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Amazing Spider-Man #700 Review — December 26, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #700 Review


If you want to avoid Amazing Spider-Man #700 spoilers, then don’t read any further.

Alright, you’ve been warned.


Peter Parker is, apparently, dead. Yes, you read that right. Peter Parker, as we know him, is no more. Due to a mind transference that took place in issue #698, Octavius’ mind is in Peter Parker’s body. Otto Octavius is, essentially, the new Spider-Man in Superior Spider-Man! Got that? Okay.

Now that we have that out of the way, how was the main story? It’s typically well-written by writer Dan Slott and is sure to leave many fans furious and will have everybody talking… but what makes this issue so fascinating is the kind of man Octavius turns out to be by the end of the issue. Instead of the typical megalomaniac we’re used to, it seems that Peter’s memories have had an effect on Otto, even if in very subtle ways. By the time Doc Ock’s old body fails Peter in the end, he resolves to leave Otto with some familiar words of wisdom. These words do not completely fall on deaf ears, it seems. It is this characterization that has always won me over as a fan of Slott’s writing. Even as he’s dying in Ock’s old body, we still get a sense of the hero Peter is and the inspiration he is on others, right up until the end. Each supporting character has their chance to shine, as well. Particularly noticeable is the change of heart a certain Mayor J. Jonah Jameson has about Spider-Man, after witnessing his, er, new personality… which also says a lot about JJJ’s character. Also of note is Otto’s rekindling of Peter’s romance with Mary Jane. Despite Otto’s misogynistic personality, it’s clear that MJ has never stopped loving Peter, which she all but admits to. It’s this kind of drama and change of the status quo that should make Superior Spider-Man a compelling title, as well as seeing how he interacts with the rest of Peter’s friends and enemies. But is that all? Surely this isn’t permanent, you may tell yourself. Listen… I’ve been reading comics for 30 odd years or so. I’m here to reassure you, True Believers, the Peter Parker we know WILL return. Slott even leaves an opening for it, if you pay attention. This change of status quo is only temporary, mark my words. For now, just relax and enjoy the twist in the road until then.

Humberto Ramos’ art has never been better than it is here. His subtle change of expression, particularly during “Peter’s” talk with MJ, clues the reader in on there being someone else inside Peter’s mind. Well done, Mr. Ramos. The art in this book is, well, amazing. Congratulations and well done to all artists involved.

The backup stories were not much more than filler for me. The cutesy story with Black Cat seemed a bit pointless and out-of-place and also left me scratching my head. The other one was well-written and may or may not contain clues as to the real Spider-Man’s future, but it was ultimately as pointless, as it really didn’t contribute much. Certainly not enough to justify the cost of this issue. Over all, however, these minor missteps didn’t really ruin my enjoyment of the “final” issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, I’m very excited to see what Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman have in store for us in Superior Spider-Man. Excelsior! 9/10

The Flash #14 Review — December 24, 2012

The Flash #14 Review


The Flash is doing everything I want it to, to be honest. It’s a superhero comic that is consistently fun to read that looks absolutely spectacular every issue and though the dialogue and over-arching plotlines aren’t anything the special the series benefits from expert pacing. My only real complaint is that the big showdown with Grodd doesn’t have as much gravitas as it should. There just isn’t the chemistry between hero and big bad here that there is between Batman and the Joker or any other historically brilliant superhero rivalry. And Gorilla Grodd is just that; He’s the big bad of the Flash’s world. He’s not bound by any honor-among-thieves like the Rogues. Grodd is a larger than life king mixed with a brutal savagery and while he has been suitably established as such thus far in the series there’s just nothing palpable between him and the Flash.

The already sizeable cast of this comic is expanded further as we find out about the Gorilla Solovar who appears to have been the same Gorilla that attacked Barry as a kid back in the flashback of issue 8. Turbine also gets more of a spotlight and to be honest I’m kind of hoping this guy turns into a recurring ally or villain of the Flash because he has a pretty cool backstory being a fighter pilot sucked into the speed force. It’s always entertaining to see the Rogues playing a heroic role and there’s even time to find out what Iris West has been up to (nothing interesting) and Patty Spivot finally learns Flash’s identity, which might inject some excitement into their vanilla relationship. All in all there’s a lot going on but I fear that Manapul is better at buildup than payoff. As we approach the big final punch-out between Flash and Grodd I realize that this is the climax the series has been building up to but the road here has been a lot more entertaining, paved as it was with Gorillas falling from the sky and fun banter from the Rogues.

Earlier I mentioned the pacing in the series and I stick by the idea that it’s the greatest strength of the writing. Francis Manapul has structured each issue so that it was an entertaining in and of itself but fed into a greater storyline, without either aspect detracting from the other. What we’re left with is something that many books in the New 52 envy; a product of world-building filled with challenges and allies for the protagonist. Frankly I think this is what should have been done across the board in the New 52, the Flash has almost his entire Rogues Gallery of villains with Zoom being the only major exception, and that is a lot more than books like Justice League can say, having used its 1+ year of content to encounter three whole antagonists.

Issue 14 isn’t the strongest issue but it’s entertaining and an important issue to a series that is worth sticking around for. If you want to see a truly great villain then do what everyone else is doing and go read Scott Snyder’s Batman – But for classic superhero fun I can’t see how you could do any better than the Flash.


Teen Titans #14 Review —

Teen Titans #14 Review

Titans fans, this is the issue we’ve been waiting for. Finally Lobdell gives a hint of the kind of TT stories I want to read. The origin of wonder-girl arc, by far the best story arc in the Teen Titans so far, comes to a rather abrupt but all around satisfying conclusion. I’m not really reading to see how the story of Diesel ends seeing as he lacks substance as a character let alone a villain. The real reason to read this issue is seeing the interactions between DC’s junior trinity and seeing Kiran, Bart and Miguel just hanging out back home. Finally we get some believable teen writing in these three as they are just hanging out, out of costume. There’s also some foreshadowing to future plotlines with Kiran but who cares because these little hints always end up being unnecessary details that are covered later anyway. And man alive, there are so many little hints to other comics. We get plugs for Superman, Batman and Birds of Prey because that’s what happens when you have characters from the Super-family, Bat-family and Team 7 floating around.

The art by Alé Garza is, in retrospect, far more suited to Teen Titans than Brett Booth’s art. While I was originally a fan of Booth’s art it really fell apart when not doing blurry action scenes which frankly this series has had more than it’s fill of by now. Alé Garza’s more cartoonish style offers less realistic proportions but far more serviceable depictions of the Titans’ costumes and facial expressions. Superboy is back in his Super-tee & jeans look and though I liked his tron costume from earlier issues it makes sense that he’d drop it after leaving N.O.W.H.E.R.E and he looks a lot better in his usual outfit.

If I were to pick out one problem with this series it’s probably the fact that it hasn’t spent nearly enough establishing the team, meaning there’s no structure. These Titans have no Titans Tower, no specific roster, no credo, nothing binding them together other than the fact that the writers through them into a team together. And by the way, where the heck is Skitter? She disappeared while I snoozed through the bore-fest that was the Culling and no one’s even really made any attempt to find her. She had potentially the most interesting story of all!

I’m glad the book is doing some origins now but it really should have some time to settle down first and establish the team before it establishes the individuals. Who are the Titans, why are they hanging out together, what are the relationships? Who’s even in charge? What are their goals? Where’s that team member that went missing roughly five issues ago? What is their base of operations? Basically, I want to know what the Titans do besides just waiting around for another catastrophe to strike that they have to deal with. This series has already been derailed from these questions thanks to the Culling storyline and it’s about to happen again as Death of the Family is rearing it’s gargantuan head in the Titans world along with a Red Hood & the Outlaws crossover. I don’t know when this book is going to get a chance to take a breather and do some world-building but I hope it’s soon.

Either way, this is a solid issue on its own. If you need something to renew your faith that some good can come out of this series, pick up Teen Titans #14


Ex Sanguine #3: A Lonely Word Review — December 22, 2012

Ex Sanguine #3: A Lonely Word Review


Saul Adams is a vampire, but not one that we usually get shown in the likes of True Blood or the old Bela Lugosi movies. He wants nothing to do with his instincts. He has struggled to keep his bloodlust at bay and live as normal a life as possible in a small town. This all went well, until a serial killer struck the town. The Sanguine killer has drawn undue attention to him. Diner waitress, Ashley, has taken a macabre liking to him. She sets him up with one of the murders, but this only feeds his instincts, bringing them back to the fore. The end of issue #2 shocked us when we saw Saul and Ashley making love in front of a mirror, allowing her to see Saul in his true form. The story itself is like a twisted love story, but with a horrendous edge, as Tim Seeley has hit the reader square in the face with a gritty story and fantastic artwork. The story’s main subject in the first two issues is a pen, but what is so special about it? Why has Ashley been killing people associated with it?

Agent Quinn was investigating a case years ago and was held captive by the perpetrator. He tortured her and drank her blood. This is something she has never forgotten and has had a severe impact on her. So much so that the case of the Sanguine Killer has brought back horrific memories for her. Saul Adams sits in his darkened room reading and looking after his tropical fish. Spotting one dead on the surface, he takes it to the sea to bury it, so to speak, but he is alerted to a rat running by. This is no normal rat, though, as it changes to near-human form as he captures it. We now know that there is more than Saul trying to keep their true form hidden from the general public. They exist side by side, but the rats have invaded Saul’s territory. Something that he won’t put up with.

Ashley is in the diner, having a laugh with two local guys, but her mood soon changes to one of hatred. Throughout Ashley’s life, she has always been accused of lying. Something that has stuck with her all through her life. This time is no different, as she accuses a customer of stealing money. But, again, nobody believes her. She storms off and thinks back to when her father dealt with her lies by using her blood to write his books. This is where the pen comes in. It’s the same pen that her father used to write his books. Now she does the same to write on the walls, using her victims’ blood. The woman who accused her of lying is her victim, as Ashley slits her throat. Saul appears angry with Ashley, as her actions are still drawing undue attention to him, However, seeing the woman’s body with blood everywhere, he decides to have a little snack while he is there. As the diner’s boss is locking up, we see a knife-wielding shadow ready to claim another victim.

Tim Seeley really has invented a good storyline. With the introduction of the rats to the story, it will only get better. Vivid and colorful artwork really does the murder scenes justice. This makes them stand out. It’s another 8/10 again, as it keeps the pace really well.

It Girl and the Atomics #5 Review —

It Girl and the Atomics #5 Review

I really enjoy this story that James S. Rich has created here. It’s lighthearted, but still has the standard superhero storyline running through it. Luna is such a good character, both as herself and her alter ego, It Girl, a typical teenage girl in both guises. Mike Norton’s artwork really deserves a mention too, as it also keeps up the overall fun of the story, with bright psychedelic colors and cleverly drawn characters. Luna’s thought-to-be dead sister has been revealed as her enemy, Lala Wah-Wah, her nemesis in the video game Luna played. She can also jump dimensions as the clone on Nana and has transported It Girl inside the video game and into her own domain. The video game is being played again, but this time it’s for real.

At Dr. Flem’s lab, the rest of the Atomics are wondering where everybody went. They soon find out, as they discover them inside the game. In a great twist, just as Lala Wah-Wah is getting the upper hand over It Girl in the game, another It Girl appears, controlled by Josephine Lombard. Because it’s an open game, anyone can join at any time. The Slug and Black Crystal join the game to even up the sides… and the battle begins! In a distinctive Tron-like world, they all trade blows, chasing each other around. It’s all beautifully drawn by Norton, drawing the reader into the game along with It Girl and her team. Skunk joins the game, much to the annoyance of Nana, as it was him who all accidentally killed her with his Skunk gas. He just wants closure, as he never had a chance to apologize to Nana for killing her and has carried the guilt around with him for years. His sympathy falls on deaf ears, as Nana takes him out the game with a burst of energy. The way that Mike Norton highlights different versions of video games during the fight scenes is a breath of fresh air, very cleverly done. It’s at its best when in a very street fighter type of screenshot. The final fight is about to commence! With one powerful uppercut, performed by Dr. Flem on his joypad, Lana knocks Nana out and is then transported out of the game and back to reality in Dr. Flem’s lab. The rest of the Atomics await her and Dr. Flem tells them that she won’t be back, as Luna had knocked her a few dimensions from them. So it will take a long while for her to find her way back. This story arc comes to an end, with the team either sleeping or reading, except for Luna, who is talking to her real sister, Nana. She realizes that, although she misses her sister, she knows that she has made the right decision in joining up with the Atomics again.

A fitting conclusion to the story. Maybe a little rushed, but it was a satisfying end for all concerned. A nice story full of cool references, which all looked so colorful and friendly, but not to take away from a strong story running right through it. A new arc starts next year. One I will definitely be following. An extra mark this issue for a good ending! 9/10

All New X-Men #4 Review — December 20, 2012

All New X-Men #4 Review

This is the issue I’ve been waiting for. The original five X-Men have been brought from the past to confront the Scott Summers (a.k.a. Cyclops) and his team of mutants of today, while both teams are trying to figure out exactly what the hell is going on. This issue mainly deals with this, as well as possibly giving some clues to the reader as to why the blue, furry Hank McCoy of today felt the need to bring the old team into the present. Writer Brian Michael Bendis wastes no time in going for the emotional jugular in this issue, particularly where Jean Grey is concerned. Needless to say, there are lots of questions and head-scratching going on.

One of those questions the original X-Men have is why today’s Cyclops has allied himself with Magneto and Emma Frost. Their thoughts are filled with anger, doubt, betrayal, and shock at today’s turn of events. Past Cyclops simply can’t fathom how today’s Cyclops has faltered in his judgement, going so far as killing his mentor, Professor Charles Xavier. Granted, Cyclops was possessed by the Phoenix Force when he did it, but, at this point in time, the old team has no idea what the Phoenix Force is or what it can do. In fact, Jean Grey is only now tapping into her latent psychic abilities. All they see is a future Cyclops who has fallen from grace and murdered their teacher and father figure. On future Cyclops’ side, we feel his utter shock over seeing his beloved Jean alive again. At first, he thinks his other ex, Emma, has something to do with it, but reasons it out that she couldn’t possibly benefit in any way from planting Jean and their past selves in his head. He determines, finally, that they are real, as well as who is behind bringing them from the past to the future. Speaking of which, things aren’t looking so great for today’s Hank McCoy, as he still lies in stasis at X-Men HQ. When he finally wakes up and is confronted by his peers, things begin to go worse. I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s a hell of a cliffhanger that will have you greatly anticipating next issue.

Bendis does an expert job at balancing the conflict, drama, and humor around the emotional storm brewing from both sides. The issue also contains his trademark snappy dialogue, as well as large doses of humor to counter the serious goings-on. Artist Stuart Immonen’s art is, quite simply, jaw-dropping. He perfectly captures the emotion and drama of this issue, as well as the uncertainty in the faces of all involved. Some interesting juxtapositions of classic X-Men with today’s X-Men in certain panels and pages also serves the story well. In short, this is my new favorite Marvel NOW! title, with enough innovation to make it fresh, but retaining enough of the old Marvel flavor to make it appealing to longtime fans. 10/10

Avengers #2 Review —

Avengers #2 Review

Last issue ended with Captain America giving the order to “Assemble at dawn,” with some new recruits joining longtime Avengers to confront a cosmic threat so huge that even their might still may not be enough to defeat it. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Jerome Opeña make an impressive debut of a series here, as well as a memorable new villain in that of Ex Nihilo, who is, apparently, capable of taking out Thor, Iron Man, and Hulk, as well as Hawkeye and Black Widow. While a team of Avengers, old and new, answer Cap’s call, we also learn a bit more about Ex Nihilo, as well as his sister, Abyss, and the automaton, Aleph, who is probably the one to fear most of the trio, considering what he can do and the cold logic he displays about doing it.

As with most megalomaniacal villains of Ex Nihilo’s ilk, he is overconfident and arrogant, going so far as underestimating Captain America and sending him back to Earth as a warning. Little does he suspect, Cap has assembled a team of powerful heroes to confront him and rescue their friends, as well as countless planets. Speaking of which, the choice of Avengers Hickman has picked here are interesting. While there are heroes who are already members of the team in some form or another, there are also some unexpected choices, which I won’t spoil here. While Ex Nihilo and co. have interesting origins, I can’t help but get a sense of a “been there, done that” with some of their background stories… particularly Ex Nihilo, himself. While this is no less compelling, I was hoping there was a bit more to them than I thought. This is only a minor complaint, though, as this comic was so much fun to read. One thing I really enjoyed was Ex Nihilo’s assessment of Thor as being “mythic” and unlike any of the others. I thought that was a nice touch, which gives the reader a sense of Ex Nihilo’s true threat as a villain. If he can defeat and bind Thor, as well as Hulk, what chance do the others have? It should be interesting to see how they get out of this one.

Artist Jerome Opeña is a wonder to behold, perfectly capturing the cosmic scale of the story and the mythical aspects of the coming together of this new and bigger Avengers team. The colorists, Dean White, Justin Ponsor, and Morry Hollowell, also contribute greatly to the look and feel of this book, accentuating Opeña’s detailed pencils with an almost glowing god-like energy that I found very appealing. Despite the minor faults I’ve already mentioned, it’s hard to not love this book. While some of Hickman’s writing might seem a bit derivative in places, he was actually a perfect choice for this title, as he does the whole “mythic” thing well. So *what* if Ex Nihilo is your run-of-the-mill cosmic jerk with a weird fashion sense. He’s still very much a classic Marvel character in the same vein as Jack Kirby’s Galactus, This is charming all on its own and very fitting for The Avengers. It’s clear Hickman does have a plan here, with characters beginning to show what roles they’ll be taking and how the team will be operating from here on out. It’s ambitious enough to seem fresh, while retaining everything uniquely Marvel. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all unfold. 8.5/10