(Click title to go directly to the review)
SECRET EMPIRE #0
BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #1
THE WILD STORM #3
INVINCIBLE IRON #6
ROYAL CITY #2
SECRET EMPIRE #0Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuna
Marvel: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Well it's barely been a month, so it's time for another Marvel crossover event! This time Nick Spencer's long brewing Captain Hydra America opus gets the center stage. Marvel finally gets to do a “What if Superman was evil story”, using their patriotic 'superman', Captain Steve (opposed to Sam) America. A Marvel: Injustice, if you will.
As usual, the concept of the 0 issue is lost on Marvel, as it doesn't give any texture or back-story to a current story. Instead, like any #1 issue, it kicks off the story with full gusto. So now prepare for spoilers! OK, the first few pages do give some back story. Turning the Marvel U (here comes another DC reference) into Earth X: a world where the Nazis (I'm sorry, Nazis don't exist in the Marvel U) Hydra won World War II. And Steve Rogers aka Captain America, is one of their best agents (why he's still called Captain America, and how he got the super serum is still a mystery in this original reality). Along after the war, the remaining Allied scum got a hold of a Cosmic Cube and changed history. The Allies won and Steve was still Captain America, but for real now- oh and got frozen. Fast forward to today, Kobik the living Cosmic Cube, changed Steve back to his Na- er Hydra self, but not the world. So Steve has been setting up a plan to take over the world himself- now!
So how does he do it? First, he tricks an apparently endless supply of Chitauri warriors to attack Earth. He pretends the Earth shield is broken (fooling both A.I. Tony Stark and Iron Heart, who are trying to fix what isn't broken), so he can trap Captain (Carol) Marvel and her teams off Earth. Next, he sends an army of super villains to attack New York city. When the Netflix Defenders, and others, come to the rescue, (extremely low level villain) Black Out traps them all in a darkness sphere over Manhattan (even Dr. Strange is helpless- of course he is). Lastly, Hydra takes over the country of Sokovia, claiming their hidden nuclear arsenal. As all the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers move in, Cap shows his true colors, with the help of mind controller Dr. Faustus, captures all of them. While all this is going on, the President hands over supreme U.S. Military command to Cap, hoping he can save the day. But it was all a set-up to for Cap to take over.
Unfortunately, this is just not the amazing kick-off that INHUMANS VS X-MEN had. But it's mostly palatable. Overall though, I just can't help feel that this is all ill conceived. As if the combined forces of the U.S. Military will just blindly follow Cap, once they learn he works for Hydra (the U.S. Military just doesn't work that way). And even though Cap messed with Captain Marvel and crew, the bigger threat of the Avengers themselves, or even the million member strong X-Men aren't accounted for. Lastly, from reading so many JLA time travel stories: If history is changed, you don't live with it- you go back and fix it! Seems to me Cap should be working with Kobik to do just that, instead of creating this Secret Empire. Still, if you can buy all that, the story itself plays out fine.
Acuna's artwork, as always, is a wild card. Nearly every issue he works on is a combination of amazing work and really shoddy work. As his pencils can devolve into sketch work, which his unique coloring can't save. In some way it fits the story, as parts are good and parts are just odd. Like when did Sharon Carter turn 60 years old (?) or at least she sure looks it.
Overall, this story hinges on your acceptance of the Naz- er, Hydra winning WWII and Steve Rogers being a life long Hydra agent. If you are down with that, you most likely enjoy Spencer's ride. If not, well Marvel is sure to have another crossover event or two before the year is over.
BATMAN #21Script: Tom King
Pencils and Inks: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Saint Saucey
A fight breaks out between two hockey players from the Gotham Blades and the Metropolis Mammoths. The fight is shown on TV at Arkham Asylum (our hard earned tax dollars at work) causing one of the female inmates to freak out and predict a disaster "Superman won't come, Our friends will die, the Legion will die."
Mean while Batman has finally gotten around to investigate the Button left behind when Wally reappeared. But he get's it too close to Psycho Pirate's mask and there is a reaction Thomas Wayne appears to Bruce as Batman from Flashpoint but the two can't touch. Bruce calls Barry who is busy with a Samuroid invasion but promises to show up in one minute. Before he can get there Reverse Flash shows up and kicks Batman's ass. (Batman gets a few good shots in but is still barely hanging on.
Reverse Flash picks up the Button and disappears. After he reappears he claims to have seen God and then begins to decay. Barry shows up late, having failed to save the hockey player who was beaten to death and finds Reverse Flash dead and Bruce gravely injured.
I've never read Flashpoint and only read about half of the rebirth titles. There were some things here that I didn't really understand. Who was the girl from Arkham Asylum? That is a big mystery to me. She mentioned the Legion so I have to wonder if it is Saturn Girl. I know Starboy came back in time before and was locked up for being crazy. If you know who she is you have one over on me.
Who killed Reverse Flash? This one has an obvious answer. Doctor Manhattan. I don't think Ozymandias has the power to kill Reverse Flash in that manner. At least not long distance. Also I can't imagine Reverse Flash calling Adrian a God.
The reaction to Psycho Pirate's mask (I'm glad they explained what that was as I didn't immediately recognize it) kind of makes since. Didn't Alexander Luthor use Psycho Pirate to power his machine in INFINITE CRISIS?
Despite appearances not a lot happened here. This was a set up issue.
Art. I count 13 nine panel pages with only one time where the art breaks from one panel to the next. (And even then it doesn't break the gutter) Some of that is because if the need to show Reverse Flash's speed and the easiest way is to show the progression of the fight in quick succession from panel to panel. Unfortunately it doesn't make for very exciting reading. None of the art sticks out. We get some nice shots of the cave and are given a hint of its size. Nothing like Jim Lee's pull outs in Hush or All-star Batman and Robin though. While the art is clean and something of a cross between Romita Jr and Silvestri it is quite underwhelming for such an important book.
Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter take over next time in FLASH #21 with Mr. Fabok only drawing the cover. Flash is one of my regular books so I would have read it anyway, but I was really excited for this book and it left me feeling wanting.
BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #1Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art: Butch Guice
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
It’s no secret that Marvel Comics is going through a bit of a rough patch. From declining sales, to Marvel executives speaking nonsense about “the reasons” for said decline, things have definitely been better for the company.
Don’t worry, this isn’t just another crap on Marvel review/article. While I subscribe to other publishers (Image, Boom, IDW, Dark Horse, etc) I do still vastly prefer Marvel over DC. Marvel still has some really good things going for them. I think, for the most part, the Star Wars comics have been really great. THE VISION was one of the best comic series of the past few years, but instead of locking up writer Tom King, Marvel let him walk to an exclusive contract with DC. And even though I do love Batman, I think Marvel’s stable of superheroes and villains.
However, subscribers at local comic book shops across the country are still jumping off the Marvel ship every week. The ones I’ve talked to have named many different reasons: pricing, too many variant covers, too many reboots, removal of digital codes, bad writing/stories. However the issue of “too much diversity” has only ever been listed as a reason by one person that I’ve spoken with.
Without diving too deep into a very complex subject, I simply think its bullshit to suggest that too much diversity is one of Marvel’s problems. In fact some of the best characters right now are its most diverse (Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and Black Panther). In fact I believe the current BLACK PANTHER series is the best T’Challa we’ve ever seen, because it’s done the right way (it also sold more than 300,000 copies of its first issue, but hey diverse comics don’t sell right?).
Ta-Nehisi Coates is the writer that the BLACK PANTHER character always deserved. Coates is an award winning writer that can hit on all the cultural, social, and political issues this country faces, especially the African American community. His most recent book is BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #1. The Crew was originally a short-lived series by Marvel’s first black editor Christopher Priest. It was one of the blackest mainstream comics and featured a different group of characters than this group and in a fictional neighborhood.
In this crew you have: Black Panther, Misty Knight, Storm, Luke Cage, and Manifold, and it is set in Harlem. If the first issue is any indication, it could wind up be one of the most important comics in Marvel’s history in terms of social commentary.
In this first issue, Harlem is in chaos after losing one of its older prominent community members, Ezra Keith. Keith dies while in police custody and Harlem riots. A curfew is established and Misty Knight, feeling that something is off, decided to investigate what happened further. Misty and Ororo Monroe (Storm) team up towards the end of this first issue to fight off Americops, who have been sent to enforce Harlem’s curfew.
Like Coates’ other series, BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #1 is a slow build. Only two members of the crew are present in this issue. The pacing may be “slow”, but the story is spectacular, and it’s very important that Coates chooses not to rush with a book like this. Misty and Storm are both complex black female characters, who in the end just want the same thing for their community. Coates does a stellar job of connecting the two. Coates also does a masterful job of touching on heavy social issues of gentrification and the African American community’s distrust of the criminal justice system.
The art, by Butch Guice with colors by Scott Hanna is great too. They’ve created a Harlem that looks like a community in turmoil. The book has a noir feel to it and both artists clearly know what type of story is being told here.
Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso has been quoted as saying, “The Marvel Universe is at its best when it reflects the world outside your window, and that world looks different now than it did in 1963.” White men are not the only ones who read comics, and they never have been. Men and women of all races and religions enjoy comics, and we need more diversity in our stories not less. We also need the appropriate writers who can tell authentic stories when it comes to these diverse stories and characters. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the perfect writer for the character of Black Panther in this day and age.
We comic book readers must also do our part in terms of making sure good comic book stories are told. We need to stop subscribing to books that we merely subscribe out of habit or nostalgia. It doesn’t matter if the character is your favorite, if the story isn’t up to snuff, then the publishers win. Most publishers believe that you will buy a comic simply based on the name, and not the quality. Stop reading books that are not in the highest quality of storytelling/art, and start considering other books that are doing it right. If more comics were like BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #1, the industry would be in a much better place. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, and I recommend that you check this series out as soon as possible.
THE WILD STORM #3Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
After coming out of the gates pretty hot, THE WILD STORM had what I thought was overall kind of a pretty bland second issue last month.
Much as I love Warren Ellis, he does tend to have outings where he spins his special brand of high Science Fiction and conspiracy theory for the bulk of an issue and doesn’t really present much forward movement, just some cool and sardonic commentary and character interactions. That’s more or less what we got last time around in these pages.
Compensating for that, we get a third installment here that goes into full door-kicking-down mode by throwing some familiar faces and concepts into the tale he and artist Jon Davis-Hunt are presenting to revamp a universe that put Ellis on the map twenty years ago. The opening handful of pages are kind of a squeefest for those who love what Ellis was spinning in his STORMWATCH and AUTHORITY stories and the back half is every bit of the stylish, gun-fu face-smashing you expect action wise from those books as well.
Hopefully last issue was just an aberration and issues like this and the series premiere are going to be the standard going forward; given the richness of the material Ellis created originally and is pulling here, and Davis-Hunt’s artistic talents, you just would not expect meandering like we experienced in the last go around.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
REDNECK #1Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Lisandro Estherren
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
For my money, Donny Cates is the hottest writer in comics right now. Cates really came on to my radar in September 2015 with his PAYBACKS series on Dark Horse (later moved to Heavy Metal). Cates really blew up though with Image Comic’s GOD COUNTRY, which premiered in January. GOD COUNTRY, which is only four issues in, already feels like an instant classic and is an early contender for comic series of the year.
So how do you follow up such a great comic? Well if you’re Donny Cates, you follow it up with another great debut issue. REDNECK #1, like GOD COUNTRY, is set in Texas which is familiar setting for Cates, a Texan. It is a southern vampire story released by Image/Skybound, but it’s unlike most vampire stories that you’ve read. That’s a good thing, because this tale focuses more on hardships and carnage than say sexiness and violence. This book makes vampires feel new again, mostly because it’s not overly about the vampires, but instead a family.
That family is the Bowmans, a group of vampires living on an East Texas farm. They don’t bother the locals, in fact they run a cattle farm and live off the blood from the cattle. The Bowman family are just regular country folk trying to raise their family. They also run a BBQ joint in town and live in peace with the folks of the town. Until an event at a strip club changes that peace.
The first issue ends with the peace between the vampires and non-vampires coming to an end. The Bowman family has now been thrown into a war that they really didn’t want, but their existence now depends on. The first issue really jumps right into the action and conflict. We learn a little about a couple members of the Bowman family, but I look forward to finding out more about their deep roots and history. I was especially intrigued by the character of Perry, the creepy young girl vampire in the Bowman family, and I look forward to more of her character development (You can tell she is likely going to be very important to the story).
The art is by Lisandro Estherren (THE LAST CONTRACT, SPOOK) and the art really gives the book a gritty southern feel to it. The scratchy artwork is purposefully rough, which some may not like the style, but it really fits here. Dee Cunniffe’s muted colors also fit the tone of the story as well.
I give Redneck 5 out of 5 vampire bats, and I suggest picking up a copy if you can find one (It’s quickly moved on to a second printing). If Marvel or DC Comics were smart, they’d fill a dump truck with cash and back it up in front of Cates house and offer him an exclusive deal, before the other one does. I would really love to see him take on a DC or Marvel character (Swamp Thing? Punisher?) and his career should likely take him to that point soon. Cates has quickly become one of my favorite comic writers and his track record shows that when he releases a new book, it’s worth checking out. Cates next book BABY TEETH, will be released in June from Aftershock Comics, so go put it on your pull list!
INVINCIBLE IRON #6Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Marvel: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
As he did with Spider (Miles) Man, Marvel's golden boy Brian Michael Bendis is trying to build a better Iron Man, with Riri Williams, aka Ironheart (you've got to love it when a character that would probably never sell squats in a popular hero's book- ah marketing!).
Right off the bat, I'm sorry I have to make fun of BMB. Riri, is getting a look at the Iron Man Armory and sees the silver and red suit from the late 80's. Being the Iron Man geek that she is, she remarks how Tony created the suit for Rhodey and ended up using it to defeat the Iron Monger. I suppose I shouldn't be surprise that BMB (famous for not knowing Marvel lore), completely missed the fact that silver armor was created during the classic Armor Wars storyline. As Tony created it to battle Firepower, whom everyone thought had killed Iron Man. Anyway, back to this issue.
So this is basically a time out issue, after all the action of the first story arc. Spoiler time: Riri gets three life changing offers. One, join the Champions, two, go back to M.I.T. with a blank check and three, move into Stark's lab. As for the next threat, BMB works on setting up a INFAMOUS IRON MAN and INVINCIBLE IRON crossover. As both Mr. Lucky and Lucia Von Bardas (or perhaps they are one in the same, can't tell) are trying to take over the war torn, and Doctor Doom abandon, Latveria.
As you might expect there is a ton of dialogue in this issue. Most of it is to give the characters a chance to chew the scenery (to use an acting term). Likely many of these new teenage heroes, Riri is so earnest it hurts. And while not a pop culture nerd, she an overly tech nerd, and has trouble talking to 'normal' people. Aside from that, not much to say about this issue.
Well except for the artwork, by Caselli. Which is the highlight of the issue. Everything is sharp looking and well rendered. And he never misses a chance to show off how much he loves drawing faces and heads.
I believe the key demographic, that Marvel is going for, will enjoy this book. But it's a bit too typical for anyone else.
ROYAL CITY #2Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Two issues in and ROYAL CITY has been a “return to roots” book in multiple ways.
First, it’s very much a return to form for Jeff Lemire whose career started by telling very personal, very “homey” small town tales just like this. And then plot wise, a lot of the perspective of this book has been about Pike family and their drama and squabbles, particularly Patrick who has come home to take his mind off of his flailing novelist career.
So far, everything in ROYAL CITY has tapped into that on the nose, small town emotional baggage that vintage Lemire made a name on, but that is, quite frankly, a grindingly accurate rendition of Rust Belt minutiae. This is very much a book for the kind of crowd that it is into that kind of dramatics, as ROYAL CITY so far has essentially showcased Patrick’s writers block and now crumbling marriage, brother Richie’s boozing and getting his ass kicked for debts owed, and on and on. If you’re in that grouping that is down for that brand of weighty character affair, then this is probably your new jam on the shelves, with the added bonus of a potential supernatural angle that’s so far played out in little flashes.
Otherwise, I’m not sure there’s much here for someone besides the pure craft of it all, which of course Lemire brings in spades.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
The next level of comic book excellence is a click away at BLACK MASK STUDIOS!
Want more in all things Geek?
Check out our friends at PoptardsGo for podcasts, reviews, and more!
And if you still need more geek in your life, check out Part-Time Fanboy for more geeky goodness on comics, movies, and more!
Finally, check out AICN COMICS on Facebook and Comixpedia!