How Licensing Saved the Marvel Universe

Marvel Licensed Comics

by Travis Starnes, CMRO Editor

During the 70s and 80s, Marvel went licensing crazy.  Both bringing properties from other medium, most notably toy manufacturing, into comics, and licensing Marvel properties out.  But why was there a sudden explosion of licensing, and why is it different from other comics, movies, or television shows that license out their work? And how did it save Marvel Comics?

What makes the way Marvel did licensing different is pretty apparent to anyone who read comics from the two or three decades when Marvel was licensing like crazy. From the point of view of licensing out their characters, Marvel isn’t totally unique.  Many companies licensed their characters out to television, DC most notably, and even more licensing comic characters out for merchandising.

What makes Marvel stand out is how much they brought characters from other companies into the Marvel universe.  Sure, DC created comics for other company’s licenses, but they were generally stand alone and not part of the greater DC universe.  Marvel on the other hand, not only brought characters like the Micronauts, Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, and Conan (to a lesser degree) into their larger universe, but they even took the ROM license and put it at the center of a story arc that covered most the major titles at the time.

I’ve done a fair amount of searching and I can’t find any instances of licensed characters becoming the center of another companies shared universe.  And even the other licenses I mentioned had continual, although more contained, connections to Marvel.  Shield and the Fantastic Four tangled with Godzilla, the X-Men bumped into Micronauts and Crystar the Crystal Warrior multiple time, and there is a litany of Marvel UK landing in the pages of licensed comics like Transformers and Doctor Who. They even had licenses cross with other licenses, such as when Godzilla faced off against the Shogun Warriors.

When it came to licensing, Marvel did it in a way no one else did, or has done since.  But why did it blow up so big?

The short answer is, Star Wars.

The comics industry was struggling in the 70s.  The old magazine stand distribution wasn’t working any longer, since magazine stands were starting to disappear.  While Marvel would figure this out in the mid-70s by selling into hobby shops and stand-alone comic stores that started to pop up, the bottle neck caused issues for most comic published.

By 78’ DC hit the wall hard, cancelling thirty-one of its ongoing titles.  It wasn’t until the early 80s when DC came up with new ideas such as limited runs (which many comic fans curse to this day) that they managed to pull out of their nose dive.

At the same time, Marvel was also struggling.  The editorial staff was in disarray with books regularly being finished late and the non-comic magazine part of the company was losing money hand over fist.  Future Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, who was an associate editor at the time, described the company as seeming to be in a “death spiral”.

Stan Lee, who became the publisher of Marvel in 1972 when long time publisher and one time owner Martin Goodman stepped down, wanted to double down on comics featuring original characters.

This was when Charlie Lippincott and Ed Summer, who was a silent partner of George Lucas, talked to Roy Thomas about the idea of licensing Star Wars.  Thomas was known as being a major proponent of licensed comics in Marvel and had been EIC when Conan was licensed into Marvel.

Thomas liked the early artwork he saw, as this was before the movie came out. Thomas pushed the idea of licensing Star Wars, and he had one big thing in his favor.  The license would be free.  Lucas only wanted the first two issues of the adaptation of his script on newsstands before the movie came out, seeing it as a good way to publicize the movie.

To say it was a hit would be an understatement.  It went on to sell over a million copies over multiple reprints.  For context, Marvel’s best-selling book at the time, Amazing Spider-Man, sold just about a quarter of that.

Marvel’s parent company, Cadence Industries, made a boat load of money from this and the idea of licensed comics took hold.  With pressure from the parent company, and editors hoping to repeat Thomas’s magic trick, Marvel began to license comics in earnest.

At first Marvel concentrated on licensing movies, books and TV shows, such as Battle Star Galactica, John Carter of Mars, and Tarzan (once DC’s license had lapsed). But, coming into the 80s, there was a push by toy manufactures to use the now growing popularity of comics as a marketing tool.  US companies like Hasbro wanted to license their toy likes, such as a relaunching GI Joe, while Japanese toy makers were trying to break into the US market.

Thanks in no small part to the cash Star Wars continued to bring in as Marvel published ongoing stories under the license after the movie came out; they were the biggest name in the Comics industry.  DC had a significantly lower market share at this time, so much so that Marvel made a push to license all the DC characters (and imagine for a moment what that would have been like).  The deal was slowed by Bill Sarnoff, who only wanted to focus on the top 7 characters from DC, and then killed by the threat of an anti-trust lawsuit.

This left Marvel open to being the go to place for licensing comics by toy manufactures, and license they did.

The licensing boom only slowed when DC revitalized, using new ideas such as the limited series, and retook dominance of the mark, along with Marvel’s sale to New World Entertainment under Ronald Perelman.

Love them or hate them, licensed comics may have saved Marvel from an earlier sale, a break up, or even a loss of the company entirely.  So for every bad licensed comic you read from the 70s and 80s, just remember that they might be responsible for keeping Captain America and Spider-Man with us.

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/23 – 12/30

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/23 - 12/30

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/23 - 12/30

Reviews by MattzLadd, CMRO Contributor

 

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1
Written By Kate Leth
Art By Brittney L. Williams and Megan Wilson

Synopsis – Patsy deals with significant changes in her life while faces from her past start to reappear.

The purpose behind this book has been notably skewed in a different direction from what I thought. An obvious reason for this series is the popularity of the character due to the Netflix series Jessica Jones, however the character who appears in that and Patsy in this are majorly different characters. The target audience is clearly younger readers and the majority of the book is very light-hearted, though strangely some of the themes are mature – as this is a character who has Hell directly tied into her past and in the first issue alone there’s frequent use of alcohol and employment issues – and because of this confusion I can only say that Kate Leth needs to stop operating between two disparate genres and to choose one. Besides the strange coming of this book, I thought the story was OK and that it was vaguely entertaining. Patsy’s enthusiasm and powers make for compelling scenes, and she works well with her supporting characters – one of which who is related to the spreading Inhumanity fairly well. The art style fluctuates often from very childish cartoon drawings to more mature images, which is another problem with the messy mixing of genres. I suppose this book has potential but only if it actually decides what it wants to be.
Story – 6/10
Art – 7/10

Daredevil #2
Written By Charles Soule
Art By Ron Garney and Matt Milla

Synopsis – Tenfingers’ plan progresses, but Daredevil recognises the power base behind the cult as power taken from a deadly organisation.

Soule fashions this issue’s story around the villain and the still mysterious loyalties of Blindspot, as he should have done to save the characters from being too vague and the plot suffering as a result. I love the character development given to Tenfingers’ ‘church’, its purpose and morals in Chinatown and the way it affects Sam Chung. The themes of this book are already proving to be effective and relatable and the position of each of the characters makes the situation complex enough to provoke thought and interpretation from the reader. The art style continues to detail the gloomy and sinister nature of Hell’s Kitchen masterfully and I especially liked the dialogue in this book. This first arc is proving itself to be appropriate for the Daredevil staple and it is also forming a great story with excellent new characters – not the least of which is Sam Chung, a promising advocate for Murdock.
Story – 9/10
Art – 8/10

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #2
Written By Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Art By Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain

Synopsis – Lunella watches helplessly as Devil Dinosaur drags her around, ultimately landing them both next to a band of threatening primates.

As I expected the writers of this book are treating the scenario very lightly – Devil might as well be a dangerous dog as far as the story is concerned, and the only real serious topic that the book addresses is Lunella’s fears about her Inhuman nature. This isn’t a particularly bad thing, it does make the title characters’ dynamic more fun and light-hearted, and the apparent villains of the piece are entertaining without them being intimidating, but the style does limit the target audience to younger readers. In any case, Lunella – in just two issues – has established herself to be an enthralling character with likeability and relatability. She works well with Devil Dinosaur and the two exist in a book with very appropriate and decent art. Even if the promising plot doesn’t work out, the characters and the art are good enough to prompt enough people to buy it.
Story – 7/10
Art – 7/10

Spider-Woman #2
Written By Dennis Hopeless
Art By Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez

Synopsis – Jess reluctantly engages the hostile Skrull force, but she’s trapped by more than just people and the baby is fast approaching…

It’s pretty crazy how fast this book descended into complete absurdity, but I am quite enjoying it anyway. There’s a lot of humour in this issue and most of it is effective. The Skrulls are amusing and motivated villains here and their personal history with Drew makes them more relevant than normal. The widespread assortment of female aliens also allows for comical lines from a two-headed teletubby creature, though as a whole they represent a form of female empowerment despite the obvious inhibition they all share. I have to say that the worst part of this book is the art, it’s sometimes unattractive and the proportions are a little off. The plot development on the other hand works well and the scenario established for the next few issues should be very compelling.
Story – 8/10
Art – 7/10

Star-Lord #2
Written By Sam Humphries
Art By Javier Garron and Antonia Fabela

Synopsis – Quill, against his better judgement, opposes Yondu and his Ravagers as they attempt to steal his stolen ship.

I really enjoyed this issue, as it epitomised Peter’s audacity and some of his core personality traits. Yondu and his band are also fun characters, and the small amount I know of his mainstream, non-3000 Guardians character is drawn from the recent MCU film, meaning he is tied in to Quill’s current popularity and so deserves to appear in this book. The events of this issue are both exciting and intense, and I don’t think there’s anything unappealing about a battle in space between formidable foes. Even if Quill does appear as a bit of a ‘Mary Sue’ (or a ‘Marty Stu if you’re pedantic about gender-specifics) the ending twists the outcome into a very interesting scenario which suggests a lot about Peter’s pivotal origin period and sets the book on an entertaining path with plenty of piracy and action content. I’m very happy with the direction in which this book is heading and I think it is in safe hands with Humphries.
Story – 8/10
Art – 9/10

Venom: Space Knight #2
Written By Robbie Thompson
Art By Ariel Olivetti

Synopsis – Venom continues following the voices in his head until they lead him to a ginormous spaceship that has been following him.

While there wasn’t a great deal of plot development in this issue, the dialogue was great and I love the slow building of Flash’s crew through the development of the supporting characters. His new role in the Marvel Universe is both interesting and broad, meaning the stories could consist of anything throughout the cosmos. This allows Thompson to be as original as he wishes and from these two issues alone it seems he intends to introduce entirely new casts and locales to entice readers. The villain reveal at the end of this book does not mean much as of yet but I am excited to see the first confrontation and eventual feud between them and Flash. I absolutely love the art – it’s definitely the most unique and peculiar of all the styles running right now, with Del Mundo’s Weirdworld as a very close second. Venom’s character design is used by Olivetti to its most extreme and there are certainly strange and experimental aliens for Olivetti to play around with.
Story – 8/10
Art – 10/10

Angela: Queen of Hel #3
Written By Marguerite Bennett
Art By Kim Jacinto, Israel Silva and Stephanie Hans

Synopsis – Angela begins her trials in Hel, but many forces from her past and present oppose her.

I hate it when the flaws of a title begin to shine through. The first two issues of this book were great because of the resolution to Sera’s tribulations at the end of ‘Asgard’s Assassin’, but since the calm after that storm Sera and Angela’s dialogue is both pointless and unrealistic. This issue is very overwritten and I really dislike Bennett’s casual dialogue writing, it appears lazy and rushed and her thoughtful dialogue from the more mythical characters is far better. Some of the plot development is convoluted, with a couple of characters introduced here and forced right into Angela’s origins just so a convenient serendipitous event can occur in the present events. The action is still great and I like the art, but the serious plot development is weak because of the blatant convenience – Angela just ‘wins’ a fight in this for no reason whatsoever other than she had to for the story to progress – and outside of the serious events the casual dialogue is extremely messy and overwritten.
Story – 5/10
Art – 8/10

The Astonishing Ant-Man #3
Written By Nick Spencer
Art By Ramon Rosanas and Jordan Boyd

Synopsis – Sam Wilson arrives to alert Ant-Man about an occurrence that links Cap’s feud with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Hench super-villain app.

There’s a certain balance between realism and the extravagance of the Marvel Universe that makes this book a stand-out in quality. The antagonist in each issue of this title could be anything because of the great ‘Hench’ app idea that is only possible to put in a book because of current popular culture, and Spencer has not taken the common route of bringing the main enemy to the forefront right away. This means that alongside the subplots of Scott’s personal troubles and career, the primary self-contained conflicts between Ant-Man and the diverse villains. This issue not only used this formula, but also a welcome appearance from Sam Wilson’s Cap that acknowledges the wider Universe – which not enough titles are doing at the moment. I loved the final scene of this issue because of the realism I mentioned – the scenario is not so simple as the Power Broker’s plan and Ant-Man singularly opposing him, it takes a realistic, complex path to flesh out all the characters involved and enhance interest. If this book continues with its strong characters and fluctuating battles, I will not have any problems with it.
Story – 9/10
Art – 8/10

Captain America: Sam Wilson #4
Written By Nick Spencer
Art By Paul Renaud and Romulo Fajardo

Synopsis – Serpent Solutions get the better of Sam, who is still struggling with his wolf form.

Talk about pay-off for a substantial build-up, because this issue was brilliant. We’ve seen Viper and whatever remains of his serpentine squad in the background for the first few issues, but now there’s a large focus on him and the plots that have been running since the start of the title reach their fruition here. Not only that, but the character development establishes them as not quite ‘villains’ but moral activists, and I found myself partially agreeing with some of their ideals. Cap’s role is mainly one of humour in this issue, which is fine as the quality drama comes often from the Serpents, but I really enjoyed his interactions with Diamondback – whom you might know as a reformed Serpent member who had a relationship with Steve Rogers. The action was good, the art was great (I absolutely prefer Renaud’s art to Acuña’s), and I am definitely invested and interested in these characters and the conflict between them for the remainder of this zany but intelligent arc.
Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

Deadpool #4
Written By Gerry Duggan
Art By Mike Hawthorne, Terry Pallot and Guru-eFX

Synopsis – One of the Mercs goes too far with the wrong intentions and madness ensues.

I am very irritated about the change of pace in this issue. This series has been decent because of the Mercs themselves – how Duggan has taken a bunch of old, curious Marvel characters and has integrated them into an interesting story where each of them can develop as individual characters. Madcap brought the uneasy and unpredictable atmosphere, but I liked him as a hero and part of the team – this issue clearly opted for a safe option instead of making the impersonator someone actually surprising and made the previous development pointless so Madcap could be a wacky villain again. This issue falls back on Steve Rogers and Deadpool himself, unfortunately, and there were only a couple of appearances that contributed to the story in an entertaining way. The upcoming scenario between Madcap and the Mercs doesn’t look bad or banal, but the fact that Duggan strayed away from focusing on the Mercs for even a second makes me not appreciate this issue.
Story – 5/10
Art – 8/10

Extraordinary X-Men #4
Written By Jeff Lemire
Art By Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado

Synopsis – Logan and Jean reunite with the X-Men to battle the forces of Limbo, but time is running out to save their teammates from a sinister foe.

Mister Sinister is one of my all-time favourite villains and not just for the reason that I can insert ‘sinister’ puns into the synopsis of the book he appears in. Rather, I’ve loved his development over the years and he is an intimidating foe to the X-Men with a vast array of abilities and chilling morals. His mission in this arc is very interesting, and it involves the wider state of the Marvel Universe at the moment by focusing on the Terrigen Mists and their effect on mutants. The implications of his plan, if successful, could be cataclysmic, beneficent, but definitely pivotal in any case for the future of mutantkind. A certain character returns with the cliffhanger to further support Sinister’s theory and I for one am extremely intrigued as to the role of the character. The X-Men have strong roles in this issue, with the personal traumas of Colossus being capitalised upon and insight into the bond forming between Old Man Logan and the line-up. The dialogue is great and the characters suit everything they say, so that paired with exciting action and natural plot progression culminates into an excellent issue – one I enjoyed both as an avid fan of the X-Men and a fan of good stories in general.
Story – 9/10
Art – 8/10

New Avengers #4
Written By Al Ewing
Art By Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sanchez Almara

Synopsis – Moridun attacks Hulkling and the Knights of the Infinite just as he is learning of his heritage.

This was a very far-out and extraordinary tale in a very different genre to the Earth-bound exploits of the team’s first mission, but I think I enjoyed this more. Hulkling is an interesting character and for the writers to be able to have a character directly related to two fictional races that have been in Marvel Comics for decades now and each have expansive histories is fascinating. The role that Teddy is given in this issue seems immense and the villain facing the New Avengers easily matches the calibre of power that Hulkling now wields, and this issue is great for action to say the least. Of course, there are some narrative twists and the ending implies a more dramatic storyline to come in the future, so it seems now that the arc will step into the background for now to be replaced by something else. Some characters still deserve some attention (*cough*Pod*cough*) and some characters need not to be featured when the tone doesn’t fit their character – I literally only want to see Squirrel Girl when it’s a silly situation they find themselves in, but this book is operating fairly well and some of the characters have potential to bring in entertaining plotlines.
Story – 8/10
Art – 7/10
And, from a galaxy far far away…
Darth Vader #14
Written By Kieron Gillen
Art By Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado

Synopsis – Vader targets Leia, but she’s organised a backup plan against the Sith Lord that could cause excessive destruction.

This issue was going great, with its enclosed, isolated atmosphere, great dialogue from all the characters and intense, exciting encounters between well-matched foes until the conclusion arose. It introduced a third, completely random element that I can only see now as a convenient plot device because Gillen doesn’t actually know how to resolve the conflict between Luke, the rebels and Vader. While this element does have positive connotations for the action and wider battles in the concluding issues, this seems to be less personal overall for all the main players involved. To assess the quality of this issue alone, however, I cannot say it was bad by any stretch. Every character’s role was appropriate and exciting and there’s bound to be suspenseful battles occurring next issue – focusing maybe on a pair of Wookiees. The art is also very good and I noticed great uses of mist and atmosphere in the art to reflect upon the tone of this issue.
Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/16 – 12/23

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/16 - 12/23

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/16 - 12/23

Reviews by MattzLadd, CMRO Contributor

 

Squadron Supreme #1
Written By James Robinson
Art By Leonard Kirk, Paul Neary and Frank Martin

Synopsis – The Squadron Supreme take it upon themselves to defend the Earth from assumed threats – by any means necessary.

This team takes moral ambiguity to Punisher-levels, but with power tenfold and global accessibility. I’m happy the social response to the team and their reputation is a strong point of focus for this book, without that at this point it would literally be just action and conflict. The object of their aggression this issue is Namor, playing off the recent Incursion exploits, and each of the Squadron are survivors from their respective Earths. It’s fairly clear now in what form Earth-616 is restored after Secret Wars, meaning the battles have legitimate consequences (one in this issue that I am extremely irritated by) but the quality of the story is not decided by whether I am satisfied by the issue or not, so I will say that it was a great book with good art. Each member of the team is a strong personality and they each have assets and skills to bring, the cliffhanger insinuates some defence against them (a team I don’t think are capable of achieving anything) but the social implications of the team’s relaunch is very interesting.
Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

Starbrand and Nightmask #1
Written By Greg Weisman
Art By Dominike Stanton and Jordan Boyd

Synopsis – Kevin and Adam adjust to a new life travelling space… and attending college.

These two relatively new characters have been safely paired together as to not drop the responsibility of a solo ongoing on either of their heads, and this is a good move. Not only do the two have an entertaining dynamic, with Kevin’s relatability and youth and Adam’s otherworldly nature and reliability, but they are both incredibly powerful and work well enough together to prompt a series following them. There are certainly changes in their lives for the relaunch, as they are now acting as independent superheroes while attending college in civilian personas – the latter a thing that impacts Kevin specifically, just check his origin – and Weisman didn’t wait with a docile first issue either, the villains are ramping up and they are at least an equal threat to Starbrand and Nightmask’s power. There’s a degree of mystery paired with constant development with all the characters and orientation, making for a good vibe for this risky book. I am intrigued as to what the villain will be more than the protagonists’ daily exploits, but they aren’t bad characters and I think they will be able to grow in popularity with this series.
Story – 7/10
Art – 7/10

Weirdworld #1
Written By Sam Humphries
Art By Mike Del Mundo

Synopsis – We venture back into Weirdworld with Becca Rodriguez – an Earth girl who has already been through her own Hell and now finds herself in another.

This has been my most anticipated book for a few weeks now. Sam Humphries wrote one of the best books of Secret Wars and Mike Del Mundo produced the best art of any of the Battleworld books – coincidentally in the previous volume of the Weirdworld saga. Thus, I came into this already positively biased, but even if it was the other way around it wouldn’t have mattered, because this was a great book. I think I’ve praised Del Mundo’s work on Weirdworld enough with the last volume, so I’ll instead commend Humphries for being thrown into one of the most absurd titles with no experience and high expectations. His utilisation of the new but compelling Becca is a good choice and stories where normal people are in crazed situations often work well, plus Goleta provides ample amounts of humour and sword-wielding. I did expect to see Arkon feature in this as his quest for Polemachus still exists, but we know he is on Weirdworld so hope is not lost. I assumed Morgan le Fay would reprise her villainous role and I was right, and she also has a lot of potential left in her. I’m not quite sure what the ending represented but it looks cool so I don’t have any arguments. Overall, I love that this title came back and I love the creative team, and there couldn’t have been a better reintroduction to the setting.
Story – 9/10
Art – 10/10

Amazing Spider-Man #1.1
Written By Jose Molina
Art By Simone Bianchi and Israel Silva

Synopsis – Spidey investigates a group in Harlem when a recently deceased man comes back to life.

This was a fairly large mess and the story seemed incredibly rushed. There’s no apparent relevance to anything in the Marvel Universe with the main story, Peter is majorly shoehorned into being a part of the plot and it’s not even clear what Molina is trying to achieve with these characters. He’s stuck the ‘Santerians’ names on the front cover like they’re as important as the Fantastic Four yet they’re just some mystical group who appeared in three Daredevil issues once. Spidey’s commentary is a garbled load of fourth wall breaking and bad jokes, and there are so many random characters thrown in to a small amount of pages that you can’t tell who is who. I don’t get the ‘point one’ aspect, maybe it’s just because this story is not good enough to feature later in the actual ASM title, but this whole thing is literally drawn out of nowhere and I didn’t glean any redeeming factor of this at all aside from the decent art. Unfortunately, you could just look at Camuncoli’s art for much better quality for Spider-Man, and you’ll even get Slott’s great storytelling as well.
Story – 2/10
Art – 8/10

All-New Inhumans #2
Written By James Asmus and Charles Soule
Art By Stefano Caselli and Andres Mossa

Synopsis – Crystal and her team engage in a diplomatic mission to Sin-Cong, where the sinister Commissar claims the Terrigen Clouds had no effect.

I can easily say this was better than Avengers (v1) #18 where Sin-Cong first appeared, as this was an issue full of political intrigue mixed with the constant spread of Inhumanity and the growth of the already compelling Royal Inhuman Diplomatic Mission. The recently introduced characters such as Panacea and Swain are slowly having their dispositions revealed and their personalities fleshed out, as well as individual outlooks from other members of the team are being explored. The nation of Sin-Cong is very mysterious and it’s a great unique setting for these events to play out, the atmosphere is very eerie and everything revealed in this issue sets up what will likely be a thrilling continuation in this story arc. The art is phenomenal and the colours are a stand-out in quality, I think even if the plot wasn’t so interesting I would have enjoyed this book regardless. This is definitely among my favourite titles right now, and it’s a genius progression for the Inhumans to increase their popularity.
Story – 9/10
Art – 10/10

All-New X-Men #2
Written By Dennis Hopeless
Art By Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy and Nolan Woodard

Synopsis – Scott bares his soul to Austin – Thirst – while Laura and Warren track the other members of the Ghosts of Cyclops.

Here’s where this book starts to become a little shaky. I think the one primary problem Hopeless has created in this series is that he’s only introduced one storyline. The drama featuring Scott and the Ghosts of Cyclops makes for a very enthralling plot, and I enjoyed everything involving that in this issue, but as for the rest of the X-Men, they have next to no purpose. It seems more like a Cyclops solo book with some light-hearted scenes detailing the other members – only half a page of dialogue between Hank and Bobby actually had any relevance to ongoing plot points. I do like the villains of this piece, as well as the action and Scott’s exploits, but this is an X-Men book, not a solo title, meaning Hopeless needs to introduce appropriate subplots for the other characters.
Story – 6/10
Art – 7/10

Illuminati #2
Written By Joshua Williamson
Art By Shawn Crystal and John Rauch

Synopsis – The Hood goes over his plan with the gathered Illuminati, and it involves challenging the Gods themselves.

The focus on Marvel villains is such a rich and vibrant area that I would say there should be much more titles revolving around them. Heroes get too much spotlight, and cutting a balance between hero and villain titles would dramatize every battle and situation tenfold. Every member of this Illuminati is an asset in their own way both through their abilities and their personalities, and the more development provided to each of them – the more I am sold on this book. Williamson introduces the best shady operation since the Hellfire Club in this issue, a place that becomes more interesting through each event that happens in the climax. I am looking forward to seeing what the Hood’s plan involves and how ingenious it will actually be, as well as what form the team will be in after it. The cliffhanger to this issue makes it out that the Illuminati will have to work together despite their differences, so we’ll finally see some convincing action from this book, after a surprising two issues of decent dialogue and complex themes. I’m not so sold on the art, however.
Story – 8/10
Art – 6/10

Mighty Thor #2
Written By Jason Aaron
Art By Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson

Synopsis – Thor struggles against the countless attacks and schemes running throughout the Realms.

It seems that continuity is already becoming a problem, as examining the content of the above Illuminati issue, Enchantress between that issue and this is in completely different situations. Asgardia is the base of operations for the Asgardians there, yet Asgard if the focus of this. I’m sure it won’t take much work to resolve, but one of the main points of the Secret Wars reboot/launch was to absolve continuity issues. That aside, this book is awesome. The broadness of the plot makes each threat all the more significant and you can relate to the overwhelming pressure Jane Foster receives. There are countless strong and compelling personalities on both sides of the conflict and Loki’s return to villainy is much more satisfying than I could have hoped. There’s still much more to be explored and we haven’t even pierced the surface of the mystical and epic battles. This title will surely be a mainstay of Marvel in the coming year, and with stories of this calibre I have zero concerns for the quality.
Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

Ms. Marvel #2
Written By G. Willow Wilson
Art By Takeshi Miyazawa and Ian Herring

Synopsis – The Hope Yards Development and Relocation Association give Kamala no other option than to fight them or be framed as their representative.

This issue takes a detour away from Kamala’s relationship issues to worsen the mystery and eeriness of the Hope Yards project, and to reveal the villains behind them. Wilson adopts some horror clichés to show the effectiveness of the villains and the scenario created works really well alongside Kamala’s perpetual double life crisis and strained relationships. The tone setting in to this book is quite unlike all of Ms. Marvel’s previous adventures so it will be nice to see how she deals with larger and broader threats and if we will see any other heroes included in the fight. It appears also that Bruno’s girlfriend Mike will be important, as between the cliffhanger and the already tense connection Kamala has with her, both girls are integral to this plot and I can’t wait to see their meeting. Miyazawa’s art is growing on me like I thought it would – I now think the decision to still include but wean Alphona’s style off in the first issue was a great technique to establish Miyazawa as a viable artist on the character when Alphona was tied to it since the beginning.
Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

Silk #2
Written By Robbie Thompson
Art By Tana Ford and Ian Herring

Synopsis – Cindy is coming close to convincing Black Cat of her loyalty, but the foremost Spider authority has taken note of Silk’s actions.

The plot of this book is fairly good, but its execution is really very messy. Thompson is trying to pull off a repetitive narrative structure but it comes off as erratic and completely random, plus Cindy’s commentary is full of strange and unrealistic dialogue. The supporting characters are being constrained to very basic ideals, even Black Cat who has an expansive history behind her. As such, the story balances a lot on Cindy’s likeability and entertaining dialogue, but in this regard it falls fairly flat. While the plot has plenty of room to develop well and the characters can easily be amended into interesting integrations, Thompson needs to stray away from the problems he has created in the first two issues – meaning he needs to make the supporting characters more interesting, limit Cindy’s narration to only necessary lines and focus on the important plotlines without introducing too many.
Story – 5/10
Art – 7/10

Web Warriors #2
Written By Mike Costa
Art By David Baldeon, Scott Hanna, Livesay and Jason Keith

Synopsis – Gwen works on one of the Dillons’ doubts while the first skirmish between the Web Warriors and the Electros occurs.

This kind of ridiculous plot was inevitable as soon as Spider-Verse was introduced, and it progressed in the silly manner I predicted it would. There’s a nice plot device here that is common in situations like this – hopefully someone will understand my coined Vennema Multiversal scenario (if not then Marvel Database is your friend) – but as it is quickly resolved we are left with an absurd congregation of electricity and webbing that works fairly well but eliminates any personal development for any of the protagonists or villains. I see now that this arc needs to be taken very lightly to be enjoyed, its nothing more than action and AU versions of Spider-Man characters – including the increasingly irritating use of animals, ‘Electro-Horse’ is just a bit too much when paired with Spider-Ham. So I would only recommend this as a light-hearted battle romp with minimal story quality, and if you want character development then maybe turn to the solo titles for some of these characters.
Story – 6/10
Art – 7/10

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3
Written By Ryan North
Art By Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi

Synopsis – Doreen treads in thin ice in the past to avoid rupturing the timeline, but Nancy and Doctor Doom’s interruption threatens everything.

OK, despite my limited experience of Squirrel Girl – and her own limited appearances clocking in at around 65 issues – I’ve learnt that under this creative team you shouldn’t take anything you read here completely seriously. This is a book and a revised character targeted at younger audiences and adults with awful senses of humour, so I’m going to battle through my anger at the constant misrepresentation of villains and excessive, pointless narration to rate the quality of the book in the light of its purpose and intention: to entertain. Yet, since these are my reviews and nobody else’s, I can state with conviction that I was not entertained. It’s undeniable that there’s way too much dialogue and an additional sentence of hard-to-read text at the bottom of every page is cutting it close to 60s level standard of overwriting (and no, it is not a gimmick because Doreen is currently in the 60s). The only thing this book does cleverly and correctly is the fundamentals of time travel and the narrative structure in this sense, which is unfortunately restrained only to this arc and the rest of the title has next to no redeeming factors. The humour is weak, it’s overwritten, the villains are embarrassing and inaccurate and the character embodies the absurdity of comic books – which can be done right, but it unfortunately falls flat here.
Story – 3/10
Art – 6/10

Uncanny Inhumans #3
Written By Charles Soule
Art By Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia

Synopsis – The Inhumans battle reluctantly against Blackagar and Medusa’s twisted son.

After the cataclysmic events of the second issue, I expected a final, desperate fight from the Inhumans in this book, and I got exactly what I wanted. The majority of this issue is action rather than character or plot development, but this is acceptable because of the ample set-up the first two issues gave us. The tragic life of Ahura is shown throughout the epic battles and we see a couple of startling revelations. You can see the pain that Medusa and Black Bolt specifically have to go through, even with the latter’s lack of dialogue – a remarkable feat for Soule here – and everything about this was a perfect but horrifying progression from all of these characters’ previous actions. The art is magnificent and of course there are plenty of large panels displaying the extravagance of the Inhuman abilities. I am very intrigued as to what the next issue will entail due to Medusa’s ending line, but I hope Soule doesn’t fall into the precarious Kang precedent of time travel and absurd timeline alteration.
Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

Ultimate End #5 (Final Issue)
Written By Brian Michael Bendis
Art By Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna and Justin Ponsor

Synopsis – Miles Morales tries against unlikely odds to convince the inhabitants of Manhattan of Doom’s false reign.

This book, while incredibly delayed (the fourth issue came out on the fifth of August) plays the necessary role of setting up the tone for the final issue of Secret Wars. It is fairly melodramatic and Bendis doesn’t tail the dialogue to any of the countless characters that appear in this book, instead running a continuous and unified internal decision for all of the characters as they go from fighting each other to ultimately coming together to oppose Doom. On the other hand, Bendis does manage to include sections of personal narration for Miles, 616’s Tony Stark and Peter Parker, and their sections are more effective emotionally than the widespread madness of dozens of characters muddling their thoughts together. The ending does basically reveal the restoration of the previous Multiverse, as many other books have already done, but the possibly of the Ultimate Universe returning in some form exists – yet I did notice the subtle phonological change that suggests otherwise. It appears only the conflict of the final Secret Wars issue will be new information which is disappointing, but it is understandable that Marvel needed to return to form as the event has gotten progressively weaker over time.
Story – 7/10
Art – 9/10
And, from a galaxy far far away…
Darth Vader Annual #1
Written By Kieron Gillen
Art By Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Jason Keith

Synopsis – Vader arrives on Shu-torun to remind the disappointing and concerning monarch of the Empire’s power.

As this is an annual, you would think there would be more substance to a story. Alas, this plot is actually relatively weak and it relies absolutely on Vader’s presence and the background of this period in Star Wars canon to try and make an effective book. This seems on most counts a rushed half-hearted book from Gillen, presumably as he may be focusing on his other works at present, but he missed out by not developing the character of the King and his other two offspring. It’s blatantly apparent that the characters of Triple-Zero and Beetee are included solely to resolve the plot and Vader is left with a couple of good pieces of dialogue and a vaguely interesting lesson for a woman called Trios, but the only qualitative aspect of this book was the art and the large open panels. I’m only excessively irritated because the Star Wars Annual was brilliant, but in comparison this story was lacking and the moral was irrelevant.
Story – 4/10
Art – 8/10

Kanan #9
Written By Greg Weisman
Art By Pepe Larraz and David Curiel

Synopsis – Kanan departs on his first mission with Master Billaba, but Separatist forces lie in wait.

I enjoyed this story quite a bit, as the progression from Billaba and Kanan’s bonding over the previous issues has culminated in the latter being the former’s Padawan – meaning we are now exploring a very critical period to Kanan’s character. This mission on Kardoa was relevant because of Kanan’s apparent first ever assignment, and his first time working with forces of the wider Republic. The supporting characters of this issue are generally entertaining and there is a relatable dynamic throughout the group. The threat they face is significant enough to compel the reader to root for Kanan and his accomplices, but my main problem with the issue was that it all resolved painfully quickly when the story should have really been set over two issues with a jarring incident being the cliffhanger at the end. The final couple of pages are extremely rushed and messy and as a result the story loses some of its effect. It still achieved its task and purpose but to better the flow of narrative Weisman should have really reconsidered limiting the mission to one issue.
Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/09 – 12/16

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/09 - 12/16

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/09 - 12/16

Reviews by MattzLadd, CMRO Contributor

 

Gwenpool Holiday Special #1 (One-Shot)

Ever Green
Written By Charles Soule
Art By Langdon Foss and Megan Wilson

Synopsis – She-Hulk has to maintain an office party all night in order to save her financially weak building from being sold.

There probably could not have been a better choice than Jen Walters to lead this book with the bridging story. The story itself is great, continued from established supporting characters and with a real threat to Jen’s situation. I wouldn’t call this book at all the ‘Gwenpool’ Holiday Special, as she only appears in one disappointing section. It should have headlined She-Hulk or simply have gone with the ‘Marvel Holiday Special’. In any case, this story’s messages were really strong and they tie in brilliantly to Christmas and seasonal spirit. There are cameos galore from all around the Marvel Universe and the art isn’t half bad either. The Marvel specials I have read have usually been awful, but I’ve enjoyed this entire book greatly. Stay tuned for more detail…
Story – 9/10
Art – 7/10

Ms. Grinch
Written By Margaret Stohl
Art By Juan Gedeon and Tamra Bonvillain

Synopsis – Kamala, with her religious affiliation, misses out on the festivities every year. But is Christmas really what she thinks it is?

This would have worked great on its own reflecting only on the spirit of Christmas and its very idea to inspire joy. I don’t know enough about Islam traditions to say specifically their restrictions, but Kamala nevertheless is irritated and with fair justification. The scenes in this book are each important to her and to the reader in their own way and by the end a great story has been told with ideal messages in a very short space of time. Of course the superhero twist allows for a different ending, but the theme is the same – Christmas is not exclusive regardless of its pagan origin or current religious opinions.
Story – 9/10
Art – 6/10

Hawkeye vs. Deadpool vs. the Holidays
Written By Gerry Duggan
Art By Danilo S. Beyruth and Cris Peter

Synopsis – Deadpool and Hawkeye hunt down a pickpocket and appeal to the merciful side of the holidays.

This wasn’t anything at all like the annoying romp I presumed it to be. Deadpool and Hawkeye actually have a strong, amusing relationship and with the inclusion of Kate Bishop the three are entertaining enough to watch. This short story, like the others, had a strong message that should appeal to all readers that didn’t just involve Deadpool saying something ridiculous. I admit to have dreaded this before starting it because of a certain name in the title – whose segment I am still concerned about, the story of the irritating amalgamation known as…
Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10

Gwenpool’s Holiday Adventure
Written By Christopher Hastings
Art By Gurihiru

Synopsis – Gwen Poole – the apparent fusion of Gwen Stacy and… Deadpool – is hired to defeat a mysterious sword-wielder named Orto.

So this was exactly what I expected it to be. Gwen Stacy has become inexplicably popular very recently, and whose absurd idea wouldn’t it be to mix her ability to apparently be any character (see the Gwen Stacy variant month) with Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking, blatant violence and depressing one-liners. She is not a ‘good character’ in the traditional sense, but I suppose you could say she could provoke some entertainment. This short story featuring her was as underdeveloped as it could be, but the action was good and the art was magnificent. Don’t take that as meaning I want more Gwenpool, though, I don’t. I don’t.
Story – 4/10
Art – 10/10

Scarlet Witch #1
Written By James Robinson
Art By Vanesa Del Ray and Jordie Bellaire

Synopsis – Wanda Maximoff investigates the sudden death of a huge number of cats and how it relates to a creature called a Sonneillon.

While this issue had a good story and set up some potential plotlines, I can’t help but worry about the changes constantly happening throughout the title. Not only has Robinson stepped very close to changing the fundamentals of Wanda’s abilities – from the definitive chaos magic to the vague ‘witchcraft’ term – but there will apparently be a different artist working on the book on each issue. I can understand the benefits this has for the artists themselves but for readers it will certainly impede the flow of the story and it looks now that each issue will be entirely self-contained – a device that will fail sooner or later. I did like this story, with its historical connections and the conflict it brought about for Wanda, and the art wasn’t bad, but spending three quarters of an issue setting up the fight in the final few pages will not work every issue – that is why continued stories exist and the same artist should stick with it.
Story – 7/10
Art – 7/10

All-New Hawkeye #2
Written By Jeff Lemire
Art By Ramón Pérez and Ian Herring

Synopsis – The Hawkeyes battle the Mandarin in the future and they avoid their relationship issues in the present.

A marked improvement from the first issue, this has a complex story with great dialogue and an appropriate dynamic between the two protagonists. The contrast between present and future really works here and a couple of much-needed supporting characters are brought in to invigorate attention. The Mandarin’s involvement is a little forced and I still don’t get why he’s wearing that sort of suit (maybe it will be the common fashion in thirty years) but he provides a required threat in the situation. The strange Project Communion children still have an important involvement, which is great as they represent a theme that the Hawkeyes are affected by, leading to better character development. I still can’t speak for the art, but at least the story is improving – I’m intrigued by the future set-up for the third issue.
Story – 8/10
Art – 5/10

Black Knight #2
Written By Frank Tieri
Art By Luca Pizzari, Kev Walker and Antonio Fabela

Synopsis – Dane succumbs to the Ebony Blade as the Avengers Unity Division mount an unlikely mission to apprehend him.

I don’t ever recall the Ebony Blade being presented as a negative force, nonetheless, I love this darker version of Dane and the weapon he wields. The Black Knight has always been a background hero at best, but I think acting as an antihero or even villain he would be much more popular and enthralling to read. The Avengers Unity Division are actually sufferable in this despite their own nonsensical book and the exposition behind Dane’s friendship with members of the team – Steve Rogers especially – contrasts brilliantly to the combat in the present. The art is really good, specifically in the broader scenes, it’s really growing on me as a whole the more I read. This is very much character rather than plot driven, obviously because the erratic nature of Weirdworld doesn’t allow for much plot consistency, but I have to qualms as Dane is a compelling protagonist and I am rooting for him to beat the Uncanny Avengers wholeheartedly.
Story – 9/10
Art – 8/10

Hercules #2
Written By Dan Abnett
Art By Luke Ross, Emilio Laiso and Guru-eFX

Synopsis – Hercules encounters more immigrating ancients as he strives to restore his reputation.

This was an excellent issue that followed on well from the plotlines established in the debut issue. Hercules’ problems are relatable and appropriate to his synoptic character development since his introduction. The growing threat of the ‘Uprising’, and whatever storm it may represent itself in, correlates to the real world and to great themes about generations and heroism. Even more interesting supporting characters are introduced and the basic idea of Hercules facing ancient creatures that will likely comprise most of some of these issues is not as black and white as was presumed. It’s great when writers stray away from using underdeveloped villains even though they still need grunts for the protagonist to fight – Abnett has manipulated this masterfully. The plot progression is smooth and mediated, allowing for subplots while still exceling the story at a natural rate. I really like the art and the revised character designs. Overall, I have to say I am enjoying this book and I am invested in it until this arc reaches its end.
Story – 8.5/10
Art – 9/10

Ultimates #2
Written By Al Ewing
Art By Kenneth Rocafort and Dan Brown

Synopsis – The Ultimates face Galactus with a plan that could affect even a being such as him.

Ewing provides an ingenious plot that plays beautifully upon Galactus’ own origin and personality paired with the distinctive abilities of each of this revolutionary line-up. The technology displayed here is beyond most Marvel creations at this point, showing the supreme intelligence of T’Challa and his team, to the extent that they achieve something I would have thought impossible in changing Galactus. I won’t say how, this is worth reading without my explanation, but these first two issues have certainly started off strong in every sense. I love the themes and the out-of-the-ordinary vibe I am getting from this, the team is stronger and works better together than any other active group right now and I am completely intrigued in what more there is focusing on Galactus and whatever they opt for beyond that. The art is stunning, definitely in my top five of the current books along with Mike Del Mundo, David Marquez, Ariel Olivetti and Stefano Caselli.
Story – 9/10
Art – 10/10

Contest of Champions #3
Written By Al Ewing
Art By Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, David Curiel and Andrew Crossley

Synopsis – The two teams are sent into the fray and old feuds are rekindled.

I really like the way this book is heading. It’s nice that it doesn’t try and formulate a complex plot, instead having action as the primary element and subplots as little more than set-ups for other battles. This works well among the countless other plot-heavy books that either fail miserably or detract from the enjoyment because of it, at least we know where we stand here. The line-ups from each team are already interesting, and there’s still plenty more characters to be added. There are a couple of inconsistencies inevitable when dealing with several different alternate universes, but they aren’t major. My only proper gripe with this is that I don’t see why the team organisers don’t do the ‘summoning’ themselves, it’s obvious that Maestro has his own agenda and I count the Collector as too intelligent to not acknowledge this. While most of the plot progression is predictable, there are some points that did surprise and entertain me that will come into fruition next issue. I love the art, and the action is both varied and exciting.
Story – 7/10
Art – 9/10

Deadpool #3
Written By Gerry Duggan
Art By Mike Hawthorne, Terry Pallot and Guru-eFX

Synopsis – Deadpool’s Mercs each deal with their non-existent pay checks and the renegade Deadpool impersonator shows his hand.

Thank God Duggan is straying away from the mindless humour towards a more dramatic and multi-aspect story. Each of Deadpool’s Mercs has short sections featuring each of them in this issue, hinting to personality traits and integral supporting characters. It’s great character development and Deadpool himself is in a serious state – arguably when he is at his most effective and compelling. I am interested in the villain of this story as the mystery surrounding him (or her… or it?) is rich enough with their previous actions and presence to sustain entertainment. Another subplot that I was expecting was introduced when the perpetual hero Stingray was revealed to be on the team, which should only improve the plot. I liked the action a lot in this issue and there were plenty of different scenarios to interest a range of readers. It appears this arc will reach its conclusion fairly soon, and its shaping up to be a good reveal, though of course there’s still possibility for failure.
Story – 8/10
Art – 7/10

Guardians of the Galaxy #3
Written By Brian Michael Bendis
Art By Valerio Schiti and Richard Isanove

Synopsis – Hala wreaks havoc on Spartax and the Guardians find themselves overwhelmed by her power.

Apart from the introduced characters in the first stage of this book, there isn’t much narrative content in this issue – it is literally just small skirmishes with some of the Guardians while Hala asserts her power. She is an absolute threat but I assumed at the end of the second issue that Spartax was going to be outright destroyed – instead she just takes down vacant ships and inconclusively hunts the protagonists. The dialogue, too, is a waste of space here – and there’s far too much offhand humour for the serious situation they are in. Star-Lord and Hala are the only appropriate and enthralling characters in this book and the plot doesn’t achieve what it should have. While the art is good and there are some epic splash panels, I feel a little disappointed by this issue and its characters. I am sure the quality of the second issue will return next time, hopefully, but this issue was a bit of a blip in the progression.
Story – 6/10
Art – 8/10

Spider-Gwen #3
Written By Jason Latour
Art By Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi

Synopsis – Gwen turns to Earth-616’s Spider-Woman for advice and a familiar figure returns.

This issue was brilliant for world enrichment. There were a plethora of supporting characters – mainly promising variations of mainstream characters – introduced, such as the police officer Ben Grimm and the enigmatic Matt Murdock, that contribute towards the expanding plot that I am finally intrigued by. Gwen’s internal dilemma is fascinating to see with her unique comparison to 616 Gwen’s life and the Peter Parker we know, opposed to the drastically different world of Earth-65. The supporting characters each bring their own assets to the story, one of which that returned close to the end that casts huge implications on later stages of this plot, and their stories balance with Gwen’s thoughts well. I’m happy that the idiotic subplots running from the first issue have been left behind and Latour is focusing on the compelling and complex plot fully, leaving more room to develop aspects of narrative and relationship development.
Story – 9/10
Art – 8/10

Uncanny Avengers #3
Written By Gerry Duggan
Art By Ryan Stegman and Richard Isanove

Synopsis – The Shredded Man continues his attack with disappointing opposition from the Unity Division, even with Cable’s help.

Finally, this book is beginning to improve. We are provided with a little character development to the completely random and shoehorned Synapse (representing Inhumans) on the team and the villain states a formidable case. Of course, the team is still too weak and divided to form a defence, but even so Cable improves things and a couple of the members initiate subplots that could prove effective later down the line. Deadpool was actually sufferable in this issue and doesn’t treat absolutely everything as a joke, and the social outlooks on the team are intriguing to see. I suppose the art is decent enough and the dialogue was actually competent in place of the first two issues’ nonsense. This still isn’t as good as the other Avengers titles, which themselves are surpassed by plenty of other relaunch titles, but I can see this story isn’t a lost cause and the team could make something of themselves in time.
Story – 7/10
Art – 7/10

Amazing Spider-Man #4
Written By Dan Slott
Art By Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith and Marte Gracia

Synopsis – Spidey abandons Nick Fury at his time of need when Aunt May is threatened.

I would have said I enjoyed this as a deviation from the Zodiac focus, but in reality it isn’t a deviation at all. The Norman Osborn plot is now running simultaneously to Zodiac, which has concerning implications for the flow of the next few issues – Slott might have introduced too many plot points, and with the reoccurring cliffhanger of even more Spidey villains being brought in I can only hope it doesn’t get too cluttered. Both main plots are great in their own ways, Zodiac vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. for the changes Peter has made to Spider-Man and his retinue and Norman Osborn for the personal connections Peter has. This issue worked really well as the first stage of a wider battle between Parker and Osborn’s Goblin force, with a rural setting and a couple of interesting supporting characters. It’s pretty easy to pick up the subtext and presume directions the story is heading in, but anything could happen really. As I mentioned, another villain is introduced with the cliffhanger in a similar way to Rhino – with aspects that I am very thoughtful about and a mysterious figure I can’t wait to see revealed. The art is still really good. Apart from the minor concerns I have with the title, I really enjoyed this issue.
Story – 8/10
Art – 9/10

Spider-Man 2099 #4
Written By Peter David
Art By Will Sliney and Rachelle Rosenberg

Synopsis – Roberta Mendez investigates Miguel’s basement and a sinister bandit from 2099 prepares to strike.

Finally, we get some insight into Roberta’s role in this book and in the world. The story has been preoccupied with Miguel and Tempest of late but since her civilian introduction in the first issue I have been thinking about this. Her schizophrenic state between herself and 2099’s Captain America pays off with great action and unique dialogue, against an equally promising villain whom may have appeared in previous volumes of this name… Miguel’s own inclusion was far more removed from fighting, and it didn’t have any of the plot points explored in previous issues. This method of developing Roberta and the 2099 inhabitants works well alongside the quiet periods of ‘Fist’ and Spider-Man’s exploits in the present day. The ending opens a lot of doors for Peter David to follow while bringing the main story back into focus, but I’m glad the supporting characters are coming into their own.
Story – 8/10
Art – 9/10

Secret Wars #8
Written By Jonathan Hickman
Art By Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina

Synopsis – Chaos erupts as Doom personally enters the fray, while Black Panther and Namor approach.

We’re back on track for the most part after the bungled seventh issue. This issue is really good for action, most of the dialogue and the confrontations. The main Incursion survivors and the despots of Battleworld are receiving the most focus as it should be, provided they are Fantastic Four-related as this story is turning out to be. I liked most of the battles and events transpiring here, but I just have one qualm – we don’t receive any answers. Almost everything, apart from a couple of demises, is a set-up for the final issue – which the only way I can see working is if it is a ginormous issue, for there needs to be a lengthy, non-convoluted battle between Doom, Black Panther and whoever else has been shown to have enough power to take down the almost God-level Doom, as well as answers to all the established plotlines and appropriate endings for the departing Battleworld alternates. In an ideal world the final issue would be huge but thoroughly entertaining and continuous from set precedents, but I already know it won’t be perfect and perhaps Secret Wars was doomed from the start. If I’m rating from issues alone, however, I liked this a lot – though it is what I expected from the seventh issue with the final two stretching out the points I made earlier.
Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

And, from a galaxy far far away…

Star Wars Annual #1
Written By Kieron Gillen
Art By Angel Unzueta and Paul Mounts

Synopsis – Eneb Ray acts undercover in Coruscant as Tharius Demo, until Leia assigns him a task that could endanger not only his position, but his life…

This story came seemingly out of nowhere, completely disconnected from current comic Star Wars events and set in an unclear time period, but nonetheless I really enjoyed this book. The protagonist is complex, not necessarily likeable but enthralling, while his engaging situation is available only to the fantastic Star Wars Universe. The utilisation of the Emporer – a surprisingly underused villain – is perfect for the scenario and as always he is chilling and intimidating. The themes are absolutely the strong point of the issue, despite them staying internalised to connections only to Star Wars and the war between the rebels and the Empire, and the art is beautiful. I hope this character returns in some form, he seems certainly interesting enough to inspire multiple other storylines, but Gillen and Marvel have proved they can tell effective self-contained stories that thoroughly entertain and provide a strong message.
Story – 9/10
Art – 10/10

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/02 – 12/09

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/02 - 12/09

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 12/02 - 12/09

Reviews by MattzLadd, CMRO Contributor

 

All-New Inhumans #1
Written By Charles Soule and James Asmus
Art By Stefano Caselli, Nico Leon and Andres Mossa

Synopsis – As the Terrigen cloud continues to spread, so too does the negative social response to Inhumanity. A diplomatic mission is formed to attempt to negate the tension.

I was expecting this as one of the introductory books alongside other Inhuman titles because of Marvel’s promotion of the race, much like great series we have seen from the X-Men in the past. After reading this, I am vastly impressed by the thought put into this and the quality of this book. The primary characters are all strong personalities and it’s great to see Gorgon and Crystal get the spotlight as the Inhuman brand expands. They are each with their accomplices going through interesting dramatic storylines that coincide with the global events and the balance of dialogue with action is brilliant. The art is absolutely one of the best of the relaunch and there’s loads of potential with the diverse cast of characters and compelling narrative situation.
Story – 9/10
Art – 10/10

All-New X-Men #1
Written By Dennis Hopeless
Art By Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy and Nolan Woodard

Synopsis – The young Scott Summers targets a mutant group of Cyclops sympathisers while the rest of the All-New X-Men track him.

I would call the All-New X-Men, specifically the time-displaced members from the past, one of the standout most interesting teams introduced in recent years. Their character development as a contrast to their written adventures in the 60s is fascinating to see and how they have adapted to the present world and the state of the X-Men is something special that only a team so rich and extensive can achieve. This story focuses on Scott Summers, a good choice in light of recent events, and as mutant distrust is still running rampant there are of course storylines for the team to immerse themselves in. This issue and ostensibly the next few also highlight a mutant group called the ‘Ghosts of Cyclops’ and of course their name alone suggests their personal connection to Scott and his older counterpart. Scott’s reactions to them and their actions in this book are absolutely great, plus his tribulations with them accompanied by the reintroductions of each member of the team make for a flowing, attentive story. The message given to us by the end fits well with the theme of this book, I can only hope it continues to stay on track and the separate arcs are interesting, but so far my doubts are alleviated.
Story – 9/10
Art – 7/10

Daredevil #1
Written By Charles Soule
Art By Ron Garney and Matt Milla

Synopsis – Matt Murdock, operating on a different side of the law, continues to fight the Kitchen’s scum as Daredevil, only with a new addition…

I am greatly intrigued already in everything transpiring in this book. Sam Chung, though we know very little about him and his capabilities, represents a social class in the location that struggles with difficult lives. The cliffhanger to this issue hints at possible jeapordy for Chung, from a chilling, strange new villain with an expansive list of subordinates. The narrative wastes no time and jumps right in to the middle of this story via both Daredevil and Murdock’s involvement with an informant from Tenfinger’s gang, with Blindspot’s appearance cutting in at points to establish him as a primary character in this book. I can’t speak for anything beyond this arc, but with the changes in Matt’s character and situation set into place and the supporting characters being brought in I’m excited for great stories, dramatic fight scenes and getting to know Blindspot and the curious villain Tenfingers. The art is very different from the previous volume, with a darker and sketchier tone. At present I don’t think it is as good as Samnee’s style but I know already that it will grow on me. The colouring is really cool.
Story – 9/10
Art – 8/10

Guardians of Infinity #1
Written By Dan Abnett
Art By Carlo Barberi, Walden Wong and Israel Silva

Synopsis – A structure somehow existing at three different points in time simultaneously brings two known Guardians of the Galaxy teams to face an unknown third.

I suppose this was always going to happen eventually, with the continued presence of the Guardians based in the 31st Century and the rise in popularity with the current Guardians line-up. It appears Abnett has selected only a few members from each team’s wider roster, however, as presumably if the three Guardians’ form one single team then it would work better with lesser numbers. I do enjoy seeing the interactions between the Guardians of the present and future, and with the inclusion of a very promising team from the past (featuring a flarking Rigellian!) the time-separated exploits could literally be anything from anytime. This issue is almost entirely orientation but it does have some light-hearted humour littered throughout and a common space threat allows for some decent action towards the end. The quality of the next issues will obviously impinge on the characters, but with the safe prominence of Rocket, Groot and Drax I don’t have many concerns about sustaining entertainment. There’s not much substance in the plot otherwise, though the art is decent enough to maintain attention.
Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10

Red Wolf #1
Written By Nathan Edmondson
Art By Dalibor Talajic, José Marzan, Jr. and Miroslav Mrva

Synopsis – Red Wolf embarks on a mission to prove himself as a viable sheriff in Timely, 1872.

I stated in my review of the last issue of 1872 that I wanted to see this return and the adventures in Timely to continue. The western takes on many of the characters were always enjoyable to see and with the realistic(ish) spin on modern abilities the book had a unique selling point to distinguish itself to readers. This book started off well enough, the drama within Timely is still not resolved and so there’s plenty to play with – Duggan even set up some plot points Edmondson could have easily inherited here – but for some absolutely bizarre reason he has twisted this story into everything it shouldn’t be, and I am severely worried by the cliffhanger. The great thing about this book is the time period and setting style, but that appears to be in jeopardy now due to some stupid decision by the creative team. If this twist is not resolved soon I don’t believe it has any precedent set for telling a good story, nor is the art particularly good enough to hold the book up by itself. Honestly, I do not know why they chose to do this, but I can’t think of a single reason why this would be a good thing for the book when they already had a perfect scenario set up.
Story – 3/10
Art – 7/10

Spidey #1
Written By Robbie Thompson
Art By Nick Bradshaw and Jim Campbell

Synopsis – The Spider-Man early days are retold with a light-hearted spin and the emergence of Spidey’s rogues gallery as a prominent feature.

While it’s true that the early days of Spidey have been told to death (I was listening recently to some video where it went into how many hours of content between the films and TV shows focus on Parker’s high school days when he graduated very early on in the comic books, and it was a high number) I can appreciate and understand the purpose of this book and the decent timing of its appearance. In the recent years of Marvel a vast majority of books have taken on a dark tone and Peter Parker has been subject to the same treatment. It is nice once in a while to return to traditional storytelling aimed towards younger audience, and despite the excessive quantity of early Spider-Man tales I wouldn’t go as far as saying they have lost the entertainment factor. We’ll be able to see iconic villains retold over this run and of course the relationship development between Peter and his peers is fantastic. The art is also very good and in a bright cartoon style. I would definitely recommend this as a brilliant light read in between the darker and more serious events transpiring currently.
Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

The Totally Awesome Hulk #1
Written By Greg Pak
Art By Frank Cho and Sonia Oback

Synopsis – Amadeus Cho takes up the reins of the Hulk in order to combat an increase in monstrous beings.

I don’t know how on earth Cho came to be in this position, as there’s no precedent set for his new form nor have I heard anything about Banner stepping down from the position. It also seems that the creative team are nerfing Cho’s intelligence (though they still state him as one of the foremost super-geniuses) in place of the Hulk’s formidable strength. While he still maintains his general intelligence while in that form – as well as his courtship tendencies – he certainly wouldn’t appear as a genius at first glance. The plot in which he and his sister find themselves is very light at the moment, literally only consisting of a couple of monster appearances and the reveal of a far-out threat with the ending. I am more intrigued into the story leading up to this and the hints towards Banner’s disposition on one certain page, but in the meantime the wild action and great art could certainly tide me over. Cho is a likeable character and his new form as the Hulk opens a lot of doors for his character development, so this book doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all at the moment.
Story – 7/10
Art – 9/10

All-New, All-Different Avengers #2
Written By Mark Waid
Art By Adam Kubert and Sonia Oback

Synopsis – The team finally converges as Warbringer follows an irregular path in search of relics.

Now this issue was a tiny bit disconcerting. I praised the first issue for what it appeared at first to set up: slow but sensible introductions of each of the team’s members in the face of a viable threat. The first issue did this well enough, so I was hoping for a decent fight this issue and maybe a couple more characters thrown in. Nope, everything is thrown in randomly and it’s very messy and convenient. It is too unclear as to what Warbringer’s plan is and the mere fact that he is Nova’s arch-enemy is not enough to justify his importance, and the enigmatic Mr. Gryphon whose only link to the story is through Stark’s financial issues is largely shoehorned in with a contradictory relationship with the primary villain. A lot of the humour seems forced and not very humorous, plus even though the members seem to work well enough together (unlike the irritating Uncanny Avengers) the plot just isn’t compelling, nor is the entire scenario. It’s a little annoying that I have issues with each of the Avengers teams (ANAD’s plot, UA’s stupidity and inefficiency, NA’s use of Squirrel Girl (I’m kind of joking with this last one)) but nevertheless I expected more from such a staple to the Marvel Universe and this issue let me down.
Story – 5/10
Art – 7/10

Howard the Duck #2
Written By Chip Zdarsky
Art By Veronica Fish

Synopsis – The story of Linda and Shocket, the female clones of Howard and Rocket, is told in anticipation of their collaboration in the third issue.

Zdarsky has tried a really interesting thing with this issue, referring back to previous events in the last Howard the Duck volume and continuing the story set up there. The origin of Linda the Duck and Shocket Raccoon is actually captivating – their characters are developed smoothly over a very short space and their personalities progress from basic traits into fully-formed ideals and histories. Their adoptive father ‘Dee’ is also a compelling character, and his integration into the Collector’s organisation forms the connection between the female clones, the antagonist Tivan and Howard the Duck. The plot is largely self-contained but nothing is introduced that seems like a waste of space and the origin is actually emotional and relatable. This issue did a great job of establishing the imminently important characters of Linda and Shocket and how they are important to Howard so they can tie in with the next issues. I’m intrigued in the plot arc and I can only hope it continues. The guest artist Veronica Fish is not as good as Quinones, admittedly, but the art was at least admirable.
Story – 9/10
Art – 6/10

Nova #2
Written By Sean Ryan
Art By Cory Smith and David Curiel

Synopsis – Sam and his father engage an overwhelming creature while Sam’s friends grow suspicious of his sudden departures.

The dramatic relationships with Sam, his friends and Jesse are only exacerbated in these pages. It is a bit of a convenient use of a gigantic mine monster (apparently its literal name) to display an unusual event near the end of this book, the action regarding it was good however and said event was very unusual. Aside from the conflict in the latter stages and Sam’s dialogue with his friends there wasn’t really much else going on. Sam’s family dynamic is fairly amusing and of course a scenario in which a family member needs to be on call to protect the Universe can allow for entertaining situations, but this issue specifically felt a little light on the subplots. There is an excellent cliffhanger to relieve the subplot sacrifice and the art is great, but I don’t feel like this issue deserves a high award for the story aspect.
Story – 7/10
Art – 9/10

Vision #2
Written By Tom King
Art By Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire

Synopsis – Virginia keeps her husband from the truth about Grim Reaper and Vin causes trouble at school.

Once again King has delivered an absolute masterpiece. Each page of this book offers a narratively intense scene, either riddled with imagery and connections to the real world or emotionally provoking. The ostensible perfection of the Visions set by the first issue has now been ripped to shreds and the situation the family finds themselves in, with Vin’s misunderstanding of humanity and its fragility and the ever increasing void between Virginia and Vision, is both uncomfortable to watch and fascinating. The family apart from Vision, though they have literally had two issues of content, are brilliant characters with surprising depth, and the climax to this issue can only spell worse things to come for them. The art is sometimes relied on to progress the story without the need of dialogue or the interesting commentary, and it holds itself up, though the balance between good art and intense plot development works just as well as each on their own. I am excessively involved in the events of this title now and know without a doubt that Tom King is a staple if not revolutionary writer for series of this calibre.
Story – 10/10
Art – 8/10

Doctor Strange #3
Written By Jason Aaron
Art By Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey and Mark Irwin

Synopsis – A naked Doctor Strange is accosted across New York City by the ravenous Een’Gawori, but there’s an even more powerful force behind them.

This was an absolutely mad book, and the plot is shaping up to be so broad and consuming that I’m surprised it is confined to just this Doctor Strange book. There is a nice flow of development in any case and the art style showing the realm of magic existing simultaneously with the physical world is great to look at. While the vast majority of this issue is just crazy Doctor Strange versus slugs antics (he’s finally got the axe!) the conclusion was particularly enthralling – it appears a new race or otherworldly syndicate will play an integral role as antagonists to Strange and their abilities have the precedent set that he will have an immeasurably difficult time dealing with – though he does seem to have been buffed magically since the relaunch. I hope the next few issues live up to my expectations and provide an astounding conflict utilising vibrant settings and incomprehensible magic, and this issue was definitely entertaining.
Story – 8/10
Art – 7/10

Extraordinary X-Men #3
Written By Jeff Lemire
Art By Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado

Synopsis – Jean and Logan reconnect while the X-Men battle against the hordes of Limbo.

This book does a very good job of balancing the action and madness of Limbo with the drama and emotion between the time-displaced versions of Jean and Logan – the former of which from the past and the latter from the future. I think the discussion is the better part of the issue because of the unique scenario they find themselves in, and of course Logan’s disturbing history can be interpreted by the telepathic Grey so the conversation goes further than most of the introverted Logan’s discussions. The conflict in Limbo allows for a couple of younger X-Men to become more integrated with the core team which was interesting to see and there’s some mystery surrounding a new character with strange abilities (which are a kind of deus ex machina at the moment but still). The plot progression moves well, as do the characters, but I think the major combat should be resolved as soon as possible so this book can focus on one appropriate arc rather than completely disparate scenes.
Story – 8/10
Art – 7/10

Invincible Iron Man #4
Written By Brian Michael Bendis
Art By David Marquez and Justin Ponsor

Synopsis – Iron Man faces a force of bionic ninjas and Doctor Doom re-emerges to help Tony with Madame Masque.

In light of the recent news that David Marquez will be providing the art for the non-Secret Wars sequel to Civil War, I’ve been looking forward to refreshing myself on his skill with this issue. I can say without a doubt that he’s one of the absolute best artists working on the relaunch right now and Bendis is a far cry from the worst writer. Though not a great deal involving Whitney Frost and her exploits is covered here, there are some entertaining scenes with Tony’s visit to a sick children’s establishment and the epic fight between him and the ninjas in the first part of the issue. The inclusion of Mary Jane and her purpose is as yet unclear, but her character is pursuing a new direction in life and there will be no Peter Parker to hold her back from a full Iron Man integration. The conclusion to here is largely a set-up for the next issue, of which I am more excited about, but there was some good stuff here and I could honestly look at Marquez and Ponsor’s art all day long.
Story – 8/10
Art – 10/10

And, from a galaxy far far away…

Star Wars #13
Written By Jason Aaron
Art By Mike Deodato and Frank Martin, Jr.

Synopsis – Luke’s crew reunites, but Doctor Aphra and her sinister droids are right behind them…

The progression of Vader Down is flowing very well, despite my initial concerns about a six-part event involving only Vader and his inevitable encounter with Luke. However, the plotting Doctor Aphra, Triple Zero and BT-1 have provided a great distraction from Vader’s exploits while still featuring him on the sidelines in the past two issues. Triple Zero is obviously the most eccentric and therefore interesting of the three, and the battles involving him in this issue are really good. BT-1 too is a powerhouse and a real threat to the crew, who also display some epic moves of their own. Leia’s development and integration is becoming more important, likely because of a certain meeting at the end of the issue that will be explored next, so I believe Luke’s group has encapsulated their purpose for the first instance of Vader Down and I’d like to see the primary storyline returned to for some awesome events in the latter stages.
Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

Avengers Inspirations 37: Spider-Man vs the Strangest Foe of All Time, Doctor Octopus

Avengers Inspirations

 

Jon and Lily are back behind the microphone to discuss Spider-Man’s first encounter with one of his greatest enemies, Dr. Octopus! But first, it’s time to see how the Agents of SHIELD were faring in the final weeks before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. So strap in for betrayal and mistrust, followed by Spidey’s first big failure!