Review of The Amazing Spider-Man #1

ASMWell might as well keep the Spidey  fun going!  The Amazing Spider-Man #1 is a anthology of sorts.  The book starts off very strong but loses its steam towards the end until finally I completely lost interest by the last story.  The book begins with the main story which is Peter making his long awaited return.  The fun Spidey magic is definitely back in this story.  Peter has to figure out what Ock has done with his life and what messes he has to clean.  The book is witty and fun. I really enjoyed the first day back on the job being a naked one. We have all had that dream of going back to school or to a new job and suddenly realizes we forgot to wear clothes.  In this first story Peter finally gets his triumphant return to the sky and he finds himself in a real life situation of having to do it without pants.  I really enjoyed the first story and I am definitely looking forward to continuing with Peter and the Amazing Spider-Man.

Personally I dropped off of Superior Spider-Man around issue #12.  I did not drop off because the comic was not good.  I just dropped off because I did not want to read Spidey-Ock anymore.  I have been advised that I need to go back and read the rest of the run as it is quite strong. I am very happy that Peter is back, and I do think the break was nice.  Now we all appreciate his jokes and his fun loving attitude even more.  Spider-Man seems fresh and new.

The construction of this book is definitely aimed at new readers.  There is a lot of extra material in it for the new reader who picks it up after watching the movie.  This leads to some unnecessary stories in the back that lost me by the time I got to them.  The first three stories were very strong but the remaining ones are all fairly weak.

The reason that the second and third story were so strong is because they were directly connected to the first story.  There was a short story of Electro and a short story of Black Cat both stories connecting to each other and to the main spidey story.  If they did something like this for all the stories in the anthology it would have been much stronger. However after the first three connecting stories there are a bunch of disjointed stories in place to set up other characters in other books.  The book lost me at that point.

Overall I was very pleased with this issue and I am happy to be reading Peter once again.

– Dean

Review Star Wars Rebel Heist #1

25058Star Wars Rebel Heist #1 by Matt Kindt & Marco Castiello

This week Dark Horse kicked off a new Star Wars mini-series written by Matt Kindt. Set during the time of the original trilogy, Kindt’s story opens with Jan, a young man making his way through Corellia. He has recently completed his Rebel training, and is on his first official mission. Jan’s voice, which narrates the issue, is immediately engaging. Jan reveals somewhat mixed motives for wanting to join the Alliance. He does not claim allegiance to any noble ideology, as much as a desire to avoid becoming part of “the faceless hordes.” In short, he would like a bit of adventure in his life. And if he loses said life? Well, “worse ways to go out, I guess.”

Which is exactly how things almost turn out. Once reaching his rendezvous point, his cover is immediately blown. He is only spared by the timely arrival of his contact: Han Solo. It is here where Kindt uncovers his conceit for the series: instead of telling yet another tale of Han Solo, Kindt explores how Han would have appeared to a low level Rebel operative. We first see him, smoking blaster in hand, full of cocky charm. From this initial entrance, it is easy to hear Harrison Ford’s voice speaking Kindt’s dialogue. Jan considers himself in the presence of a master fighter, as well as stratisgt, someone who can think as quickly (if not more quickly) than he can punch. There would be no viable Rebellion without him. He is a legend.

He is also somewhat frustrating. The more time Jan spends with Han, the more he begins to be troubled by doubts. Han’s actions seemingly grow more reckless, less tactical than simply rash. Perhaps his continued survival was more a matter of dumb luck than skill? Surely we have all known someone like this in our lives? The person whose roguish spirit is amusing from a distance, only the closer we get to it, the more infuriating, or downright selfish, they actually are. Jan begins to wonder if Han really gives a damn about the Alliance, instead keeping with them for the sheer thrill of the ride.

Which, of course, is more or less why Jan is there as well.

In addition to this strong character work, Kindt is laying the foundations of a mystery, leaving the reader wondering just what it is that Han has in mind. The title suggests a type of inside strike, which would explain some of the choices Hans makes. But the others? By the last page, I was left wondering if this is truly where he expected to wind up, or if he has somehow overplayed his hand? As for Jan, the circumstances in which he is narrating this story are not the most pleasant.

Rebel Heist is off to a great start; I look forward next issue to seeing where Leia fits in Kindt’s puzzle.

Cheers.

Review of Black Science #6

Black Science 6Black Science #6 by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Now that was an emotional pay off.

This week’s issue opens with a stunning image of Grant and Kadir reflected in the eyes of an alien creature. It is an extreme close up of the alien’s face, the two humans viewed within the creature’s large orange eye. It is a brilliant contrast of near and far, which immediately grabs the reader’s attention. These two men may be central players in their own human drama, yet how important are they in the larger scope of the universe? Grants may think that he is, while Kadir wishes dearly that Grant was not.

This issue centers on the struggle between Grant and Kadir. Remender shares the narration between these two men, allowing each to give their side of the story. Grant confronts his own faded idealism, accepting that ideology is an elitist privilege. It has no place in the field, where survival is paramount. Animal instincts are all that matter, and one of the most primal of those is protecting the young. And so, Grant charges through danger in the hope that he might make it back to his children. That he might somehow right the mess he has made of his family.

Kadir too views himself as a protector, only his charge is much larger. He admits that he sabotaged The Pillar, Grant’s invention for traveling between dimensions. Grant believes that Kadir did it for self-serving purposes, whereas Kadir simply considered it an unethical experiment. In his eyes, Grant is modern day Frankenstein playing with forces and tools he cannot truly comprehend. Grant might believe that what he does will redeem humanity, but Kadir knows better. There are some things we are better off not knowing. (Besides, we all know how well Victor benefited from his creation).

These reflections go a long way in humanizing the characters, especially Kadir. This issue ends with the suggestion that Kadir, not Grant, is the true protagonist of Black Science. I shall not say too much about the ending, except it has an emotional resonance which until now had been sorely lacking from the series. For the final sequence, Remender and Scalera blend their talents together to craft the most powerful moment of the week.

The title still has a little ways to go, specifically the female characters could use some more definition. Hopefully this will be addressed in the next arc. Prior to this issue I had been planning to drop this series from my monthly pull, degrading it to trade/sale wait. This installment impressed me so much, however, that I’ll be picking up #7 when the series resumes in July.

I have a feeling that what we have read so far has simply been prologue and the real story of Black Science is only just beginning.

Cheers

Review of Batwoman Annual #1

feb140208Batwoman Annual #1 by Marc Andreyko, Trevor McCarthy & Moritat

I wish I could make up my mind about this title post-Blackman/Williams. Really, I wish I could, only, well, it’s complicated. Also, it doesn’t help that Andreyko’s work has not been overly consistent. The first issue of the Wolf Spider arc was good. It was followed, however, by a pretty bad issue that nearly made me drop the title right there and then. Still, I have a loyalty to Kate and decided to stick it out a little longer. The next couple issues were good again. I picked up this week’s annual thinking that it might help me make up my mind about continuing or not.

See, this issue brings to a conclusion the storyline left dangling when Blackman/Williams departed the title last year. Batwoman has been blackmailed by Director Bones of the DEO. Bones wants to know Batman’s secret identity, and charges Batwoman with discovering it. Blackman/Williams’ final issue concluded with Batwoman and Batman locked in intense combat, which is exactly where this annual picks up.

Andreyko’s concluding chapter is fine, if for the most part unsatisfying. Honestly, this issue probably should not have been written. Andreyko’s Batwoman has worked when he has simply done his own thing without worrying about what came before. When he tries to evoke his predecessors, he merely ends up highlighting how inferior to them he. For the annual, Andreyko tries tossing in a random plot twist, only to (wisely) back pedal away from it at the story’s end. All in all, an average to mediocre issue. Largely, it feels like DC drew up an outline for this annual inspired primarily by the desire to have Batwoman fit in better as a generic DC superhero. It is probably not a coincidence that much of Kate’s family leaves Gotham (and the series). The stage is now set for Kate to be more fully integrated with the Bat-verse.

Yet, I guess I’ll stick around for at least more issue in order to see the Wolf Spider story to an end. I’ll give the series one more chance. Again. What can I say? I’m a fan of Kate, and would like to see her series be worthy of her once more.

We’ll see.

Cheers.

Review of Captain Midnight #10

23853Captain Midnight is a brilliant heroic aviator and inventor with a rich history; the character goes back to 1938, and has appeared in radio, comics, television, and movies, leading the agents of his Secret Squadron in the fight for justice. Dark Horse Comics’ Captain Midnight series imagines that the character is transported through time from the 1940s to the present day. Captain Midnight not only has to contend with a strange modern world, but he also has to deal with the fact that the advanced technology that he developed years ago has been perverted to sinister ends.

Captain Midnight #10 is a story of two sidekicks – Chuck Ramsey and Rick Marshall. Ramsey was Captain Midnight’s original sidekick, but in the Captain’s long absence has been up to nefarious activities, activities that Ramsey believes were necessary for the greater good. Rick Marshall is a young man who, until recently, never imagined that he would have the chance to meet his hero, but was nonetheless inspired to a life of service by the Captain’s example.

Writer Joshua Williamson’s story does an excellent job of contrasting these two men who were inspired by Captain Midnight, and also hints at the motivations for Ramsey’s actions – actions that could be significant for the world. Artist Fernando Dagnino’s depictions of the characters and action in the comic were beautiful, and colorist Javier Mena provides bold colors that are worthy of an iconic Golden Age hero.

Review of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #12

HEMMU_Cv12_52a0d8a4bb39e1.04752539Readers who like heroic fantasy should check out DC Comics’ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series. Under the guidance of writer Dan Abnett, the comic is an engaging fantasy series that transcends the expectations some might have for a licensed toy tie-in comic. Abnett and his creative partners have made He-Man and the Masters of the Universe into an exciting monthly comic, putting the comic’s heroes into new territory, both literally and figuratively.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #12 sees He-Man and his comrades Teela, Stratos, and Moss Man confront the monstrous serpent Hssss in the land of Subternia for the power of the Star Seed, an energy that has the potential to change the  balance of power on Eternia.  The heroes would use the power to stop the forces of the evil Hordak, which have overrun Eternia.  But Hssss has more sinister plans for the Star Seed, and the confrontation forces He-man and Teela to assume roles of responsibility that they seem reluctant to assume.

Dan Abnett’s script is nicely illustrated by artist Tom Derenick and colorist Tony Aviña; the art in this comic is gorgeous, and Derenick captures the story’s emotional moments as expertly as he conveys the battle scenes.  He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #12 sets the stage for huge changes in Eternia, and is an enjoyable comic for both avid fans and new readers.

 

 

Review of Über #12

Uber12Über is an ongoing alternate history World War II war comic from Avatar Press that imagines the Nazis creating super-soldiers very late in the war (April 1945). The result of such a historical divergence is not that Germany wins the war – at least, not yet – but that everyone loses. Producing superhumans is not easy; it’s a very difficult scientific process, and Germany develops two types of superhuman soldiers – the more easily-created, strong and resilient “tank” soldiers, and the rare, but stronger “battleship” soldiers. Although the Allies steal the process from the Germans and create their own superhumans, the Germans have the advantage of three fully-functioning “battleships”.

But the Allies are catching up to the Germans, thanks to the work of “Agent Stephanie”, the scientist spy who first stole the secret of creating superhumans from the Germans and now works in England to not just copy the German process, but improve upon it.  Thanks to Stephanie, the Allies have transformed a human being into a monstrously powerful “heavy battleship” with the potential to surpass the German “battleship” soldiers.

Despite Stephanie’s importance to the story narrative, readers don’t know a lot about her background.  Über #12 gets to the heart of Stephanie’s past, as she tells various alternative stories about her first memory, which give us an idea about the character and the sacrifices she has had to make for the war effort.

Writer Kieron Gillen’s script masterfully uses the structure of Stephanie’s stories about her first memory in order to construct an engaging past about a character who readers knew previously only from her direct actions in the comic.  Artist Gabriel Andrade’s renderings of both the mundane and the monstrous are perfect for the story’s needs, and colorist Michael Dipascale paints the dark mood of a country in endless war.

 

Review of Guardians of the Galaxy #14

gogGuardians of the Galaxy #14 by Brian Michael Bendis, Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett, Nick Bradshaw, Phil Jimenez, Gerardo Sandoval and others

So, once again it’s oversized anniversary issue time for Marvel’s cosmic line. Late last year, I picked up Nova #10 celebrating 100 issues (spread out over four volumes) of that series. As I wrote at the time, it was a fun introduction to the current Nova, Sam Alexander, and I have been following his adventures ever since. Now, this week, Marvel published a commemorative issue for their other premiere cosmic title (you know, the one that’s being made into a film).

My experience with the Guardians began with the 90s Jim Valentino series about the original 31st Century team. At the time, it was an enjoyable comic, even though their attempts to shoe-horn in references to contemporary characters got tiresome quickly. Yes, I can believe that Silver Surfer would still be gliding around, or that somewhere there was an alien race utilizing Stark armor tech. But a cult/gang/whatever inspired by the Punisher? Ghost Rider on a space bike? Yeah, not so much. I dropped the series soon after #25 (around the time Valentino jumped ship as well), and haven’t revisited any of the material since then.
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Review of Kaptara #1

Kaptara 1
Kagan McLeod

by Chip Zdarsky & Kagan McLeod

The debut issue of Chip Zdarsky’s new science-fiction journey gets off to a rather conventional start. The crew of the Kanga consists of the usual assortment of mismatched personalities chafing at sharing close confines with each other. There’s the tough muscle man, the spirited female doctor, the take charge pilot, and so on. These characters are brushed in lightly by Zdarsky, not really rising too far above types. The most fully rounded member of the team is Keith, a young gay scientist, who only got the posting through the string pulling of his aunt in administration. Zdarsky spends the most time with him, positioning Keith as central to the story, so it only makes sense that he would be the most developed. As events progress, the remainder of the cast appears to consist primarily of cannon fodder anyway.
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