Comic Review – The Life Of Captain Marvel #1

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 Cover

Before she turned 30, USAF Major Carol Danvers was a top-notch pilot, a highly-decorated intelligence agent and the head of security for NASA. It was in this capacity that she befriended an alien named Mar-Vell and was caught in the explosion of a piece of advanced technology that gave her unparalleled superpowers.

Since that time, she has joined The Avengers and the led them. She’s battled alcoholism and her teammates. She has gone by many names and had her powers change more than once.

Now, she is known as Earth’s Mightiest Hero – Captain Marvel. But before she was Captain Marvel or Ms. Marvel or even Major Danvers, she was “Beans” Danvers. Before she was a hero, she was a tomboy. Before she was saving the world on a weekly basis, she was an ordinary girl from the Boston suburbs, who liked The Red Sox, science and playing with her brothers.

And before that… are a lot of things she’d rather not remember.

When a bout of PTSD and repressed memories during a fight leaves Carol struggling to breathe, it is suggested that she take some time off from saving the world. This prompts a visit to Harpswell Sound, Maine – the small town her family visited every summer and the current home of her mother and brother, Joe. It is here that Carol must face a battle where all her powers are useless and a new tragedy that will change her life forever.

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 Page 1

The Life of Captain Marvel #1 is that rarest of all origin stories, capable of informing new readers while simultaneously showing long-time fans something they haven’t seen before. I know something of Carol Danvers’ background and to the best of my knowledge, her father was never depicted as physically abusive before this story. It does fit the facts of what came before, however, as Joe Danvers was incredibly cruel toward his only daughter, belittling her ambitions as pointless because “girls can’t do that” and choosing to send her brother to college instead of her, despite her having better grades.

Margaret Stohl – most famous for her work as a young-adult author, co-writing the Beautiful Creatures series with Kami Garcia – does a fantastic job of balancing the story between the flashbacks of Carol’s troubled past and her current day encounters with her family as she tries to come to terms with how utterly complicated her family life was and her guilt over walking out on them to live her own life. What’s truly impressive is how Stohl subtly works in some nods to older comics that long-time fans of Carol’s character will appreciate (such as Carol’s friendship with fellow recovering alcoholic, Tony Stark) without dragging down the narrative to the point that new readers will be lost in the shuffle. There’s not a lot of action in this issue, but as a character-driven drama, it’s first-class.

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The artwork is equally impressive, with different teams handling the flashback and modern-day sections of the stories. Marguerite Sauvage renders Carol’s past with muted pastels that hint at the faded nature of her memories while subtly painting it with a false aura of cheer that clashes with some of the depicted events. The modern-day scenes, penciled by Carlos Pacheco with inks by Rafael Fonteriz and colors by Marcio Menyz – show an equal level of skill and care, despite being handled by a team rather than a single artist.

Bottom LIne: Whether you’re a long-time fan of Carol Danvers, or just want to learn more about her before the Captain Marvel movie comes out next year, this is a book you’ll want to pick up!

10/10

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 releases on July 18, 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.

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Comic Review – Superman #1

Superman #1 Cover

A SPOILER warning before we start. If you haven’t read Man of Steel #1-6, which directly lead into this book, you may want to do so. A summary on the first page of this book will spoil it for you otherwise. So will this review. Please bear that in mind and thank you for reading.

***

Superman is feeling uncharacteristically depressed. His wife and son are beyond his reach, taken into space by his father, Jor-El. His only means of communicating with them has been destroyed, along with The Fortress of Solitude and The Bottle City of Kandor. Between that and his cousin, Supergirl, having gone into space in search of information on Rogol Zaar – the madman who apparently also engineered Krypton’s destruction and is now trapped in The Phantom Zone – Superman is feeling more than a little bit sad and lonely.

Clark Kent isn’t one for sitting around feeling sorry for himself, however, and soon he is throwing himself back into his work and building a new Fortress Of Solitude in a new location. Still, he is troubled by something his father said to him  – about how he should be guiding his adopted home world to a better future rather than devoting himself to fighting crime and natural disasters.

It is a sentiment echoed by J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter, who feels that Earth is approaching the point where it will be ready to enter the galaxy as a power to be reckoned with and that Clark is the person best equipped to guide the way. Thoughts of Superman as a political leader will have to wait, however, as a new crisis threatens the Earth…

Your enjoyment of Superman #1 will ultimately come down to how much you enjoy the writing of Brian Michael Bendis. Personally, I think Bendis is a decent writer, though often overrated and increasingly given toward lapsing into laziness in recent years. That said, there are certain things he does well as a writer and his flaws and talents are both well displayed in Superman #1.

Bendis has a great gift for dialogue and character. Unfortunately, he has also has a tendency to write many characters according to the “types” he enjoys writing. He writes a good snarky genius, but his snarky geniuses all sound like Peter Parker. He writes a good strong woman, but his strong women all sound like Jessica Jones.

It turns out that Bendis writes a good Clark Kent, a good Lois Lane and a good Jonathan Kent. Unfortunately, the best moments of the book – the flashbacks in which Clark thinks on the family he is missing – are all too brief and not the focus of the story. Had Bendis elected to continue the Super-Family stories started by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, this would be a fantastic book.

Sadly, happy families apparently hold little interest for Bendis, who has secluded Clark in order to make him dwell on a question that has been tackled before and tackled far better in earlier stories – Should Superman Run The World?

I think anyone who has played the Injustice series of games can tell you what a tremendously awful idea that is. Ditto anyone who remembers Elliot S! Maggin’s classic Must There Be A Superman? In fact, one of Lex Luthor’s key motivators in the modern age is the fear that Superman will someday try to do that, because that’s what Lex would do if he had that kind of power. It also seems to be the main motivation of new villain Rogol Zaar, who apparently destroyed Krypton over his fears of the Kryptonian people becoming a race of world-conquerors.

It’s possible that Bendis may wind up crafting a fantastic parable out of this conceit, exploring the nature of how power can corrupt even the most noble of men. Unfortunately, all I can think of while reading this book is the ludicrous Superman IV: The Quest For Peace movie, which was also based around showing why Superman shouldn’t involve himself in political matters. And it seems horribly out of character for Martian Manhunter to be pushing Clark to take the lead in preparing humanity to enter a bigger universe – particularly when J’onn is far more qualified to tackle that mission!

Politics and story aside, the artwork for this issue is fantastic and a welcome change after the ever-changing inconsistency of Man of Steel. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado are rightly praised as one of the greatest artistic duos since Miller and Janson. The colors by Alex Sinclair are phenomenal and Josh Reed does a great job keeping the word balloons from obscuring the action, despite some lengthy monologues and dialogues.

It remains to be seen where Brian Michael Bendis is ultimately going with his efforts to revitalize Superman. So far, I’ve seen little to justify the belief that he is attempting anything truly revolutionary. Despite this, Superman #1 is a competently handled first issue that sets the stage for the story to come.

6/10

Superman #1 releases on July 11, 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.

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Comic Review – Batman #50 & Catwoman #1

Batman #50 Cover

There is no real way to review Catwoman #1 without also discussing Batman #50 and the long awaited wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. The one informs the other, as the cover of Catwoman #1 helpfully informs the reader that they should read Batman #50 before opening it up.

This proves ironic, given that The New York Times spoiled the story of Batman #50 three days before it ever hit the shops! Despite this, I will endeavor to dance around any major spoilers in both books as best I can.

As a tribute to the relationship of Batman and Catwoman and the history of the two characters, Batman #50 is a smashing success, with much of the issue being devoted to Bruce and Selina’s thoughts about one another as we are treated to a historical montage of sorts, illustrated one page at a time, by some of the greatest Batman artists of all time.

As an actual story, however, Batman #50 doesn’t quite work. It’s anticlimactic, to put it mildly. The pageantry far outweighs the actual event. To put it plainly, this book isn’t worth the hype that has been invested in it.

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Don’t get me wrong. Batman #50 is a beautiful book and there’s some poster-worthy artwork. Even the main story, as illustrated by Mikel Janin looks fantastic. Yet those who have a low tolerance for Tom King’s style of writing, where consistency of character is sacrificed for the sake of the story he wants to tell (as in his recent story where Booster Gold was turned into a complete idiot for the sake of a dark comedy), will not enjoy themselves here.

Ultimately, Batman #50 is a spectacle and nothing more. If you enjoy collectible covers and fine art, it’s well worth picking up. As an actual book, unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired.

4/10.


Catwoman #1 CoverThere is a cruel irony that Catwoman #1 should be so closely tied to Batman #50. Much like how Selina Kyle is so much more interesting as a solo act than when she when she is joined at the hip to Bruce Wayne, so too is this book at its best when it is separated from its ties to Batman #50.

Thankfully, those ties are dealt with early on and we are soon thrown into a high-action adventure, where Selina Kyle is suddenly a wanted woman. It seems that some woman in a cat-suit is killing cops and the police are targeting the most obvious suspect, having also somehow learned Selina’s secret identity!

This is apparently the work of a mysterious new enemy named Riana Creel, whose motivations and reasons for holding a grudge against Catwoman are unclear. Raina is a striking character whose presence immediately grips you and it will be interesting to see her developed in the coming issues.

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Joelle Jones spins a wonderful first issue, which, apart from the first few pages, stands strongly on its own terms, much like Catwoman herself. The artwork – also by Jones – is utterly amazing, with Laura Allred’s colors and Josh Reed’s letters providing the perfect finishes. The story flows naturally and smoothly from panel to panel and its hard to imagine any artist who was better born to draw Catwoman in action than Joelle Jones after reading this issue.

The only imperfection in this diamond is its unfortunate need to be placed in the setting of the fool’s gold ring that is Batman #50. Get past the first few pages, however, and you have one heck of a book that should be on everyone’s subscription list.

9/10

Batman #50 and Catwoman #1 releases on July 4, 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.

Captain America #1 Teaser

Comic Review – Captain America #1

Captain America #1 Cover

Steve Rogers was a loyal American, who wanted to serve his country as a soldier during World War II – not for glory or out of bloodlust, but because Steve Rogers believed in The Dream. The American Dream. The biggest Dream there ever was. The most advanced science of the age gave the sickly Rogers that chance, transforming him from a 98-pound weakling into what was meant to be the first of a platoon of Super Soldiers. Unfortunately, a Nazi saboteur killed the scientist who held the key to the whole process, leaving behind an army of one.

Thankfully, Rogers rose to the challenge and as Captain America he gladly gave his all to fight the scourge of fascism and the forces of HYDRA. Steve Rogers was ready to give his life to the cause as well, but fate had other plans for Captain America. And what should have been a watery grave instead preserved Steve Rogers for decades, until he was revived to find an America divided but still in need of heroes.

America is more divided than ever in the wake of a HYDRA plot that saw them rewriting time so that The Nazis won World War II and Steve Rogers was one of their top agents. Somehow, the true Captain America returned, and defeated his dark doppelganger, but by that point the damage was done.

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Now the image of Captain America is one that inspires fear and nausea among the freedom fighters who work to reclaim the world from the HYDRA forces that are on the run. Of course the top brass know the truth of things, but, as always, the politicians are more concerned with the appearances of things than the truth. That is why, when a new organization is formed to protect the world in the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s destruction, Steve Rogers is politely told that there is no place for Captain America in it.

What place is there for The Dream in a military where the likes of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross can be reinstated and pardoned for past crimes because of his leading an team of resisters against HYDRA?

What place is there for The Dream in a government where The White House praises unashamed Nazis like Baron Von Strucker for their actions in fighting HYDRA, which were motivated purely by self-interest and a struggle for positon?

What place is there for The Dream in this new world? Steve Rogers doesn’t know.

What he does know, however, is that there are still people – either brainwashed by HYDRA’s plotting or true believers – who plan to hurt the innocent. And with or without the backing of a team, an organization or a government, Captain America will be there to protect them.

What he doesn’t know, is on the other side of the world, a new group is already plotting against him and The Dream…Captain America #1 Page 36

Unsurprisingly, given his previous politically-charged work on Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates exits the gate at a full run with his first issue of Captain America. While not quite so politically charged as the comics from the 1970s which revealed Richard Nixon as a secret HYDRA agent, there are many metaphorical parallels to be found between this story and current events. Thankfully, the politics don’t get in the way of the action, and there’s a number of fantastic fight sequences throughout the issue.

Leinil Francis Yu seemed an odd choice for an artist on this book at first, boasting a gritty style that is dependent on vague pencils, heavy inks and deep shadows. While this would be inappropriate for a typical four-color kiddie comic, Yu’s aesthetic proves a perfect partner for Coates’ script, lending a perfect aura of ambiguity and mystery to the proceedings.

The only real flaw with Captain America #1 is, sadly, a rather big one. One presumes, when a series starts over with a #1 issue, that there is some base intention of attracting new readers. Yet the greater portion of this comic depends upon knowledge of recent events in the Marvel Universe at large and some of the characters involved. While this is less of a problem in the Internet Age, when one can generally find up-to-date biographies of major comic book characters and summaries of old storylines somewhere, it still puts a burden on the reader that a clever writer could avoid.

To Coates’ credit, he does manage some clever exposition to handle a few plot points. Of course it helps that he can presumably depend on those new readers who were lured in by the Marvel Comics movies to know who General Ross and Bucky Barnes are after Avengers: Infinity War. One can’t say the same of Sharon Carter (despite a role in the Captain America movies), who is now old before her time thanks to the events of a previous storyline. Little is done to explain what happened to her and nothing is done to explain the presence of Selene – former Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, psychic mutant and sorceress – or why Captain America is seemingly fighting multiple clones of the villain Nuke in the opening battle.

In the end, Captain America #1 is well-worth picking up, promising to be the first chapter in a strong story with amazing artwork. Just be prepared to do a bit of additional reading to understand it all.

6/10

Captain America #1 releases on July 4, 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 – Detective Comics #983

Detective Comics #983 Cover

Back in The Dark Age of Comics (roughly 1986 to 2000, by most historians’ reckoning), there was a rather odd divide in the DC Comics Universe. If you read only the comics starring Batman, he was portrayed as a lone Dark Knight and was considered an urban legend by most of the people of Gotham City. Read any other DC Comics’ book, however, and Batman was operating openly as part of The Justice League.

This gave way to an argument, which rages to this day, about what vision of Batman is the “proper” one – the lone vigilante who strikes terror into the hearts of criminals or the patriarch of a like-minded “Batman Family” made up of other masked heroes.

This argument lies at the heart of both subplots in Detective Comics #983 – the first issue by new series’ writer Bryan Hill. Half of the issue’s action concerns itself with Batman seeking out Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning), whom Bruce wants to recruit as the first member of an elite team he is building who can operate “outside” of The Justice League. The other story concerns a new villain, who is targeting Batman’s sidekicks, due to his belief that Batman has become less powerful as he has come to trust more people with aiding him in his mission.

The story with Black Lightning is fairly standard superheroics. One oddity is that the script identifies Black Lighting as operating out of Metropolis, when his most recent reboot for DC Comics Rebirth depicted him as the defender of Cleveland, Ohio. Despite this glitch, Hill has a solid take on the character and writes Jefferson Pierce true to form.

The subplot involving the new villain is more interesting, if only for the metatextual parallels he suggests. The arguments delivered by this unnamed baddie mirror those of Bat-fans who argue that Batman should be a loner and an urban myth and that the DC Rebirth initiative made a mistake by bringing back characters such as the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, The Spoiler, the Helena Bertinelli version of The Huntress and Batwoman or by introducing new characters such as Gotham Girl and The Signal. Indeed, The Signal – a metahuman with light-based precognitive powers whom Batman recruited specifically to protect Gotham City during the day – is the first target of the new villain, along with a young Bat-Fan who became YouTube-famous for talking about how he thinks Batman is inspiring rather than scary.

Gate-keeping fanboy metaphors aside, it’s a brilliant conceit and one that is remarked upon ironically in the artwork, as Batman listens to the villain’s rantings while chasing another criminal down a busy street in full view of dozens of witnesses, all of whom snap pictures with their phones.  This is but one example of the fine detailing that Miguel Mendonca works into the art. His pencils find a perfect partnership with Dianna Egea’s inks and the colors of Adriano Lucas.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops in the coming issues. For now, it is enough to say that if you’re a fan of Batman looking for a good entry point into the comics or a fan of Black Lightning from the new TV series, this is a book you’ll definitely want on your subscription list.

8/10

Detective Comics #983 releases on June 27, 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.

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Comic Review – Tony Stark: Iron Man #1

Tony Stark Iron Man #1 Cover

Once upon a time there was a poor little rich boy who made his own toys to keep himself amused. In time he became a poor little rich man, whose toys made him richer still, though poor in spirit. That changed after some very bad men took the poor little rich man away from his mansion and asked him to make a toy for them. A deadly toy.

He wound up escaping from the bad men with the help of a true friend and the best toy the poor little rich man had ever made. From that day forth, the poor little rich man was a changed man, devoting his life and his riches toward helping others.

That poor little rich man was named Tony Stark. And the toy that he made became known as Iron Man.

Andy Bhang remembers the Tony Stark who was once a poor little rich boy – one who did not play well with others, even at something so simple as a robotic soccer tournament. As such, he isn’t happy when Tony Stark buys his company out from under him, lock, stock and barrel. He is surprised, however, when Tony Stark shows up on his doorstep to whisk him away in a flying car to the headquarters of Stark Unlimited with a job offer.

As stunned as Andy is by what goes on behind the doors of Tony Stark’s research and development company, he is even more stunned when a typical day at work  – which for Tony involves fielding complaints from the Robot Resources department over the discrimination the artificial intelligences are experiencing at the hands of their human counterparts – is interrupted by a dragon attack. Then Andy is treated to a front row seat as Tony Stark goes to his “other job” to save New York City faster than you can say Dovahkiin.

ony Stark Iron Man Preview Page
(Click on the above image to open it full-size in another tab.)

 

The chief problem with Tony Stark: Iron Man #1 is one that stymies most writers who try to handle Tony Stark, particularly in the wake of Robert Downey Jr.’s masterful portrayal of the character in the films. Tony is a funny guy but he also comes off as an arrogant jerk. He has learned a modicum of humility but he still pushes peoples buttons by sheer virtue of his expansive personality. It’s hard for most writers to manage that balancing act and create a Tony Stark who is both larger than life but still sympathetic to readers.

Many writers overcome this by telling their story through Tony’s eyes and focusing on the thoughts of the man behind the mask. Dan Slott adopts a different tactic in Tony Stark: Iron Man #1, using Andy Bhang as our point-of-view character while twisting the weirdness and comedy knobs up to 11, as Slott turns Stark Unlimited into a twisted combination of Google and Willy Wonka’s factory. Unfortunately, most of the jokes fall flat and most of the characters sound like reference-dropping machines rather than real people.

The artwork is similarly muddled. Valerio Schiti’s artwork is inoffensive enough, save that the thick inks on the line-work kill the detailing on any panels that are not close-ups. Virtually every character in this book not portrayed in a close-up seems to be rendered with a perpetual squint. There are also a number of forced poses, with dialogue that suggests calmness spoken by characters who seem to be in the middle of shouting. The color art by Edgar Delgado is nice enough, but it’s a pretty paint-job on a run-down house.

It’s a bit hard to judge this series by its first issue, which seems to be a one-shot story despite being labeled as the first part of a storyline called “Self-Made Man.” As it stands, fans of Iron Man who aren’t too picky may enjoy this series, but those who don’t already love Tony Stark won’t have their opinions changed.

6/10

Tony Stark: Iron Man #1 releases on June 20, 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.

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Comic Review – Plastic Man #1

Plastic Man #1 Cover

Patrick “Eel” O’Brian was as slippery and slimy as the animal that prompted his underworld nickname. He was a career criminal. A con artist. A petty thief. A cheap thug. The sort of sordid individual whose best effort to clean up and straighten out his life ended with him taking a job as the night manager of a seedy superhero-themed strip club in the worst part of Cole City.

The funny thing is that Eel O’Brian has been reborn. At least, he’s pretty sure that he died. Or at least felt like he was dead. Or maybe he just wished that he was dead after he was exposed to some weird chemical and his former partners in crime tossed him out of the getaway car following a botched robbery .

Whatever happened to him, Eel O’Brian has seen the error of his ways and is ready to bounce back in a big way. He doesn’t remember much about that night, but he distinctly remembers that a security guard died during the robbery that turned Eel into a nigh-invulnerable, shape-shifting super-freak. And Eel is going to track down his former friends and deliver some justice. Somehow.

That was his plan, anyway. Unfortunately Fate, as represented by an agent of the covert organization called Spyral, has bigger plans for Eel O’Brian. Plans that involve a sinister cabal of the most brilliant and evil geniuses in existence and their plot to take over the world. Only one man has the skills and powers needed to infiltrate their organization while remaining beneath their notice… and unfortunately for us all, that man is Eel O’Brian.

I should note something for the benefit of those readers who are parents who are mostly familiar with Plastic Man from his appearances in various cartoons – this is not a kid-friendly comic! This should, perhaps, be obvious, given the fact that the cover features a blood-soaked body. Then again, you never can tell with some people, so let me say again that the general wacky tone of this book is more in line with Deadpool than anything you’ll see on Justice League Action, Batman: The Brave and The Bold or The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show.

This should be no surprise given that this comic is written by Gail Simone, who got her start in mainstream comics writing Deadpool before going on to horrify decent people everywhere with both volumes of the villain-focused series Secret Six. (Fun Fact: Superiors, the strip club Eel O’Brian manages, is a nod to a business frequented by the main characters in Secret Six.) What is surprising, however, is how neatly Simone has updated the classic origins of Plastic Man for the reality of DC Comics Rebirth.

By way of a for instance, Plastic Man was originally recruited as an FBI Agent after acquiring his powers. Given Eel O’Brian’s criminal record and lack of qualifications, that would never happen today. Recruiting him for Spyral, on the other hand, is a brilliant conceit, given their established history of employing vigilantes and other people with questionable backgrounds. This is one fine detail of many that makes Simone’s script a neat nod to Plastic Man’s origins as well as a fun read on its own terms

Sadly, the artwork by Adriana Melo doesn’t quite equal up to the writing. Melo’s pencils are fantastic, but some of her inks are overly thick and give the finished art a weight that seems at odds with the light aesthetic that Plastic Man demands. Yet these inks perfectly suit the more Noir-based scenes detailing Eel O’Brian’s efforts to play detective. Altogether, the art works more often than it doesn’t, even ignoring the many sight gags Melo sneaks into the background, such as Eel wearing a DC Superhero Girls T-shirt. The colors are nicely applied as well.

Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of Plastic Man and/or dark comedy, you’ll want to pick this one up.

8/10

Plastic Man #1 releases on June 13, 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.

Man of Steel #1 Teaser

Comic Review – Man Of Steel #1

 Man of Steel #1 Cover

What can be said about The Man of Steel #1?

Does it dramatically redefine the Superman mythology? No.

Does it seem like it’s about to radically change everything we know about Superman and Krypton? No.

Does it seem like the coming of Brian Michael Bendis to DC Comics was over-hyped? A little bit.

Is it a bad comic? No. Not even close.

Is it a solid Superman story? Yes, it is that. But not much more than that. So far.

Unfortunately, what The Man of Steel #1 delivers is about what I expected based on Brian Michael Bendis’ first Superman story in Action Comics #1000. The parts involving Superman being Superman and doing Super-things are incredibly good and interesting. The parts involving Rogal Zaar – the new villain Bendis created, who has some kind of vendetta against The Kryptonian Race – are not. This leads to an odd paradox, given Bendis’ reputation for writing fantastic character-building scenes, which drives to the heart of the problem most writers seem to have when it comes to handling Superman.

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Superman is at his worst as a character, to borrow a phrase from Mark Waid in Kingdom Come, when the “Super” is emphasized over the “Man”. Throwing Superman against a never-ending series of seemingly invincible enemies is just boring. This does not mean, however, that Superman is a dull character. His stories are frequently dull, however, because writers can’t think of anything to do with him other than keep throwing more and more powerful villains at him.

The best Superman stories, therefore, are the ones that explore who Clark Kent is as a person and show him having to work around the problems that all the super powers in the world can’t solve. Stories like Miracle Monday, What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and The American Way? and All-Star Superman are fondly remembered because they saw Superman being tested on a moral battlefield. Of course this sort of story is far more difficult to manage, which is why many writers don’t bother.

The grand irony of The Man of Steel #1 is that there are several moments where Bendis absolutely nails the character of Superman and puts his own unique touch on the Superman mythos. There is one moment, for instance, where Superman is listening for trouble on his nightly patrol and overhears a woman singing a song that he vaguely recognizes but can’t remember the name of. The problem is quickly put aside as a crisis arises but it’s a brief moment that shows how very human Superman is at his core. Who hasn’t heard a snippet of a song and briefly had their routine thrown into sharp relief as they tried to remember what it was?

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Bendis also manages that most difficult of all tricks and writes a Superman who is honestly funny and pokes fun at the villains he faces without being mean. I honestly heard Christopher Reeve’s voice in my head reading some of the dialogue in this issue. Which is why it is so heartbreaking that so much of this issue is devoted to introducing Rogal Zaar instead of seeing Clark Kent spend time with his wife and son.

I’m sad to say that the artwork is about as uneven as the writing. Ivan Reis is a fantastic artist, but Joe Prado seems to be a poor partner for him. Prado’s inks muddy some of Reis’ pencils, leaving some pages looking like watercolors rather than inked artwork in terms of the amount of definition that comes through. The colors by Alex Sinclair are nice and vivid, but the only two pages with an consistent view to them are the final two, which were drawn and inked by Jay Fabok.

In the end, Man of Steel #1 is worth picking up if you’re a fan of Superman or any of the creators involved. So far, it doesn’t seem like this series will be the grand, reality-altering epic that was promised over a month ago. Still, it’s a solid Superman story with some good moments and good artwork.

7/10

The Man of Steel #1 releases on May 30, 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 – The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #5

The Further Adventures Of Nick Wilson #5 Cover

It’s the opening day of The Nick Wilson Experience – a museum devoted to Earth’s first (and so far only) superhero. All-American Nick Wilson lost his powers almost as quickly as he gained them, falling far from the heights of fame and fortune he once enjoyed. He had been squeaking out a shameful living as a Nick Wilson impersonator at children’s birthday parties. Now, he’s getting ready to start earning an even more shameful living working for his former arch-enemy – billionaire genius Clive Morganfield – who financed The Nick Wilson Experience as a tax dodge and a way to finally “win” their rivalry by putting Nick under his control.

At least, that was Clive’s plan. There’s just one problem. Nick is MIA!

Has Nick regained his powers? Or maybe his self-respect? No, he’s searching downtown Cleveland for the bookstore that employs some woman he met at a bar, whose contact info he forgot to get.

Will Nick find the woman of his dreams? Will he find a way to be a hero and strike a blow for good without superpowers? Will Clive succeed in his evil schemes? And most importantly, will we see Further Adventures of Nick Wilson after The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #5?

The Further Adventures Of Nick Wilson #5 Variant Cover

Clearly, I’m not going to answer those first few questions, but the last question can be answered with a resounding “yes”! At least, if writer Marc Andreyko’s afterword about this being “the end of the first Nick Wilson mini-series” can be believed. I think it can, but it’s worth noting that Andreyko also notes that he doesn’t know “when I will visit with Nick and Jane and Xavier…”

Hopefully the wait between visits will not be a long one, because this little series was something magical. The characters created by Andreyko and Eddie Gorodetsky feel like real people despite inhabiting an unreal world. The odds are good you know a lovable shlub like Nick or a woman like Jane who was the girl everyone wanted to be or be with in high school only to have everything go south after graduation. If you’re unlucky you probably know someone like Clive Morganfield, who will use whatever power they can get their hands on to indulge their petty grudges and devote their lives to feuds that no one else cares about.

Another interesting note is the way the series turns the city of Cleveland itself into a character. Cities have character, of course – personalities all their own. Yet few comic book settings ever seem to establish their own unique aura, with the notable exceptions of Gotham City as envisioned by Tim Burton, Metropolis as written by Dan Jurgens or James Robinson’s Opal City in Starman.

Talking of Starman, former Starman artist Stephen Sadowski brings it home with his performance on this final issue. His work is always fantastic, but the work here sets a new high-water mark. The colors and lettering, by Hi-Fi and A Larger World respectively – are also fantastic.

I don’t know when we’ll meet Nick Wilson and company again. I just hope that we do. And if we do not, we still got one heck of a story with great artwork before it ended. If you haven’t been picking up this series, be sure to order the trade-paperback collection that will be coming out soon. I will be very surprised if this series doesn’t get nominated for at least one Eisner.

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 – Quicksilver: No Surrender #1

Quicksilver No Surrender #1 Cover

Pietro Maximoff is the fastest man in the world. When it comes to running, there is no one better. Hence why, when two immortals with a fondness for games incapacitated most of Earth’s heroes for the sake of a wager, he was chosen to run a race for the sake of The Earth itself.

With his sister, The Scarlet Witch, using her powers to push his speed beyond its previous limits, Pietro was able to win the race and save the world. Or so he thinks. The world is still there around him, albeit frozen in a single moment in time.

As far as Pietro can tell, he is moving so fast that time itself can’t touch him. Worse yet, there’s something else in the space between seconds. Something as fast as him. Something that looks like him. Something that is trying to kill innocent people in the time it takes to blink…

Despite some impressive portrayals on the Silver Screen (including the best scenes in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse), Quicksilver has yet to benefit from the same level of popularity and name recognition as a certain “Fastest Man Alive” on a different Earth. Part of that may be due to the complicated status regarding the character in the comics, thanks to the legal shenanigans involving his status in The Real World.

In order for Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch – long portrayed as the long lost children of X-Men villain Magneto – to be used in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, their backstories had to be changed so they were no longer mutants. This is because Fox Studios owns the film rights to all of Marvel Comics’ X-Men characters as well as any characters who are mutants.

The practical upshot is that this has left Quicksilver with nowhere to go in the comics. The Avengers writers can’t use him on a regular basis due to editorial fiat that the book has to promote characters from the movies. The X-Men writers don’t want him now that he’s not a mutant.  And while Pietro does have a long association with The Inhumans… well, hanging around with your ex-wife’s family? ‘Nuff said.

The good news is that Quicksilver: No Surrender #1 avoids a lengthy discussion of these matters, beyond Pietro having been an Avenger and a hero as well as a terrorist who fought The X-Men. The bad news is that without an explanation of who he is outside of his powers, Pietro comes off as rather shallow and dull as a character.

The best bits of the book come when Pietro shows off the one thing that has ever distinguished him from Barry Allen and Wally West – his bad attitude. By his own admission, Pietro is “a petty man” who finds “great amusement in mocking the people who annoy me.” Yet one can’t help but smile as Pietro tracks down Magneto purely for the purpose of dressing him up like a clown and taking pictures. The fact that his camera phone shouldn’t be able to work if time is frozen does not diminish the power of the joke.

Apart from that, virtually every aspect of Saladin Ahmed’s story seems to have been lifted from earlier The Flash comics – even Pietro’s introduction where he introduces himself as “The Fastest Man On Earth!” The idea of a speedster being trapped in a world where everything around them is frozen? It’s been done. Repeatedly. A super-fast superhero fighting a dark duplicate who is as fast as they are? Speedster Problems 101.

The artwork is nearly as bland as the story, with the frozen world represented by a complete lack of color. This is a stylistic choice which, ironically, this only helps to highlight Eric Nguyen’s pencils, which are lightly but visibly inked, apart from Pietro. This has the interesting visual effect of making Pietro appear to be the ghost he feels like. This also makes what few colors Color Artist Rico Renzi utilizes burn all the brighter. The final effect makes it appear that a four-color superhero has somehow forced his way into a Japanese Manga!

In the end, Quicksilver: No Surrender #1 works far better for the set-up for a bigger story than it does as an introduction to one of Marvel Comics’ most conflicted and interesting characters. Hopefully later issues will delve deeper into Pietro Maximoff’s rich history. For now, at least, this comic serves as a decent continuation of the No Surrender storyline but it’s no great character piece.

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.