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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

Deadpool #3 Review — December 18, 2012

Deadpool #3 Review

This is the one Marvel NOW! title that I genuinely look forward to with every release. Mainly because Deadpool is my kind of hero. The story and, indeed, the artwork work so well to portray the unhinged nature of Deadpool. Brian Posehn and Gary Duggan are doing a good job with the story, as we see the dead presidents trying to destroy America, with Deadpool dispatching them one at a time back to where they came. Tony Moore’s artwork stands out really well, showing the brutality of the Deadpool way of dealing with the problems in front of him. So on to my review of issue #3.

Issue #3 starts inside the headquarters of Doctor Strange. Deadpool sits with the ghost of Ben Franklin and Agent Preston pleading for help. In a typical Deadpool moment, he actually talks to the reader as he references back to issue #1. A really cool distraction, which works well. Deadpool has a complete disregard for authority or, indeed, any sort of procedure, finding it hard to put up with Doctor Strange telling him what to do. But that’s the way this has to work.

The Necromancer has overstepped the mark by bringing back the presidents, as they have come back without their humanity. As George Washington tortures the Necromancer, Doctor Strange, Deadpool, and Agent Preston appear. Deadpool and Preston take on the presidents in the room, as Doctor Strange transports the Necromancer to the astral plane to try and find out where he got his powers. It turns out that the Necromancer brought his hamster back to life when he was young. He then knew he was special. Soon, he was surprisingly recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. Back in the room, all hell has broken out, as Deadpool struggles to hold his own while Preston goes for help. Great references fill the air, as the presidents tell a bit of their history while they stab and shoot Deadpool from every angle. Gerald Ford, in typical clumsy manor, stumbles into the tail rotor of the president’s helicopter. Doctor Strange appears to help Deadpool remove a sword from his chest, which was inserted by George Washington. After meditating, Doctor Strange forges a magical blade that will enable Deadpool to dispatch the presidents with one blow.

On the last page, Doctor Strange pulls Deadpool to the side to tell him that he noticed something about him. It seems his cancer is on the way back. This is something that Deadpool has had to live with after getting his regenerative powers. The cancer is a trade-off, but it’s usually kept at bay. Now, the only thing that stands between America and total annihilation is Deadpool and his newly empowered sword. His complete disregard for his own safety and his underlying death wish could be the thing that tips the balance in his favor.

Another brilliant issue, as the presidents trade insults with Deadpool and, indeed, themselves, full of off the cuff humour and brilliant references throughout. I need a Deadpool fix more often, but as Marvel’s release schedule is so messed up at the moment, it’s nearly a weekly, which suits me fine. A very well-deserved 9/10.

Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 Review — December 15, 2012

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

Thor God of Thunder #1 Review — December 6, 2012

Thor God of Thunder #1 Review

Thor is a character whose potential is frequently under-utilized. Far too often is he reduced to merely a hammer-swinging meathead whose only purpose is to be thrown around in order to raise the stakes. Far too often it is forgotten that Thor is a magical space Viking who spends most of his leisure time cruising through the cosmos killing giant monsters and going to the ensuing parties where he impregnates all the women in the village/country/planet. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Marvel Now!’s new series dedicated solely to the Thunderer is much more on the mark, focusing on the magic and wonder of Thor’s world. We begin with foreshadowing in the form of a flashback to Thor’s younger days, in which he encountered a butchered god in the waters of Norway. The mystery of who or what exactly the “God Butcher” is gets left unanswered as we return to the present.

Here we see Thor answering the prayer of a young girl on an alien planet by ending a drought. This is a really cool scene. It’s always satisfying when writers realize that superheroes, especially a god like Thor, can accomplish a lot when they put their minds toward something instead of just waiting for the next apocalypse to show up at their door.

Moving on, Thor eventually is conveniently reminded of the flashback we just saw as he discovers the gods of this planet have been killed. Thor investigates the abandoned former home of these gods and there’s a weird scene where he goes totally Batman on us by inspecting the crime scene. Then again, I suppose Thor is sort of a hunter as well as a warrior – plus it’s nice to know there’s more to the guy than just being strong and gutsy. Thor totally goes looking for the God Butcher and finds some creepy monster thing and the issue ends with a flash-forward of Thor as an old man in a losing battle against the God Butcher and its forces, which raises the stakes for future issues pretty well.

All in all this issue plays with some interesting ideas. Its theme seems to be centred on gods and the roles they play in society, which I hope we see more of. There’s a sort of Neil Gaiman feel to it in that sense, albeit simplified. Speaking of which, there are some clumsily done parts. The theme is slightly heavy-handed as I’m pretty sure the writer uses the word “gods” so much that it had lost all meaning by the end. Similarly, the idea of the God Butcher is sort of weak. I can imagine writers thinking “What can be a believable threat to a bunch of gods?” and they came up with “How about something that kills gods?” And thus the God Butcher was born – it’s not the most inventive idea around and it feels like it’s been done a dozen times.

All in all, Thor God of Thunder has an ideal issue 1. It establishes the character and plays with some interesting ideas hinting at future story lines. Considering Thor is one of my favourite superheroes, I loved seeing him get reinstated as a classic character – This book definitely earns my recommendation.

8/10

FF #1 Review —

FF #1 Review

I was drawn to FF for two reasons – Matt Fraction and the whimsical cast of characters in the book(Scott Lang, She-Hulk, Medusa and “Miss Thing”). I’ve long been a fan of Matt Fraction (having enjoyed his work particularly in Immortal Iron Fist and his recent runs on the Defenders and Hawkeye) and I’m now a fan of Michael Allred. I’m not familiar with Allred’s own work, Madman, but I just might have to change that after having read FF #1. Allred’s style is camp and fun and it compliments Fraction so well that I feel like these two are a match made in Heaven. Laura Allred’s colours don’t disappoint either. The best way I can describe the art in this book is that it’s the visual equivalent of “easy to read”. In the same way that Fraction doesn’t abuse exposition or over-write his dialogue, Allred understands he doesn’t have to cram messy details into each panel. FF’s style might not be cut out for big sweeping battle scenes or widescreen story-telling but it nails the tone of this issue perfectly.

Speaking of Fraction’s writing, this issue is really quite an impressive tutorial on how to handle heavy exposition in the first issue. I’m not familiar with Hickman’s run on FF but I didn’t find myself confused or uncertain at any point and while I did read Fraction’s Fantastic Four #1, which links in with FF, it’s not necessary to do so. Fraction introduces the entire cast of Hickman’s FF and the idea of the Future Foundation as the kids of the FF explain it to Scott Lang. The exposition is woven into entertaining character moments where we learn about the people, the place and the plot all at the same time. It’s not easy to bring new readers up to speed without boring the regulars, and that’s without even addressing the problem of introducing the new characters of the FF.

So the Fantastic Four is leaving to go to a new dimension for a year, but only four minutes in our time, and Reed Richards has appointed a new team to take over just in case. Their task is to take care of the Future Foundation kids, and that’s what makes Scott Lang such an interesting choice, having lost his daughter Stature not too long ago. The Fantastic Four pair with respective members of the new four to persuade them to take the job and this offers some interesting character interaction. The talk between Richards and Lang is probably the best, offering insight to both men and Ben Grimm recruiting She-Hulk was an enjoyable scene. Johnny Storm’s girlfriend Miss Thing doesn’t really get the spotlight this issue and honestly I couldn’t tell you much about her (she’s not even really Miss Thing yet) but I assume we’ll get to see this deliciously absurd super-heroine soon enough. The part that bothers me is the conversation between Sue Storm and Medusa. It’s irritating how spectacularly it fails the ‘Bechdel Test’ as what should be a meeting of two queens discussing say, their teams or their leadership roles is instead a meeting of two wives talking about their husbands. Considering this book is one of the few titles where the main team is predominantly women (and not in a gimmicky way) that doesn’t really inspire confidence. Of course it’s nothing to turn you away from the book but it needs work.

Other than that, this comic is everything an Issue 1 should be.

9/10