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

Amazing Spider-Man #700 Review

WARNING! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

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

Alright, you’ve been warned.

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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

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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

Green Lantern #15 Review —

Green Lantern #15 Review


After already confronting the Justice League last issue, this one finds novice Green Lantern, Simon Baz, resuming his mission to find out why there was a bomb in the van he stole, in the hopes of clearing his name from being labeled a terrorist by the FBI. What makes Simon an unusual choice for a Green Lantern is that he has a criminal record for car theft, as just mentioned. He also happens to be of Middle Eastern descent, which automatically makes him a prime suspect, as far as the authorities (and most everyone else) are concerned. In other words, things aren’t looking so great for Simon.

The political thriller aspect of his story is what makes Simon such an interesting character, as well as the fact that he’s, essentially, a good person, who just happened to make the wrong decisions in trying to help his family. His mission to clear his name and get to the bottom of who the real terrorists are makes for a compelling read. Although, it’s hard to say if he’ll maintain any longtime resonance with readers, after this aspect of his story is resolved. Much of this issue’s excitement is derived from Simon’s confrontation with the supposed original owner of the van he stole, who turns out to be much more than he appears. Writer Geoff Johns continues to provide just the right amount of action, intrigue, and humor, particularly when Simon discovers his ring has run out of juice. His discovery of what it means to be a Green Lantern and the requirements and limitations of his power are fun to read. Johns also scores bonus points for writing in one of the best surprise appearances of the year, as well as revealing what might have happened to Sinestro and Hal Jordan, who will both, most assuredly, make a triumphant comeback by the time this event is over. At least, that is my hope. By the end of the issue, we are also introduced, by name, to the mysterious First Lantern, who the insane Guardians of the Universe are using to make their Third Army. It still remains to be seen if this First Lantern is friend or foe, but there is no doubt he will seek retribution on the Guardians, if he survives their abuse.

Artist Doug Mahnke is in top form, as always. His use of size and angle – particularly in an incredible title splash page – both convey a sense of epic galactic scale. His renderings of the horrific Third Army transformations and the hopeless black realm that Sinestro and Hal Jordan find themselves in really make an impression on the reader. It still isn’t clear, however, if their ordeal has any connection to what’s happening with the Guardians or if it’s something separate entirely. At any rate, this issue was a great read and another intriguing installment to this monumental event. 9/10

Batgirl #15 Review — December 15, 2012

Batgirl #15 Review

Continuing the Death of the Family event taking place throughout the Bat books, this issue has The Joker threatening to torture and kill Barbara Gordon’s mom… if Batgirl doesn’t marry him. Yep, you’re reading that correctly. This is The Joker, though, so one shouldn’t be surprised by anything he does.

Writer Gail Simone really captures The Joker’s unique form of insanity perfectly, constantly reminding the reader and Batgirl, herself, of the heinous acts he is capable of committing. As readers know, Joker was responsible for shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon a few years back, which left her in a wheelchair for a time. Only now has Babs managed to regain mobility and resume her career as Batgirl… but not without a nearly crippling mental post-trauma resulting from these events, which threatens her effectiveness as Batgirl once again.

Meanwhile, it seems that Babs’ serial killer brother, James Gordon Jr. has a hand to play in it all, as he is called on for help from Babs’ roommate and friend, Alysia. As of now, Alysia doesn’t realize who James Jr. is, so it should be interesting to see her reaction when she finds out… if she lives long enough. It isn’t exactly clear what role he has to play in The Joker’s plans, but you can be sure there will be some crazy shenanigans going down very soon, with these two psychopaths involved.

What I found most compelling about this issue, though, was Batgirl, herself, and what separates her from Batman and her allies. While Babs has always followed the “no killing” code that Batman has reinforced to his various protegés through the years, she actually considers breaking the code, just this once. While it is highly doubtful she would ever follow through with these urges, the fact that she is having them at all says a lot about the impact The Joker has had on her life and those around her. To Babs, The Joker is, essentially, the Boogey Man. Someone who has to be stopped, at all costs.

With Simone’s run on this title coming to a close when the Death of the Family arc ends, she will leave behind one of the most memorable hallmarks of Batgirl’s career… if not THE most memorable. To me, Simone *is* Batgirl, with all intents and purposes. In my opinion, it’s a huge mistake for DC to let her go from writing this book, but something tells me this isn’t the last time Babs and Gail will have a chance to work together again. They’re too associated with each other on an almost spiritual level for that not to happen again. It’s written in the stars. Still, one has to wonder why this decision has been made. It simply doesn’t make sense to me.

While I still consider Ed Benes to be my favorite Batgirl artist, Daniel Sampere does a fine job here, especially in his rendering of The Joker. Sampere really showcases just how insane the Clown Prince of Crime is in this issue, with some great facial expressions and random acts of violence. In short, this is probably one of Simone’s best issues of her entire run, which is saying quite a bit. Shame on you, DC, for letting her go from this title. At least she’s going out with the proverbial bang. 10/10

Batman #15 Review —

Batman #15 Review

The Death of the Family story arc continues here and, once again, the dynamic duo of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, outdo themselves, creating enough suspense, action, and intrigue to effectively draw the reader in. This issue immediately picks up right where the last left off, with Batman confronting the Joker on a bridge, surrounded by the GCPD.

The Joker claims he knows the secret identities of the entire Bat Family, which is understandably alarming to them all, save for Batman, who isn’t buying it in the least. He figures that Joker is simply attempting to get into their heads, but the others aren’t so sure. This difference in opinion appears to be leading to a lot of resentment and strife among them, which may or may not be Joker’s plan all along.

Right from the start of this issue, Snyder accentuates the utter lack of conscience and humanity of The Joker, creating a sense of dread that permeates the entire issue and puts the reader on edge the whole time. We still don’t know what’s happened to poor Alfred. The Joker and his reign of terror is so strong, in fact, that even Batman’s stoic and unrelenting demeanor is shaken to its very core. Not only has Joker returned with a grotesque new look, he’s also returned with a ravenous vengeance and ferocity unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. This Joker is the deadliest he’s ever been and Batman knows it. On the flip side, the personalities of each of Batman’s allies really shine here. Particularly Batgirl, who has more of a bone to pick with Joker than anyone else. Snyder does a great job showcasing each of them as different individuals. As each Bat hero chimes in on their concerns, they learn of a secret that Bruce has been keeping from them that could have a long-lasting effect on their relationship to Batman. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Artist Greg Capullo has never looked better than he does here, particularly in illustrating the various members of the Bat Family and the horrifying apparition of The Joker. Capullo’s gothic horror-influenced style is perfect for this story and he’s never been more on his game than here.

The backup story, which features a meeting between The Joker and The Riddler, really doesn’t contribute much to the main story, but it does establish that even The Riddler thinks The Joker is certifiably insane. Which is saying a lot, coming from The Riddler. In the previous DC continuity, The Riddler was well on his way to becoming an actual ally to Batman, much the way Catwoman has turned over a new leaf in recent years. It remains to be seen if that carries on in The New 52, but one gets the sense that that could happen from this backup story. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Regardless, this issue is, quite possibly, the strongest yet of Snyder and Capullo’s entire run. It easily earns a 10/10 from me.

Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 Review —

Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 Review

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This .1 issue puts a spotlight on the character of Morbius the Living Vampire, as we see what happens with him after the Doctor Octopus debacle from last issue. This is another obvious attempt to kick off a new solo series, so it very much reads like a #0 issue in that way. Here, we get a glimpse of how writer Joe Keatinge’s upcoming ongoing series will be, as Keatinge and co-writer Dan Slott recap Michael Morbius’ origins for new readers.

By now, these .1 issues have become the norm for Marvel, serving as jumping on points for various characters and storylines. This story spins directly from the prison break sequence in issue #699. As Morbius escapes from his cell, his memories flash back to his days growing up in Greece and the unusual circumstances leading up to the experiment which turned him into the bloodsucking creature he is today. Keatinge and Slott deliver a pretty straightforward history for Morbius and expertly weaves his past with his life in the present. While all of this is probably old hat for longtime Marvelites, there are a few retcons that were a nice touch, such as how Morbius’ parents helped to mold him and adding his childhood friend, Emil, into the picture.

Artist Valentine De Landro, who is probably most known for his work on X-Factor, adapts a noticeably different style here. While his noirish renderings are still intact, they take on a more retro, Silver Age appearance, which is perfect for the setting. Artist Marco Checchetto also provides the opening pages, which were dark and foreboding, meshing well with De Landro’s style.

All in all, this issue doesn’t really serve the current “Dying Wish” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, but it is a good start point for readers looking forward to the new Morbius series and should satisfy fans of the character, even if they don’t plan on picking up his new book. We all win. 8/10