Admittedly as I got started with this website I wasn’t really sure how I was going to pull off doing comic book reviews every week. I want to be able to cover a broad range of the books that I read regularly but I just don’t have the time to do an individual big write up for each book. It’s just not realistic at this point in time. However, I think I have found a compromise. I am going to try to write up 2 or 3 of these posts a week (as time allows) where I am taking an in-brief look at 4 or 5 recent comics releases that I have read.
Warning: Spoilers Abound
Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows # 17 (vol. 2)
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist/Cover Artist: Nathan Stockman
I’ve really enjoyed this book since it was launched. For those not familiar, this book takes place in an alternate universe where Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are still married. Mary Jane is actually a costumed hero now by using a costume that feeds off of Peter’s powers. They’ve also got a teenage daughter named Annie May. As you might suspect, Annie has inherited Peter’s powers and is a costumed hero along with her Mom and Dad.
The story currently being told is about Annie trying to get some space from her parents, specifically from Peter. Peter, meanwhile, is struggling to make ends meet so to earn some extra cash he decides to start substitute teaching at Annie’s school. Annie ends up stumbling upon two kids in the school auditorium that are dabbling with some chemicals, causing an explosion that envelops them all.
This issue picks up right where the previous left off with Annie trying to figure out what the story is with the kids and the chemicals. Turns out, her new friends were intentionally trying to give themselves super powers so they could become heroes. The chemicals appear to have been stolen or somehow gotten from Oscorp. This sets up Annie feeling a bit of the ol’ Parker responsibility so she decides to take the newcomers under her wing to train them. Annie also creates a new costume for herself to differentiate her identity from the one she uses with her parents.
Houser’s writing is terrific and features some family drama for the Parkers. It also, in a way, is telling a coming of age tale for Annie. I’m intrigued to see where the story goes with these chemicals stolen from Oscorp. Especially since it seems that one of Annie’s new friends wants revenge against Oscorp for some reason.
Stockman’s art shines and helps Houser’s writing to hit all the right emotional tones. There is a very poignant moment at the end of the issue where Stockman gives us a brief glimpse back at a very important event that happened earlier in the series: Annie hugging little Normie Osborn. It’s a touching moment and sets up for the conflict to come between Annie, her new friends, and Osborn.
4 stars out of 5
Aquaman # 34 (vol. 8)
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Mirko Colak
Cover Artist: Andy Kubert
I admit it: I love Aquaman. Admittedly, I’d never read Aquaman at all until DC’s Rebirth titles started hitting shelves. His character always seemed sort of second tier. In popular culture, he’s always relegated to lame super hero status. However, I really have to say that the Aquaman featured in these comics is a total bad ass. The stories being told right now are some of the best in all of comics. I love to admit being wrong about my initial feelings towards Aquaman.
The story being told is that Arthur Curry (Aquaman) has been removed from the throne of Atlantis. In his place is the vile King Rath. Rath, who represents all of the fears and prejudices in Atlantean society, tried to have Arthur killed. However, Arthur survived, and had been trying to keep a low profile. However, he was recruited by an underground (water?) movement against Rath. So, now Aquaman is leading a rebellion in trying to take down the tyrant.
This issue focuses on the origin of Rath. We get a little back story into how Rath was the son of a mason and was from a low caste in Atlantean society. His father was abusive but always tried to instill into Rath the importance of his role in their society. Rath builds up a disdain for the higher class in Atlantis over time. He yearns for the power that Atlantean magic will grant him. The power to not only bring his enemies to their knees but to perhaps hold dominion over the world.
I’ve been a big fan of Abnett’s writing in the series so far. He’s kept the story line intriguing and moving along at a brisk pace. However, I think this issue sort of pumped the brakes a little too much on the story. It served as sort of a one-shot to focus on Rath but I just don’t find Rath to be all that interesting of a villain. I’m not sure he needed a back story told. The fact that he was able to take the throne from Arthur and has shown his prejudices is enough to make me dislike him. If not for what happens in the last few pages of the issue, this issue would have brought the whole story arc to a complete stop just to tell this tale.
Colak is not the regular series artist. Usually those duties fall to Ricardo Fedrici. However, Colak seems to have been brought on board for this Rath origin tale. I have to admit that his art style isn’t my cup of tea. Fedrici brings a gritty sort of realism to his artwork. Colak’s art was more cartoony and, I feel, detracted from the dark tale being told in this issue. I’m not saying Colak isn’t a good artist at all, I’m just saying that Fedrici’s art style was missed in this book.
3 stars out of 5
Avengers # 685
Writers: Al Ewing, Mark Waid, & Jim Zub
Artist: Paco Medina
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Marvel has been running weekly issues of Avengers during their current No Surrender story arc. Remarkably, the books have been very consistent with solid art and storytelling all throughout. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect out of this arc that combines the Avengers, the Avengers Unity Squad, & the U.S.Avengers. I’ve been, for the most part, pleasantly surprised with how good the story has been.
The story of No Surrender is basically that the Earth has been pulled into another galaxy and is being used as a gameboard by The Grandmaster and The Challenger. The Challenger has chosen to use the Black Order as his pawns in the game while The Grandmaster has chosen to use The Lethal Legion. The game is basically to obtain pyramoids from locations all over the planet. These pyramoids do serious elemental damage to the surroundings they are placed in. The various Avengers teams have congregated in an attempt to thwart whatever evil scheme is happening and return Earth to its rightful place.
This issue covers the aftermath of the return of Bruce Banner/Hulk from death. The Challenger is using him to obtain the final pyramoid. Holding the pyramoid is the daughter of The Grandmaster in disguise as the faux-Avenger, Voyager. Voyager is hoping to use the pyramoid as a way to combat her father while The Grandmaster believes she is trying to help him win the game. The issue is basically a long brawl between the Hulk and various Avengers, including the Red Hulk and the Vision. It’s a fun romp that may have ended up killing off a beloved Avenger.
The writing on this issue is fast paced as it should be for this Hulk brawl. The book finds the various Avengers teams scrambling to try to find a way to keep the Hulk from getting to Voyager and securing the last pyramoid. This certainly lends to the tension being built in the story arc. I’ve been impressed overall with the job that Ewing, Waid, & Zub have done with this series. Especially with how fast they have been pumping out issues.
Medina’s artwork has been superb throughout the story arc. The battles between the Red Hulk and the Hulk and Vision and the Hulk are beautifully drawn. The look of terror on the face of Voyager towards the end of the issue is properly blood curdling. Medina is putting in a lot of work to try and keep up with the frantic pace these books are coming out in and he’s delivered every single time.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Batman # 43 (vol. 3)
Writer: Tom King
Artist/Cover Artist: Mikel Janin
I fell out of comics for a little while. Life had gotten in the way. I had too much going on with family and every day expenses to really have time to read them. However, a Kevin Smith hosted podcast called Fat Man on Batman got me interested in comics again. I was a huge fan of Batman growing up and Kevin’s interview with Scott Snyder made me want to read Batman again. I started out reading Batman again with Zero Year. I worked my way back to the beginning of Snyder’s run and have continued to keep up with the book since.
With that said, I have really found some of the story arcs that have been ran to be very disjointed and, at times, hard to follow. I feel that way about the story arc that is wrapped up in this issue. The last three issues have been running a story about Poison Ivy taking control of the world. She has control over everyone except Batman and Catwoman. Ivy’s reasoning for taking control of the world is to try to make the world right and bring about a “world peace.” Her motives are noble but she’s taking away the right to free choice. Batman and Catwoman hatch a plan to get Ivy to free the world. It involves snapping Harley Quinn out of Ivy’s control and using Harley as an emotional tool against Ivy.
On the whole, the story is simple enough and should have been easy enough to follow. The problem, in my opinion, is that the whole story arc just felt strange and disjointed. It was completely random. The characters aren’t acting out of character or anything. It just feels like the story does a lot of bouncing around, lending to that disjointed feeling. The plan that Batman and Catwoman execute in this issue works well enough but it just seemed to have come completely out of nowhere.
I’m not terribly familiar with a lot of King’s writing so I’m not sure if this is indicative of his work on the whole. However, it was also he and Janin that worked together on the similarly very strange and disjointed War of Jokes and Riddles story arc. King does come up with some interesting plots it just feels like the way that he chooses to take us from the beginning to the end is very bumpy and just flat out all over the place.
Janin’s artwork is terrific. That’s where this creative team, in my mind, really shines. His work in this book specifically in the scenes with Ivy and Catwoman in Ivy’s jungle hideout are beautifully illustrated. The emotions that he is able to evoke when Harley finally breaks through to Ivy are gripping and tug at your heart strings.
3 out of 5 stars
Incredible Hulk #714
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Carlo Barberi
Cover Artist: Mike Deodato
This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc as World War Hulk II starts. This marks the second story arc in a row for the Hulk where Marvel is doing a sequel to a previous story (Return to Planet Hulk). The story finds Amadeus Cho returning to Earth after saving the planet Sakaar from an evil warlord. In order for Amadeus to win, he finally allows the Hulk to take the proverbial steering wheel. This allows Amadeus to tap into the Hulk’s full power but it comes with a cost.
Amadeus seems far more confident in his abilities to take on foes now. He’s less fearful of what the Hulk is capable of. He seems to have found a perfect balance of his genius and the Hulk’s might. At one point in the issue, Amadeus saves the lives of some people on a bridge that is collapsing. He uses his brain to figure out a structural weakpoint that allows him to use his strength to destroy only a certain part of the bridge, leaving the rest of it stable. In a battle that wraps up the issue, Amadeus uses his brain and brawn to systematically demolish an enemy. We see him very deliberately breaking limbs and breaking down how long it will take for each one of those limbs to heal. It’s cold and calculating…maybe this doesn’t seem so much like Amadeus after all.
I’ve really enjoyed Pak’s writing during this run on the book. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Hulk but Pak has managed to make this version of Hulk interesting. I love the mental conflict that Pak is setting up between Amadeus and the Hulk. It should be a very entertaining and fun ride to see how this all ends up playing out.
Barberi’s does a great job of taking Pak’s ideas and bringing them to life. The Hulk he draws is cunning, clever, and confident. I love the panels he does where he actually shows Amadeus’s mind at work while Hulk is taking action, such as the bridge sequence or the battle with his alien foe. I also enjoy the literal presentation of the mental struggle between Amadeus and the Hulk with the Hulk literally having Amadeus locked up in the trunk of a vehicle.
4 out of 5 stars
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