Daredevil #3 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Daredevil

Issue #3

Written by Charles Soule with Art by Ron Garney and Matt Milla

Published January 2016

Daredevil 3Synopsis – Ten Fingers is proving to be more than The Hand can cope with. Well that’s unsurprising, they are out numbered ten fingers to four…

Sorry, that was an appalling joke, but sometimes I just can’t resist them. This is actually a really interesting book and I try not to say that too often. For me comics seem to come in certain formats; joke/humour comics like Deadpool; beat the heck out of everything moving like Hulk; huge intergalactic team-up to fight cosmic beings like the Avengers; but rarely do I come across a comic like this.

Actually that’s not entirely true, I come across them all the time but never written by Marvel. Image seems to have the monopoly on ‘clever’ ‘different’ and ‘interesting’ and when Marvel tries to do it we end up with inexplicable monstrosities like last years Winter Solider or the current Devil Dinosaur title.

This is interesting because it takes what can be a very generic comic and very overused character in a ridiculously clichéd story and makes it feel new, fresh and exciting. I have to give a gigantic amount of the credit to the art team, not just the penciller because the colour is what really brings this to life. This book feels almost monochromatic with red replacing black as the dark colour; however that is not the case, there are blues and greens here, but when they are used they all have significance. I have in the past decried the excessive use of ‘mood’ colouring as done by Frankavilla and this almost falls into that same category, however the colouring is consistent and that makes all the difference.

It is very hard to put into words feelings about art, obviously it is all very subjective, but it is also an exclusively visual medium. So the best I can do is point upwards to the cover art and say ‘if you like the look of that, you will love the internals.’ I am much more excited about this series than I ever was about the really self-referential Mark Waid series that lead into Secret Wars. I had just about enough of the Purple Man and those annoying little children, what I want now is Daredevil Punching stuff in the face, and that is exactly what I got.

Ironically, this review will come out just after my Devil Dinosaur one and it was perfect accidental timing. That book contains a lot of non-verbal grunting and fighting and for me it completely failed to get any tension, plot or excitement over to the reader. This book does exactly the same thing for the first half of the comic, but it is dark, visceral and immersive and that is why it works so well. Either that or I am just getting old and cannot empathise with the young school-child protagonist, but manage quite nicely with the 30-something guy with a job to hold down.

Story – 9/10
Art – 10/10

 

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #3 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur

Issue #3

Written by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder Hadley with Art by Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain

Published January 2016

Devil 3Synopsis – BFF Part 3: “Out of the Frying Pan…”

Chased by a dinosaur or attacked by the Killer Folk, the day cannot get much worse for Moon Girl.

My wife cannot sew. Trust me this has relevance, I haven’t gone completely mad. About a month ago she asked me to fix her blue top that she had torn down the seam and it has been sitting on my desk ever since. Now I have thought about it most days and procrastinated again and again even as it sat there staring at me, however after ‘reading’ 10 pages of this comic, I got the irresistible urge to fix it for her. So this book has done something for me, my wife now owes me a favour, but in terms of getting anything out of the book itself, I would prefer to watch paint dry.

For me this book falls into the same trap as Godzilla and I am not certain there is anything a writer can do about it. There is only so much that a non-talking giant monster can actually do in a book and even then we have seen it all before. It reminds me of my younger days when played D&D. The characters would always buy horses and ride off on their adventure, when they arrived at the dungeon they tied the horses up outside and prayed they would still be there when they got back.* In the same way a 60′ tall T-Rex gets left simply standing outside the building whenever she goes inside, or they just happen to be inside a construction site that has ample head room.

Over half this book is filled with sound effects and the other half is thought boxes, both of which set my teeth on edge. It’s a shame because the series in Secret Wars that had Captain America teaming up with Devil Dinosaur was one of the few highlights of the event, but that entire world was built for monstrous creatures, they just do not work in a modern city.

For me, this book looks ridiculous (although the actual art is pretty decent) the ‘story’ reads as a series of grunts combined with the inner thoughts of a really annoying child and I am clearly not the target audience. Then again I am not entirely certain who the target audience could actually be.

Story – 3/10
Art – 7/10

* Which of course as any good Dungeon Master will tell you, never happens meaning that all the treasure the party were dragging behind them got left behind as they could not carry it…

Devolution #1 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Devolution

Issue #1

Written by Rick Remender with Art by Jonathan Wayshak and Jordan Boyd

Published January 2016

Devolution 1Synopsis – The world is a really ****ed up place*. We brought in on ourselves and in the age after a biological war only the devolved and strong have survived.

Before I start, I have to say that I picked this book pretty much at random because the cover ‘spoke to me.’ I have to say when I was typing the information up for this review, I got quite a shock when I saw the writer. I have to admit that Remender is definitely not on my Christmas card list for some of the travesties he inflicted on the Marvel universe in recent years. However to be fair, I think that was more Marvel’s fault not so much his.

Rick has a way of ‘breaking’ most of the ‘toys’ he plays with. His comics are destructive stories that have a habit of killing characters and breaking down the rest of them. The problem with this ethos and an ongoing universe is that very quickly this means you run out of characters, or you have to undo everything you have done by the end of the series. That meant that a lot of his comic runs produced very circular stories where people died and then came back, the earth was destroyed at least once and then came back, people lost limbs and then got them back. However when he was left with a small group of characters who he could beat and batter to his hearts content without breaking the rest of the universe, we got Uncanny X-Force; and what a book that was.

So, when left to develop his own universe in this comic, what is the first thing he does? Well, destroy the world and kill most of humanity for starters. Everything that constrained him working for Marvel is now unleashed and he is free to let his imagination run wild and the result is beautiful. Well, hideous, smelly, unwashed, desolate and brutal, but beautiful none the less.

I am not familiar with Wayshak’s art, but if this book is anything to go by, it has been my loss. It is really hard to describe, but the best I can come up with is that he manages to draw every grain of dirt, but still make the art attractive. Some people go for a grungy look which just makes the page look messy and ill-defined, by his art is crisp, stylish and has real character where often comics can feel formulaic.

I am hooked. I never though I would ever say that again about a series written by Remender, however I was always confident that left to his own devices, there was still a fantastic writer underneath. Most writers seem to flourish when given their shot at redefining classic characters, but Remender is definitely one for world building, so long as that world can be broken, decimated and abused by the end of issue #1.

Story – 10/10
Art – 9/10

* PS – not suitable for younger readers, this comic contains profuse profanity and nudity.

 

All-New Inhumans #3 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

All-New Inhumans

Issue #3

Written by Charles Soule and James Asmus with Art by Stefano Caselli and Andres Mossa

Published January 2016

Inhumans 3Synopsis – Nightmares should not be shared with an entire species and when they are, it can only mean trouble.

Am I the only one who feels rather uncomfortable with this book? Sure they call them the ‘Sin-Cong’ be we all know it is supposed to be the North Koreans? I realise at first they were sort of analogous with the Vietnamese because of the war that was being fought in the 60s, but not so much any more. I think I found it slightly less offensive when they put Russians in the comic because they did tend to show a little restraint because they were real, but these Sin-Cong are just horrible parodies.

That issue aside, I really like this series. It is a shame that its sales are crashing faster than you can say ‘the-inhumans-will-never-replace-the-x-men’ but in some ways that is to be expected given the number of Inhuman titles that they are trying to push on buyers now. There are two really fantastic story arcs going on right now and it is hard to choose between them, but I am a sucker for ‘new teams’ and this one definitely fits the bill.

There is actually a really decent mystery going on here and that is quite rare in comics. Often they are about as complicated and deep as one of Baldrick’s plans* being spoiled frequently as soon as the front cover. This however is really interesting, I want to know why Sin-Cong has no Inhumans; are they killing them all? experimenting on them? or something more sinister?

This series has truly outstanding art, except for the odd panel where Crystal inexplicably has no hips at all. For me this book is worth picking up for the art alone, but the story should win over anyone else who picks the book up. It is just a real shame  that the Inhumans have no deep fanbase that will buy these books and I worry that it is going to take a long and concerted effort for Marvel to gradually build one. In the day of corporate comic companies, I wonder if they will be given that time?

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* If you have never seen the TV series Blackadder, then you won’t get that reference, but look out for it, you will find it to be one of the finest comedy series that the BBC has to offer.

Spider-Woman #3 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Spider-Woman

Issue #3

Written by Dennis Hopeless with Art by Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez and Rachelle Rosenberg

Published January 2016

Spider 3Synopsis – Alien hospital invaded by Skrulls. Check. Head in a jar scientist and young Royal Skrull in danger. Check. Heavily pregnant superhero has to save the day. Check. Stress + overexertion + full term pregnancy = …

I am a big fan of ‘Farce’. They were really good at it during the 1960s with films like Some like it Hot, Boeing Boeing and every Carry on film not called ‘Emmanuel’, but in recent years no one seems to get it right. There has to be a balance between the ridiculous and the mundane and no one can ever seem to find it, until now that is. Dennis has managed to make this book build from one level of ridiculous, back to sanity, up another level and back, before finally letting it all rip with the obvious conclusion to this comic.

In fact it is not fair to give all the credit to Hopeless as Rodriguez needs some serious praise for his absolutely insane full page art. The first time I turned to a random full page spread of Jess swimming through tanks of bizarre aliens, I felt rather ‘cheated’. Some comics use those pages to simply skip out bothering to write the script, but the more of them I came across, the more I appreciated them. In fact there is ample script squeezed into the comic and these ‘montage’ pages are both hilarious and really mind bending and show what you can do if you let a really good artist explore his medium freely.

For me this comic will live or die based on what happens after the baby makes its appearance. I personally see it going one of three ways. The baby could be captured and then she has to chase after it; the baby could end up carried around with her all the time much like the Wolf and Cub manga; or finally the baby could end up in permanent daycare as she returns to superheroing full time. It is unlikely that she will back off in the way the Jessica Jones has done because she has this comic series and they are not going to cancel it after 3 issues, so I can’t wait to see what they do with them.

This is a wonderful issue with witty scripts, clever artwork and intriguing possibilities. It is the sort of set up that really can only get better and with this creative team I have high expectations.

Story – 8/10
Art – 9/10

All-New All-Different Avengers #4 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

All-New All-Different Avengers

Issue #4

Written by Mark Waid with Art by Mahmud Asrar and Dave McCaig

Published January 2016

Avengers 4Synopsis – The Avengers are rather short on cash and one quinjet and an abandoned Airbase does not make a happy team. What they are clearly missing is Jarvis…

Before I start on the actual comic; that cover is about the most stupid thing I have ever seen. Or at least once someone pointed out the major issue, it becomes very silly. Thor cannot ‘fly’ as such, rather she is dragged by the hammer which she effectively uses to throw herself into the air. Sam also cannot hover and really the way he is shown is more gliding than flying. Therefore what we are seeing on the cover is in fact the most hideous accident just before it gets very messy as her hammer yanks her off page to the right ripping his face off and breaking his neck.

Perhaps I am reading into the comic’s cover a bit much, but it was clearly designed for shock effect and it worked. I’ll be honest and say it utterly caught me out, but I doubt many people will be entirely surprised to know that the reality in the issue is far less passionate than the one depicted on the cover.

In fact that is a pretty good analogy for the entire series; it is the Avengers ‘lite’ with no passion or excitement. They even call it in the book itself as a couple of jerks who are saved say that they have been rescued by the ‘understudy Avengers.’ I know that the writers are trying to take a pop at people who are saying similar things about the characters in real life, but it really rather backfires from my perspective. These aren’t the Understudy Avengers, they have been the ‘real’ Avengers for the last 8-10 months of Marvel time. Add that to the fact that the team contains Iron Man and the Vision, both extremely long standing members of the team, not to mention Spider-Man could have just changed his costume, you then realise quite how ‘meta’ their comment is. You only think about these people as ‘substitutes’ if you know who they actually are behind the costumes, to people in the 616 universe, they are as real as 95% of the previous Avengers have ever been.

For me this is a book built on very shaky foundations that seems to try and play down the team as if they are newly formed, whereas they have been around for months, both in comic and in the real world. They are fighting B-list villains who frankly could be dealt with by any one of them, let alone the entire team. Overall this is far less of the ‘understudy’ Avengers, and far more the ‘underwhelming’ Avengers.

Story – 5/10
Art – 8/10

Old Man Logan #1 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Old Man Logan

Issue #1

Written by Jeff Lemire with Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo

Published January 2016

Logan 1Synopsis – Berserker:

Wolverine is back. No wait, Old Wolverine is back, today, but its his past and… just read it, its got Wolverine in and its worth it…

Joking aside, this is probably the second best Wolverine book out in the last 5 years. I say second best because the ‘Death of Wolverine’ was a fantastic series with astonishing art and ended with his dramatic and glorious death and just tops this.

Well, he’s back, but older. Hang on, doesn’t that mean that at some point the younger Wolverine has to come back otherwise the old Wolverine won’t be here? Don’t worry, this book does not bother with complicated time-stream bending concerns. No, Old Man Logan is after one thing and one thing alone. Revenge.

Sorry, we should make that ‘Pre-venge’ because he is going after all the people who wronged him, but before they actually did anything. When you read through this you get a strange sensation that this is another version of Minority Report, but with an old Hugh Jackman replacing Tom Cruise.

I find it quite strange that this book is coming out now, it is the first in the series, but this character has been wandering around the Marvel universe proper for a few months now and we are finally getting to see where he came from. Well, that is not entirely true because they do a fair amount of ‘hand waving’ to get this character into the 616* universe via Battleworld, without Battleworld having actually existed. Blame Reed Richards, it’s clearly all his fault.

The art here is exactly what you expect from an Old Man Logan series. Pastel colours, brutal visuals and a feeling that if you spent all year cleaning the comic, it would still be dirty. I really works with this series, but in any other I probably would not appreciate the style. This is a very good example of a book that is perfectly reflected by its art, and the art by the story in a very immersive way. You think you can smell the city, feel the punches and practically taste the blood; its certainly not what I would call pleasant, but it is impressive.

Story – 8/10
Art – 9/10

* although according the Marvel there is no 616 anymore, it is just the ‘Marvel Universe.’ Who are they to tell me what to call it, its not like they own it or anything…

 

Extraordinary X-Men #6 Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Extraordinary X-Men

Issue #6

Written by Jeff Lemire with Art by Victor Ibanez and Jay David Ramos

Published January 2016

X-Men 6Synopsis – There is a mutant signal out in Weirdworld and the Limbo-inhabiting X-Men are out to save them.

Where to start with this issue? Well, there are a few massive bombshells here and some I will discuss and one I don’t really want to touch with a barge pole.

The one I don’t want to touch, but really I feel I have to is Bobby coming out. I think this was handled horribly and utterly diminishes the character. Please understand, I have absolutely no issues with gay X-Men*. I read through Northstar’s marriage in Astonishing X-Men and I thought it was wonderfully done (actually far more tasteful than the other wedding issues the X-Men have had). The reason why it diminishes the character here is because it acts as a gigantic retcon for previous issues. Bobby has clearly been in love and utterly infatuated with women in the past, but now all that is written off as ‘trying to fit in.’ It just makes me rather sad that in this age of equality we have to re-write history simply to fill a quota. Wouldn’t it be better to introduce a new positive character who just happens to be gay and give them a starring role in a big name title like this?

With the ‘elephant in the room’ firmly out of the way, on to the actual issue. I hate how it is structured; the jumping back and forth through time, be it only a few hours, just makes reading this book horribly stilted. If you re-ordered the book then actually its perfectly fine and he final page reveal could be really interesting. I get the impression that this is one of the few books that is dealing with the 8 month time gap after Secret Wars. Its one thing to have a gap and its a completely different to never address it and thankfully some books are bothering to do so.

Overall this is still Marvels flagship X-Men title, continuing the tradition of the ‘school’ book, even if this school is more of a prison stuck in Limbo than the leafy estate that Xavier used to keep. Personally, I think I prefer Uncanny, but this series has a lot of potential as well, however after 6 issues I think we should have more of an idea where this is going by now.

Story – 7/10
Art – 7/10

* and if I did I would have completely missed the entire point of the X-Men as their ‘mutant rights’ movement is analogous to both Black and Gay Rights in the real world.

Planet Hulk #2 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Planet Hulk

Issue #2

Written by Greg Pak and Sam Humphries with Art by Takeshi Miyazawa, Leonard Kirk, Rachelle Rosenberg and Jordan Boyd

Published: June 2015

Planet Hulk #2Planet Hulk #2 helps to ground us in Steve Rogers’ new reality since Doom reshaped the universe. We find that Steve was friends with Bucky but was not the first and only super soldier, instead joining a pre-established program at Bucky’s request.

Steve met Doc Green last issue, and we find out now that he’s got the same general personality as the Hulk we last saw in the Marvel Universe, albeit without the tendency to spout pop culture references. He seems benevolent enough, but also spends time tormenting a gammafied creature as part of what I assume to be a science experiment, much to Steve’s consternation.

The issue doesn’t explore the relationship between Steve and Devil Dinosaur, which I find to be quite a shame. I’d really like to know how the two got together as a team and why the dinosaur is so fiercely loyal to Steve.

Aside from some character interaction early on in the story, including some philosophizing from Doc Green about Doom’s origins, this issue spends a lot of time introducing us to the monsters of the Green. They are admittedly not terribly inspired, as they mostly seem to be normal animals pumped up on gamma radiation. On the other hand, their existence does mean that Doc Green and Steve get to outrun gamma bulls, so I kind of feel that the issue is worth it just for that bizarre image.

The issue does a good job of setting up the Green as a place that Steve wouldn’t be able to survive on his own, making it quite apparent that Doom sent him on a suicide mission. Whether he recognizes it or not, Steve states that he plans to eventually bring the fight to Doom. This would be a fun thing to see happen, but we again run into the problem that event comics face in that we know nothing earth-shattering is actually going to happen in a tie-in.

While Planet Hulk #2 does a decent job of setting the mood and putting Steve to his mission in earnest, the book feels very light in terms of content. This is partly because there are a lot of panels with no dialogue in them. While action-packed art can work just as well as dialogue in some cases, this doesn’t seem to be the case here. Panels of Steve and Doc Green running through a jungle or jumping over an obstacle don’t seem to have much oomph narratively, which makes the whole thing a very short read.

All told, Planet Hulk #2 could have stood to include more substance. On the other hand, if you enjoy seeing gamma monsters (including a doozy of a beast at the end of this issue) and plenty of Devil Dinosaur, this is an issue worth checking out.

Planet Hulk #1 Review

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by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Planet Hulk

Issue #1

Written by Greg Pak and Sam Humphries with Art by Takeshi Miyazawa, Leonard Kirk, Rachelle Rosenberg and Jordan Boyd

Published: May 2015

Planet Hulk #1Marvel’s Secret Wars event treads some dangerous ground because it directly invokes some of the biggest and most classic runs in the company’s history. That means the people following up on those runs had better do their best to live up to the classic stories. As a case in point, one of the mini-series associated with the event is Planet Hulk.

Planet Hulk is a modern classic that ran through 2006 and 2007, led into the World War Hulk event, and put writer Greg Pak on the map for a lot of people. The beginning was basically the Hulk tossed into the role of Maximus in Gladiator, but it dealt with a lot of aspects of the character and provided an experience that was unlike anything else the Hulk had been through.

Instead of Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan, this miniseries has Sam Humphries on writing duties and Marc Laming on art. And instead of the Hulk taking the lead role, we find Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, forced into gladiatorial battle alongside Devil Dinosaur. Make no mistake, though – the Hulk plays a role in this series, largely through the presence of a whole tribe of Hulk-like monsters that controls an area known as The Green.

The Gladiator vibe that kicked off the original Planet Hulk is definitely in full swing here, as we kick off with Steve Rogers winning a death match in an arena. The only thing that vaguely bugs me is that I miss the days when death wasn’t so common in superhero stories, and seeing Captain America killing people in an arena feels bleak to me on a meta level.

Steve is looking for Bucky, who has gone missing. His attempt to find him unfortunately winds up getting Doom angry, and thus he’s forced to go on a journey into the Green, “where all is gamma.” Once there, he runs afoul of some Hulks before making the acquaintance of a big green, highly intelligent Hulk. While this issue isn’t explicit about it, it seems highly likely that this is “Doc Green,” the original Hulk who theoretically died with the destruction of the multiverse at the start of this event.

The setup for this issue is pretty solid, with a quick introduction to the world and Steve’s situation without a lot of clunky dialogue or exposition needed to get us acclimated. By having Steve desperately searching for Bucky, whom we know of as somebody dear to Cap’s heart, the story doesn’t fall into the common trap of telling us how much an off-screen character means without actually showing us.

The art is likewise very solid. It doesn’t match the beauty of Pagulayan’s original arc, but it does the job well and gives us a gritty world where daily survival seems more of a challenge than a guarantee.

I’m not going to lie, though – for me, the real charm of this tale is Steve Rogers riding Devil Dinosaur through a world of Hulks. Planet Hulk drew a lot of inspiration from Robert E. Howard-style pulp fantasy tales, and this series looks like it will do the same.

The backup story in this issue is a bit weaker, despite being written by the original Planet Hulk scribe Greg Pak. This one is a different reality where Bruce Banner and Amadeus Cho seem to be using gamma technology to make the world a better place. They wind up having to stop some gamma missiles here, and things go awry near the end of the issue. This is a zany and fun adventure, but it seems to be another platform for Pak to show off Amadeus Cho more than anything else.

With the pacing of modern comics, it’s tough to know whether a series will turn out solid after a single issue. Still, Planet Hulk #1 definitely leaves me with a good feeling.