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Comic Review – Fantastic Four #1

Fantastic Four #1 Cover

It’s been a rough couple of years for the Fantastic Four. Both in the real world and in the Marvel Universe. The on-going battle between Marvel Studios and Fox over the film rights to the franchise saw Marvel Comics stop publishing a monthly Fantastic Four comic in a bid to deny any sort of cross-promotion to the 2015 Fantastic Four movie. Given how infamously awful that film turned out to be, they needn’t have bothered, but that’s another story.

Regardless, the past few years have seen Reed and Susan Richards lost in space, Ben Grimm joining the Guardians of the Galaxy and Johnny Storm living with The Inhumans. They also saw Doctor Doom reinventing himself as a new Iron Man during the time when Tony Stark was presumed dead.

Thankfully, with Fox recently sold to Disney, the time has come for Marvel Comics’ First Family and their greatest enemy to return!

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It spoils little to say that we don’t actually get to see the glorious return of the Fantastic Four promised by the cover in this issue. The first steps are taken, however, to see The Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic reunited with The Human Torch and The Thing. That’s not really what this issue is about, however. What this comic is about is reminding us of who these characters are and what made The Fantastic Four so revolutionary.

While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would go on to refine the formula more strongly with later creations, Fantastic Four was the first superhero book to challenge the usual character cliches of the genre and develop its main characters into more distinct personalities. Reed Richards, for instance, looked like the usual stock scientist character common to Atomic Age science-fiction but was also a pompous jerk. The hot-tempered and impatient Johnny Storm seemed like a more realistic teenager than the clean-cut, golly-gee Robin and Bucky. The Thing was a noble monster – Frankenstein’s creation in orange rock. And Invisible Woman… well, eventually she became a more proactive heroine. (Sorry, Stan! Gotta be honest!)

Dan Slott’s love for these characters is apparent and he does a fantastic job of handling both The Thing and The Human Torch, who are the focus of most of the first story. The artwork by Sara Pichelli, with colors by Marte Gracia, is vibrant and animated. The story and the artwork feed each other perfectly, balanced yet piercing, like a finely made sword.

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Where this issue truly excels, however, is in its back-up story. It is here that Slott and artist Simone Bianchi begin to restore Victor Von Doom to his proper place as the greatest hero in the Marvel Universe. Hero? Yes, you read that right, True Believers! Because nowhere did Lee and Kirby more masterly subvert the order of superhero comics than with their creation of Doctor Doom – a villain who was, in many ways, more heroic than the “heroes” he routinely fought against.

The story here is a prime example of this, focusing on a Latverian peasant who dares to enter into the long-vacated Castle Doomstadt, after spying a light inside of it. It is here that she finds Doom, wounded in body and spirit, lamenting as only the truly great can after a fall from grace. Yet Doom puts his cares aside, after the woman informs him that the forces that have taken over Latveria in his absence now threaten to destroy his people with Doom’s own technology.

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Slott writes Doom in a Shakespearean fashion, with all the gravitas that the character demands. Bianchi’s artwork proves a perfect match for this dialogue, possessing a similar dark complexity. Even those who dismiss Doom as a mere villain will find it hard to reconcile that portrait, forged by lesser writers, when they consider his actions here.

Fantastic Four #1 may not bring about the return of Marvel Comics’ first superhero team. It does, however, take a solid step in that direction. It’s also a darn good read and well worth picking up.

9/10

Fantastic Four #1 releases on August 8, 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 – Infinity Wars #1

Infinity Wars #1 Cover

I must confess that I’m not a big fan of the the cosmic side of Marvel Comics’ universe. No disrespect intended to Jim Starlin and everyone who enjoys his grandiose space operas but it just isn’t my cup of nutrimatically replicated dried leaves infused with boiling water. And Infinity Wars is a prime example of why that is so.

First of all, if you haven’t been reading the many Infinity series that Marvel Comics has been publishing this year to build off of the hype of Avengers: Infinity War, you may find yourself largely lost. Despite being largely promoted as the perfect entry point into the ongoing saga of The Infinity Stones, there’s a lot of backstory to unpack and a lot of characters who will be totally unknown to casual readers, much less those seeking an entry point into the comics having only seen the movies. The only concession made to new readers is a cast list and chart showing who currently holds the six Infinity Stones.

Infinity Wars Cast Page

Even this guide offers more questions than it answers. While fans of Marvel’s Netflix series will know who Turk Barrett is (i.e. the unluckiest crook in New York), most of his crew is made up of villains who haven’t appeared in the movies or TV shows, such as The Spot and Tombstone. Even this amounts to little, as they’re mostly background fodder for when the inevitable fighting begins.

Ignoring that, there’s some drastic changes from the movies that may confuse new readers. As the issue opens, The Guardians of the Galaxy have broken up and their membership has largely separated. Also, Groot is either now speaking with an extensive vocabulary or the comic is just automatically translating everything he says. It isn’t really clear and that’s the biggest problem with this book as an entry-point — there’s too many differences from the movies to be comfortable to newbies and too many things it is assumed that the reader already knows.

Ironically, those who have been keeping up with the on-going Infinity saga of the past year are likely to find this book largely repetitive. Until the very end, there’s no real new information introduced. Most of the comic’s story is concerned with running down who currently holds the Infinity Stones and their gathering at Doctor Strange’s request to discuss spreading the stones out so there aren’t as many on Earth if Thanos comes looking for them.

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The book’s one saving grace is its artwork, which is uniformly fantastic. Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin’s work here invites comparison to Alex Ross’ art in Kingdom Come, being full of detail and rendering everything in an epic scope. Unfortunately, while the story flows well between panels, most readers may find themselves having to stop and Google certain character names or look up a synopsis of an earlier storyline.

Is Infinity Wars #1 worth picking up? Certainly, if you enjoy the cosmic side of Marvel Comics or are highly invested in learning how The Infinity Stones will be forever changed. Casual readers and newcomers will have a harder time without investing some time in studying Recent Marvel History 101. If you don’t mind a little homework, this is a rewarding book with fantastic artwork, but it’s hardly the marvelous entry point to the Marvel Universe it’s been promoted as.

5/10

Infinity Wars #1 releases on August 1, 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 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.