Dustin Weaver), but the layouts, the art, and even the lettering were masterfully done on that page. Even if you don’t want to buy this issue, just thumb towards the back at your local LCS and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

As for the story that Hickman is writing, to be honest I’m not a huge fan of this builders story. I feel that there is grandeur and an epic nature to this narrative that is eluding me somehow. Yet, the story built from the New Avengers is one of the greatest stories I read since Abnett and Lanning left Guardians of the Galaxy several years ago. So with an issue focusing predominately on the galactic battle between the Avengers and the Builders, I found much more interest in the shorter second half of the story featuring Thanos and Black Bolt. This is also an obvious lead-in to the Inhumans series coming out in December. It really disappoints me that Marvel is already pushing that series into the mix before this story even dropped. It could have had so much more power if they had just waited a few weeks. But that’s my issue with their marketing not with Hickman’s writing.

Hickman, as usual, feels slightly aloof in his writing. He gives you enough information to follow the story but infamously drops other pieces of information that you are left either clueless or only partially aware. His writing is not for a lazy reader, but that isn’t to say that if you don’t like him you’re a lazy reader. Reading Hickman is like going on a road trip when you don’t know the destination. At some point you have to just enjoy the journey and hope the ending is worth all the time.

ImageRating 4 out 5

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