Punisher #17 – Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Punisher

Issue #17

Written by Nathan Edmondson with Art by Mitch Gerads and Brent Schoonover

April 2015

The Punisher 017-1c“I’m outmatched.”

In the opening pages of Punisher 17, Frank Castle mentions that the criminals he takes on are the ones who are too small for the superheroes but too big for the police. That midsection is definitely his usual hunting ground, but it sure is fun as hell to watch him take on the big guys every now and then.

Frank Castle is an anti-hero, and as an anti-hero he has more flaws than most superheroes, but hubris isn’t one of them. He realizes when he’s outmatched and it’s in these desperate David versus Goliath battles that we get The Punisher at his most compelling. The fact that he even does battle with Captain America is extraordinary, though he does suggest that it’s less of a willingness to do battle and more of
an inability to do anything but fight. It’s a trait he shares with characters like Wolverine, fight or flight at its most basic. And even when Castle chooses flight, he’s usually fighting along the way.

The Punisher versus Captain America works because most readers (I assume) can relate a little with both characters. It goes without saying that Captain America is the more noble of the two, but when he accuses Castle of being a crimal, Castle reminds us that he only looks that way from one side of the law. From the other side, the seedier side, he’s just as much of a hero as Captain America, Spider-Man, you name it.

Punisher 17 shines a bright light on the differences between The Punisher and the rest of the Marvel heroes. Of course the conversation is one-sided, simply because we get to read Castle’s thoughts, but it still serves a nice reminder that the Punisher is far from perfect. He gets too involved, in over his head, taking on tasks better suited for others. Neither character “defeats” the other, nor does Castle surrender, but instead he forces an understand, one that even Captain America can’t argue with. Nathan Edmondson continues to maintain The Punisher’s status as one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel universe, and he does so while blowing stuff up along the way.

Wolverines #13 – Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Wolverines

Issue #13

Written by Charles Soule with Art by Jason Masters and Guy Major

March 2015

Wolverines 013-1bI had to do a little catching up to get to Wolverines 13 and my one ongoing thought throughout the whole thing was that they need less Wolverine in Wolverines. Yes, I realize that the title is just his name with an “S” on the end and I agree that the man deserves a long, powerful legacy, but this is a title with a cast of eleven characters and they’re all taking a backseat to a character who isn’t even alive anymore.

And then I get Wolverines 13, where Wolverine is front and center throughout the entire issue. Well, it’s a version of Wolverine, at least. I know it’s practically sacrilege to say this, but I’ve never been that crazy about Deadpool. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy, just that I don’t attend the Church of Deadpool like so many other comic fans. However, I think he’s practically perfect for a funny one-off like this (I’m assuming it’s a one-off) and I was laughing my head off this entire issue. The only actual plot development occurs on a handful of pages with Fantomelle and Culpepper; the rest is all Deadpool trying to become the next Wolverine, which features cameos from She-Hulk, Nightcrawler, The Punisher, Maria Hill, and many, many more. It’s funny, funny stuff and Deadpool’s hijinks end on an especially hilarious note.

It’s near impossible to judge Wolverines 13 in the context of the twelve issues leading up to it, but it’s an issue that everyone would do well to pick up, whether they’re following the title or not. For those who are following the title, it’s a nice little breather in-between the Fang storyline and whatever they’ve got cooked up next.

Charles Soule is capable of some gut-busting comedy and Jason Masters deserves a lot of credit for eliciting laughs from Deadpool’s look alone.

Iron Fist #11 – Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Iron Fist

Issue #11

Written and Drawn by Kaare Kyle Andrews

April 2015

Iron Fist - The Living Weapon 011-1c

Issue 11 of Iron Fist has some serious Ghostbusters vibes. Both films. And it’s not that subtle. Danny’s dad AKA The One accidentally unleashes a gigantic god that stomps around New York City, destroying it in the process. Someone tries to reason with the god in a humorous way. Danny Rand takes control of a giant structure in an effort to do battle with it.

I’m not complaining, I love the Ghostbusters, and the vibe fits well within the world of Iron Fist – The Living Weapon, but it’s so blatant that to not mention it would almost seem dishonest.

As much as I was hoping that issue 11 would be the end of the Redemption arc, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about what was happening with Kung Fu Girl. Kaare Kyle Andrews has managed to make her a surprisingly likable character despite doing fairly little with her so far, so I’m all for the idea of her getting a more pivotal role (or at least revealing that her role was pivotal all along).

There were a lot of fist-pumping good guy moments in issue 11. I’ve already mentioned Kung Fu Girl getting mad as hell (and not willing to take it anymore). Danny reconnecting with his father was bizarre and beautiful, and him running up the arm of the giant fire god couldn’t be more badass. Despite all of these things, my favorite moment was a villain doing something as petty as killing an animal to get everyone’s attention.

When everything starts to fall apart, Davos wants to gather as many of his people as he can and flee. It’s not a bad idea. Sparrow has more faith in Danny than he does, sure, but I think he can be forgiven for looking at the destruction around him and assuming it’s a lost cause. Unfortunately, nobody listens to him. Nobody. He gets justifiably frustrated and, in an attempt to get everyone’s attention, does some unjustifiable and heinous when he breaks Gork’s neck. It’s fascinating because up until that moment, you can understand his frustration. He’s trying to save these people, but nobody will even stop and listen. And then in one quick moment you’re reminded that he’s a cold-blooded villain.

This book’s biggest strength is Andrew’s ability to write real characters. He doesn’t expend all of his energy into fleshing out only his hero, he spreads it around and brings an entire cast to life. I can’t wait for everything to simmer down so we can get more fantastic character moments.

Cyclops #10 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Cyclops

Issue #10

Written by John Layman with Art by Javier Garron and Chris Sotomayor

April 2015

Cy10 02It amazes me how much good making Cyclops younger and putting him out on his own (without the X-Men, anyway) does for his character. Where he once was this arrogant, obnoxious leader that didn’t play as well with others as he pretended too, he’s now a fresh, scared kid and actions that would’ve once made him irritating instead make him bold and empowered. Well done, Marvel.

I’m still not quite sure what to make of John Layman. I love what I’ve read of Chew, but I wasn’t thrilled with his work on Detective Comics (though that could just be because he was up against Scott Snyder, who’s written the best Batman in years). Cyclops, however, has only improved since Layman took over a few issues ago. I didn’t realize it until I actually sat down to write this review but the Malafect storyline pulled me in deep and I was eager to see the outcome. Well here it is, at least the start of it, and it isn’t as great as I would’ve hoped.

The good: Chris Summers, Scott’s father, is an actual three-dimensional person rather than just a flat, Han Solo clone. When Scott turns the ship around to go back for Malafect’s crew, I fully
expected him to get resistance from his father and defend his position with a passionate speech. Instead the elder Summers is brimming with pride and it was a natural and organic way to reveal that he’s much more noble than he lets on. Hell, even he didn’t realize how good of a guy he could be, something he credits Scott with showing him.

The bad: Valesh Malafect displays something of a wonky personality. Now I could be wrong, because Valesh doesn’t actually get a chance to decide the fate of the Summers boys before Vileena interferes, but it certainly looked like Valesh was going to drop a years-long grudge
over something as simple as a melodramatic plea from his rival. It doesn’t fit the hardened criminal that we’ve gotten to know.

Then there’s Vileena, and while it makes perfect sense that she would feel betrayed, the whole “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” thing brings nothing new to the table. That said, her exploiting Valesh’s paternal feelings could be interesting to see.

I’m still in this thing. Layman is good and he’s been doing good work, Cyclops 10 just didn’t bring the excitement that I would have expected from everything crashing together.

Wolverines #6 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Wolverines

Issue #6

Written by Ray Fawkles with Art by Jason Masters

April 2015

w6 02Wolverines has been an interesting title to read, like an experiment on superhero teams. The first few issues were rough because I had to get accustomed to a group of new characters. The “test subject” characters may have already existed in some form or another, but they’re all new to me and so I spent a good number of issues figuring out who was who. They’re growing pains and nothing else, certainly not a poor reflection on Ray Fawkes. I think six issues may be the sweet spot, because I was able to go into this issue and immediately grasp the different characters and their motivations, which is no small feat given that, going into issue number six, there are just under twenty active characters, more if you count all the Ben Reilly clones.

And yet Fawkes handles it well. I’m still of the mindset that with this many characters in play, you can only tell such a compelling story, because you don’t have the time or the space to give any one plot or character the attention that it needs to really thrive, but Fawkes manages to write 22 pages without it descending into an incomprehensible mess, which is impressive. The story is too fragmented to blow me away, but it’s good enough to keep me interested, which will keep me reading.

There are enough clever moments sprinkled throughout that I can confidently put my faith in Fawkes, but I do find myself wishing that they would spend more time on one element and less on another, which is the risk you run with so many things going on. Different readers are going to be attracted to different things, and while it’s true that you can’t please everybody, you shouldn’t necessarily cast such a wide net with no hopes on following through on every little thing. Hopefully Wolverines will trim the fat and become a much more focused read.

The Amazing Spider-Man #14 – Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Amazing Spider-Man

Issue #14 (Spider-Verse #6)

Written by Dan Slott with Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Oliver Coipel, Wade Von Grawbadger, Cam Smith, John Livesay and Justin Ponsor

Published: February 2015

The Amazing Spider-ManWith the exception of an upcoming epilogue issue, Amazing Spider-Man 14 wraps up the Spider-Verse story arc. Like most big stories that span multiple titles, Spider-Verse allowed for some crazy, fun stuff that was only possible because Slott was able to go bigger than one single title could go. Unfortunately, and also like most big stories, it was frustrating that so much happened outside of Amazing Spider-Man. It happens with all big events, but with Spider-Verse it seemed especially bad, and it got to a point where it felt like every few pages characters were disappearing to go do things that would happen in other titles. There was a lot of “continued in this title” throughout the arc. That seemed to stop at everything came to a head in Amazing Spider-Man 14, but that brought with it its own problems.

First off, killing Solus in the end of Amazing Spider-Man 13 deflated a lot of the tension that carried throughout the entire arc. The Inheritors were built up as nearly unstoppable and then Kaine kills the strongest of them like it’s nothing, which takes us into the finale with a much less impressive threat. Solus is dead. Peter has defeated Morlun before. The threat is gone.

Second, the chaos of the last issue made me realize how important it was to spin Spider-Verse off into so many other titles. That doesn’t make the constant branching off any less frustrating, but with the finale contained inside of Amazing Spider-Man, it’s a bit of a mess, especially considering the Spider-Men all look similar. There were more than a few instances where I wasn’t sure who I was looking at.

None of this adds up to a terrible issue, but where Spider-Verse has been pretty terrific so far, it’s disappointing to see it culminate in such a lackluster way. There are fantastic moments, but the lack of tension and the chaos of the whole thing rob us of the finale we were hoping for.

Powers #1 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Powers

Issue #1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis with Art by Michael Avon Oeming

January 2015

011Powers holds a very special place in my heart. I might have written about this before, I have a terrible memory when it comes to this stuff. Powers is not only the series that got back into comic books in a big way, but Brian Michael Bendis’s magnum opus is what got me into writing. I tell you this so you’ll have some sort of context when I start drooling all over the return of Powers.

Not that Powers necessarily went away. I stopped reading a long time ago (something I’m very much going to rectify) but I know there have been countless extensions or spin offs or whatever you’d like to call them. Now with the Powers show debuting soon on the PlayStation Network, Bendis and Oeming are rebooting the series to – I assume – provide a jumping on point for those who want to check out the comic.

If you’re like me, you approach anything labelled a reboot or remake with caution, but with Bendis and Oeming at the helm you know it’s not going to completely trash everything that came before it. It’s too early to tell, but they do seem to be starting fresh when it comes to Walker and Pilgrim, but Bendis does lay it out in a way that makes it particularly exciting for established fans of the series.

This is where i get a little weird as a fan. A common complaint about reboots is that, in addition to rebooting the core element of a story (i.e. the characters, general premise, etc), they also go on to retread a lot of specific stories, which is usually completely unnecessary. For example, as good J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek series has been, he really didn’t need to base Star Trek 2 off of Wrath of Kahn. In the case of Powers, it doesn’t look like the first arc is going to have anything to do with Retro Girl, and that would be completely unnecessary. Just because we’re starting from scratch regarding certain elements from the universe doesn’t mean we need to start the whole thing over again, much less doing the same exact things.

Yet weirdly, I want them to. I would like at least a nod to Retro Girl, maybe even have her around as a living girl, rather than a corpse, which is how she made her debut in the series’ freshman arc fifteen years ago. But I digress.

Powers is fantastic. I’m not as blown away as I was when I initially found the series, because back then I was a teenager and new to quality comic books, but the writing is still fun, snappy, and compelling, and Oeming has honed his simplistic style to perfection. Welcome back, guys.

Magneto #14 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Magneto

Issue #14

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire

March 2015

007Cullen Bunn is playing a dangerous game and I love him for it. Magento is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating, enjoyable comic book characters of all time. By traditional definition he’s known as a villain, but he resides in the grey area more than any other character. I’ve spent just as much time cheering for him as I have detesting him, and that’s where Bunn needs to be careful. Up until now, the series has seen Magneto going after mutant-abusing scumbags, foes so awful that you don’t think twice when Magento rips them apart. But now Bunn is toeing the line, making the readers and even Magneto himself question his own motives.

Not that Magneto leaning back towards the dark side would be an inherently bad thing. He does make a good bad guy, after all. But bad guys traditionally don’t make great protagonists. It can be done, and I don’t doubt Bunn’s ability, but it’s a tricky feat and fans can’t be blamed if they feel betrayed after falling in love with the freedom fighter Magneto only to have him turn terrorist for the umpteenth time. I realize that I’m selling the character short by implying that he switches allegiances on a dime. He’s very complex and his sometimes contradictory actions are the result of conflicting emotions. That’s what great about the character, but it doesn’t mean that fans are going to like him battling it out with S.H.I.E.L.D. as much as they’ve liked him taking it to the unquestionably nasty foes he’s encountered so far.

I trust Bunn, though. I think he’s going to continue to toe that line and he’s going to use our fear against us. Magento isn’t a good guy. On his best days he’s an anti-hero, but a murdering anti-hero all the same. We can root for anti-heroes, though. We can’t root for bad guys. Bunn knows this, and he likely knows that we’re all shaking in our boots wondering if we’re going to see the Master of Magnetism lose his patience with humanity once more.

The Punisher #13 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Punisher

Issue #13

Written by Nathan Edmondson, Art by Moritat

Published: February 2015

Punisher #13

Anyone who reads my reviews with any regularity knows how often I whine about titles switching artists. It’s silly of me, because there are a hundred and one legitimate reasons for an artist to change on any given comic book, not the least important of which is to give another talented artist a job. So I’ll try to complain less, but we don’t get Mitch Gerad’s excellent pencils on Punisher 13, and that upsets me to no end. It’s funny that I of all people complain about switching artists when I don’t even notice half the time that it happens. That being said, the switch from Gerad to Moritat (that’s his whole name, like Madonna or Prince) is jarring because Moritat’s style is distinctly different. He has an exaggerated, cartoon-like style when I think the Punisher benefits more from Gerard’s gritty, subtle style. Plus, Moritat’s style tends to shift inconsistently between panels and it hurts the flow of the issue.

The one saving grace, however, is that the bulk of the issue is a flashback for the new Holwin’ Commandos, so the change in tone isn’t a big deal. While Frank Castle is more compelling than all of the Commandos put together, I appreciate that Edmondson is fleshing them out. This, mixed with their doubts over their current actions, makes me think that the Commandos are going to play a bigger role than they currently and possibly as allies to Castle. Oh, and the fact that they’re the freakin’ Howlin’ Commandos also makes it hard for me to accept them as villains. I like what Edmondson is doing with them. It’s interesting.

There’s a spoiler incoming, so duck and cover if you plan on reading Punisher 13. There was talk in Punisher 12 of a mission that the Commandos took in Cebu City and that talk implied that something really bad went down. What went down, which we learn of in this issue, is that one of their teammates killed. The Commandos weren’t fully informed on their situation and a teammate died because of it. It’s not shocking. In fact, a guy dying felt pretty par for the course for a Punisher title. It’s hard to imagine why an entire issue was dedicated to this, but here it is, and I just hope that it comes back in a way that makes this issue make a little more sense.

Edmondson’s Punisher has generally been great, but unlucky 13 was a pretty big disappointment.

Spider-Man and the X-Men #1 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Spider-Man and the X-Men

Issue #1

Written by Elliott Kalan, Art by Marco Failla

Published: February 2015

Spider-Man and the X-Men #1

Despite Spider-Man and The X-Men being primarily a comedic comic, seemingly designed to allow Spider-Man to make quip after quip, writer Elliott Kalan does something pretty interesting with it. He makes the X-Men and the students at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning come off as slightly bigoted. It certainly doesn’t overshadow the virtuous heroes that they are – and the students are just kids and easy to forgive – but it is a little shocking to see these mutants, who battle ignorance and prejudice on a daily bases, outright reject Spider-Man’s presence simply because he isn’t one of them.

Of course I’m simplifying things, and some characters have legitimate complaints about him being at the school, but there are parallels between how the mutants treat Spidey and how the world at large treats mutants. I highly doubt it’s unintentional, but I also don’t think it’s meant to be the focus. It’s simply an interesting sidenote in what’s supposed to be a fun and good time. And as far as fun and good times go, it mostly succeeds.

There isn’t anything outright wrong with Spider-Man and the X-Men other than little about it feels fresh. Spider-Man being a fish out of water isn’t a new dynamic by any means. No matter who he’s with, he’s antagonistic, wise-cracking attitude always sets him apart. He’s always the clown prince of vigilantism among whatever allies he’s fighting alongside and the students are no different.

What does feel fresh is the Savage Land angle. Spidey and Sauron don’t crossover a lot, so it was interesting to see them pop up. Plus, dinosaurs will always be cool, super-powered humanoid ones ever more so. Then there’s the ending, which has a Planet of the Apes vibe, only swap out the apes for dinosaurs. Okay, I’ve made myself excited for issue two.