Category: Marvel

Chris’ Comics: Captain Marvel #2 & Paper Girls #5

portrait_incredible (5)Captain Marvel #2

Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, Kris Anka, Matt Wilson, Joe Caramagna

Marvel $3.99

Come for the Captain Marvel meets Aliens premise! Stick around for Sasquatch-related romance drama!

Captain Marvel #2 sees the good Captain and her Alpha Flight pals investigate a seemingly abandon spaceship that bears an all too familiar emblem on it. Meanwhile, Abigal Brand finds herself back in a familiar role of dealing with alien tomfoolery. If you’re a fan of space politics and gross alien stuff, this is a comic for you.

As noted several times in the past,  Kris Anka is really good at drawing pretty people with huge muscles. While that is certainly a thing he does in issue 2, he also tosses some stuff at the reader that can be best described as  “fairly disgusting” and “slimy”. He does it quite well, which is a testament to his skills, but some of the imagery that Anaka and Matthew Wilson manage to create I could have gone without seeing in life. Also props to Wilson, who’s colors help give the early pages of the book a sense of Claustrophobia, really selling the how unnerving the alien ship is.

Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters do a great job of fleshing out some of the supporting cast this issue. Shifting the focus on Alpha Flight as Carol narrates shows just show strong of story tellers these writers are, letting the dialogue explain the character’s motives. They also excel in the Brand related subplot, which sees a few new twists and forces the readers to question some character’s motives. Captain Marvel’s new supporting cast grows on you real fast, and helps the book establish it’s own voice.

Captain Marvel #2 is an immensely enjoyable sci-fi super hero comic. Carol Danvers as a leader is an extremely fun reading experience, especially when the creative team is as good as this. It sits nicely next to Ms Marvel, The Ultimates, Spider-Woman and A-Force, letting readers know the character is in good hands without the guidance of Kelly Sue Deconnick.

PaperGirls_05-1Paper Girls #5

Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher

Image $2.99

Paper Girl #5 is a lot like Captain Marvel #2 in a lot of ways: Great art. Matthew Wilson on coloring and some grossness that I could have lived without seeing. That being said, this issue didn’t work for me as CM #2 did.

Paper Girls certainly get points for getting a lot of stuff done in a single issue. The creators dump a lot of info and potential new plot beats in this issue, not giving the readers much time to breathe. I applaud the decision by writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Cliff Chiang to make the book a dense read, but it’s definitely a little more than I was ready to handle in a single sitting.

Paper Girls art though, that never fails to please.. Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson both come through on the visuals, supplying the book with gorgeous art and fantastic colors. Chiang is an inventive story teller, so watching him tell this story with his illustrations choices is super fascinating, He’s so good at blending the period accurate material with the sci-fi stuff, giving the reader a lot to marvel at. And I love Wilson’s choices of colors, which feel retro in a way, but also perfect for the tone of this book.

A good, but not great issue of Paper Girls is still an solid read none the less. The visuals are the selling point this month, and hopefully the break will do the book some wonders.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Spider-Woman #3

Spider-Woman_Vol_6_3_Textless (1)Spider-Woman #3

Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Albardo Lopez, Racehelle Rosenberg

Marvel $3.99

WHAT I EXPECTED GOING INTO THIS ARC: Jessica Drew struggling with pregnancy and being a super hero.

WHAT I GOT INSTEAD: Die Hard, in space, starring a VERY pregnant Jessica Drew.

The first thing I did after reading this issue was to jump on Twitter and scream it’s praises. Writer Dennis Hopeless and artists Javier Rodriguez, Alvardo Lopez and Rachelle Rosenberg have come together to create an amazing story arc which sees a very pregnant Spider-Woman and a squad of fellow moms-to-be stuck in space hospital that’s trapped in Black Hole and crawling with hostile Skrulls.

That is a crazy pants premise that I love so much.

One of the best things about this arc so far is seeing Javier Rodriguez go FULL JACK KIRBY with the art. Most of my experience with his art was seeing him draw street level heroes and heroines, so seeing him go cosmic and start drawing the way King Kirby did when it came to the Skrulls and other cosmic Marvel beings blew my mind. And it’s just tumblr_o1clk5PrD91uxdbsko6_1280not the characters. There’s a bit in this issue where he has to draw Jessica traveling over some weird alien environments, and Javier completely manages to replicate Kirby super detailed, exotic and trippy as all hell style for this scene. All while ensuring his characters maintain the level of detail and expressiveness we’ve come to expect from him, not to mention his experimental layouts and panel placement. Alvaro Lopez and Rachelle Rosenberg bring their A games as usual too, as Lopez manages to ink Rodriguez’s lines perfectly, while adding  heavy blacks to backgrounds when needed. Rosenberg’s colors are superb, helping the final look as good as a comic can look in 2015, giving it a slight advantage over the Silver Age era where Kirby ruled over.

Dennis Hopeless’ Jessica Drew remains wonderful. Anyone worried that the character wasn’t going to be done justice now that she’s pregnant has nothing to fear, as Jessica is just as kick ass as she’s always been, just now slightly more cautious. Hopeless’ Spider-Woman is a lot like Alanna from Saga, only way less foul-mouthed and way more suitable for an teenage audience. Seeing the character take charge and lead a bunch of expecting mothers against tumblr_o1ml4hmjxl1srcsbxo1_1280the Skrulls is definitely an empowering moment for the character, as she manages to keep her cool and do some serious ass kicking. Additionally, his take on Captain Marvel as the concern future godmother helping Jessica through this ordeal puts the character in a new role, without making her any less of a great character. Combined that will the cool new alien characters Hopeless and the artist team creates for this arc, Spider-Woman #3 has a great cast of characters for reader’s to get invested it.

Spider-Woman #3 is an artistic tour de force with some wonderful character moments. It’s EASILY one of the best looking comics to come out during January, and definitely a personal best for this creative team. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to top this one anytime in the near future, but now I’m just going to enjoy what we got.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Saga #33 & The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

Saga_33-1Saga #33

Fiona Staples, Brian K Vaughan

Image $2.99

Finally, a issue of Saga that isn’t a ground breaking reinvention of the medium, but one that’s simply good! Granted it’s a little disappointing as a reader, it makes my job as a critic slightly more easier!

Issue 33 sees the return of the reporter and photographer duo of Upsher and Doff (Upsher reminds us that the “Writer gets the first byline”), in a story that acts a bit like a series recap for the first 11 pages. It’s a neat way to get people caught up, but also not exactly the most exciting thing to read. The rest of the book DOES see the return of fan favorite character, which helps pick things up, and end the issue on the high note. I applaud Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples trying something new with the recap, as both the dialogue and art are solid, but it does feel like the first half of the book is spinning it’s wheels. It was nice to check in on a few minor supporting characters, and even get to witness a little sexy time, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen this creative team do before and it’s not even that great of a recap to be honest.

With the potential for more intriguing things to come, Saga #33 was a good issue from a series that usually gives us great issues. It sounds like a nitpick sure, but when your exceptions are set so high for series, anything less does feel a little off. It’s still worth your time as regular reader, but you should lower your expectations a bit going into it.

5013574-sqgirl2015b004_dc11_lr-0The Unbeatable Squirrel Girt #4

Ryan North, Erica Henderon, Rico Renzi, Clayton Cowles

Marvel $3.99

Dear Erica Henderson, I appreciate the hell out of the Katamari Darmancy homage on the cover, great job, your pal Chris.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is that the creative team does a fine job of making the threats Squirrel Girl face quite creditable. Granted she’s Unbeatable, Ryan North has constantly forced the characters to overcome their problems mostly through non-punching means, which helps build tension and makes for a more interesting read.

Issue 4 is unique because it’s technically a fight that Squirrel Girl has already lost. Time travel shenanigans has old timey Doctor Doom already triumphant in the present, so Ms. Doreen Green and her pals got to figure out how to stop him the past. The problem is this incarnation of Doctor Doom may be too much for SG in direct combat, so the sophomore CS students got to figure out a way past him.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4 gives the reader everything they would expect from this proven creative team. Ryan North gives us smart, engaging dialogue that’s hilarious and reads unlike anything else coming out from Marvel. If Erica Henderson’s art isn’t isn’t you thing, it’s your loss, because her energetic lines and super expressive characters on detail backgrounds are fantastic. Rico Renzi‘s coloring is fantastic as usual, especially  when it comes to portraying energy and heat.

I have zero complaints about the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl once again, because this book is entertaining as hell. North, Henderson and Renzi manage to impress me in new ways with every issue, and I’m glad to see this book survive as long as it has in today’s market.

 

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Captain Marvel #1

Captain_Marvel_Vol_9_1_TextlessCaptain Marvel #1

Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, Kris Anka, Matthew Wilson

Marvel $3.99

The record (aka this blog shows that I am a fan of the following things: Carol Danvers, Kris Anka, Matthew Wilson, and the Agent Peggy Carter TV series. Prior to the announcement of this creative team on Cap Marvel, these 4 things did not overlap, but thanks to Marvel editor Sana Amanat, they do now, and the results are good and great.

Captain Marvel #1 is arguably the BEST Captain Marvel debut issue we’ve gotten since Carol got her sweet new costume. Not to speak ill of the previous runs by the wonderful Carol Corps Queen Kelly Sue Deconnick and her artist pals, but pairing Kris Anka with colorist Matthew Wilson makes for some gorgeous visuals that are hard to compete with. This is the first time Anka has been put on book from the beginning, and he does his damnedest to make one hell of a first impression. Kris goes all out all, tweaking Carol’s costume, gives her a dope new air cut, and gives several fan favorite characters some overdue make overs, results in a fantastic looking debut issue. I love how toned and tumblr_o19bwo2f2j1sqep2mo2_1280muscular his Carol is, as she now looks like a powerhouse who’s really into punching things and/or people. I’ve been a fan of Anka’s style for awhile but pairing him with Matthew Wilson’s colors is brilliant move, giving Kris’ art a Mike Allerd-esque style that I really dig. I love how Wilson colors space, and gives the tech in the Alpha Flight Space Station a cool glow, giving the book a cool science fiction vibe. Together, the issue looks very bright, colorful and expressive, giving Captain Marvel a visually style the character’s never had before!

Writers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters do a wonderful job on their debut issue. Their experience show-running Peggy Carter definitely carries over here, as their Carol is also a no-nonsense bad ass that enjoys her work. Those afraid it would be a different beast from what Kelly Sue established have nothing to fear, as their characterization is very much in that style. That being said, they definitely have a different direction for the tumblr_o19bb0C6tg1sqep2mo1_500narrative, giving her a new supporting cast from the get go (with some cameos from a few old pals), a new M.O. and a new gig. All of it is pretty refreshing, as it attempts to do a lot of new things with the character without alienating readers who’ve stuck with Carol for awhile. And I love Fazekas and Butter dialogue, which is quirky, and gets to the point quick. Which is fine, as less is sometimes more, and frees up more space for the gorgeous artwork.

Captain Marvel #1 was a superb debut issue for this creative team, and I’m eager to read more from them. Everything was on point from the visuals to the pacing, and I’m glad too see Carol in such capable hands. With any luck, this creative team will be free to tell the type of stories they want to, and I’m really digging the new heavy on the sci-fi  status quo. Also more Brand please and thank you.

 

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Chris’ Comics: All New Hawkeye #3

STK693569All New Hawkeye #3

Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez, Ian Herring

Marvel $3.99

I believe it’s safe to say that I can stop worrying about the future of Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. Both figuratively and literally, thanks to how this comic plays out.

 All New Hawkeye #3 wraps up the creative team of Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez and Ian Herring’s 2nd arc, which sounds weird, but try to remember exactly how relaunch-happy Marvel is these days. It’s a great issue that shows how important the Clint and Kate are to each other, even though they’re not on speaking terms with each other for most of the issue. It also wraps up the future Hawkeye story, which was fun alternate future thing filled with a ton of cool ideas and designs.

At first glance, you could accuse Lemire at rehashing a lot of what Matt Fraction had done: ie, broke up and reunite Kate and Clint. It’s a fair complaint, but in Lemire’s defense, he handles it differently, and resolves it quicker. He also shows how much Kate needs Clint, HAWKEYE2015B003-int-LR2-3-4c025which is nice, even though he flat out stats that Clint needs Kate to be a proper Hawkeye. Which is true, as we probably wouldn’t have had nearly 30 issues of Hawkeye comics over the last 4 years if it wasn’t for the inclusion of Kate Bishop. It’s good to see Lemire finally getting more comfortable with the Clint and Kate dynamic, and finally establishing his own take on their relationship. He also does some wonderful things with Clint’s brother Barney, who makes a welcomed return to these pages. It’s a wonderful series of pages, which really works for me more than the Barney/Clint stiff from volume 0. Part of me wants more Barney and Clint bro times from Lemire, but given the character’s current status quo, I’d also be okay with him being left alone with his happy ending for him for the time being.

Ramon Perez has always been great on this book, and I’m impressed that he also manages to improve in some small way with every issue. In issue 3 for example, he draws more sound effects into his panels, and their pretty great. “Bro Hug” was a sound effect that sounds like something that would have shown up in Adventure Time, and its presence is tumblr_o0y1e7HNyt1sqep2mo1_1280welcomed. It’s such a minor thing, but the tiny words give the art an element of comedy that I appreciate. Aside from sound effect, I love his character designs for the future cast of characters, and how Perez composes some of his pages, especially the  Miss America Chavez and Kate Bishop page in which the panels act as mirror images.. All of this, in addition to the fact that he switches up his art style 3 different times in this issue, make him one of the most under appreciated artists at Marvel. Any issue of ANH that take primary in the present is better for it, and issue 3 is proof of that, thanks to Ramon Perez’s visuals, enhanced by Ian Herring’s brilliant choice of colors.

All New Hawkeye #3 puts my fears to rest and helps make this book one of my favorites again. I’m glad the team got their stuff together for this arc, and I’m now genuinely excited for this book in a way I haven’t been for months.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Spider-Man & Deadpool #1

Spider-Man_Deadpool_Vol_1_1_TextlessSpider-Man & Deadpool #1

Joe Kelly, Ed McGuiness, Mark Morales, Jason Keith

Marvel $3.99

Coming into this review, you dear reader may expect some annoyance and snark from me regarding Marvel putting out yet another Deadpool title.  That’s fair assumption, given the books I like can make me come across as a bit of a comic snob. But it’s also totally wrong in this instance, haha, way to blow it nerd . Now let me tell you about why Phonogram is amazing…

No wait, let me actually get back on topic. CHRIS FACT: Joe Kelly and Ed McGuiness’ Deadpool book from the late 90s kept me in cape comics. It’s a run that I really enjoyed, was my favorite book for a long time, and having them reunite on a Deadpool book warrants an instabuy from me. The fact that Spider-Man is involved too is nice, as I really enjoyed Joe Kelly’s all too brief run on Amazing Spider-Man, especially since it result in  THE BEST Spider-Man/Deadpool interaction of all time. That is not an opinion by the way, that is fact, how dare you imply otherwise.

spider-man-deadpool-1-interior-590x900Spider-Man and Deadpool #1 is a fantastic read. It’s also the gayest Marvel comic I’ve read since Angela, and that’s something I mean in the best way. Marvel has been not so great with LGBT representation in leading roles as of late, and giving a pan-sexual character like Deadpool another amazing creative team is nice to see, especially when it results in some of the most creative genital jokes I’ve seen in a Marvel comic. It’s also really funny, which is important given these two characters personalities, and looks stunning, thanks to the team of McGuiness, Mark Morales and Jason Keith. It also does a nice job of fitting into the status quo of both these heroes, which props to Joe Kelly and the editorial team, without having to sacrifice much of the charm Kelly brought to Deadpool and Spider-Man way back when.

The visuals created by Ed McGuiness and Mark Morales are top notch, even though I wish Ed would draw Spidey not as jacked as he does. I prefer my Spider-Man/Men drawn sleek, not like he’s dropping passing for the Jets. But that’s a minor nitpick, as his stylistic, Capcom fighting games meets John Romita Sr. style looks fantastic overall, especially in the case of Deadpool. He gets a lot of emotion from these character’s body language, which is very impressive, and his action scenes look great. Mark Morales’ inks are bold and clean, resulting in some crisp art that is colored superbly by Jason Keith. The art team comes together to create beautiful art that really captures the fun tone you would expect from a Spider-Man & Deadpool book.

GreyPouponIt’s been quite some time since Joe Kelly and McGuiness have collaborated on a Marvel book, although you couldn’t tell from Spider-Man and Deadpool #1. Both creators create a comic that feels like they’ve never stopped working together since the mid-90s, making for a great read for old and new readers alike. It’s a super accessible book that looks great and has a number of quality jokes, making it another fine addition to the relatively solid catalog of action/humor titles Marvel has been putting out as of late. The book may not convert any haters into fans, but anyone longing for more Deadpool in the style of one of his greatest runs is in for a real treat, with no fear of sudden cancellation.

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Chris’ Comics: Obi-Wan & Anankin and Jughead

I would read that comic!

Obi-Wan_and_Anakin_1_cover_CBRStar Wars: Obi-5Wan and Anakin #1

Charles Soule, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa

Marvel $3.99

Hey look, another Star Wars comic drawn by Marco Checchetto, hope this one works out better than last time.

Coming out earlier than expected is the debut of the new Obi-Wan and Anakin mini-series, written by Charles Soule and drawn by Checchetto. Star Wars hype remain high in the Troy household, and I like the idea of mini-series set between installments of the prequel, so I figured I’d give this debut a shot. While I’m pretty cold towards Soule’s Marvel work (his creator owned stuff is great), I found a lot to enjoy with his contributions to this issue. His dialogue is solid, particularly in a scene set during Anakin’s training in the presence of Senator Palpatine, and his premise for the inaugural issue is fun, with some cool moments. Charles does a lot of things right with the tone and “directing” of this mini, succeeding in telling a captivating story with Obi-Wan and young Anakin where George Lucas has failed.

Like his work on Shattered Empire, Marco Checchetto does a great job of capturing the proper looks for the established characters in this mini, and really shines when it comes to creating new characters and ships. His art perfectly captures the swashing buckling spirit of Soule’s script, making this book a perfect blend of drama and action. I also like some of the smaller, subtle things he adds to the art, like having Anankin’s hair indicate with way the winds are blowing Also man, colorist Andres Mossa really give the book a sweeping, cinematic feel, and making the setting climate feel more harsh and dangerous, while giving the book a cool glow. His contributions to this book are crucial, as the final product would not look as good as it does thanks to what Mossa brings to the table.

Obi-Wan and Anakin is a solid comic set in a time period that made for some pretty awful Star War movies. It seems the creative team has a better handle on this scenario and it’s players, not to mention the hindsight as to what to avoid. Assuming the writing stay the same over the next four issues and Checchetto can stick the deadlines, we should be in for a fun little mini.

jughead2015_03-coverJughead #3

Chip Zdarsky, Erica Henderson

Archie $3.99

In non-Star Wars news, Jughead remains wonderful. No one is surprised, as I’ve been praising this book since day 1, what with it’s fantastic creative team, which makes reviewing it a bit of a pain. You can only praise a book so many times before sounding like a broken record, so thanks for being good at your jobs Chip and Erica.

Erica Henderson draws the hell out of this issue, which introduces Jughead’s parents and gives us some spy action as Jughead deals with his expulsion from high school. I love the outfits she throws the cast into throughout the book, as Henderson’s fashion sense is better than most creators, and makes the cast all the more believable. Her art is treat for anyone who can appreciate a more animated style for their comics, and for people who like their character wearing age appropriate clothing.

As for writer/noted Canadian Chip Zdarsky, surprise, he’s great too. Asking Zdarsky to writer jokes is like asking me to make grammatical errors, and it’s also frustrating to see him deliver so effortlessly. Part of the fun of this book is seeing what he pulls from when it comes to the dream sequences for this book, and bringing back the Man from A.R.C.H.I.E. is a cool bit of Archie history, not to mention gives the chance to have the writer to have some fun with acronyms.

Jughead joins Saga as one of those books you know you’re bound to get your money’s worth with. It’s 2 very talented people who are doing some career defining work across the medium coming together to create a super enjoyable comic.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Star Wars: Shattered Empire TPB

Shattered_Empire_1_CoverStar Wars: Shattered Empire

Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto,Emilio Laiso, Angel Unzueta, Andres Mossa

Marvel $16.99

I’m sure I’m not the only person who watched The Force Awakens was thought to themselves to check out the Star Wars comics Marvel has been putting out over the past year afterwards. It’s the type of thought process all comics marketing folk hope readers have, which is why there’s always some sort of post-blockbuster movie tie in comic on the shelves.

Marvel has been really good with the Star Wars licenses, putting a murder’s row of talent on the various books. Assigning Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto to a Star Wars comic that bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens continues that trend, and the collaboration results in a tie-in comic that’s pretty good, not great.

148jd2I say pretty good only because it’s a bit of a bait and switch on Marvel’s end. This mini is marketed as being drawn by Checchetto, but in reality, he’s assisted by Angel Unzueta and Emili Laiso, 2 artists who are serviceable, but not as experienced as Marco. Their styles are in the same vein as Checcheto’s but lack the same amount of detail, energy and experimental panel angles that Checchetto brings to this. Luckily colorist Andres Mossa manages to make the artist switch ups not too jarring thanks to his excellent choice in colors.

The pages that Marco draw are fairly dope, as he excels at capturing the established characters actor’s licenses without coming off looking too photo realistic/light boxed. And I adore the way Checchetto draws that various ships and tech in this comic, giving the story as fantastic imagery. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had he drawn the entire mini.

dfdjg-2Greg Rucka handling the writing duties for the mini makes a ton of sense. Rucka is a great talent, and he already has experience writing Star Wars material thanks to the Smuggler’s Run Han Solo novel that dropped this past September. It’s a shame that this book is only 4 issues, because Rucka introduces at least 5 new characters in this mini that I would love to learn more about. 2 of which include the parents of new fan favorite character Poe Dameron, who Rucka handles like a very PG and less complicated versions of Marko and Alana from Saga. He also does a terrific job of writing the original, established and much beloved characters from episodes 4-6 as well, including a fantastic Princess Leia, much to the surprise of no one thanks to the incredible work he did writing badass females characters like Batwoman and Renee Montoya for DC.

In addition to the 4 issues of the Shattered Empire mini series, we get a copy of Mark Waid and the DodsonsPrincess Leia #1, and a recolored version of the original Star Wars #1 Marvel put out in 1977. I’m obviously not a fan of the new modern colors on the book, but it’s interesting to see how Marvel started with this license. The Waid/Dodsons Leia comic is very rad, and I can’t recommend picking up that mini-series enough.

Overall Shattered Empire is a fun read, but sadly suffers from some inconsistent art, and being a little too brief, thanks rush to get the trade out by the time The Force Awakens in theaters. I would love to see these creators revisit these characters again in the near future, and would recommend this trade for someone who wanted to dip their toes in Star Wars comics, but didn’t want to commit to an ongoing book like Darth Vader or Star Wars proper.

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Chris’ Comics: What I loved about Comics in 2015

It’s been awhile FPNYC Faithful! Both my wife’s and my parents are divorced and remarried, so that means 4 families in 3 different states over the course of 3-5 days, depending on the year. The upside to that is that I got to see “The Force Awakens” twice, which I enjoyed a bunch. Downside is that my portable keyboard’s “N” and “B” keys don’t working, making writing while traveling virtually impossible, at least if I wanted proper spelling.

2015 was kind of a mix bag for Comics. Between Convergence and Secret Wars, there were WEEKS where I didn’t pull any big 2 comics. Which was fine really, as Dark Horse, Image and Boom put out some fantastic books this year. Which means I’m going to spend today talking about what I loved about comics this year.

Kaptara-coverTHE RISE OF CHIP ZDARSKY: The homie Matt Fraction is probably my favorite dude working in comics, but in terms of books released in 2015, I think I’ve read all of 6 books written by Fraction in 2015. HOWEVER, his chum/Sex Criminals co-creator Chip Zdarsky had a fantastic year as far as I’m concerned. 2015 saw Chip teamed up with Infinite Kung-Fu creator Kagan McLeod and put out the excellent Kaptara for Image, Joe Quinones on Marvel’s absolutely hilarious Howard the Duck series, and in a move no one saw coming, Archie hired him and Erica Henderson for a Jughead series. Zdarsky and his army of artists released some gorgeous comics packed with sharp and brilliant humor. I’m excited to see what Chip and his friends can do come 2016, which will hopefully include Sex Criminals coming out on a regular schedule.

KIERON GILLEN, JAMIE MCKELVIE AND MATT WILSON PUT OUT PHONOGRAM VOLUME 3, OH AND THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE REMAINS AN EXCELLENT TITLE. 

PhonogramIG_04-1 Warning, this is where things get a little Image heavy for a bit.

For months, WicDiv has been battling it out with Saga for the crown of “Most Emotionally Damaging Image title”. 2015 saw that book hit all sorts of new creative highs, making for a fantastic read.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT PHONOGRAM CAME BACK!

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl isn’t the trio’s most accessible work, something I’ve stated several times,  but I don’t care. The music + magic plot point with it’s fascinating cast resonates with me in ways most comics don’t. I’m glad to see it come back, especially with these creators as good as they are now, and it deliver on levels I couldn’t predict. Between this and WicDiv, it’s hard to argue any creative team have had such a banner year more than these two.

PaperGirls_02-1BRIAN K VAUGHAN RELEASES A 2ND ON-GOING, IMAGE GETS ME TO GIVE THEM MORE MONEY. 

I might as well just get the rest of the Image stuff out in a single, dedicated section. In addition to books I was already reading like Rat Queens, Deadly Class, Saga, Sex Crimz, WicDiv & Pretty Deadly, Image decided to let a bunch of talented folk to put out more great books, which is both great for me as reader, and terrible for my savings account. Bitch Planet, Paper Girls, The Goddamned, Island, Montress,  and Tokyo Ghosts are just a few of the incredible offerings coming out from Image, who has had an banner year in 2015. And with creators like Bryan Lee O’ Malley preparing books for Image in 2016, I can’t see the publisher slowing down anytime soon.

SECRET WARS ISN’T TERRIBLE, A TON OF MARVEL BOOKS ARE FUN, THE STAR WARS BOOKS ARE GREAT, AND ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT MARVEL Silk Marvel #1NOW HAS A TON OF POTENTIAL HITS ON THE WAY*!

I have plenty of issues with Marvel 2015, but I can’t deny the company has put out some amazing books over the past 12 months. Secret Wars, even with the delays, may be the new standard of excellent for event books. Marvel added wonderful books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Spider-Gwen, and Silk to their catalog. Hawkeye, Uncanny X-men and Secret Avengers all ended on high notes, as the Star Wars line kick several types of ass in ways Star Wars comics never had before. 2015 has been another great year for the House of Ideas, and 2016 looks to continue that trend with the new Black Panther, X-Men ’92, Black Widow, Luke Cage/Iron Fist and Captain Marvel titles dropping over the new few months.

*Anything Inhuman related being the exception, unless we count the wonderful Ms. Marvel.

DC….WELL DC TRIED REAL HARD AND THEY DESERVE SOME PROPS FOR AT LEAST MAKING AN ATTEMPT!

DC did not have a banner year, which is a shame. Convergence was a massive flop and it Batgirl_45_coverdid a ton of damage towards the DC You launch this past summer, which was pretty great for the most part. Black Canary, Starfire are excellent companion books to the already established (and wonderful) Batgirl and Harley Quinn titles, and Tom King is doing the Lord’s work over in Omega Men. The creative teams over on the Superman and Bat books are taking some neat risks, and the Justice League books have been pretty solid as a whole. Sadly, the sales haven’t been there, so who knows what’s to become of books like Gotham Academy and Prez come 2015. But with such cutting edge and diverse titles like John Constantine: Hellblazer, Cyborg, Grayson, and Midnighter coming out, hopefully DC’s 2016 will be better without having to sacrifice much.

And that concludes the annual wall of text. A weird but good year for comics IMO, which plenty to look forward next year! Thanks for reading, hope to see you again come 2016!

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

tumblr_nz76e2ubbQ1uxdbsko1_1280The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is seeing our heroine finding alternative methods to violence when it comes to dealing with super villains. While I’ll have generally have no problems with solving criminal-related problems with fisticuffs, it’s refreshing to see super crime being dealt with in new ways from time to time. Variety is the spice of life after all, and if I want to get my punch on, there’s still the vast majority of super hero comics to consume.

With that being said, seeing an actual super power thrown down occur in this month’s issue of TUSG feels like something different, especially since it deals with long time, well established Squirrel Girl/Doctor Doom beef. There’s also some more cerebral elements to the book as well, but it’s cool seeing Erica Henderson drawing an actual fight scene. It’s VERY old school Looney Tunes in a way, given her style, but Doom still looks rad as hell, as Henderson channels some serious Jack Kirby when drawing him. I also enjoyed seeing tumblr_nzh2uakRJr1sqep2mo1_500Henderson draw one of her favorite Marvel characters in this book, leading to a cute gag involving cosplay and another hilarious cameo from an established Marvel character. Henderson is fantastic as always, and she gives the readers so much to enjoy on a visual level. Colorist Rico Renzi‘s skills once again compliment Henderson wonderfully, although once again my print copy of the book looks way worse than the digital one. This is the 2nd time this has happen to me, meaning that I may be curse and that Marvel needs to hire better printers.

 

Speaking of Doom, you may be wondering how Doom is appearing in this book if you’re also reading Invincible Iron Man and/or The Secret Wars. Without spoiling things, it’s explained, and it make sense….well it makes sense for issue of Squirrel Girl. I really dig writer Ryan North’s voice for Doom, which reads as one would expect Victor Von would, and makes him the straight man to hi jinks in this book, while still making him a credible threat. Doom’s one of the best villains in comics, but there’s something about the character constantly referring to himself in the third person that can be used for some really strong comedic tumblr_nzjv5xSt1N1uhus87o1_500bits. North capitalizes on it well, without “ruining” in the character for purists. I didn’t know I wanted Doom to play off of Nancy Whitehead, but much like Nancy and Loki, this is a fantastic series of interactions.

Once again Henderson, North, and Renzi give us an super enjoyable issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which mixes some quality humor with some high stakes action. I love how this creative team constantly raises the stakes for Doreen Green, but the book never takes itself too serious. My only problem with it is that it sometime goes a little to tech/computer talk heavy and loses me a bit because I am dumb. But that aside, it’s a fantastic comic, that’s a ton of fun to read, and something I wish the Big 2 would put out more of.

 

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Chris’ Comics: All New Hawkeye #2

4938440-hawkeye2015b002_dc11_lr-0All New Hawkeye #2

Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez, Ian Herring

Marvel $3.99

Let it be known that I’m writing/editing this article with a fun little head cold. Big ups to the New York area weather being insane this month, also expect more typos and grammar errors than usual.

So let’s talk about Kate Bishop today! Katie-Kate is known for co-starring in Hawkeye with Clint these days, but before the excellent and often mentioned Fraction/Aja series, Kate only popped up in Young Avengers. As much as I like the Clint/Kate dynamic, I missed the relationship she had with her YA pals, and am thrilled to see it back in this issue of All New Hawkeye. Also hey, here come some slight spoilers.

The Hawkeyes are joined by Novarr/Marvel Boy and Ms. America Chavez in All New Hawkeye #2, which sees the future versions of Clint and Kate battle the Mandarin, while their current day counterparts deal with their failing out. It is not the upbeat Clint and Kate story we get from the Marvel Holiday special, but it’s a good comic none the less.

tumblr_nz3ljtGLhT1sy4rryo2_1280Much like Jeff Lemire steering his scripts away from the tone set by Fraction, artist Ramos Perez continues to make the Hawkeye visuals his own with every passing issue. I really like how more and more animated his art is getting when it comes to the modern day Hawk-stuff, which is best showcased when Perez is drawing Lucky the Pizza Dog, and the conversation between Miss America and Kate. The future stuff doesn’t look as good due it’s more sketchy style, but works well enough. Ian Herring’s colors are just as great, going a little more bolder and brighter when it comes to coloring the present day pages, and more experimental and psychedelic for the future stuff. I think by coloring those pages as such. Herring’s implying that the future isn’t set in stone by doing so, BUT I also may be reading into things too much.

Writer Jeff Lemire finally fulfills his claim that Kate is the co-star of this comic by giving the lady Hawkeye more of the focus this time around. While he can’t match Fraction in ttumblr_nz3ljtGLhT1sy4rryo3_1280erms of humor, he’s certainly managed to capture Matt’s tone when it comes to the more assertive and serious Kate Bishop. And there’s a bit of Kieron Gillen influence to his dialogue when it comes to writing the Young Avengers kids, which I dig. In addition to that, there’s a really interesting plot twist that goes down in the future portion of the comic that I’m now really excited to see play out.

The fully realized team of Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez, and Ian Herring prove that the previous issue was not a lucky break, as All New Hawkeye #2 is a very enjoyable comic. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Hawkeyes work together again in the future, while trying to figure out their relationship in the present, which examines how emotionally dependent Clint is on Kate, and maybe the other way around too. I’m thrilled to see the creative team bounce back like this after that shaky first arc, and expect them to continue to thrive as they have on these last two issues.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Marvel Holiday Special

Gwenpool-Holiday-Special-001-(2016)-(Digital)-(Nahga-Empire)-001Marvel Holiday Special

Charles Soule, Langdon Foss, Megan Wilson, Margaret Stohl, Juan Gedeon, Gerry Dugan, Danilo D. Beyruth, Christopher Hasting, Gurihru and more

Marvel $5.99

While I’ve stated plenty of times that I do not paying more than $4 for a comic book, occasionally there’s an exception. Gwenpool, a character who’s presence has jacked up the cost of Howard the Duck to $5, is not one of those reasons. HOWEVER, if she happens to be in a book that also give me a follow up to the excellent Deadpool Vs Hawkeye  mini series, it certainly does work in the character’s favorite. It also helps that I’m a sucker for Holiday Specials, especially ones involving a bunch of my favorite Marvel characters.

The Gwenpool Marvel Holiday Special gives the readers 4 different stories, and all of them are excellent. There’s a 20 page She-Hulk story by Charles Soule and Langdon Foss that puts a nice little bow on that creative’s team run on the recently concluded series, and serves as as the center of the story. It’s not a must read for anyone who’s not previously a fan of the series, but if you enjoyed Soule and company’s run on the book, you’ll love this tumblr_nz58qsaHqu1sqep2mo1_1280story. Joining that story is a Ms Marvel story by Maraget Stohl and Juan Gedeon, which I think is the first time Kamala has been written in a solo story by someone other than co-creator G Willow Wilson!

The Ms Marvel story is also a hoot; Juan Gedeon‘s art isn’t the most eye popping, but he manages to capture all the proper emotions beats, making it more than serviceable. Stohl’s dialogue is terrific, leading a fun little story that casts Ms. Marvel as a Scrooge of sorts. Overall I’m a fan of the story, and glad to see the creative team do the character justice. From there it’s the 10 pages story I was most excited for, which reunites Hawkeyes Clint and Kate with their pal Deadpool. While reading the aforementioned mini series definitely makes the story more enjoyable, it’s not necessary. Much like Ms Marvel, it’s another fun holiday themed story, with that special brand of wacky only a character like Deadpool can bring. It’s also incredibly heart-warming, as Gerry Duggan blends emotions and humor quite while, while Danilo S. Beyruth absolutely kills it on the visuals. It’s obviously my favorite part of the book.

As for the Gwenpool story, it’s a tad tricky to get into. I sure as hell love the creative team involved, but not having read the 2 chapters in Howard the Duck take make the story tumblr_nz47iymTQI1sqep2mo1_1280crafted by Christopher Hasting and Gurihru a tad confusing. It also have very little to do with the holidays, so I’m not entirely sure why it was added to begin with, abd suspect that Marvel is just hoping that Gwenpool can carry a book much like how Spider-Gwen has. But it’s still a neat  story than ends on an incredibly cute note.

The weird little Gwenpool misstep aside, the Marvel Holiday Special is a fun little anthology that offers the reader a lot for 50 pages of content. Granted I am super bias towards this book for the Hawkeye related content, I still found the rest of the book enjoyable, and encourage you to pick it up if you already aren’t for  Hawk or Gwen-related reasons.

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Chris Comics: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2

IMG_0109The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Time Travel was something that was bound to happen in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl sooner or later. The signs were all there: Ryan North’s relationship with Back to the Future, Squirel Girl’s beef with Doctor Doom, who owns a time traveling platform, the fact that this comic was solicited as a time travel story. All subtle hints letting the reader know that a time travel arc would be happening sooner or later.

Time travel is something that can either make or break a comic for me. I love alternate time lines and futures, but when a time travel story gets caught up in own rules it and starts focusing on that instead of the plot, it can go downhill. Which explains my complex relationship with 90s X-men comics. Luckily, North and Erica Henderson inject a ton of humor into this time travel story, which sees our hero and her pal Tippy Toe dragged back in time to the year 1962. It appears someone is trying to wipe out Squirrel Girl from existence, and it’s up to Nancy Whitehead, whom seems to be the only person who remembers who Doreen is in the present, to figure out exactly what exactly the haps is.

IMG_0110Erica Henderson, who is reaching Zdarsky/Fraction number in terms of being mentioned on this blog, is absolutely wonderful on this issue, and on this book in general. With Rico Renzi handling the colors on TUSG,  we get art from Henderson that’s very animated and clean. She’s SO GOOD on capturing the fashion of the 60s, and the facial expressions she can give the characters are THE BEST out of anything coming from the Big 2. How she manages to work on 2 monthly books of excellent quality at the same time is beyond me, but I’m glad that I have them. Also Rico Renzi’s colors are prime time animation good, especially come the final page of this issue.

Aside from Ryan North being one of the funniest dudes currently working in comics, he’s also one of the smartest. Which means him tackling the concept of time travel is pretty great. While the concept of a hero being erased from the timeline isn’t the most original, North handles it in a way that feels fresh. Having Squirrel Girl remain calm and collected while dealing with the scenario makes the whole thing come across as ton of fun, with some genuinely great jokes and clever ideas be conceived how to solve the problem. It’s IMG_0111these details that really help the story feel original, even when it’s been done to death before.

Opening on an amazing running gag involving cat fan fiction and Iron Man on the Twitter-style recap page and ending on DOOM, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 is a hilarious and really clever comic, which seems to be the norm for this book. It’s scary how consistently excellent this book has been, especially with the creative team never skipping an issue while working on multiple projects. If the North, Henderson and Renzi team are the future of Marvel Comics, then both the company and the medium are in very good hands.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Eve at Forbidden Planet NYC and, While I’m At It, Thanksgiving 2015

76194133395310101 Frank miller new Batman release Forbidden Planet NYC fpnyc.com

It’s Tuesday November 24th and we’re at the shop preparing tomorrow’s new comics, graphic novels and toys, like we do on Tuesdays, with our hands plenty full. 

The hard work’s well-worth it though. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Eve is one of my favorite days of the year to be working at Forbidden Planet. Lots of familiar faces come back in through our doors and it’s a pleasure to catch up with old chums. People need little presents for family members or a board game or something similar to occupy the weekend and from my customer service perspective it’s always a treat to recommend stuff that’s going to be enjoyed in such a manner.

And, oh yeah!, comics publishers and many toy manufacturers usually release a crap-ton of great new reading material and toys the day before Thanksgiving in advance of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. This year’s no different.

Whether you’re braving the horrors of the NJ Transit or the long flight to Walla Walla or the constant chug of the Staten Island Ferry or the bus to Philly or the subway home to your tiny NYC apartment… Wherever you’re off to, here’s some of this week’s highlighted new releases to get you through the trip.

Have fun! We’re closed on Thanksgiving. Mebbe I’ll see ya tomorrow or Friday?

(Dark Knight 3 pictured above and available 11/25/15)

Saga #31 – New Story Arc! Picks up after trade paperback Volume 5. Don’t forget your coupons and receipt (wink, wink) if ya got ’em!

Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga #31, forbidden planet NYC

 

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Chris’ Comics: Spider-Woman #1

Spider-Woman-1-Cover-8769aSpider-Woman #1

Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Alvard Lopez

Marvel $3.99

When we last saw Spider-Woman, she was running off with Black Widow to go die in Secret Wars #1. Don’t worry, she got better, somehow. Better and apparently pregnant. COMICS, EVERYONE!

In case you somehow missed the hoopla, Jessica Drew is back and with child in this newest volume of Spider-Woman. Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez and Alvard Lopez fully embrace this whole 8 month post Secret Wars gap by putting J-Drew in a scenario no one saw coming. And by doing so, it sets the book off in an entirely new direction, in addition to adding a much beloved character to the cast of supporting characters. As much as I loved having the Porcupine and Phil Urich bounce off Jessica, having Captain Marvel play a larger role in the book give Jessica a chance to interact with her bestie, and makes for a perfect comedic foil to our hero. There’s also a hint that another Spider-lady will be popping up from time to time, but we have to see how this all plays out first.

I really like the way Jessica’s pregnancy is handled in this first issue. She’s upset that she’s being sidelined, but it’s a choice that she ultimately made, not wanting to risk the life of her Jess-and-her-motorcycle-e1447959748798yet to be born child. Seeing Jessica dealing with a maternity leave and an overly-concerned best friend is fun, but never makes the character the butt of the jokes. She’s struggling with the pregnancy, on her own mind you as there doesn’t seem to be an active father figure present, but she never comes off as weak. If anything it’s the opposite, as it shows Jessica rising to  the challenge to meet it head on (with some help from her friends).

Aside from the addition of her blonde BFF and some cameos from a bunch of prominent Marvel characters,  Jessica mostly interacts with Ben Urich,  who helping her adjust to an everyday normal person problem, and the Porcupine, who’s gone full amateur super hero. I really dig Jessica training Roger Cocking to be a better person, as its nice to see a petty crook being rehabilitated successfully. Hopeless and Rodriguez did wonders for the character, and seeing him as a full on hero is a nice path of progression for the character. Hopefully it will stick, because while I’m not expecting a Deadpool-level boost for the character, way too many reformed super villains have gone to the side of the angels, only to be written as a villain down the line with little to no explanation.

29cncyfAnd while a ton of things have changed for Jessica in terms of the status quo, the creators involved remain just as good as they were before the hiatus. I mean, that sort of thing should go without saying, because more writers and artists don’t suddenly regress in skills after a short hiatus. But we get to see a different side of Javier skills when he as to channel his inner Kirby/Byrne towards the end of the book. I absolutely love the way he draws a certain race of Marvel characters, as they look way creepier and in line with their silver age incarnations than the way they’ve been portrayed as of late. Plus being his own colorists give him a chance to do things with skin and lighting most artist don’t get to do with their own work. And I absolutely love Hopeless’ dialogue in this issue. He gets to focus on these heroes more human sides, which leads to a number of wonder scenes and interactions that are very enjoyable, and sound so natural.

This is the Spider-Woman #1 we deserved for the last year. It’s a fantastic soft reboot that does Jessica Drew, a wonderfully complex and compelling character, justice, while dealing with a subject matter that’s often mishandled by cape comics. Hopeless approaches pregnancy with the respect and sincerity it deserves, ensuring his critics that he’s going to do Spider-Woman right. It’s a great comic, and I can’t wait to see this story arc play out.

 

 

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