IMJ Comic Book Reviews

LM ULTRA THIN BOX BREAKIMJ Comic Book Reviews Logo ALL 5 STAR RATING SYSTEM LOGOAmazing Spider-Man #1The Amazing Spider-Man #1
Lucky to Be Alive
Writers: Dan Slott, Various
Artists: Humberto Ramos, Various
Inkers: Victor Olazaba, Various
Colorists: Edgar Delgado, Various
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
51 pages, $5.99

I pounded my brain trying to figure out how to approach this review… Finally deciding to briefly discuss my relationship with the character– so you’ll at least have some context to understand where my thoughts are coming from. Spider-Man is THE character that got me into comics– way, way back in 1987. First superhero comic I ever bought? Web of Spider-Man #31. Soon after, I bought every Amazing, Spectacular and Web Of Spider-Man back issue I could afford… And picked up the few trade paperbacks available at the time. I absolutely loved Spider-Man/Peter Parker. There is no denying this fact.

But as time went by, Marvel Comics’ editorial decisions slowly turned this love affair into a feeling of complete and utter apathy– with the One More Day story arc providing the final stake for this fan’s heart. Retconning (boy, do I hate retconning) Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage out of existence was the absolute last straw. Since then, I’ve checked in every so often to see what Marvel was up to… And roughly 99% of the time I just shake my head in disgust after reading what passes for a Spider-Man comic these days.

You’ve run into people like me at your local shop. You’ve read our rants here on IMJ. I’m sure a few of you have even scoffed at our boycotting anything Spidey-related… And you know what? That’s all fine and well. We all have our individual passions and I wouldn’t ask you to completely understand mine or follow my recommendations blindly.

But I do ask you to sympathize. Every comic fan has watched in horror (at some point in time) as various writers, artists and editors “mistreat” their favorite characters. We’ve all just had to deal with it, right? But there comes a point in everyone’s fandom where we NEED to throw our hands up and say, “I cannot support this anymore. To continue buying a comic I no longer enjoy will never solve the problem. It’s time to step away and hope things will eventually get better.”

Sadly, as a Spider-Man fan, I’m not sure the “bad” has bottomed out yet. In fact, they continue to get progressively worse. And the new Amazing Spider-Man #1 stands as a culmination of years of bad decisions made by various editors and mostly one scripter.

The Retcon Part 1: I couldn’t even make it past the second page of this comic without experiencing the eyerolling-moment-to-end-all-eyerolling-moments:

ASM 1

I don’t think there is any question why I (or any Spider-Man fan) would have an issue with this. Retcons are the greatest tool a lazy writer can use. Spider-Man has about 50 years of rich history and continuity to draw from (actually, it’s more like 45 years since, at the very least, the last 5 have been rubbish). The current writer has a treasure trove of excellent material at his disposal. If you can’t tell a decent story within the confines of an already great character– the problem does not lie with the character– but the writer themselves. And to “rewrite” such a pivotal part, if not THE pivotal part, of a character’s origin is almost as low as you can go.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film has already diminished the uniqueness of Peter getting bitten by the spider, and now the flagship title is following suit (admittedly in a different way). I don’t pretend to know what’s in store for the young lady who’s ALSO bitten by the radioactive spider and frankly, I don’t want to know. Do you know why? Because this isn’t what happened when this origin story was originally told in 1963. Think about the hubris a writer must possess to feel the need to add something so major to what’s already one of the most well-known superhero origin stories of all time. It’s pure laziness. Rewriting well-established history (fictional or not)– just so you can tell a unique story is both sad and soulless.

The Main Story: I say “main story” because the first tale to be told in this “giant-sized” issue is supposed to be a continuation of the story from the Superior Spider-Man comic (ASM #1’s predecessor). It focuses on Peter Parker getting back into the Spider-Man groove– and needing to deal with the fallout caused by the decisions Doc Ock made while inhabiting Pete’s body. All well and good, except this measly 20 page story is nothing special. It might as well be just another issue of Superior Spider-Man.

It lacks many things, but the biggest emotion absent here is joy. There’s no fanfare welcoming Peter back, no fun either… Just mind numbingly bad Spidey quips (something Dan Slott “excels” at like no other Spider-Man writer) and a routine action set piece revolving around a jewelry heist.

Using a low-scale villain like the White Rabbit in a useless throwaway theft sequence SCREAMS comic book cliché at this point… But it does perfectly illustrate exactly what this comic has devolved into. A villain also destroys most of Peter’s costume during a fight (don’t ask), forcing him to jump around almost completely naked. (Again, don’t ask). Plus there’s a thudding “cliff-hanger” ending that’s completely worthless to anyone who’s never read an issue of Superior Spider-Man… Which, of course, leads me to reminding you this is a highly publicized NUMBER ONE ISSUE of a “new” comic… And with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just seeing release in the States, it’s all the more important this comic make sense– to everyone. God help you if you are a new reader here. Seriously.

I have, at one point or another, used words like “lewd”, “disgusting”, “reprehensible” and “disturbing” in many of my recent Spider-Man comic book reviews. For some reason, it seems Amazing Spider-Man cannot be an “all ages” title anymore. Please keep in mind I am absolutely no prude. (I think my weekly comic choices easily bear this out.) But THIS still bothers me:

ASM 2-1

On the left is what happens when Spidey loses his costume in the All-New Amazing Spider-Man #1. The picture on the right is what happened when Spidey lost his symbiote suit in the now classic Amazing Spider-Man #258. One scene is tasteless and wildly immature– while the other is actually kinda funny. If you can’t tell which is which, you’re a true fan of the current Amazing Spider-Man comic… Congratulations!

The Short Stories: After the extremely anemic main story, the book fills up the rest of unneeded space with SIX short stories ranging from 3 to 8 pages each. Three of the shorts are nothing more than set-up for upcoming issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Two tales are pretty much glorified ads for 2 other comics (New Warriors and Spider-Man 2099) and 1 story explains Spider-Man’s powers. This latter piece is by Joe Caramagna and Chris Eliopoulos– and it’s easily the best of the bunch. Finally, someone actually acts as if they’re enjoying what they were doing!

There’s one about Electro (so timely since Sony’s filmmakers butchered the character in the recent film). But even it can’t help itself– ending in a ridiculous fashion when Electro kills a bunch of people… Then blames it all on Spider-Man. (I dare you to find a more idiotic and unrealistic reason why a villain wants to kill a hero this year!) Next up is a Black Cat story– where we all get to relive the time Spider-Man punched her in the face completely unprovoked. Slott must’ve been so proud of this scene, he needed to show it off again. And by “again”, I mean the EXACT same panel appeared in Superior Spider-Man. Then it’s yada, yada, yada… Black Cat breaks out of prison and (wait for it)…Wants to ruin Spider-Man’s life. *Le sigh*.

Not even the usually stellar Christos Gage “co-writing” these stories helped. That’s how useless they really are. Each one of these things would’ve been better served appearing in the actual ASM comic as one or two-page “Meanwhile/Elsewhere” segments sometime in the future. But hey, why not take up as much space as possible? After charging people $5.99 for one comic, Marvel needs to give off a stale air of  “perceived value”– no matter how false this “perceived value” truly is. Hell, they even entirely reprint Inhuman #1 in the back of the issue. Ya Marvel, giving me a “free” read of a comic that was boring and terrible the first time I read it doesn’t make me feel like I just got ripped off any less.

The Retcon Part 2: Alright, it’s nitpick time! Unless some of you think this review is nothing but nitpicking… Well, then let the nitpicking continue:

ASM 3

The very first page of this comic tells us Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider “13 years ago”. The panels above are from the last of the short stories– showcasing a young genius going to the wrestling match where Spidey essentially makes his debut. The lad then proceeds to record the match in its entirety… With a smart phone. Ok, so this wrestling match takes place right before Peter’s Uncle Ben dies… So if this story takes place in 2001, how in the world does this kid have a smart phone? You see the problem here… Slott cannot stay within the parameters he has established. Where are the editors– to correct the writer and artist and insist this scene is pretty much impossible? I know this is a comic book– but where is the suspension of disbelief supposed to end?

And, yes, this scene is also sort of a retcon. After watching the match, the kid goes home and creates his own sort of Spider-Man suit… And his story will be told in the awfully numbered Amazing Spider-Man #1.1. So Slott really cannot possibly tell an interesting Spidey story… So just let him make up some bullshit in the past, deal with it in current continuity– and most likely fail at creating anything remotely entertaining. (At least Slott gets another undeserved sweet paycheck out of it.)

If you’re a fan of the current Spider-Man comics, then you’ll probably enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man #1… And I’m actually happy for your enjoyment– no matter what others may think of me (or IMJ). If you are an old school Spidey fan who gave up on the character you once loved– and were hoping this reboot would be where the character started to become a bit more like what you remember– just stay away.

Finally: $5.99 for a comic book with only a 20-page “core” story? That’s just fucking crazy. - Jose Melendez

1 Star Rating

Rai #1Rai #1
Welcome to New Japan
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist/Colorist: Clayton Crain
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
21 pages, $3.99

Matt Kindt does it again! I enjoy the hell out of everything I read from this guy. His take on Harley Quinn was fantastic, he carefully guided me through an incredible, trippy Spider-man tale, and Mind MGMT is one of my favourite comics. You think he might falter at some point, but nope! I’m thoroughly impressed with the entire creative team on Rai #1.

Kindt’s ability to delve into the psychological aspects of the mind– but keeping them compelling in a comic book context– is uncanny. Rarely do I like my comics riddled with caption boxes or interior dialogue, but that preference goes right out the window in such capable hands. I’m beginning to believe I could find a meaningful glimpse into society by reading Kindt’s grocery list.

Each sentence he writes is meticulously planned for effect. Every word seems carefully selected too– creating a narrative full of meaning. I seriously don’t know what else to say… I know I’m just gushing at this point– and I’ve barely gotten around to telling you what I like about the story. Let me fix that: All the plot elements flowed seamlessly. Kindt’s depiction of 41st Century Japan actually features a believable future (including the overpopulation of the island nation).

As an atheist, I enjoy reading about religion and faith and how characters deal with the concept of higher powers. I’m also fascinated to see if they give up control to the powers that be– or fight back. This particular notion is one I’ve struggled with, giving me a personal connection to this very relatable story. Whether you’re religious or not, the idea of faith and what you chose to believe should be a constant idea turning the cogs in your mind’s idea basket.

The only slight– and I mean very slight-- problem I had with Rai #1: The stiffness of some of Clayton Crain’s character designs. Some people look stuck in place and a bit too photo referenced. Almost everything else about this comic is spectacular. Never in my life have I been so fascinated by an artist’s depiction of a single raindrop. If you can get me interested about rain on a comic book page, that’s enough to seal the deal right there. Seeing Rai back in action is so cool!

I think I just really enjoyed myself. - Nick Furi

4.5 Star Rating

Dream Police #1Dream Police #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Colorist: Bill Farmer
Letterer: Troy Peteri
24 pages, $2.99

Hey Look! It’s yet another new series from Image Comics! New comics are just flying out of the publisher these days… But unlike certain other publishers who seem to revere quantity over quality, I love seeing all these unique creator-owned ideas from so many creators– including some of the “bigger names” in the industry.

One of those “big name” creators is J. Michael Straczynski. While I’ve always found JMS’ writing to be incredibly hit or miss, I also believe he’s one of the more daring comic book writers. Just look at his work on Amazing Spider-Man, Superman and Wonder Woman (to name a few). And while I’ve found most of his takes on these classic characters to be less than great, I can’t help but admire the guy for at least trying to create something bold, new and exciting.

Lately, he’s been releasing one Image comic after another under his own banner– Joe’s Comics. The latest addition is Dream Police– a story about Detectives Joe Thursday and Frank Stanford. Both men work for the Dream Police, a group in charge of patrolling the world of dreams and nightmares called the Dreamscape. The concept and world are set up just enough here to give us a small taste… But it’s all so dense and intricate, I had to revisit some pages more than a few times to know I solidly understood what I’d just read.

Something that did irritate me: The explanations of the Dreamscape, the major players and the “rules” governing this reality got rather lengthy– to the point where I began to feel like JMS  was spoon-feeding the information to me. There’s also small chunks of a mystery floating throughout the comic as well. It’s the classic “there’s something that we’re not being told/don’t know about” trope that we’ve all seen many times before– but at least Straczynski presents it with some flair. Thankfully, a clever cliffhanger also caused a double-take. It’s one of those “Wait, did that really happen?” moments. JMS must be doing something right if I was invested enough in the story to react that way.

I also liked the snappy dialogue. (Unlike some recent comics, I didn’t notice any cringe-worthy exchanges at all.) It all felt very natural– the characters said the things they should say given their situations. There were a few moments of humor too. Dialogue done well is always welcome.

The art by Sid Kotian suits the narrative. I did notice (during my second read-through) how the artist tended to use shadows to cover people’s faces. Sometimes it worked, like when they’re in places where shadows would fall naturally. Other times, the technique was annoying– almost like Kotian didn’t feel like drawing eyes that day… So he just inked in some shadows where the character’s eyes would be. No complaints with Bill Farmer’s coloring… It blended well with the penciled art, adding depth and life.

There’s a lot of potential here and I’m curious to see how the narrative grows. If you want to try something new (and you have the money), I say go for it. You’ll be supporting creators who are working on their own ideas– and that’s rarely a bad thing. - Aaron Evans

3 Star Rating

Hulk #2Hulk #2
Who Shot the Hulk Part 2
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99

Stories about the Hulk are seemingly a dime a dozen, with the green goliath being so incredible and all. This series, however, strikes me as charting above the norm– it’s quite unique.

In a state of real vulnerability, Bruce Banner is just plain tragic. This particular issue puts Banner in the back seat, instead giving way for the supporting cast of characters to add their layers to the building story. From his relatives and his elusive friends at S.H.I.E.L.D, to the mysterious bad guys causing big green waves– everyone is scrambling to take advantage of Banner’s situation. As it always goes, everybody wants a piece of the Hulk.

I was impressed by both the visuals and the writing. My only real critique lies in the way the Abomination was sometimes handled– it often seemed a little silly to me. Even so, the resulting action arising from it all is rather smashing. What starts outs as an emotional and tense drama turns into a crime thriller– then erupts into glorious green chaos in no time flat… So if you’re feeling unsure at the beginning of the comic, don’t put it down– stick around.

Writer Mark Waid has taken a big risk by stripping away a very important piece of Bruce Banner, but I’m optimistic he’s building to something great. The art by Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy is vibrant and clean all the way to the final page… And Jason Keith’s colouring is especially great toward the end.

Hulk #2 certainly isn’t one of the most striking comics I’ve read recently, but it is shaping up to be a solid addition to the Hulk mythos… And I will likely stay around to discover more. - Danielle Young

3.5 Star Rating

Star Wars Rebel Heist #1Star Wars – Rebel Heist #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Marco Castiello, Dan Parsons
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Michael Heisler
22 Pages, $3.50

Stars Wars – Rebel Heist has a very interesting premise. A young rebel inadvertently meeting Han Solo in the flesh– then realizing the living legend is nothing but a hack– sounds extremely fun. Building up a stranger into an inspirational figure is a common mistake, especially in youths. And seeing your bloated expectations shatter when you finally confront your beloved hero is a bittersweet experience– one a gifted writer can exploit with numerous great results.

Weirdly, nothing happens in this issue. Out of the many possibilities this plot offers, Kindt chooses none of them. To define this comic, it’s easier to say what it isn’t– rather than what it is. It’s not funny, tense or action-packed. It’s not intellectual or even well-drawn. What’s left is a long, extremely overworked psychological portrait of Han Solo. It’s nowhere near as interesting as it could have been either… Much of the story is contrived and frankly, not appealing. Sadly, this title is more a case of Kindt dropping the ball than it is anything else.

There’s still one powerfully bright note to mention. I love stories where it’s up to a frail, naive man to narrate big historical events– and Star Wars Rebel Heist #1 is one of these… With the young wannabe insurgent being the sole storyteller in the comic. The charm of such books springs from the gap between the everyday nature of the narrator and the vast significance of the circumstances he is recollecting. A small man is forced to bear witness to the very facts which overwhelm him– events that are always too huge for a mild person’s mind to fully grasp and properly react to.

Off the top of my head, similar narrative constructions can be witnessed in such notable novels as H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds, Jules Verne’s Vint Mille Lieues sous les Mers and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. I think Kindt consciously plays on the nostalgic nature of these constructions, and he does so extremely well– and it’s the most enjoyable aspect of the entire book. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s already a nice enough gift.
– Simon J. O’Connor

2 Star Rating

V-Wars #1V-Wars #1
The Shot Heard Round The World
Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Artist: Alan Robinson
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Robbie Robbins
20 pages, $3.99

Here’s just one (of many) reasons I feel IMJ Comic Book Reviews are trustworthy: We don’t jump to conclusions. We take our time with these reviews and we often re-read comics to make sure our opinions are true and on point.

But a funny thing happened on my way to reviewing V-Wars #1 this week. I was originally going to review 2 comics for this column (the other was Amazing Spider-Man #1)… But after Jose turned in his epic Spidey tour de force, I thought, “Is there really anything else left to say?” (Which, by the way, is the nicest thing you can say about any review written by any reviewer.) So that left me with only V-Wars to review… And I couldn’t be happier to be here.

Many of you will remember that V-Wars writer Jonathan Maberry was once an IMJ contributor. Early on, he was our most famous columnist– and we have never forgotten his generosity. Jonathan knows how much we appreciate him– but besides running his columns and occasionally promoting his new novels in our popular bottom-of-the-site Widget Section… We’ve done very little to promote this talented man– other than fairly review a few of his comics. Here’s a “fun” fact: It’s one of my deepest regrets that we’ve never once critiqued one of his great novels.

But did that stop some jealous assholes (on various shit sites) from screaming Inveterate Media Junkies was little more than a cabal of Maberry sycophants– blindly promoting the author and his works?

Of course it didn’t. Hell hath no fury like fuckwits imaginarily scorned.

You should know none of this matters to me… Never has, never will. I’m certainly not going to let the rants of an extremely small minority of idiots tell me what I should or shouldn’t review.

V-Wars is a great comic book for many reasons. I love how Maberry drops us directly into the action– refusing to play the narrative decompression game. This is his world as he sees it… And if it makes you uncomfortable playing catch-up– live with it. Make no mistake: This is not your average vampire tale. This is True Blood on a realism kick, with political intrigue and machine guns, scheming and discrimination. (Thankfully, there are no faeries, werewolves– or any of that other misguided bullshit here either.) Jonathan’s created a real world where vampires just happen to dwell. It’s juicy, dramatic and fun.

And just as Maberry excels at plot and dialogue, V-Wars #1 also features some of the best art I’ve ever seen in an IDW comic. Artist Alan Robinson possesses a strong, clean line that keeps the narrative flowing flawlessly. Robinson has drawn a lot of comics for IDW, but this is his biggest project to date– and like a great athlete, he doesn’t squander his chance to shine. Jay Fotos (fresh off Joe Hill’s superb Locke & Key) uses his colors to bring a sharp realism to the visuals. Oh how I love seeing IDW support Maberry’s great scripting with such fine creators!

It’s high time some of the duller mainstream comic book critics bought a clue and learned what millions of prose readers already know: Jonathan Maberry possesses a singular, unique talent. This man knows his way around an entertaining horror show. - Ian MacMillan

4 Star Rating

This entry was posted in Comic Book Reviews, Commentary, Geek Culture, Hot Comic Book Reviews, IMJ Comic Book Reviews, Inveterate Media Junkies™ Exclusive, New Comic Book Reviews, New Comic Books, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to IMJ Comic Book Reviews

  1. Locusmortis says:

    Loving the reviews, you’ve all given me something to think about each comic so forgive me if I don’t mention someone.

    @Jose – That’s just an epic review man, having read the issue I agree with pretty much everything. The retcon was so toe-curlingly obvious I nearly vomited, bet you it was someone Peter know was secretly a spider-person all along. The Electro and Black Cat segments I found to be vomit-churniningly awful and overdone.

    @Simon – Dammit! I was hoping Rebel Heist would be decent, with the impending Marvel takeover Dark Horse must be using up some scripts from their slushpile

    @Ian – I’ve not read a bad Maberry comic yet, glad to see IDW hiring some good writers these days.

    • J. says:

      Thanks, Locus. That means a lot. It’s probably the longest review I have done but the thing pretty much wrote itself. There was just so much awfulness to cover.

    • Helmir says:

      Thanks a lot for the feedback Locus! Yeah, I was bummed out by the so-so quality of Rebel Heist #1 too. I hadn’t thought about Dark Horse’s policy towards the Star Wars franchise this way, but truthfully it makes a lot of sense. I don’t even see why they should care about it at this point: years of hard work and world building getting ripped off from you must be a very shitty thing to deal with.

      It’s not like Marvel isn’t going to take a heavy dump on Star Wars comics in a few months anyway….

  2. Morlock50 says:

    As always, a well written set of reviews folks.
    Jose, I actually picked up ASM 1 on a whim, and I’m going to partially disagree with your rating; I would have given the issue three stars. I haven’t read Slott’s run till now, so I may be coming at the material with a different lens. I thought Slott’s writing was above average here. Although there was some lameness (naked Spidey) there was nothing that was a deal breaker for me. Sure didn’t like the Black Cat though.

    • J. says:

      My rating was based on comparing it to other comics I am currently reading and older, better Spidey comics. For me, the issue as a whole was far below average. Like I mentioned in the review, I have been keeping up with Slott’s Spidey when I can and I am not impressed. It’s not my cup of tea and for the cover price it was far from worth it.

      I can understand how people can like the issue though.

      • Morlock50 says:

        I think you did a good job of explaining why you didn’t like it. Like the detail about the cell phone; I missed that on first reading. And the last time I read Spidey consistently was when David Michelinie was the writer. So I missed the SpOck and Spidey Island nonsense. And I don’t think I’m as big a fan as you, although I like the character. So, did you like the movie?

        • J. says:

          I actually haven’t seen the movie but I did read a lot of spoilers and reviews for it. That’s how I was able to reference the film in the review. I haven’t seen the first of the reboot either. Kinda staying away from them. Our new comic reviewer Danielle did write a review of the film which we posted over the weekend. It summed up very well a lot of the complaints I have heard about it.

          Also, I enjoyed David Michelinie’s run on Amazing. Sounds like you were reading the title while it was still good. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s