Comic Review – Domino #1

Domino #1 Cover

Confession: I don’t know much about Domino. To be honest, I don’t know much about any of the X-Force/Six-Pack/Liefeldian side of the 1990s X-Men, because what little I’ve read from that time period suggested the characters had more pouches than personality traits.

Here is everything I knew about Domino. She was a mercenary who worked with Cable and Deadpool a lot. She was a mutant who had the power to alter probability in her favor. There was some controversy regarding the actress playing her in Deadpool 2, but most people (including comic fans) didn’t much care about the complaints.

Beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect going into Domino #1 beyond the fact that I would probably enjoy this book. Why? Because I have yet to not enjoy anything written by Gail Simone. Simone has an amazing ability to add a sense of fun to even the darkest and most ill-developed of characters.

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I can’t vouch for how well Simone’s presentation of Domino in this issue conforms to Neena Thurman’s past characterization. What I can say is that I found her to be a likable heroine and I would love to see more of her once this limited series is over.

The basic action of the issue is split into two halves. In the first we witness Domino in action, teaming up with fellow female mercenary Outlaw (a Gail Simone creation from her brief but beloved Agent X series) to take down a team of timber pirates. (Yes, that’s an actual thing!)  The second half of the issue sees Domino suffering through a surprise birthday with several cameos, including a certain Merc With A Mouth! Where It goes beyond that, I shall leave for you to discover.

The action of the issue is as fantastic as it is funny. Domino’s cartoonish probability powers are a good fit for Simone’s twisted sense of humor and Outlaw proves a perfect foil for Neena. The banter here is reminiscent of Simone’s work on Birds of Prey for DC Comics and it goes without saying that this issue passes The Bechdel Test.

The artwork by David Baldeon is a perfect fit for the story. Baldeon boasts a kinetic, animated style that suits the frantic tone of the action sequences. Far from the grim-and-gritty aesthetic that dominated most of Domino’s past comic book appearances, the artwork here is bright and silly as befits someone whose powers honestly could cause everyone around her to pratfall at just the right moment to allow for a hasty escape.

Bottom Line: Domino #1 is a fun romp through a side of the Marvel Comics universe that is often portrayed as far too serious. No previous experience is required. In fact, you may enjoy this book more if you’re going into ignorant, as I did. Agent X fans will definitely want to check this out for more Outlaw, as will fans of any of Gail Simone’s previous work on series like Secret Six and Deadpool. Here’s hoping this one goes series!

10/10


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Doctor Strange: Damnation #1

Doctor Strange: Damnation #1 Cover

Forced to surrender his title as Sorcerer Supreme to the Norse god Loki, Stephen Strange went off in search of power that would allow him to fight a wizard and a deity. He found all the power he wanted and more. So much more…

Stephen Strange is now the god of magic. Or at least so rich in magical power he might as well be a god compared to what he once was. And what good is power if you cannot use it to do great deeds in the name of good?

This line of thought leads Stephen to attempt something that would have been beyond his former limits – both the limits of his power and the limits imposed upon The Sorcerer Supreme. Having learned of the recent destruction of Las Vegas, Stephen uses his power to restore the city to what it once was.

At first all seems well…until a great tower emerges in the middle of the Vegas Strip, with a sign declaring it the Hotel Inferno. It seems that when the city was destroyed, its spiritual essence fell into Hell, where the demons were quick to mark their claim on the new territory. Now Las Vegas is a literal Sin City, and Boss Mephisto holds all the cards. It is an error that Doctor Strange must correct, though it may cost him his soul to do it!

I’m a bit torn on Doctor Strange: Damnation. On the one hand, the concept of this series makes no sense considering everything I know of Doctor Strange as a character from other stories and series. Granting that he is apparently riding some kind of power trip, it doesn’t seem all that credible that Stephen Strange would try to resurrect an entire city without considering the consequences of doing so and the cosmic balance and all that jazz.

Once we work past that conceit, however, the story concept proves amusing enough to carry the momentum of the plot forward despite how out of character the characters seem. Mephisto proves an amusing foil to the stoic Strange and there’s a lot of dark comedy as we see the city responding to various people falling prey to their darker selves as the influence of Hell begins to work its magic on them.

The artwork suits the story, presenting an aesthetic that seems better suited to an off-beat Vertigo or Image title than a Marvel Comics series. There is an inherent inhumanity to the demon characters, no matter how human they might look, with elongated bodies or slightly-off eyes that are all the more disturbing for how familiar they look rather than how inhuman they are. The book also features a fantastic use of color, with warm tints in the Hotel Inferno sequences being used to punctuate the presence of Hell’s power.

While it’s unlikely to win many awards, Doctor Strange: Damnation #1 is a serviceable Doctor Strange story which – based on its ending – may soon become a serviceable story for many more of Marvel Comics mystically-inclined heroes. Can you say New Defenders?

7/10

Doctor Strange: Damnation #1 releases February 21, 2018.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – X-Men: Red #1

It would be fair to say that I’ve never been the biggest fan of X-Men comics in general. I like the basic concept enough – superpowers as a metaphor for whatever oppressed minority group one might wish to champion as trying to make the world a better place while being hated and feared by the same people they’re trying to help. Unfortunately, that most universal of comic book concepts has frequently been forgotten by writers who became lost in the minutia of continuity. This made the X-Men books one of the hardest series for a new reader to get into for the longest time.

Thankfully, X-Men: Red #1 is both everything an X-Men comic should be and nothing like what most X-Men comics have been for the better part of the last three decades. If you’ve never picked up an X-Men book before or haven’t seen any of the X-Men movies, you’ll be able to grasp what it is about immediately from the opening sequence, in which a team of mutant heroes move to save a child from a lynch mob.

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The rest of the issue focuses upon team leader – telepathic and telekinetic mutant Jean Grey – and her realization that she needs to do something more than just save lives and stop bank robberies in order to build a better world. What follows is a tremendous study of Jean’s character as well as a smooth explanation on the current status of mutants in the Marvel Universe.

Writer Tom Taylor manages this exposition with surprising efficiency. Many comic writers go into full-on professor lecture-mode when attempting to develop their world. Taylor avoids this with a generous amount of humor sprinkled among his factoids, tricking the reader into learning even as they are laughing. This is par for the course for Taylor, whose work on All-New Wolverine has turned that series into one of Marvel Comics’ most underrated treasures. And yes – he’s the one responsible for creating a tween girl clone of Wolverine called The Honey Badger. If that doesn’t make you smile a little bit, you might want to skip this book, though there is plenty of high drama and action to go along with the comedy.

Artist Mahmud Asra does a fantastic job capturing the essence of Taylor’s scripts. The action sequences are well-blocked and the characters all have distinctive designs with practical costumes – no improbable high-heels for the ladies on this team! There are a few minor glitches here and there – a scene where the perspective seems somewhat off or a panel where a character’s stress lines are so thick they look more like wrinkles. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and the colors by Ive Svorcina are nice and vivid.

Bottom Line; If you’ve been avoiding X-Men for fear of it being too much work to get into, X-Men: Red #1 is your perfect entry point into one of Marvel Comics’ most epic legacies.

9/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Rogue & Gambit #1

She was a runaway who nearly killed her first sweetheart with a kiss.

He was abandoned as a baby for his black and red eyes.

She fell in with a group of mutant terrorists who offered her the closest thing to a loving home she’d ever had.

He was raised by the Thieves Guild of New Orleans and was a member in good standing until a duel forced him into exile.

She draws the energy out of people.

He sends energy out of himself.

Both outlaws. Both mutants. They were trouble enough alone but being together made things less troublesome.  Well, most of the time…

Anna Marie a.k.a. Rogue is content to leave the past in the past. Her focus is on the future now that she’s leading an Avengers team. That, the state of Mutantkind and the recent redevelopment of her inability to control her powers when she touches people has put more than enough on her plate without Remy “Gambit” LeBeau coming back into her life wanting to rekindle their romance.

Okay. Technically he -said- he just wanted to get dinner. But it never wound up being just dinner with them. The point is that Rogue wants to eliminate all the complications from her life and there’s no way to describe the relationship between her and Remy without the phrase “It’s Complicated.”

Unfortunately, Rogue’s building a simpler life for herself will have to wait. When the X-Men learn of mutants disappearing around a private “couples only” retreat that is offering a special therapy to free mutants of their trauma, they need an actual couple with relationship issues to go in deep cover and investigate. Guess which pair of surly Southerners get assigned to the job?

Most of what this critic knows about Rogue and Gambit came from watching the 1990’s X-Men cartoon. Miraculously, given how intensive the continuity around the X-Men is in the comics, this turned out to be more than I needed to enjoy Rogue & Gambit #1.

The focus of this issue is strictly upon their characters and there’s no references to anything in outside titles, apart from Rogue’s membership in The Avengers. Casual comics readers who haven’t been keeping up on recent events in the Marvel Universe can pick-up Rogue & Gambit #1 worry-free.

Kelly Thompson’s script does a solid job of portraying both characters, though the story is largely told from Rogue’s point-of-view. Her reasoning for being wary of Gambit is plainly laid out but Gambit’s reasons for approaching Rogue about figuring out where they stand now are less clear. The engaging humor and interplay between the two proves engaging and makes up for this issue’s lack of action, apart from the opening training sequence in The Danger Room.

The artwork is all-around fantastic. Pere Perez’s style is crisp and clear, with the story flowing smoothly from panel to panel and the camera angles constantly changing so there’s a strong sense of visual interest even in the simple scenes of two characters sitting in an office and talking to one another. The colors by Frank D’Armata are brilliantly vivid, though some purists may be disappointed that Gambit has traded his trademark hot pink body armor for a more muted purple. Most X-Fans – and indeed most comic readers – should find this book an enjoyable read regardless.

8/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Marvel Two-In-One (2017) #1

Marvel Two-In-One (2017) #1 Cover
Things haven’t been so fantastic for The Fantastic Four lately.

For a start, there’s only two of them left.

Scientist Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic) and his wife Susan Storm (aka The Invisible Woman) are missing and presumed dead, along with their children. Pilot Ben Grimm (aka The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing), newly returned from an extended adventure in space, is filling his free time with charity work. And Johnny Storm (aka The Human Torch) is living life as he always did – dangerously close to the edge.

When Johnny’s behavior turns reckless even by his high standards for living fast and furious, a worried Spider-Man approaches Ben Grimm about trying to talk some sense into their friend. Reluctantly, Ben agrees to do so, remembering a promise he made to Susan to look after her brother if anything should happen to her.

Before he gets a chance to seek Johnny out, however, Ben is approached by Doctor Doom. Newly reformed (or so he claims) Doom has come not to quarrel but to offer The Thing a bequest – a piece of technology Doom recovered in the wake of Reed Richards’ apparent death which he believes only Ben Grimm can open. Though The Thing doesn’t trust Doom any further than he could throw him, he accepts the gift… and discovers one more reason he needs to seek out Johnny Storm immediately!

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The original Marvel Two-In-One series was one of the odder works to come out of Marvel Comics in the 1970s. Nominally Marvel’s answer to DC Comics’ The Brave And The Bold, the series teamed Ben Grimm with a different superhero every month in the same way that The Brave and The Bold showed different characters joining forces with Batman.

Though nominally teaming The Thing and The Human torch up, this first chapter of Fate Of The Four doesn’t bring the former teammates together until the final few pages. This issue is primarily concerned with setting up the two heroes working together again, though we do get a brief team-up between Spider-Man and the Thing against another villain. There’s also a nice but brief battle between The Thing and Doctor Doom.

It remains to be seen if this revival series will match the original in weird stories and wry humor. With Howard The Duck writer Chip Zdarsky writing, it’s a safe bet that it will. Even this issue, which largely comes off as a more traditional Fantastic Four style story, features a few out-there comedic moments, such as Ben’s conversation about collecting cigarettes with a random woman at a dull ritzy party. And you can’t fault any comic which gives us Spider-Man wearing a tuxedo jacket over his costume.

Artist Jim Cheung does a fantastic job on the artwork for this issue. Boasting an aesthetic that evokes comparison to John Romita Jr. in terms of detailed pencil-work and general appearance, Cheung is also a fantastic choreographer. The rest of the art team prove equally skilled, with two different inkers providing the finishes, though you’d never know it from looking. The colors by Frank Martin look great, as well.

Those Marvel fans who have been missing The Fantastic Four would do well to pick up this issue. So would any comic reader who enjoys good comedy. It remains to be seen what the final fate of The Four will be in the wake of this story but if this issue is any indication Marvel Two-In-One will remain fantastic regardless.

8/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – The Runaways (2017) #1

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for the original Runaways series and links to spoilers regarding Runaways #1. Abandon this review here and now, and click not upon the preview images below, lest ye be forever spoilered!

Once, there were six kids who mostly couldn’t stand each other. Thankfully, they only had to hang out with each other once a year, while their parents – who were apparently business partners – had a dinner party.  One year the teens discovered that their parents were dangerous super-villains, who had planned for them to take over the family business! The kids did the only thing they could do. They ran away.

In time, The Runaways learned how to make use of the powers and resources that were their inheritance. Despite the vast odds against them, they returned to face down their parents and bring them to justice…

 

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With Marvel Entertainment developing a Runaways series for Hulu, it was inevitable that Marvel Comics would attempt to revive the series as a  monthly comic. It was also inevitable that steps would have to be taken in order to make this new series as much like the original Runaways as possible.

This is problematic for a number of reasons – all of which make the new Runaways #1 a tricky comic to discuss. The basic plot is impossible to relate without revealing some major details regarding the original Runaways comics. Marvel Comics hasn’t made that discussion any easier, as their solicitation for this issue spoils the entire story and makes it plainly clear just how they plan to go about restoring the status quo of the original series.

This begs the question – without revealing anything that would spoil the story for old and new readers alike, is Runaways #1 worth reading?

Well, it depends. If you’re unfamiliar with the previous Runaways series and these characters, there’s a few things in this book that will go over your head. If you are familiar with the previous Runaways series and these characters, there’s a few things in this book that will annoy you.

Taken on its own merits, however, there is a lot to admire about Runaways #1. While half the cast on the cover is absent from this issue, the Runaways who are present are written true to form and instantly recognizable as individuals. It helps that writer Rainbow Rowell is a beloved young-adult fiction author and her take on the characters does make them sound like real teenagers – a shocking rarity in comics based around young heroes.

The artwork is less clear-cut. Artist Kris Anka drew some early criticism for his character designs. While not sexualizing his teenage charges as badly as the likes of Frank Cho, Anka does draw the characters in clothing that seem inconsistent with their previous personalities. Despite this incongruity, Anka remains a fantastic visual storyteller and the action flows smoothly and naturally from panel to panel.

So what’s the verdict? Despite a certain level of mystery for old and new readers alike, this book does conform to Stan Lee’s stipulation that every comic should be written as if it were someone’s first. Despite some issues with the character designs, the art is delivered competently. It may take another issue or two to find its footing but there is enough good in Runaways #1 to encourage giving it a chance.

6/10


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.