New Avengers #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting, Rick Magyar
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: Joe Caramanga
20 pages, $3.99
I don’t read interviews with creators unless they are with someone whose work I am very interested in or admire. Whenever a “new series” launches from one of the Big 2, it seems the creators of these”new series” do a little PR and give one of the numerous awful comic sites out there “the scoop” on what will be going on in their “new series”. I only bring this up because I have no idea what the future has in store for the new… um… New Avengers series.
The following comic critique is based entirely on what is in this book. It will also consist of (probably) snarky analysis of what came before, some confusion about this “new series” and what would seem to be a better idea of what this “new series” should be. Oh, and most likely some rational (and critical?) thinking as well. If you blindly follow and “like” books because you’re told to, you most likely will not care for this review (or really any reviews on this site). Sorry… But CBR and Newsarama already cater to the lowest-common-denominator demographic in comics– so it makes no sense to try to compete directly with them.
The NOW! initiative had a good chance to move Marvel’s comics in a somewhat different direction. But after reading numerous NOW! first issues, it turns out Marvel wanted to play it safe and just give fans more of what’s already come before. Financially, it makes sense. Zombies love nothing more than lapping up mediocrity and unoriginality… And those are two things the current Marvel Comics excels at. Name a “new series” the same as an old, profitable one– while keeping the same needlessly inflated cover price– and it’s fairly certain Marvel can count on some nice bank coming their way. After all, most fans won’t question it. They bought (and presumably loved) a series called New Avengers twice already. Chances are good these same fans will buy yet another comic with the title New Avengers.
The original New Avengers title started up when “Brain” Bendis was given the keys to the Avengers’ castle, which he quickly turned into a feces-covered mud hut… But I digress. The title devolved into a Bendis vanity project as he populated the Avengers roster with both his personal favorite characters like Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Jessica Jones (who he also created) and Marvel’s most lucrative heroes– Wolverine and Spider-Man. Bendis continued to write the series through two different volumes which lasted for what seemed like decades. It was his thing. So relaunching New Avengers without Bendis, or even the street-level hero aspect of most of the series, doesn’t really make any sense. Long time Avengers fans (myself included), regard New Avengers as the worst run in Avengers history. Regardless, New Avengers made Marvel a lot of money. So, I guess we are now at the point where the name ‘New Avengers’ alone is going to attract fans– and it will sell initially on name recognition alone.
MarvelNOW!’s New Avengers #1 has almost nothing in common with the series which preceded it. It does draw from another Bendis (mini) series, The Illuminati– which was just as awful and inept as anything that went on in his New Avengers comic. Interestingly enough, this issue almost completely focuses on the one character who refused to join The Illuminati, T’Challa (aka The Black Panther).
To me, an entire book about the Black Panther is not a bad thing at all. The whole issue takes place in Wakanda, involves a Wakandan coming of age ritual and has quite a bit of the Panther kicking ass. It also unfortunately involves some very generic villains from another world/dimension who want to destroy Earth to appease their God or whatever. How original. Anyway, T’Challa believes he is in way over his head here– so he calls on the team he once turned away, The Illuminati. Dun dun dunnnnnnnn…
And I guess here’s my question? Are the Illuminati (a group/concept people didn’t really care too much for originally) the New Avengers? I’m thinking they almost have to be because they are the only other major characters in the book beside the Black Panther. If so, I’m sorry, but that is just horrible. Marvel takes a title associated with Bendis, a concept created by Bendis… And gives it to Jonathan Hickman to write? What? Though I haven’t cared for Hickman’s recent Marvel work, he is undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and creative writers the publisher currently employs. Plus Captain America and Iron Man are part of yet another Avengers comic– while also starring in their own series as well?
If this comic was titled Black Panther #1 and guest starred The Illuminati in its first story arc– I would think it would be an interesting idea. I would also probably pick it up since it would be about T’Challa. But if this IS the team– it’s already been done before and it wasn’t so good the first time around… Meh.
As far as the actual writing goes, Hickman does a decent enough job. The stuff dealing with T’Challa and Wakandan tradition was easily the best part of the issue. About half way though, it turned into just another Marvel comic and became flavorless. Chuck Austen could have written the second part of the story– and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. Steve Epting’s art is enjoyable all the way through. I do have to mention that Epting’s designs for the villains were cool too, even though they were written in suck a generic fashion. His art saves this book from being completely forgettable.
So, it’s a new New Avengers #1 that doesn’t star a team called the New Avengers but instead the much more interesting Black Panther… With The Art > The Writing. And we have another comic starring the Prickish Steve Rogers and Pompous Tony Stark. I’d like to say I won’t be checking out the next issue but I’m interested in seeing how Hickman handles the dynamic between Panther and the rest of the team. This title could become a guilty pleasure of mine much like how All New X-Men has. We will wait and see… But we won’t be waiting very long– since the second issue will be out later this month. Marvel sure loves screwing over retailers on those FOCs, don’t they? – Jose Melendez
Great Pacific #3
Trashed Part 3
Writer: Joe Harris
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Tiza Studio
Letterer: Doug E Sherwood
22 pages, $2.99
Hey, IMJ Nation™! It’s good to be back to writing reviews… I missed you!
Great Pacific has a great concept: All the garbage that gets dumped into our oceans ends up in the middle of the Pacific– making one enormous island of floating trash and gunk. And a young rich kid named Chas Worthington wants to turn this enormous island into his own country… So he sets up a home base on trash island– and that’s when shit starts going downhill fast.
The thing about this island: It’s happening already in real life. The garbage mass I’m describing in the real Pacific Ocean is already huge. It’s not so dense you can walk on the surface like Chas does in the book, but it is there. The world can always use some new real estate, so why not a floating island of garbage? I’m sure there are plenty of reasons this thing exists, but I enjoy exploring the concept within this comic.
In the last two issues, Chas comes to the island, declares it his own country– and names it New Texas. After being there for only a short time, he gets lost and runs across a tribe of people who try to kill him. Then he meets some giant squid that also tries to kill him. His short time on this trash island has been eventful.
This third issue is good. We get some nice character development with several glimpses from Chas’s past. We also get to see what his family is like– as the story flashbacks to his Grandpa’s funeral. There’s also another flashback where Grandpa tells Chas at a very early age, “Chas, there might be bigger than you out there. And you might just get your ass kicked by ’em. But when that happens, you just get up an’ you get back to it… Because you are Worthington, boy… And good things happen to us.” Chas uses this memory to motivate himself and to keep moving across his garbage country, hoping he will eventually find his home base or someone to help him.
Towards the end of the issue, a plane crashes on the island. An attractive French female pilot survives the crash, catching Chas off-guard. After some snappy back and forth between the two, a little trust is earned… But before they can figure out what to do next– the Giant Squid Sea Monster shows up again… And it’s not looking good for the pair as the issue ends.
The book isn’t perfect. A lot of interesting stuff has happened but I was hoping to learn more about the island. Instead we get sea monsters. The last page of a comic is supposed to get you excited for the next issue… But the last pages of Great Pacific #2 and #3 are far too similar. Creators should never use the same cliffhanger twice on the last pages of different comics– especially in the same series.
Besides a few small problems, the comic is enjoyable. Image has another unique book on their hands. Harris and Morazzo are doing a great job overall. I can’t wait for Chas to finally get past this sea monster and get to the meat of Great Pacific’s main story. – Tom Devine
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Colorist: Sunny Gho
22 pages, $2.99
Dear God in Heaven! What the fuck is wrong at DC Comics? Right now, as a person who would choose Superman over any other superhero ever created… As a person who could easily read his exploits for the rest of my life (and pass this same fate onto seven generations of my children)… I really wish they would just kill him off.
I know, I know. IMJunkies™ are going to be quick to say something like, “What did you expect? It’s the new DC.” But it’s worse than that. It isn’t simply bad writing or bad editorial decisions. I’m witnessing the destruction of an icon– possibly multiple icons, if you want to include Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman.
Superman always had a clear purpose in comics. It’s right there in his name. He’s the ideal man. And it wasn’t just about leaping buildings in a single bound and being faster than speeding locomotive. The personality of Superman was always about trying to be the best humanity could be. He is the example of what we all could be if we tried– and learned– to be better people.
Scott Lobdell apparently thinks that means everyone should be a douchebag. Because that’s all his Superman is. And I’m sorry, but if you can’t even muster a little bit of hope in a Superman comic, you should be banned from writing the character because you are too cynical to understand what shepherding a cultural icon means. If you want to preach pomposity and egotism, go write Batman or Green Arrow. Don’t fucking rewrite the meaning of Superman.
Want some examples? Here’s one: Apparently, Superman “appealed to the vanity” of Lex Luthor to design a prison Lex himself couldn’t escape from. Now, in this same issue, we are told that Lex is the smartest man on earth. I’m not the smartest man in the world, but if I was a supervillain and my archnemesis asked me to design a prison I couldn’t get out of– I would design a way out of it and not tell the muscle-bound buffoon. It’s real fucking simple, especially if I’m smarter than everyone. The old Superman would never take the threat of Lex Luthor this lightly– or depend on the notorious villain’s “honor”.
Wish for another? I’d be more than happy to oblige. Towards the end of the book, Superboy talks about the Teen Titans and how they could help in defeating H’el. Superman essentially then scolds Superboy for associating with unsupervised meta humans. Immediately after that, he calls in the Justice League. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they aren’t supervised either. That’s why the UN created Justice League International— and why Justice League of America is being formed. The old Superman wouldn’t be this blatantly two-faced or stupid.
And the worst part, while many are slamming Dan Slott and Marvel for the treatment of Spider-Man, there are tons of people praising Lobdell’s work on Superman! What the fuck, people? If Lobdell’s Superman is what comic fans want, they don’t deserve the Man of Steel. The deserve some knock off called Doucheman– where they can fantasize about being selfish pricks while reading the comic. Seriously, don’t try to tell me what is happening in this comic is any kind of progression or reinvention for a new generation. That’s bullshit.
Damn you, Scott Lobdell. And damn you, DC. You’ve made me hate Superman.
– W.D. Prescott
Adventure Time with Fiona & Cake #1
The Sweater Bandit
Writers/Artists: Natasha Allegri,
Letterer: Britt Wilson
23 pages, $3.99
First off, I need to say I am not a nerd. I’m really not. Just because I dressed as Finn from Adventure Time for Halloween does not a nerdlet make, so don’t expect me to gush all over this Fionna & Cake miniseries, okay? You hear me, sailor?
Okay, so this comic was actually pretty awesome. Adventure Time is on the tube at my house more frequently than the Weather Channel. I was therefore vaguely aware that the Fionna & Cake episodes of the Cartoon Network mega-hit were among the most popular thus aired, and I knew they were based on an in-show bit of fan fiction perpetuated by a character: Yes, this entire comic miniseries is a meta-joke! Ah, but hasn’t that always been part of the appeal of comic books– providing the creator the opportunity to dwell in the world of a marginal character? Fans of Fionna & Cake will find plenty here to like for sure.
Having said that, as a writer I couldn’t help but go after the story with a more critical eye. In my opinion, any body of work has to be able to stand on its own two legs– no matter how derivative in origin. (And perhaps “derivative” isn’t a fair word in this case, but you know what I mean… I think.) At first, as I flipped through the opening pages of Issue 1, squinting a little at the overly florid script where the narration is printed in white text across the panels, I cringed. How relieved was I, then, to discover that those opening pages were a story within a story! (The meta gets meta-ier!) The great news is, it worked.
The best page in the comic was the splash panel of swords from which Fionna is prompted to choose before her latest adventure with her shapeshifting cat, Cake. I won’t spoil for you what these options entail, but suffice to say– if you are into the same wacky humor that has made the television series a huge hit, you won’t be disappointed. My only criticism was that the cliff-hanger was a bit flat. It was more like a cliff-rester than a hanger, per se. Still, the art was beautiful, the colors were what you’ve come to expect from the series, and I know my kids will enjoy this one immensely.
The 2nd story is also cute, and reintroduces us to secondary characters Prince Gumball and Marshall Lee, the male counterparts to Finn’s gal pals in the original Adventure Time. Noelle Stevenson’s artwork is adorable and I will definitely be checking out her web comic Nimona & following her tumblr at Gingerhaze.
This entire issue is the kind of thing that makes me want to pick up my pencil and draw my own comic. Fun stuff. – Red Tash
Batman: The Dark Knight #15
Cross to Bear
Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Artist: David Finch
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
20 pages, $2.99
Recently I was trying to think if I could make any New Year’s Resolutions as far as my IMJ Capsule Reviews went. Should I write them with less snark and possibly dumb them down a bit so Marvel Zombies could enjoy them more? Could I be a bit less honest and maybe write them as if companies were paying me to lie? Should I lay off the fanboys and not repeatedly say they are one of the main reasons the comic industry is in the toilet, mostly because they have such awful taste and will gladly overpay for any terrible comic written/drawn by a talentless hack?
While all of these resolutions seemed reasonable, I decided on trying to review more books that I normally wouldn’t care to read on the account they seem kinda boring. In short, that means more DC Comics reviews. People have asked for this and I am not one to deny the people what they want… At least whenever it suits me or doesn’t really put me out– mainly since I didn’t make any resolutions this year to be less of a selfish dick.
For my first DC review of the year I’ve decided to take a look at a title that I absolutely loathed the last time I read it. You know… To see if it has improved at all. And the lucky title? Batman: The Dark Knight #15.
This comic critique will probably be a bit on the short side. Why? Well, so fanboys won’t be intimidated or feel so completely inadequate by its size of course. Oh ho… I kid, I kid. No, actually it will be short because there isn’t a lot to say about the book.
Batman: The Dark Knight #15 falls squarely into the whole “playing it safe” and “not really doing anything new” thing. But that does not necessarily make this a bad comic. On the contrary, it was one of the more enjoyable titles I read this week… Though that’s not really saying much.
I think this issue is the second (or possibly third) part of a story arc. I have no idea since I haven’t read the last few issues– and because nothing in this comic bothered telling me. (There was an “Editor’s Note” referring to the last issue, which is why I think it is at the very least a two-part story.) Anyway, this is just another Batman vs. Scarecrow story. Seriously, there is nothing groundbreaking here. There have been better Scarecrow stories– and this one will not be remembered for the most part. I say “for the most part” because there is one idea that stood out for me (making it the BEST thing in the book)– in what is otherwise a very formulaic Batman comic.
I’m going to try to get through this part quickly. I will not be doing the story any justice by doing so– but it has to happen. (Plus I hate recapping story plot in a review.) Scarecrow releases a “super toxin” in Gotham and it turns out the Batman’s blood can be used as the antidote. Unfortunately, if he creates an antidote by regular means, it will take days– and as Batman so eloquently puts it, “Gotham’ll be in shambles by then.” (I love that contraction with Gotham in it by the way.)
The solution to this problem is to hook Bat’s body to a machine within the Batwing (or whatever it’s called now) which sucks blood out of him, mixes it into an antidote and then sprays it out onto the infected people via vents in the Batwing… All while Batman is piloting the plane, flying around. I found this whole solution so utterly absurd and it so “comic booky” at the same time– I couldn’t help but like it.
Another thing that helped: The story didn’t seem to take itself seriously. Ya, there were some touching moments between Bruce and Damian while all this was going on which were heartfelt… But again, no one really questioned how batshit insane all of this was– and that’s why I dug it.
The last thing I’ll mention is that I liked David Finch’s art more in this one issue than I have in his entire career. I find his normal work to be so needlessly detailed and over-rendered that it comes off as completely stiff and overall just ugly. It seems, in order to meet a monthly schedule– Finch has loosened up his style a bit. This causes it to have more flow and whimsy to it. Well, as much whimsy as a Finch drawn comic can have– but hopefully you get my point. It’s more pleasant to look at overall and fits the absurdness of the story better. (Again, not no serious.)
I don’t know if I can recommend buying Batman: The Dark Knight #15– but I can’t dismiss it entirely either. It surprised me and not a lot of comics from the Big 2 seem to do that anymore. – Jose Melendez
Morbius: The Living Vampire #1
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist: Richard Elson
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $2.99
As I read these MarvelNOW! restarts, I keep hoping this idea was hatched before DC’s New 52. If so, I could have a slightly more optimistic view toward these new Marvel comics. (But since they didn’t start appearing until some 14 months after DC started tearing up the sales charts– I’m guessing not.) The reason I wonder this is because of books like Morbius: The Living Vampire. Like every new Marvel comic, you can’t really jump into the story because Morbius’ circumstances deal with events in past issues of Amazing Spider-Man– and not having this info makes you feel left out through major parts of the book.
Unlike most Marvel comics, Keatinge tells all the backstory needed to understand Morbius’ character in 6 panels– probably close to a page and a half of the comic. 6 freaking panels! Hallelujah! And this essential information is well executed– especially with Richard Elson’s art and the faded color choices of Antonio Fabela. In truth, this sequence is probably the greatest moment in the book– because it’s how comics should be done. It worked well and it didn’t distract from the story one bit.
Another nice moment occurred toward the beginning of the story when Morbius happens upon a homeless man while trying to find a place to lay low. The man gives Morbius brilliant advice: “Lay low, but not in Manhattan. Too many heroes live here already.” This is so true! At least almost every hero in the DCU has their own city. Marvel’s Manhattan is filled to the brim with superheroes. What about the other boroughs already?
Other than those moments, I still felt the book was missing something. Maybe if two of the pages weren’t completely black except a single line of text or there wasn’t a kinda kitschy breakdown of Morbius’ abilities panel by panel– the creators would’ve had room to really get something going.
It wasn’t horrible. Heck, it’s still better than Avengers and Uncanny Avengers. And it proves again that Marvel’s $2.99 books are a better bet than their $3.99 books. But I think this might be a case where even though the issue ended, the actual story didn’t. It left me wanting– and not in a good way. But there is a promise in the comic, especially with some of the smart moves and writing I mentioned above (and few I didn’t). So I will need to give this series another issue before I can really say anything definite.
Which brings me back to what I said at the beginning. If this was a year ago and I was reviewing a DC New 52 book, this comic would be getting a better review… But now with a year and a half of slipping quality from DC (along with dumb choices and broken promises), I wonder if Marvel’s current efforts are going to get the rough end a little more than they deserve. – W.D. Prescott
Vampirella Strikes #1
Writer: Tom Sniegoski
Artist: Johnny Desjardins
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
22 pages, $3.99
Vampirella Strikes, huh? Hrm. First off, I have to say, it’s a good thing for this comic’s review this issue wasn’t available at my local comic book store– otherwise I never would have downloaded it on Comixology, and then who knows if I’d have seen the alternate covers.
The cover art of the chesty, legless sex kitten Vampirella is beautiful, if weird, but in no way ties in with the rest of the issue. I get that Vampirella is a sort of cheesy 70s throwback comic, but based on the cover alone, I would not have flipped it open— and I love sexy girls as much as the next guy. Also, I think it’s worth noting that anyone who does pick up this comic looking for some T&A art is going to be disappointed. Vampirella is clad in jeans and a trenchcoat-mafia look, even though she’s still poppin’ her collar in the style of Counts Chocula, Dracula, and her uncle down on Sesame Street.
I like one of the alternate covers, as far as they fit the story within. All of them are really great art, but one of them is definitely too porny for my taste. If you’re shooting for the female market at all, people of Dynamite, stick to the jeans & leather one, right?
So that’s one star docked— let’s move on to the other. If you’re a Vampirella lover from way back, maybe this comic is going to be an awesome refresh or reboot or redux for you or something, but for me as a new reader… It was only meh. The writing was stiff and did not flow. I understand there are only so many words you can fit per panel and only so many panels you’re going to use per page, but for the love of all that’s holy— read your work aloud. I hate to say that because I understand the man who wrote this series is a fan-favorite. I guess his writing style is synonymous with Vampirella and that makes me feel like being critical of him is being unkind to the entire fanbase for this alt-comic hit. Well, I want to love and support alt-comic hits, but between the stiff & stilted writing and the boring subplot about Janus vs the demons, there’s frankly nothing new to see here.
With a title and a cover like Vampirella Strikes #1, I expected this issue to grab me with weird/sexy and keep me hooked with a good story. I am the new gen of fans you are looking to connect with. You did not hook me.
The three stars are given because the art is very good. There is a glorious splash page filled with the light of thug angels sent from heaven to boss around a badass bitch. The badass bitch in question has been drinking and brawling at a bar she leaves “tore up from the floor up.” I wanted to like this.
Make it funnier, make it weirder, make it sexier, make the internal monologues flow or something, and this comic could have been good. As it is, it is just okay. Vampirella Strikes at what? Is that the cliff-hanger? This episode was more like Vampirella Gets Mildly Annoyed. Actually, write that one, won’t you? Let’s follow Vampirella around on a day in the life: Starbucks fucks up her order, the UPS guy drops her new flat screen and cracks it on her front porch, and some fella won’t take no for answer, so she texts him a photo of his own heart. Can we not make this happen? – Red Tash
Star Wars: Purge – The Tyrant’s Fist #2
Writer: Alexander Freed
Artist: Marco Castiello, Andrea Chella
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Michael Heisler
32 pages, $3.50
After the great storyline that was Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, I admit I was skeptical about Purge – The Tryant’s Fist. For one, it takes place closer to Revenge of the Sith than it does A New Hope. Which means the Darth Vader at the center of the story is the brash, stupid Anakin of the prequels and not the cold, vicious Vader of the originals. Because of that, the whole story sort of left me bored.
But the last half of this tale was the stronger part and, while not overall the strongest Anakin story– it does help with the canon of Vader’s history. This is the point where Anakin is made to realize his emo lashing out fits won’t solve all the problems he faces. We see him start to think and plan like the man who catches Han, Leia, and Chew on Cloud City and the man who hunts down Luke Skywalker. For that, I think it’s worth a read. At least this issue. – W.D. Prescott
Hellboy in Hell #2
Writer/Artist: Mike Mignola
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clem Robins
21 pages, $2.99
You NEED to pick up this book. Even if you don’t normally read Hellboy comics… I repeat, you NEED to pick up this book. Hellboy is a Dark Horse staple, spawning many great series and characters. This series is extremely special though… And the reason is series/character creator Mike Mignola is back in full force. It has been a long time since Mignola wrote the dialog and drew a Hellboy story… And it’s something fans have been waiting to experience again.
With Hellboy in Hell, readers have come full circle with Mignola’s greatest creation. Hellboy is dead and back in his birthplace (Hell). Mignola draws it for us just as he did at the beginning of the series. Mignola has said that Hellboy’s is a finite story, and he always knew there would be an official end. This issue really feels like that end is going to be right around the corner.
Mignola’s art is like no one else’s– very stylistic, yet with quite simple lines. He is a part of the handful of artists that has such a distinctive style, it cannot go without notice. When Mignola does the interior of a comic, it’s like he’s putting on an art clinic. The guy’s storytelling skills are as good as the best manga writer/artists out there– and that’s saying a lot for someone working in the American Comic Industry. His masterful plotting is absolutely amazing. He knows exactly when to hit us with a panel that, at first glance, doesn’t fit in with the page… Then, of course, after we finish the page or the next– we realize just how vital that odd little panel was.
In this second issue, we get to ride along the eerie path Hellboy is taking into Hell. He has spirits guiding him, but all the demons have run in fear and Hellboy finds Hell completely empty. He also discovers Satan sleeping, as he has for the past 2000 years. Hellboy wanders around and sees ominous things that could only exist in hell. As the issue comes to a close, Hellboy is taken to the place where he was born. Once there, Hellboy remembers getting his right hand cut off and having it replaced with the huge indestructible one he has now. There is also a presence that Hellboy can sense… And Mignola gives us a glimpse of what’s to come next issue. That small glimpse is all I need to have me fiending for the next issue.
Reading Hellboy in Hell makes you feel like you are a part of something very special. The generic Superhero comic books on the shelves pale in comparison to a work of art like this book. Do yourself a favor– drop your Ultimate X-Uncanny Avengers Team Up comic and buy this one.
This is by far the best book I’ve read all year! 😉 – Tom Devine