IMJ Comic Book Reviews

LM ULTRA THIN BOX BREAKIMJ COMIC BOOKS REVIEWS

5 STAR RATING SYSTEM LOGO

Silver Surfer #1Silver Surfer #1
The Most Important Person in the Universe
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99

Reviewing this book was très weird on many levels… As I’ve never purposely flushed my brain of all the negativity I felt for a particular creator before reading one of their comics. But I did that here, despite my huge dislike for the extremely nasty/juvenile way writer Dan Slott often responds to some of his fans/critics… And despite my utterly despising Slott’s horrifically idiotic treatment of Marvel’s flagship character Spider-Man (my favorite superhero of all time). Nope. For once, I actually thought, “I’m going to forget all that. I’m gonna act like I barely know this guy or his work.”

In fact, I did Slott one better… Besides pushing away all my Spidey nightmares, I emptied my brain of everything but my great affinity for the writer’s best comic book work– his now ancient, yet still fantastic, run on She-Hulk. In other words, I started reading Silver Surfer #1 like I loved Dan Slott’s comics… Really loved them.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! What an insanely stupid waste of my time.

Even though his script was mightily aided by the extreme talents of artist Michael Allred (I’m a big fan) and the even more adept color work of his wife Laura Allred… Slott’s Surfer was a complete dud. A HUGE zero… And worst of all, extremely inconsequential. That’s the SECOND biggest crime here: Slott takes one of the most pathos-filled Marvel characters of all time and reduces his personality to a complete cipher.

Slott’s story is a nothing trifle too– as the Surfer flits here and there, saving small planets and engaging in minor battles… Mundane sequences which suffer from a massive case of “been there, seen that” syndrome. It’s all particularly hilarious when you remember the ambitious title Slott saddles his tale with on the very last page:

Surfer Story Title

So who is this most important person? Well, no spoilers here… Except it ain’t the Silver Surfer… And the person the title actually turns out describing comes off as a mish-mash of recent Doctor Who companions Amy Pond and Clara Oswald. (I almost didn’t use that last comparison– even though it fits perfectly– as I didn’t want to give Whovians any reason to believe Slott’s comic remotely resembles anything akin to the usually well-crafted Who TV series.)

If you’ve read this far, you might still be wondering what I considered to be Slott’s BIGGEST WRITING CRIME this week. It’s simple really: Even though he has one of the coolest Marvel characters at his disposal, Slott criminally underuses artist Michael Allred. Thankfully, Allred figures out a way around the writer’s ingrained ineptitude– most efficiently in this 2-page spread that had me screaming, “Holy Brandon Graham!”

Surfer Double Page Spread

Good stuff, huh? Except comics are more than just purty pictures. Ultimately, the best ones are a perfect marriage of words and art… So as much as I would love to give this comic FOUR STARS for the magnificent art alone, I just can’t. Like I said, Allred does his best… But, no doubt, he’s been Slotted here– hamstrung by an inane plot and a writer’s mind that sorely lacks the imagination and gifts needed to exploit the Surfer’s power cosmic.

Sorry (again), Dan. I truly was willing to let bygones be bygones… But your She-Hulk work still stands as the (early/only) pinnacle of your Marvel writing career. I wish it weren’t so, but to say otherwise would be much a huge bastardization of the truth. – Ian MacMillan

Half Star Rating

All New X-Factor #5All-New X-Factor #5
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99

All-New X-Factor #5  does feel “All-New”– even if isn’t that much different from its previous incarnation. I should have known this series wouldn’t stay gone for long… But the way Peter David talked at the end of his previous long run, I thought this might be the one time a comic book ending might stay true. (Silly me.)

In David’s usual fashion, the events play out like a soap opera– a genre the writer excels at. Color me most intrigued by the way David plays with his characters. His stories are usually driven by character moments that genuinely move the plot forward. Anytime a character speaks, their words have worth. It’s never just expository shit or fluff… David truly understands the plight of the Mutants and how they must constantly struggle to fit in with the Marvel Universe.

Luckily, David succeeds in creating a comfortable familiarity in almost every script he writes… Making cool character-driven plots look easy. (Yeah… He’s that great a writer.) Even his jokes are character related. Pietro is a wise-ass… And it doesn’t surprise me Gambit would make references to J.R.R. Tolkien… Or that Danger’s curt, machine personality is fodder for some humorous moments. David has an exemplary ability to create and allow individual personalities shine. These interesting dynamics help give life to what’s essentially a very basic story. But there’s a genius within the simplicity, as he continuously drops little hints about future events.

While I have high praise for the wordsmith, I must also note the art is very mediocre. Carmine Di Giandomenico’s work fluctuates from good to very bad… And the inconsistency is definitely distracting. In one scene, it took me a while just to figure out which character Pietro was. In another, I honestly didn’t know what was going on between Danger and the villain. It’s really sad. If Giandomenico could create a consistent product, the art would be stellar. (And if you thought the Fantastic Four’s new costumes were ugly, take a look at the new X-Factor duds… The new FF suits will look amazing in comparison.)

All in all, something seems a bit different with this new iteration of X-Factor. (I don’t think the art is to blame.) Maybe it’s the different characters in the group– or maybe David just needs a little more time to sink his teeth into them. After all, he did write Jamie Madrox’s adventures for a looong time. (With X-Factor Investigations gone– or, at least not mentioned here– the new comic does feel different in many ways.) Whatever the case, the pure magic that used to course through the veins of the aforementioned X-Factor series seems to be missing.

Maybe it’s unfair of me to compare the two series… But Marvel willfully puts their fans in this position by unceremoniously canceling a series– only to resurrect it in short order, solely so they can trot out a new Number One issue. Adding even more confusion: Many of the previous comic’s creators continue to work on these new books. So is a comparison really unfair? (Answer: I don’t think so.)

In any case, even a diminished X-Factor comic is still a good read– better than most comics from the Big Two lately… Though I doubt that’s much of a compliment. – Nick Furi

3 Star Rating

Iron Patriot #1Iron Patriot #1
Unbreakable
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Jim Charalampidis
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
$3.99, 20 pages

I really had no idea why I wanted to review this comic… It just grabbed my attention. The more I thought about it though, the more I saw why I was interested. First off, I don’t ever remember hating a comic written by Ales Kot. Wild Children and Zero were both well written… So I guess I was intrigued  to see how Kot would handle writing for Marvel.

We’ve seen many amazing independent writers come to work at the House of Ideas, only to watch helplessly as their talents rapidly decreased in quality. Some deteriorate faster than others of course, but the decline seems inevitable at this point. I’m hoping Kot can be among the few writers who survive their Marvel foray with their voice intact… But I am also very mindful that Ian MacMillan said the same thing about The Sixth Gun creator Cullen Bunn— and Ian wasn’t happy with the eventual outcome.

Something that might be in Kot’s favor: Norman Osborn is not wearing the Iron Patriot suit. Tony Stark’s best friend, James Rhodes, currently dons the red, white and blue armor. I think it also helps that the Iron Patriot suit is one of the coolest Iron Man variants in existence. The cover to this new #1 comic takes full advantage of the suit too– it’s a striking and cool visual.

But the question remains… With all these things going for it, does Iron Patriot #1 hold together? Yeah, in some ways. The comic’s focus took me completely by surprise. As a spin-off of sorts from the Iron Man title, I was expecting a lot of action… But I got a comic focused heavily on characters and politics instead. The good news: A lot of the character moments worked… So much so, I almost wish the comic was entirely that. There is action at the end, but it’s almost glossed over and seems sort of thrown in. For the record, I’m not against adding politics to comics as long as it works. Here, it makes sense. James Rhodes has a long military background with ties to politicians.

We are also introduced to Rhodes’ family (possibly a first?) and given just enough small characters moments to get an idea who these people are and how their personalities will help shape the series. For the record, I am not against adding politics into comics as long as it works. That’s the key for any story element for that matter: As long as it works. Here, it makes sense because James Rhodes has political background and ties with the military.

My biggest problem with this comic: I wish we were given a few more pages, because Kot’s story sure needed them. I hated seeing some fine character moments derailed by bland action scenes. The cliffhanger could have also been better and the action could’ve used more depth. That’s a shame because I was really digging this comic at the beginning… And now I’m not sure I’m totally hooked.

The art by Garry Brown and Jim Charalampidis is serviceable. At first glance, the art looked nice… But as I began to examine it more closely, inconsistencies started to pop up. There are some panels where it looked like Brown just decided not to add any defining features. One panel took me completely out of the story for a bit. (Note to the artist: It’s almost always a HUGE “no-no: to draw characters with completely blank faces– especially when they are the central focus in a panel.) That may seem like a small nitpick… But when I can tell an artist is above average, I want their “A Game” in every panel.

The other problem I have with this book has nothing to do with any of the creators. It pains me this comic costs $3.99. So many new Marvel comics seem to have potential… But with tons of established comics already proving their worth, who can afford to take a chance on possibly liking many of these unproven titles? The price to try these books is simply too high.

If you’re a fan of James Rhodes or new to comics and need a good intro into the Marvel Universe, I’d buy this book. If it were a dollar cheaper, I’d check out the next issue for sure– but like most fans, I have enough comics I regularly buy that I think are already better. – Aaron Evans

3 Star Rating

Superior Spider-Man #30Superior Spider-Man #30
Goblin Nation Part Four
Writers: Dan Slott, Christos Gage
Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell, Terry Pallot
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 Pages, $3.99

This is the penultimate issue of Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man run… So you’d think it would be full of action, suspense, plot twists and surprises. Turns out, it’s just a god-forsaken filler story. Yup… Bummer.

It was pretty clear when Slott introduced the SpOck status-quo that Peter would eventually come back from the dead… And per usual, Marvel’s obnoxious marketing department spoiled any remaining momentum this faux death had by announcing a new ongoing series starring Parker months in advance. To be clear, the story’s momentum was never about when Peter would return– but how. So naturally (for Slott), the writer botches the important transition between the two personas with a bland and deeply boring resolution.

Otto Octavius acknowledges his tenure as Spider-Man has been a disaster: New York is in flames, the woman he loves is in danger of dying and his former allies have all turned their backs on him. So how does he rectify this? He simply decides to give up his fantasy of being “superior” and let the rightful owner of the body he occupies fix his dreadful errors and misbehaviours for him. In a nutshell, Otto just reaches out to Peter– who’s still alive somewhere in their shared mind– and gives everything back. Now it’s up to Peter to save the day.

End of story… Cue cliffhanger.

I went through the trouble of summing up the horrible plot of this comic (something I don’t usually do as our editor definitely frowns on it), to show the story’s platitudes. This is supposed to be a grand epic, a tremendously ground-shaking and legendary run. Yet the “Peter is dead in someone else’s body, how can he come back to life?” drama is sorted out with a simple “the bad guy can’t take it anymore– so he leaves the room”.

Talk about underwhelming.

Making matters worse, the transition between the two is very poorly explained. There’s no detail as to what “technically” happens. It seems Peter was just possessed by Otto in the form of data… And Otto really died in Amazing Spider-Man #700– but also “survived” in a ghostly form (like an echo) of pure information in Peter’s brainwashed mind. If this is truly what happened (again, I’m just guessing at this point– since Slott doesn’t care to provide any explanation at all)… Then this is all just too stupid for me.

I know comics aren’t supposed to be science, but this much weirdness prevents me from suspending disbelief. How can pure information take over a man’s soul? How can it come so far as to evolve and take a sentient form (when SpOck was calling the shots he was also very clearly maturing and changing)? If Otto simply uploaded data into Peter’s mind back in ASM #700, how come Octavius’ real body thought he was Peter Parker then too?

NOTHING makes sense in this comic. Possibly everything will be explained later (but if it is, then I once again paid $3.99 for some really bad storytelling)… Or Slott’s run is full of more plotholes than the average Brooklyn side street.

I’m sarcastically ecstatic at how much Dan Slott goes full circle in SSM #30. The man who created and introduced the supposedly “superior” Spider-Man is also the one who makes the case Peter Parker is the only possible wallcrawler in the Marvel Universe. Otto states (in a very submissive manner) that he’s inferior in every way and that Parker is definitely his superior… Which is too bad. This could have been a cool, thought-provoking reversal if it wasn’t so heavily underlined. But that’s Slott for ya… Why show some deft delicacy when he can pound the whole idea down your throat with the delicacy of a boisterous sumo? This is a patently prime example of a writer telling instead of showing… And the book’s quality takes a noticeable nosedive because of it.

I do want to extend a huge round of applause to Giuseppe Camuncoli. The artist delivers solid pages and his take on this mess is better than almost anything previously attempted by Ryan Stegman or Humberto Ramos.

But seriously… Why am I surprised by any of this? – Simon J. O’Connor

Half Star Rating

All New Ghost Rider #1All-New Ghost Rider #1
Engines of Vengeance Part 1
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Tradd Moore
Colorists: Nelson Daniel, Val Staples
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99

Oh Boy! Yet another in a seemingly endless stream of “All-New” comics from Marvel. Usually when the NOW! publisher throws up one of these All-New gems, it’s just the same ol’ same ol’… And by treating the two-word term so casually, they’re tarnishing any positive meaning the label could ever convey. No wonder I picked up All-New Ghost Rider #1 thinking there would be nothing remotely new about it.

Yet lo and behold… This comic actually is different. Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch are out as the Ghost Rider(s)– instead we have an “all new” protagonist in Robbie Reyes. And look! Unlike most Marvel series, this title is not set in New York– this story takes place in East L.A… So hey, that’s kinda new too. And to drive home the point this ain’t Your Daddy’s Ghost Rider, our newbie anti-hero doesn’t even ride a motorcycle! He drives a car! Wow! Can you get any newer than All-New Ghost Rider #1?

The answer to that question, in case you didn’t catch the intended sarcasm, is “Just barely.”

Once again, I’ve tasked myself to read another Marvel #1 that fails to satisfy. The one big thing the comic’s got going for it? The art by Tradd Moore. Many longtime members of the IMJ Nation know Moore is an IMJ Favorite™– having earned his accolades as the artist on two phenomenal Luther Strode mini-series at Image. Moore’s art here is also amazing, even if it’s a little more subdued than his Strode work. That noted, Moore’s panels are still filled with superb flow, movement and vibrancy. The only drawback (for some readers perhaps), is how very stylized it is. Like artists Tan Eng Huat and Eric Canete, you either love Moore’s art or are completely turned off by it. For my money, this issue would have been a complete failure if it didn’t have someone as talented as Moore drawing it.

ANGR 2

Which leads me to what truly sinks this book: The sparse script by Felipe Smith is almost nonexistent– filled with some of the most generic, boring, eye-rolling dialogue I’ve read in quite some time. Various quacks at our brown-nosing competitors will surely call this minimalist approach refreshing… But I’ll call it lazy– or Smith phoning it in. If words appear in any panel, there’s an 80% chance they will be completely meaningless. The other 20% are there to tell you what’s going on in the story’s flimsy-at-best framework. To give you an example of just how unneeded most of the dialogue is, I present to you these 3 panels, taking up half a page. Now that I think about it, this is decompression at its best. Brian Michael Bendis would be proud:

ANGR 1

I’m not saying that every bit of comic book dialogue needs to provide character development or nudge the story forward a bit… Just MOST of it… And the above three panels encapsulate how a majority of this book is written. It’s crap like this that stresses why it’s a good thing Moore is on art chores: The last half of the script has little to no dialogue… Leaving Moore to carry the narrative home to the end. In the hands of a lesser artist, the writer’s poor stylistic decision would’ve failed miserably. (I hope Moore got paid at least 4 times more than Smith, but I highly doubt it.)

Not to begrudgingly defile a dead horse– but there is no way this comic should cost $3.99. As impressive and amazing as the art is, there is only 20 pages of it… And it took me less than 2 minutes to read the thing. I sure as hell don’t think I got my money’s worth. But, hey, Marvel got my cash… And in the end, that seems to be all that matters to them. Me? I realize I’ve been far too much of an optimist as of late… And I’m paying a hefty price for this overly hopeful attitude.

I really do want to support Tradd Moore’s exceptional work, but I can’t do it here. I’ll just have to wait for the third Luther Strode series, scheduled to arrive later this year. I can live with that. At the end of the day, the artist will see more of my money go into his pocket– as opposed to watching it disappear into the bowels of a faceless corporation that’s forsaken quality for quantity. Let’s face it: Most of the suits at Marvel couldn’t care less whether there’s another Ghost Rider comic on the racks– “all new” or otherwise. If they did, they would’ve never have paired a talent like Moore with Smith to begin with. – Jose Melendez

2 Star Rating

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