Comic Review – Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1

Spider-Gwen Ghost-Spider #1 Cover

Across the multiverse, a story is played out continually. An intelligent teenager is bitten by a mutated spider. The bite gives them the proportionate strength and speed of a spider as well as an adhesive touch and a precognitive awareness of danger. They go on to use their new powers to try and help others.

In this time and this place, the teenager is a young woman named Gwen Stacy.

Gwen has done a lot and seen a lot more in her short life. As Spider-Woman, she contended with super-spies, mad-scientists and ninjas. She’s fought the government and even traveled to other dimensions. She’s also a recently released criminal, who did time as penance for when she failed to use her powers responsibly and felt she needed to pay the price for it.

Now, Gwen is trying to figure out what to do with her life. With the whole world aware of her once-secret identity (and, annoyingly, calling her Spider-Gwen instead of Spider-Woman), she’s not sure if she can go back to being the hero she once was. Unfortunately fate (and a pushy little pig-man from another reality) aren’t giving Gwen any choice in the matter. The world-spanning evils she fought once before have returned and Gwen will be ready to face them. She just wish she had a better code name to take into battle.

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 is that rarest of all gems – a comic-book event tie-in that doesn’t require any previous knowledge of the character or the events of at least three other comics. That is doubly impressive given that this is also the start of a new Spider-Gwen series and the first not to be handled by Spider-Gwen’s original creative team.

You would never know it, however, as Seanan McGuire and Rosi Kampe pick up right where the last Spider-Gwen volume left-off. So if all you know about the character comes from her appearance in the trailers for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, rest easy. This one volume will give you everything you need to know about Gwen Stacy and Spider-Geddon in one handy book. They even explain Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham, who somehow manages to not be the strangest thing in the book by a long-shot.

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 does everything a first issue should. It introduces us to Gwen, revealing her as a funny, brilliant and self-depreciating hero. It gives us the broad particulars of her life since the last series but doesn’t bog us down with continuity. And like all great the great Spider-Man comics of yore, it gives us a bit of action and a little drama amidst the punchlines while setting up one heck of a cliff-hanger. The artwork matches the story beat for beat, flowing smoothly from panel to panel. The colors are suitably eye-catching and there’s one heck of an awesome new villain who should prove quite the interesting foil for Gwen in the coming issues.

Bottom-Line: Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 is a fun, easily accessible superhero book that is as friendly to kids as it is to new readers. It’s well-written, well-drawn and you’ll want to beat the rush to get it now. Face front, True Believers! This is the real deal.

10/10

Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider #1 releases on October 24, 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 – Lucifer #1

Lucifer #1 Cover

NOTICE: The management of The Multiverse would like for it to be stated that we do not support the activities of the being commonly known as Lucifer, Satan and/or The First Of The Fallen. We are not members of his fan club, although he’s apparently responsible for most of the music we like. Regardless, we would remind everyone that the comic which is about to be discussed is a work of fiction and this review is not meant to be an endorsement of any sort of Satanic activity, foreign or domestic, ethereal or substantial. Thank you.

The greatest strength of Lucifer #1 is also its greatest weakness. A new reader who is completely unfamiliar with the rich history of the character from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman can pick this book up and have no trouble understanding its story. This is because, apart from one off-hand reference, none of the character’s history comes into play.

This is the odd paradox of Lucifer #1. Fans of the character who have read The Sandman, Mike Carey’s spin-off series Lucifer, the short-lived Lucifer revival by Holly Black and Richard Kadrey and even viewers of the Fox television series Lucifer (which is VERY loosely based on Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer character) are more likely to be confused than new readers. This is because there’s no apparent relation to the stories we see here and any previous incarnation of Lucifer.

I’ll spare you any spoilers about the earlier series. They’re all well worth reading and tracking down and I won’t rob you of the pleasure of reading them for yourself. (For what my opinion is worth, Seasons of Mist, the fourth Sandman volume in which Lucifer figures prominently, is the best of the series.) But anyone hoping for a true crime police procedural about a charming bar owner/detective who just happens to be a fallen angel should abandon all hope before entering here. There’s nothing of the kind in Lucifer #1.

Instead, we are treated to two stories. One depicts how Lucifer, once the angel Samael, has become imprisoned in some other realm, blinded himself and gone mad trying to escape what seems to be a Hell designed to hold him. The other depicts John Decker, a police detective with a terminally ill wife, who seems to be trapped in an entirely different kind of hell he wishes he could escape.

It’s unclear precisely where writer Dan Watters is going with any of this. While Watters is to be commended for making one of Vertigo Comics’ most complex series easily accessible to newcomers, there is as little here to grip new readers as there is to confuse them. I suspect this series may ultimately read better in trade-paperback format than as a monthly comic.

The artwork by Max and Sebastian Fiumara is more engaging and suits the story perfectly. The style of Lucifer is vividly detailed and melancholy, with an foreboding aura prevalent throughout. Colorist Dave McCaig tints the two stories differently, with washed-out blues depicting the depressing life of John Decker and bright oranges and yellows dominating Lucifer’s story, slowly shifting to red as he becomes more angry.

Established fans of Lucifer may be upset that, so far, the new series bares little resemblance to any that has come before. Taken on its own merits, however, Lucifer #1 has a lot of potential. This issue marks an interesting entry point into the shared universe of Vertigo Comics if nothing else, and the artwork is worth the price of admission alone. This is a series to keep an eye on.

6/10

Lucifer #1 releases on October 17, 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 – Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1

Cursed Comic Cavalcade Cover

Over-sized comics were a treasured rarity back in the good ol’ days of comic books. It was one that DC Comics attempted to make into a regular thing with the publication of the first 80 Page Giant in 1964. Though these specials often reprinted a lot of older material, they still gave kids more than double a standard comic book (32 pages, at the time) for double the price of what you normally paid for a comic – 25 cents vs. 12 cents.

Ah, for the pricing of the good ol’ days!

DC Comics tried to revive the idea with 80 Page Annuals in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but the idea largely fell out of favor after 2003. The company still publishes over-sized anthology specials on occasion and that brings us to Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1, in which the 80 Page Giant and the horror anthology rise from the grave like an undead monstrosity. Just in time for Halloween!

The great thing about anthology books like Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1 is that there is something for nearly everyone and if you don’t like the writing or art on one story, you can just skip it and move on. There are quite a few of DC Comics most popular characters here and a few oddities like Green Lantern Guy Gardner. There are also several characters like Superman and Wonder Woman who you’d never expect to see in a horror anthology that starts with a traditional Swamp Thing story and ends with Zatanna, as she puts a little magic back into the life of a young girl who is scared of Halloween.

That’s the thing about horror, though. It can be found anywhere. And while there’s little surprise in finding a Batman story where The Dark Knight is pitted against a psycho-killer called Gorehound who is replicating the killings of the greatest slasher movies of all time, you wouldn’t expect to see a story about Superman being haunted. Or Wonder Woman fighting an urban legend. Or Guy Gardner fighting zombies.

There’s a wide variety to the stories here and all of them make good logical sense, within the context of their respective universes. The Outsiders story, for instance, has Katana asking Black Lightning for help in stopping a demon who preys on children. He asks why she didn’t get someone like John Constantine. Katana replies that she would never allow John Constantine near an innocent child and that she thought Black Lighting, being a teacher in his secret identity of Jefferson Pierce, would know how to comfort a disturbed child should things get bad.

While there’s plenty of traditional horror for those who like Swamp Thing and The Demon Etrigan, where Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1 truly shines is in the unexpected stories. My favorite was a far more psychological piece centered on Green Arrow, which is all about how a person can be haunted by the ghosts of the past as easily as any literal specter. It was a fascinating examination of PTSD and the only time I’ve ever seen anyone suggest that Oliver Queen, logically, should suffer from it, apart from the first season of Arrow.

Bottom Line: Cursed Comics Cavalcade is the perfect book to get you ready for Halloween, whether your tastes run to traditional horror, psychological thrillers or seeing superheroes confront the supernatural.

8/10

Cursed Comic Cavalcade #1 releases on October 10, 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 – What If? Spider-Man #1

What If Spider-Man 2018 #1 Cover

While never a long-running success, the What If? series of comics has proven to be one of Marvel Comics’ most persistently published properties. From 1977 to 2015, the series has seen 12 different volumes devoted to the idea of exploring the alternate realities spinning out of classic Marvel stories.

Some of them were fairly mundane, such as “What If Spider-Man had successfully convinced The Fantastic Four to recruit him and become The Fantastic Five?” way back in Amazing Spider-Man #1. Some of them were fairly strange, such was “What if Wolverine Traveled Back To The Time of Conan The Barbarian?” (SPOILER – Logan becomes King of Aquilonia and makes Red Sonja his queen. Always with the redheads, that Canucklehead.) Now, the company is reviving the concept again, with a new series devoted exclusively to Spider-Man stories set in divergent timelines.

The first issue goes back to Spider-Man’s origins with a classic concept – What if Flash Thompson had become Spider-Man instead of Puny Peter Parker? The obvious answer is “Spider-Man would have been a total jerk.” It’s accurate, but that basic truism is taken in unexpected directions by writer Gerry Conway, who (if you don’t know the name) has more than a little experience writing Spider-Man.

What If Spider-Man 2018 #1 Page 1

Thompson’s Spider-Man is a divisive public figure, but for completely different reasons. Armed with all of Spider-Man’s strength but none of Peter Parker’s compassion, Flash is a brutal bully of a vigilante whose actions scare the public. This is due largely to the pictures that Peter Parker takes of him in action and in spite of J. Jonah Jameson’s editorials about how Spider-Man is just the sort of decisive man-of-action the city needs.

I dare not spoil where the story goes from there, beyond saying that Conway pays tribute to a number of classic moments from the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era of Spider-Man while showing how those events were drastically changed by Flash Thompson being in the Spider-Man suit. I can note, however, that Ben Parker is alive and well in this reality, since Flash Thompson always saw himself as a hero in the making and didn’t hesitate to stop the runaway thief that would go on to kill Uncle Ben in the main Marvel Universe. It’s fascinating stuff if you’re a Spider-Fan and Conway handles it with style.

The artwork by Diego Olortegui matches the writing in quality. Though a number of classic scenes are reenacted, Olrotegui maintains his own unique style while utilizing the classic layouts and blocking of Steve Ditko. The final effect is memorable, though the inks by Walden Wong seem thin at times and the colors by Chris O’Halloran often lack the boldness this story demands.

It’s hard to gauge a series like What If? which often has a rotating team of creators. This means that the level of quality from issue to issue can vary wildly. As such, I can’t say that every issue of this series will be worth picking up in the future. This one, however, is definitely worth reading if you like classic Spider-Man stories.

7/10

What If? Spider-Man #1 releases on October 3, 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 – Heroes In Crisis #1

Heroes In Crisis 1 Cover

There is no way to discuss Heroes in Crisis in detail without some fairly significant spoilers. So I’m going to break my usual format for my reviews and give you my blunt and unrestrained opinion at the start, before I describe how I formed that opinion. And that opinion can be summed up in a single sentence.

Heroes In Crisis is the single biggest betrayal of the idealism that lies at the core of the DC Comics multiverse since Identity Crisis and the single most flagrant example of false advertising since the Batman/Catwoman wedding issue earlier this year.

It’s a shame the story is so terrible, because the artwork by Clay Mann is beautiful. Yet a pretty face cannot mask an empty heart and this comic has nothing where it counts.

SPOILERS to follow, after the image. You have been warned.

Heroes In Crisis Page 1

The early promotional materials for Heroes In Crisis were built around the concept of Sanctuary – a secret trauma center for superheroes that allows them to privately seek mental health treatment for the unique kinds of PTSD that one develops when you’re the last surviving member of an alien race or you develop disassociate identity disorder because of your secret identity. It was reported that writer Tom King – a former CIA operative – got inspired by the stories of the problems encountered by soldiers returning home from overseas and decided to write a story around the concept of Sanctuary as a metaphor for the real issues our real-life heroes cope with.

It’s a noble sentiment, but Heroes in Crisis is not the M*A*S*H*-style examination of medical treatment in war-time we were sold in the early solicitations. Nor is it a murder-mystery centering around the death of a hero in Sanctuary that the later promotions suggested, complete with a list of odds as to just which character would be the one to die in the article in DC Nation magazine.

The shocking twist of Heroes in Crisis is that there is more than one victim. Everyone in Sanctuary is killed and the apparent killer is revealed on the final page. Of course it’s unlikely to be that simple, with eight more issues to go in this series, but I defy anyone to see any reason to care about the ultimate mystery given the cynicism with which the audiences were played by the advertising for this series.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – don’t people die in comics all the time and come back to life eventually? Yes, which makes it all the more offensive that they would try and pull that play in a book that was advertised as a realistic, grounded portrayal of how difficult it is for heroes to heal in the face of tragedy.

I find it particularly vexing given that one of the few identified fallen heroes in this issue is Roy “Arsenal” Harper. This is because Roy is one of my favorite comics characters of all time and I haven’t been happy with the way he’s been written for the better part of a decade. Even before The New 52 revamp back in 2011, everything that made Roy Harper interesting and unique as a character (i.e. White kid raised on a Navajo reservation, single father, etc.) was discarded in The Fall of Arsenal, in favor of turning Roy into a one-note character whose one note was “recovering junkie.” Benjamin Percy finally gave Roy the respect (and backstory) he deserved in the pages of Green Arrow, only for all of that to be junked here, as Roy is once again viewed only in terms of his battles with addiction for one page, before being unceremoniously killed off-panel.

It makes the whole thing feel like a waste of time and effort. Ditto the death of Wally West, whose recent troubles in The Flash (long story short, he lost his wife and children due to reality being rewritten) have touched me more than any other story this year. All that potential wasted again, for the sake of luring in all the Flash fans who were told Wally’s story would continue in this book after he was sent off to Sanctuary in the pages of The Flash.

And there’s the rub of this book – his story will probably continue. Somehow. Given that Booster Gold is involved, the solution as to how to fix all this is immediately apparent. But using time travel to erase the events of a story (as King did with a story involving Booster Gold in Batman recently) just eliminates any sense of drama the murder mystery is meant to evoke.

There’s no sense of King’s stated purpose in this book. No examination of the pain of heroes and the sacrifices those who serve make for the sake of others  No grand mystery to be solved. There is only death for the sake of publicity and making a quick buck. This isn’t a comic book – it’s a superhero snuff film on paper.

4/10. And that’s purely for the artwork.

Heroes In Crisis #1 releases on September 26, 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.