Howard The Duck #4 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Chip Zdarsky with Art by Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera and Rick Magyar

Published February 2016

Howard The Duck 004 aSynopsis – Fowl Movement! Duck! Duck! Loose!

Howard has become the nexus of all worlds, a portal to every other dimension. The problem is, that makes him a very valuable commodity, one sort out by the most powerful beings in the galaxy.

Can I say being right is a wonderful thing? Don’t get me wrong I very much doubt that Chip has been reading my reviews and decided to listen to me, although that would be utterly amazing if it were true. No, what I mean is that one very important thing has changed in this series and it turns it from something I hate, into something I can mildly appreciate.

My biggest complaint with Howard has always been that he is a sane and ‘normal’ duck in a world which is mental and crazy around him. This for me has always broken the Marvel universe in my eyes because it isn’t like that in all the other series. However the one change they have made, and it is for me the change that makes Deadpool work but Squirrel Girl fail, is that Howard is now the mad one and the universe around him is sane.

Ok, I will admit for a sane universe it is still pretty nuts, but it is consistent and the other characters in it are consistent with how they appear in their own books. Howard has become this powerful creature (twice over by the end of the issue) and that makes him important. All the insanity around him is caused by his new found powers; much the same as if the reformed Infinity Gauntlet was available he becomes the centre of a massive free-for-all battle to take control of his abilities.

I am well known for my long standing and outspoken hatred of this character, but really that is an unfair statement to make. I don’t hate Howard, I hate the way he has been used. I hate that every time he turns up he slowly breaks the universe around him and destroys my suspension of disbelief. However in this story arc that issue has gone away and for me this is so much better for it. I do not know if my new-found ‘lack of hatred’ will last beyond this brief moment, but while it lasts I hope to make the most of it.

Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

A-Force #2 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson with Art by Jorge Molina and Laura Martin 

Published February 2016

A-Force 002 aSynopsis – Singularity is being pursued by an anti-matter giant and it can sure take a pounding, but perhaps a witch will help?

I will say this for the last time and then I will forget all about it. I HATE CONTRIVANCE. This entire book is based on a contrived team from Battleworld which didn’t fit there and is really straining my credulity to make it fit in the 616 universe. However, Kelly and Willow are doing an astonishing job to make me forget about it, and I mean astonishing. They managed to take a concept that I called back in August last year as impossible and turn it into something that is merely really really implausible.

So as promised it will never be mentioned again and that is definitely for the better; the reason being that this book is really entertaining. Some comics I will like almost in spite of what is going on because I support the characters so much, but other books really have to work for it. This is definitely one of the ‘working for it’ because if they picked 5 female characters from the Marvel universe that I was more ambivalent about, it would be quite a challenge. Of all the ones in this book it is pretty much only Carol that I have ever had any interest in; that said Medusa is growing on me when she is not acting like Queen-bitch, Nico has her moments and even She-Hulk has stepped up her game, so perhaps this series is arriving at exactly the right time.

This is still well in the ‘team building’ stages of this books development and while they can be quite fun, they can also be very tiresome if you are familiar with the characters already. However the writers skilfully sidestep that hurdle as well, making the plot dump elements into fun character moments, and I got to learn the Estonian word for ‘Heal’ as well, which was amusing.

Overall this is a much improved book from last issue and it is turning into a book I think I will really enjoy. The characters are coming together in a way I never thought they would and they have a villain who is actually worthy of their attention. To top it all off the art is simply beautiful and with me that could cover up a multitude of other sins.

Story – 7/10
Art – 9/10

 

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Hercules: Fall of An Avenger

Issue #1

Written by 

Published: 

Fall of an Avenger #1I have a confession to make: I really don’t like funeral issues in superhero comics. Back when you had guys like Captain Marvel or the Flash die, it was a big deal and warranted a special issue, but since the 1990s death has been way too common and resurrections far too cheap to create the feeling of emotional gravity to make such an issue work. So please keep this in mind as I critique Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1.

The issue is very much standard fare for a remembrance story, with a bunch of heroes gathering in Greece to tell tales of their experience with the Prince of Power. There’s a bit of a continuity gaffe as Amadeus criticizes Athena for smiling rather than crying when Hercules fell. This is way different from what we saw in The Incredible Hercules #141, where Athena wept openly despite being the real reason Herc bit the dust.

For a story that has a distinct lack of action, there are at least some fun moments to be had, such as the many lovers of Hercules (which apparently includes Northstar) remembering his…exploits. There’s also Thor remembering a drinking contest between Herc and the giants, which was equally fun. Bruce Banner, now depowered due to events over in The Incredible Hulk, is on hand not because he remembers Herc well (it was the Hulk who had most of their interactions) but to support Amadeus.

The art here is handled by Ariel Olivetti, whose style is something you either love or hate. I personally like it, but it is a break in style from the art on the previous series, so some people might not enjoy the more cartoonish look of the characters.

This series will get a second issue as Athena makes Amadeus the new head of the Olympus Group, which should be interesting. The virgin goddess has really gone all out to make sure Amadeus has all the tools he needs to become the new Prince of Power, but it’s only a matter of time before her treachery gets discovered.

For a change, the Agents of Atlas backup story is much more my speed, as Venus and Namora are tasked with consolidated Hercules’ assets and consoling his many lost loved ones. I think this is actually more powerful than the main story because instead of having a bunch of superheroes who can expect their buddy to come back any day now, we get the views of normal people who have lost Hercules for good. We also get to see Venus handle the fact that instead of just being the bringer of sweet emotions, she now has to handle all the aspects of love, including the sadness that comes from the loss of a loved one.

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1 is standard fare for funeral issues, but it only really works if we as readers suspend our disbelief enough to buy into the notion that he’s really gone and not coming back (which we know to be false). The backup story has some good emotional weight to it, and the main tale has at least a bit of humor. Amadeus becoming Herc’s replacement should be interesting, so the story is at least going somewhere. I just hope it gets there before Herc’s inevitable resurrection.

Uncanny Avengers #5 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Gerry Duggan with Art by Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo, Dave Meikis and Ricard Isanove

Published February 2016

Uncanny Avengers 005 aSynopsis – The Bagalia Job

Cable is stuck in the past, Deadpool is being an idiot and now we have a Cajun to deal with.

During one of last weeks reviews I said that I pick a couple of books every day; one I think I will like and one I think I will dislike, to try and spread the good and bad books throughout the week. Well the only exception to that is on New Comic Book Day where I treat myself to two books I think I will really like.

Well, I was right with Vision #4, but I really pulled a stinker for this one. My ‘love affair’ with Uncanny Avengers has always blown a bit hot and cold, some volumes I love, others I hate and some some are utter travesties against humanity like the last series was. However the first four books were fun, why would this be any different?

Well, it is different and not in a good way. Gerry, what have you done, you have broken your streak for fantastic issues in both this and Deadpool, perhaps too many good ideas already used up and spread too thin over too many series? Despite my misgivings, this issue still gave me a few really solid laughs, all at the expense of Deadpool, but other than that, the rest of the issue is really rather a dull affair.

It tries hard, but the conversation with Cable being stuck in this time reminded me of a bad episode of Star Trek the Next Generation going on about Tachyons. The big reveal at the end of the book both spoiled what could have been an amusing moment with Gambit and also introduced a massive plot hole in an attempt to ‘style it out.’ If you know you have a plot hole then really you have two choices, either flag it up and try to explain it away, or never mention it in the hope that people don’t notice. For me, this was the worst attempt to explain something away because it just turned the villain into more of a pantomime than he is normally.

This might be a good book again next issue and it I really hope it is, however it will take a lot of work to dig this series out of this hole it is in. However if there is a man currently in comics that I would trust to do it, then Gerry Duggan is definitely it.

Story – 6/10
Art – 4/10

Vision #4 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Tom King with Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire

Published February 2016

Vision 004 aSynopsis – Balls in the Air

All he wanted was a normal family life, but the problem with synthetic people is it always takes them a long time to understand humanity and that is probably more time than they have.

This book gets better and better and I thought that wasn’t possible. I want to talk about all the existential concepts that this book brings up, but I am worried you guys will simply give me a weird look.

Yes, that look.

When I read this series, and I don’t know if this is intentional, I am reminded about classic science fiction; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ghost in the Shell, I-Robot and Bicentennial Man; basically every decent book or film ever made about the emergence of sentience within a robotic body. However it is clever enough to go both deeper than any of those and still maintain a semblance of story and plot that makes it more than a treatise on the subject. In much the same way as really good children’s films appeal to their level of enjoyment, but still provide laughs for the adults, this book makes us think as well as entertain us.

There are some repeated themes in this book that also make me think of ghosts. The main characters ability to become insubstantial is used over and over again. They do not bother to use doors, they simply walk through them, when the kids play in the garden they never make contact with each other because they stay intangible. I have a feeling that this will be used as a metaphor for the family drifting apart like smoke on the wind.

I do apologise if this has gotten rather poetic, I very rarely think this deeply about any form of media, let alone comics. However it shows just how much this series has connected with me that I am unable to merely look on this as cheap entertainment, it is something far more exciting. This is without doubt the best Marvel comic in print at the moment, but is isn’t the prettiest or neatest. Walta did the art on Magneto last year and that book was similar, if not as impressive as this. The art is imprecise and nondescript, however it is so fitting and captures the characters so wonderfully that I might have to revisit my concept of ‘good art’.

Story – 10/10
Art – 8/10

Carnage #4 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Gerry Conway with Art by Mike D. Perkins and Andy Troy

Published January 2016

Carnage 4Synopsis – Eddie Brock is still on a leash, his symbote, Toxin, has been dampened by a trigger he can’t release. But it looks like his time has come because they have no other choice.

Before I start on the book itself, that cover is an absolute masterpiece. Sometimes an artist just nails it and here we have perfection on a page. Thank you Mr Del Mundo for making what is for me an absolutely iconic Carnage picture.

I have managed to get accidentally lucky twice this week with picking which books to go with which other books. It was entirely co-incidental because I pretty much pick at random a book I know I will like and one I am less keen on for each day’s reviews. It does not always work out like that, sometimes I am let down by a favourite or surprised by an outlier, but this week I managed to find two pairs that worked off each other so well. I think next time I will claim it was my plan all along.

This book works so well when compared to Howling Commandos #4 because as it turns out both of them are proper monster books in the old 1970’s horror comic genre. However where that feels weirdly comic, unconnected and frankly really dull this is dark, enticing and all too human despite its otherworldly subjects.

I have never been particularly fond of Carnage as a protagonist, or even as a central antagonist in his own title because he is simply unpleasant. He takes all the bad parts of Deadpool’s humour and turns them into nastiness and it never makes for pleasant reading (or viewing). However here he is used sparingly* much like the original Alien in her titular film. It is the threat of Carnage that comes through for most of the book and then the threat of what Toxin might become if he is unleashed.

This series just works for me. I can feel the claustrophobia of the artwork and I am not even scared of tight places. I can practically smell their fear leaping off the digital page and when they throw in a Cthulhu inspired demon god, well I have died and gone to nerd heaven.

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

*Ok if you have read the book insert the word ‘was’ into that sentance for obvious reasons.

 

Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Frank Barbiere with Art by Brent Schoonover and Nick Filardi

Published January 2016

Howling 4Synopsis – Dum Dum is dying time and time again, using his LMD body as a shield for his team, but die as he might, he always comes back for more.

I put this issue off all the way until the end of the week and actually that was a mistake. Every time there are new books out I always mentally divide them into two piles, the ones I really want to read and the ones I really don’t. Often there are a few books that slip between the piles and they can be the hardest of all.

I didn’t mind this series during Secret Wars and I don’t ‘mind’ it now, but that doesn’t stop it from being incessantly dull. Now I hate Squirrel Girl and that review took me about 3 minutes to write and I could have carried on for another 30 minutes without looking up once from the screen. On the other side there are books like Doctor Strange and Thor which I can equally rabbit on about for ages because of how much I appreciate the story or the art. However the only words I want to keep writing hundreds of times over and over again about this book are bland, predictable and ‘meh.’ Give me hate any day, its the opposite of love, but boredom I cannot stand.

I am being a bit harsh I know and the score below will reflect the fact that I really didn’t mind this issue, but as I said, that’s almost worse. There are no ‘characters’ I want to get invested in and that for me is the books biggest problem. None of the ‘heroes’ are identifiable with and I really mean that in the broadest sense. There are books written about alien beings who draw strength from the suns rays and can leap higher than the tallest building, but they still manage to ‘humanise’ the character so I can believe in him. That just does not happen with any of the characters in this book.

Overall if you like the ‘monsters’ in Marvels back catalogue, then you might just appreciate this book. If you were turned off by the 1970’s horror comics, then you probably want to give it a miss, I hear they are beating up a Sphinx in the next issue so it’s unlikely to get much better.

Story – 6/10
Art – 6/10

 

Venom Space Knight #3 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Robbie Thompson with Art by Ariel Olivetti

Published January 2016

Venom 3Synopsis – Hearing voices in your head is not enough, now Flash has to travel across the galaxy saving people just to get them to stop.

Interestingly, this issue contains almost no Venom at all, save for the great joke on the last page, it is actually all about the Flash. No, not THAT Flash, but Marvel’s Flash Thompson, the unfortunate inhabitant of the Venom suit. Newly cleansed of evil thoughts it is now helping him to save the galaxy one voice-in-the-head at a time.

For people who are avid watchers of Futurama, all this issue reminds me of is ‘Snu Snu’. If you haven’t seen it, well you are missing out. Basically the planet he goes down to save is full of giant women with snakes on their heads fighting magma monsters. By the end of the book he is invited to join her harem, the comparison amused me.

I remember the art in the previous issue utterly blowing me away, and while it was good here, it just didn’t grab me in the same way. I think its because he was out of the Venom suit and that means that the front cover is far and away the best bit of art in the book.*

I do fear that this book runs the risk of being the ‘monster of the week’ title. Every issue Venom is sent to another planet to deal with another ‘done in one’ situation and this can leave the book rather vulnerable to its sales dropping off. When you have ongoing titles with long arcs, it keeps people buying the comic to find out what happens at the end of the story. Here you could pretty much pick it up at will and not really miss anything. There does appear to be a ongoing plot behind all his different missions, but not enough is made of it to keep me buying the book just for that hint.

The art is still really good and the writing is fun, witty and sharp, I really hope they give us a decent ongoing story to get involved with, but even if they don’t I would still buy it.

Story – 8/10
Art – 9/10

* Which I know isn’t actually in the book, nor is that surprising because the cover art is often exceptional. However in this instance, the art quality on the cover is identical to inside, it just so happens to be really fun.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Issue #4

Written by Ryan North with Art by Erica Henderson and Rio Renzi

Published January 2016

squirrel Girl 4Synopsis – Doctor Doom has messed with the time stream and now in the 1960’s Squirrel Girl has to stop him and prevent the Doom-Wall of Doomsville from becoming a real place.

How do I say I hate everything about this comic down to its very core and still stay positive and polite? For me there are no positives about this book other than it ended and even that took too long. I really do not know where to start.

This book gets rave reviews because it does something a bit different with a character who is not a traditional Barbie-esque shaped bombshell. I cannot repeat this enough – just being different does not make something good! Daredevil is doing something ‘different’ and it’s fantastic. The last volume of Moon Knight did something new and different in every single issue and it was utterly amazing. This however is awful for me.

It really makes me angry when books like this get such stunning reviews and I don’t know what I am more angry about. Its either that I am angry because people are such mugs and will write nice things about books because they ‘feel’ that they should and they like to follow the crowd. Or I am really annoyed because they see something that I don’t and I hate missing out on something really good.

The time travel aspect of this book is more than annoying because I hate it at the best of times, but when it involves a genius like Doom, the fact that he gets out thought by an college student with a huge tail and big incisors is just stupid. The next part that frustrates me more than I can express is the ridiculous lines of text written below each comic page as the writer makes jokes to the audience.* If it’s that funny, then work it into the comic, don’t throw it away and hide it at the bottom.

My final issue, and it has been my biggest issue with this character from the start, is that if you buy into this book, then it completely destroys all the other Marvel comics. When a joke character like this treats the scariest villains as chumps, it makes every other book look like they aren’t trying. If you are building a shared universe there is no place for a book like this. I would have a completely different opinion about this book if it was written for another universe or in an alternate reality, but while it is in the Marvel Universe proper, I will hate it with every fibre of my being.

Story – 0/10
Art – 4/10

* Ok, I know I am not one to talk, but at least when I do it like this, it is in a font you can read without a magnifying glass. Wow, I am getting old, I sound like my Dad…

 

Angela Queen Of Hel #4 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Angela Queen Of Hel

Issue #4

Written by Marguerite Bennett with Art by Stephanie Hans, Kim Jacinto and Izrael Silva

Published January 2016

Angella 4Synopsis – Part Four: The Greatest Pain

The angels of Hel have risen and declared Angela their Queen. The only problem is that Hela stands before her and the throne.

This book reminds me of one of my favourite series of all time – Lady Death: The Reckoning. I know many people have a low opinion of Lady Death, the bikini clad, bone white skinned bombshell that took the 90’s comic market by storm, however beneath the slightly sexist exterior was a really good story. A story of loss, love and betrayal and the conquest of Hell in an effort to save one that she loved.

It is exactly the same here, but with different characters. Angela replaces Hope, Sera her mother and Hela replaces Lucifer. Having to survive the tests of Hel in order to become its queen and finally save her love from its prison. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not in anyway accusing this book of plagiarising the former, if anything both of them are guilty of that sin. This owes a lot to mythology, both Norse and Greek and on into the middle ages and Dante’s Inferno. I absolutely love this sort of story, I am a massive sucker for myth and this really nails it.

That is not to say that this book is without fault, far from it. The back and forth cutting between history and present is really badly done, leaving the reader confused as to where they are in the story. Angela loses an arm at one point and I am still really unclear if that was history, a dream or even the future. That said, it is not enough to spoil what is in fact a fantastic comic. The art is utterly beautiful and for the first time the cuts between the artists feel natural and right with the story. That had been completely absent from the previous issues where it always felt forced and spoilt the natural flow of the book.

Overall I’m a massive convert to this series. Previously I had been very much sitting on the fence, but now I am with it for the long haul. I hope that Angela establishes herself as part of the Asgardian pantheon because I would love this sort of story to become part of the ongoing Marvel Universe and not fall by the wayside because of lower than expected sales. I never expected this import from the Spawn universe to survive and thrive, but if Angela continues like this, I will be extremely happy.

Story – 7/10
Art – 9/10