4001 A.D. – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Matt Kindt with Art by Clayton Crain and David Mack

Published October 25, 2016

4001adSynopsis – in AD4001 New Japan is a floating city-state around Earth; its creator and controller ‘Father’ has banished his son Rai for rising against him. The young girl Lula infected the city with a virus meant for ‘Father’ but in order to counter it he has been jettisoning parts of the floating city to crash to earth. Can this son or Lula prevent the total destruction of the city, or will ‘Father’ rid his domain of the virus created to stop him?

Sometimes I am not sure what is worse; terrible plot dumps in-character, or a 3 page plot dump out of character. In some ways I completely understand why they need to do this, this comic is set almost 2000 years into the future so it is hard to give the reader a frame of context for what the book is about, but it almost tells me before I start reading that ‘this book is over complicated.’

Actually, I know exactly what is worse than 3 pages of out of character plot dump – 3 pages of out of character plot dump, followed by 8 pages of in character plot dump explaining exactly the same thing again. How stupid do the writers think we are exactly? The irony is that this book really is not that complicated at all and not in need of this much narration. Irrelevant of how good the book is, if you have completely annoyed your readers by the end of page 11, you have a massive hill to climb just to get level again.

And does it climb that hill! This book is stunning to look at; every page is a cinematic experience, from the futuristic cities, to the starscapes, the ruined temples to the glorious battle scenes. This is a fabulous Sci-Fi film waiting to be made and actually, that annoys me slightly as well.

As it escapes from its frankly pedestrian start, into an exciting middle, the feeling I start to get is that this is trying too hard to be a storyboard for a film, rather than a comic in its own right. I quite understand why creators would want to do that, clearly the money is all to be had in the films, with their tie in merchandising and potential sequels. But when you layout a comic in that fashion events move too fast. It only takes 2 pages to jump from the heroes leaving their abandonment on earth, to fighting their way back into the city in space, including a full on dialogue with the bad guy. To say that this comic ‘moves quickly’ is an understatement akin to saying that The Flash is faster than a snail.

Despite all of this, what I come back to is the fact that this book is gorgeous. The backgrounds are incredible, so much time has been put into every panel and there are no single-colour-background ‘cheating’ panels. Even when it pulls in for a close up, you still get everything behind the person fully drawn, rendered and slightly out of focus, just like if it were real. It adds a huge amount of depth to an otherwise shallow book. I say shallow in the kindest sense; there is clearly an attempt to create a great amount of background for the story, but if you scratch away at it, then it falls apart. There are too many clichés here – the big dumb loyal brute called Lemur who talks like he’s been hit on the head a few too many times and ultimately is there purely as a sacrificial plot device; the evil mad villain, drunk on power and willing to sacrifice millions to suit his end goal; the noble hero made to choose between his family and what is right. I feel I have seen all of this before, but perhaps that is because I am getting old and cynical.

Bizarrely the books stunning visuals are let down by the final chapter. There are still glimpses of the previous immaculate style, but entire pages are far rougher, as if someone else was drawing them; or the artist simply ran out of time. At the same time as being worse in places, it is also the most spectacular issue, with the dramatic climax and an extended epilogue showing the fall out of the events of the comic. The detail in those cityscapes are simply breath taking, but the characters become mere shells of how well drawn they were before. For a book that, for me, has won me over by its visuals, to have them decline so dramatically at the end is more than a letdown, it pretty much killed the comic for me.

Over all this is a decent, if stilted read. The art, for the most part, is about as stunning as you will find in a comic printed anywhere this decade; the plot is fair to good, but clichéd; and the characters well defined, but shallow. If you like Mecha, sci-fi or gloriously rendered comics, this is a book for you. If you want deep and meaningful stories with character arcs and witty dialogue, you would be better off with a Garfield strip.


Invincible Iron Man #6 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Brian Michael Bendis with Art by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin

Published February 2016

Invincible Iron Man 006 aSynopsis – The War Machines

Doctor Doom is trying to be nice, but Tony is not buying it. Meanwhile Rhodey is off to Japan chasing after Madame Masque and some techno-ninjas.

This is a really packed book, I feel like I have read two comics going through it. We have the full on action comic with War Machine and some ridiculous hardware (seriously, where do those guns disappear to? Right now I think that Rhodey must have one heck a wedgy.) On the other side we have an almost spy-thriller aspect as Tony and his new ‘friend’ are stalked by Victor von Doom.

I really liked the first arc of this book, but I am not entirely convinced about this issue. To be fair it is an ‘in-between’ issue which is closing up some of the threads of the first arc and opening up the new ones, but even still, it is rather disappointing. The artist from the first arc was utterly amazing (David Marquez) and while I like Mike Deodato, by comparison he does not cut it. to be honest there are places in this book where Tony just does not look like Tony at all, if anything, he looks like Doctor Strange. I also find it very off putting that his new ‘lady friend’ appears to have been modelled on Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) when in the last issue she was definitely Indian*.

For me I think that most of my issues stem from the art, or more precisely, from how different the art was to the previous issue. I can forgive the slightly bizarre looking Tony Stark, it is his comic and everyone knows who he is supposed to be, but when you are introducing new characters (face-mask-less Doctor Doom and Doctor Amara Perera) you really need them to actually look like the character did the last time you saw them, otherwise you just assume it is someone else.

Unfortunately I think this issue is spoilt by some very unsubtle photo-tracing, but Bendis is still writing a good story. Perhaps this will improve in the coming issues, or maybe I need to wait for the artist to change before I can enjoy this book again without playing ‘spot the reference.’

Story – 8/10
Art – 5/10

* I always fall foul of international naming conversions, by ‘Indian’ I mean – coming from the Indian Sub-continent, not the Native American variety.


Nova #4 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Sean Ryan with Art by Cory Smith and David Curiel

Published February 2016

Nova 004 aSynopsis – The Nova/Miles/ Khan team up is in full swing beating up monsters, fighting with mole-persons and generally wrecking the underground.

There is nothing about this book that could ever top the cover. I don’t care if it was the greatest piece of writing ever, or a complete steaming pile of trash, the cover makes me love this book. If you are not familiar with it I will explain; it is a play on the cover of Fantastic Four #1, the start of the Silver age of Marvel comics, the issue that created everything we now think of as ‘Marvel.’

That cover has specific meaning for me, as well as in its own right. The site I write for is the Complete Marvel Reading Order, it’s there to help people read from start to finish the complete history of Marvel comics. Because this is the first issue in the line, it is an image I have seen 1000’s of times, every time I look at the order, it is the first picture I see. And this cover homages it perfectly.

So onto the issue at hand, the comic inside that modern classic cover; it’s ok. Bit of a let down with that sort of build up I will grant you. It starts off feeling like another Avengers team up, but you start to realise that the other two are merely window dressing. It quickly devolves into the standard Nova getting himself into trouble routine that this book has become, which is not intrinsically bad, but it is getting a bit repetitious. Nova gets into trouble, Nova is rescued/escapes, Nova goes home to learn he has screwed up his family again, Nova learns his lesson and comes back to fight the bad guy. Every arc of the book has followed that exact pattern.

I think my biggest issue is that this series, along with Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man an a whole host of recent series revolving around teenage heroes is that we are crying out for another Avengers Academy series. The X-Men books have had so much success with ‘school’ books where the young mutants can raise havoc without being constantly required to worry about their home life. Of course some of that is entertaining and some young mutants have been left to fend for themselves, but when it happens in every single ‘young’ Avengers series, it gets a bit tiresome.

Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10 (cover gets 10/10)


Uncanny X-Men #3 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published February 2016

Uncanny X-Men 003 aSynopsis – In their quest to save the mutant healers from the ravages of ‘The Riders’ Magneto has to get his hands dirty.

I am starting to really like this series and that is surprising because I was quite on the fence at first. They have an interesting team that has been pulled together by circumstance rather than by any innate connection between them and that leads to all manner of conflicts.

This is actually quite a dream team up, both in the comic and in the real world. Cullen Bunn is on the cusp of becoming one of Marvels mainstay writers and having an X-team in his hands is a really exciting prospect. On the other hand Greg Land has a terrible reputation, however it has been completely unfounded so far in this series. Gone are the long lingering looks at full frontal female nudity* and in are wide thin panels that focus on the characters faces. However his reputation for ‘copying’ seems deminished in this series as the faces are all character appropriate and very consistent.

This is for me, a perfect anti-hero X-Men series; Magneto doing anything he can to get the job done, a tormented Creed trying to go straight and Psylocke acting as the conscience and heart of the team. Given Elizabeth’s ‘chequered’ past you can understand why having her as the teams conscience makes this quite an entertaining prospect.

What I really appreciate here is the ‘reality’ of what is going on, Magneto is not pulling his punches, he quite literally rips a man in half on panel in this issue. I like it when comics do that and we are not left with the bad guys licking their wounds and running away with the heroes shaking their fists at them as they go. This is the sort of effect that you would get if you put together an arch angel, psychic assassin, master of magnetism and a caged animal into one team; carnage, death and destruction.

This is definitely my favourite X-Men book in print at the moment, although given how few of them there are currently around, that is not as big a compliment as it used to be. I want more of the same and if the epilogue to this issue is followed up on, then it looks like things can only get better.

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* Obviously not actual nudity, but when they are in skin tight costumes, its merely the colouring that gives us the illusion of clothing…

Captain Marvel #2 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters with Art by Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson

Published February 2016

Captain Marvel 002 aSynopsis – Rise of the Alpha Flight Part Two

Boarding an alien vessel can be problematic, ask any Red-Shirt. But when your whole team is indispensable, it might be a risk too far.

I know I just made a Star Trek joke, but really, that is exactly what this series feels like. The whole space exploration thing has been done to death by something in the region of 750 episodes over 50 years and whenever I see it, that is all I can think about. This is not necessarily a negative comparison, just an unavoidable one.

To be honest, if I was looking at this as an episode of Star Trek, then I would be quite kind to it. The alien craft is mysterious; the action is frenetic and the dialogue is fun, all in, it would be a fantastic episode. However that does not make it a great issue of Captain Marvel. I get the impression that they do not know what to do with her; prior to Secret Wars she had had two series, both quite different and both with rave reviews from half the community and criticism from the other half. I thought the first arc of her first series was fantastic, the second half went down hill quite fast. The next volume of this title was utter garbage and this one is showing signs of improvement. The problem is, Marvel has no idea how to play her.

They have tried showing her softer side, they have tried her going solo and saving the galaxy and now they are trying to give her command (she is a Captain after all.) The problem is that all I get the impression is that Abigail Brand is both the one actually in charge and also the only logical choice to be in command. She has looked after S.W.O.R.D. for the last few years and seemed to do a darn good job, so why would this position not go to her.*

Overall, this is a mixed bag; there are parts of this I really like and parts that just don’t seem to fit. If this had been called ‘Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight’ then it would feel a lot more natural, but as it is the best parts come from the team and the focus on Carol feels forced, but perhaps it will grow on me in time.

Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10

* I know in the last issue they tried to explain it away, but it didn’t make sense.

Scarlet Witch #3 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by James Robinson with Art by Steve Dillon, Frank Martin and Chris Visions

Published February 2016

Scarlet Witch 003 aSynopsis – Ireland is dying possibly at the hands of the Emerald Warlock and the Scarlet Witch needs to put things right.

I am utterly devastated by what has happened to this series. We left last issue with the amazing styling of Marco Rudy whose usual hit and miss art was absolutely on full form and it is replaced by… Steve Dillion. I know the guy is a massive name in comics and his Preacher series is highly regarded, but honestly how does this man get work?

To call the characters in this series ‘wooden’ would be an affront to all arboreal lovers. There are close ups of the Scarlet Witch that make her look like she is having a stroke, the human mouth should not hang open limply like that. And then there is her cleavage. Honestly I am known for liking a bit of skin in my comics, heck I wrote the Grimm Fairy Tales and Lady Death reading orders on the site and I am completely unapologetic for that, but there is a time and place and this is neither the time, nor the place. On the subject of ‘places’ an attractive slim woman’s cleavage should not end somewhere below her diaphragm. I completely understand that women of a certain age or size may have cleavage that ends far lower than others, but in this instance it should not go lower than her elbows!

Having felt like I have been visually ‘motorboated’ on every page of this comic there is still a nice surprise right at the end when she enters another world and Chris Vision takes over the art. Instantaneously her bust is at a normal height and there is motion and flow to the art, it was literally like walking into another world.

It is such a shame that the art has utterly sidetracked this issue, but it is such a clear and present problem on every page that it is really hard to avoid. I really hope that we stick with Visions’ art for the rest of the series and then I can get back to enjoying this book. This is a character that has so many possibilities, and has so much history and depth that she deserves so much more than her only depth being between the gigantic glands on her chest.

Story – 7/10
Art – 0/10


Deadpool & The Merc$ For Money #1 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Salva Espin and Guru-eFX

Published February 2016

Deadpool & The Mercs For Money 001 aSynopsis – It’s not enough for Deadpool to be bankrolling the Avengers, he needs a little mercenary team on the side just to get his kicks.

Given his recent stature in the Marvel universe this book comes as quite a surprise. Firstly you wouldn’t think that Deadpool would actually have the time to do this, given how integral he is to everything else going on in the Avengers circle. However if I get hung up on that sort of thing then I would never have been able to accept Wolverine’s activities during the 90’s and early 2000’s where he could be found in every second comic from the USA to the Savage Lands.

My real issue is that this just doesn’t seem to fit with what Deadpool is doing at the moment. Don’t get me wrong having ridiculous team ups with mercenaries and doing crazy stuff for money sounds exactly like Deadpool, but he is already doing this in his own titles and the Avengers books where he has set up the Deadpool corps and has loads of other ‘heroes’ running around in his costume.

If I leave aside my general issues with this title and mentally assume this is supposed to be before any of the recent events happened, then this is a lot of fun. It is great to see an uninhibited Deadpool going nuts with some friends who for the most part are even more nuts than he is.

This book carries on the split that there has been between the Deadpool ongoing series and the limited series. Gerry Duggan has been writing the ongoing series and for the most part Cullen Bunn the limited one and you can practically ‘feel’ the difference in the character. It is hard to entirely put my finger on it, but I think the best way of explaining it is this; given a situation with an innocent bystander, in the ongoing series Deadpool would probably save him, in the limited ones, I get the impression he just wouldn’t care. Both of them write good Deadpool, but for the most part Duggan gives him a bit more heart.

This book has  no meaning and no purpose other than to be a really amusing bit of light entertainment and frankly we can all do with a bit of that in our comics from time to time. It doesn’t all have to be about world changing decisions and cosmic entities, for once we can enjoy some stupidity.

Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10


Spider-Man #1 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Brian Michael Bendis with Art by Sara Pichelli, Gaetano Carlucci and Justin Ponsor

Published February 2016

Spider-Man 001 aSynopsis – It’s hard being a normal kid in school when really you are a superpowered costumed hero who saves the day and then flunks his exams...

I have to say this issue comes pretty close to perfection. I admit it cheats by having Bendis and Pichelli as the creative team, it obviously has an unfair advantage, but even still its good. I only have three complaints about the issue and the first one is that I am not sure he actually looks like Miles. He looks older and more adult than I am used to, but then that might actually be the point. He is new to this universe, even if Secret Wars retroactively made him always exist here. There might have been an intention to grow him up a bit in this incarnation.

However there is a personal reason why I hate this book. It has made me realise how old I am. The art in the book is utterly gorgeous and as I was flicking through I saw a picture and thought ‘wow, she is utterly stunning’. As I read through the book there is a girl that Miles is hitting on and getting nowhere and I thought ‘not my type, no where near as attractive as the other one.’ Then I read through the rest of the comic and realises that the person I really liked, was his mom. I am officially old and Sara Pichelli, you will always be the person that made me realise it. I hate you.

What else can I say about the rest of this issue. The villain is mysterious and utterly terrifying to behold. Miles’ black spider costume with the red accents is fantastic, the action is dramatic and the jokes are half decent. It leaves me feeling like I read half a comic and I just want more, which is obviously the intention. Basically, I am pretty much speechless.

I did mention that I had three complaints, the last one shows just how impressive the book is. The art is so perfect and so amazing that when there was one mistake, I really noticed it. Miles tears his costume half way through the issue, but by the last page that tear has suddenly disappeared. Its a shame because I was going to give this book 11/10, but it will have to settle for an even 10.

Story – 10/10
Art – 10/10


Howard The Duck #4 – Review

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

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