(Click title to go directly to the review)
SECRET EMPIRE #1
X-0 MANOWAR #2
JUSTICE LEAGUE #20
BLACK PANTHER #13
SECRET EMPIRE #1Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve McNiven
Marvel: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Well that was weird. See that big picture of Spider (Peter Parker) Man on the cover, yeah he's not in this issue- neither is old man Logan or Rocket Raccoon. So, Issue #0, which basically told us how Captain America revealed himself to be Hydra, took command of the U.S. Military, and how he side-lined many superheroes. Issue #1 now jumps ahead an untold amount of time into the future, to where Cap and Hydra own the U.S.A. lock stock and barrel. And I'm having a hard to bridging the two issues.
Backing up, welcome to Nick Spencer's Secret Empire! The what if Captain America was evil and wanted to take over the world. Joining Spencer on this epic adventure is fan-fav artist Steve McNiven. Now as I reviewed issue #0, I spoke about the nuttiness of the new Marvel U status quo. Where Hydra won World War II with Captain America's help, but then a Cosmic Cube let the Allies win, then a living Cosmic Cube restored Captain America's memory of it all. It's all long and confusing, so I don't plan to go over it again. You either accept it or you don't.
Ok let's talk spoilers! As the issue starts, Hydra is in full control over the U.S.A. They even printed new history books for the schools. While the mutants have safely escaped to an island, Hydra agents are spending their time hunting down Inhumans (are we still doing this Marvel?!). Meanwhile, Captain Marvel and team are still trapped in outerspace fighting an endless horde of Chitauri warriors (even though the Chitauri can't hurt the planet, as the shield locking out both Captain Marvel and them. You'd think after a few months Captain Marvel would go to another planet for help, but nope). Dr. Strange and company are still trapped in New York City by a darkness dome created by Blackout (seriously!? Blackout - well Madame Hydra is helping, but still). What about the other superheroes? Well the Avengers themselves now work for Hydra (no explanation why). The Champions and a collect of other heroes (Hawkeye, Black Widow, The Thing, Iron Heart, etc) have set-up a resistance base (but all their missions have failed). As for Captain Hydra America himself, he's trying to manage it all, with his new Hydra buddies: Baron Zemo,Viper, Arnim Zola, etc. Meanwhile, he's trying to convince his old buddies, (the elderly) Sharon Carter and Rick Jones that it's all good. Although for the issue closer, Cap has Rick Jones killed. Since he managed to steal some data and handed it off to A.I. Tony Stark (who doubts it's worth). More logically, Madame Hydra wants Cap to get his hands on a Cosmic Cube and restore the timeline (which should have been job one, instead of wasting time and effort on taking over the USA, ah well).
As I said, the time line confuses me. As in some cases a lot has happened between issue #0 and #1 (new text books and security cameras in every school and classroom), and in other cases nothing has happened at all (Captain Marvel still floating in space). Also, what happened to the army, congress and the President? Did no one challenge Captain Hydra America when he said he's the king now? I kinda wish they didn't do a #0, and just dropped us into this new world order, like Brian Michael Bendis did in (yes is was really bad) AGE OF ULTRON. Bendis didn't try to explain how it all happened (because on some level you just can't), as it was more important to just get us in this new world. Another weird thing is Caps' point of view. Even though Madame Hydra says he is 'Hydra', Arnim Zola and others don't think he's 'Hydra' enough. As he doesn't want to be a mean dictator. Aside from trying to make him still identifiable, I'm not sure why Spencer would do this. As it seems to go against the whole concept of evil Captain, and turns it into a man trapped by circumstances concept. Spencer has a nice collect of scenes here, but the execution of the plot doesn’t seem to be as well planned as he thinks it is.
As for Mc Niven, I have neither praise or disrespect for his work here. It's all fine, matter of fact work, with a nice attention to detail. To a degree, it almost looks like he didn't take much time planing pages, panels and poses out. But then rendered the hell out of everything.
One last odd note before I go, Sam Wilson is back to being the Falcon. That's really odd to me because if there was ever a point where Sam could really argue the legitimacy of being Captain America (even over Steve), this is it! That said, two issues in, and it seems like Spencer is marking off a check list than writing a story: Crazy concept- check, everyone's roll determined- check, high tension scenes- check, the gel in which everything works together- oops.
PESTILENCE #1Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Oleg Okunev
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Who doesn’t love medieval times? (and no I’m not talking about the family dinner theater) It’s one of my favorite periods of history, and for good reason. The medieval period was a brutal time to be alive. It was also a time where cool looking armor and weapons were necessary since crime and war were common place. Add in the scenery, and you’ve got a period of time that people’s imagination just loves to run wild with.
It was also a time of famine and disease, including one of the most famous (and devastating) pandemics in all of human history: The Black Death. An estimated 75-200 million people died during the time period of 1346-1353. The Black Death also created even more social, economic, and religious issues, which completely changed world history.
But what if the Black Death wasn’t the Bubonic Plague, but instead was zombie related? Well that’s what Aftershock’s new comic PESTILENCE is all about. Being a fan of world history, I put this on my pull list the second I read about it in Previews.
PESTILENCE #1 is written by veteran comic writer Frank Tieri (WOLVERINE, DEADPOOL) with artwork by Oleg Okunev (RED FURY, INOK) and its one action packed first issue. The story starts with a map with some main characters and an introduction (I’m a sucker for a good introductory map, especially when it comes to a complex story). We find that it is 1347 and we will be following the men of Flat Lux, the assassin’s arm of the church. They are lead by ex-Crusader Roderick Helms and have been sent to figure out the cause of this outbreak and destroy it before it destroys the earth.
You get solid introductions to each character and it’s the kind of story where different readers will have a different favorite character depending on what they like. Yes it’s another zombie comic, but this book does a good job building on the character’s personalities that it doesn’t feel like just another zombie book. It is a darker story, but there are also some comedic lines as well to lighten it up a bit.
The art is by Okunev and he does a great job with his panels. The comic builds up to the zombie reveal, and so does his artwork. If the final few pages are any indication of what’s to come, Okunev will be doing great work with this gory and gritty zombie story. I haven’t heard of Okunev until now, but I think more readers will know his name very soon.
If there will be one turn off to some, it will be that this book in addition to having violence, gore, and bad language, it has some pretty sexual parts in the story as well. I really wasn’t expecting it and it didn’t deter me from reading, but I could see how it may not be for everyone (and it is DEFINITELY not for kids). I give PESTILENCE #1 4 out of 5 rat fleas. If you’re a fan of medieval times or zombies, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of both, I think you may really love this book. This is another hot book that has already gone to a second printing, so you may have trouble getting your hands on one!
X-O MANOWAR #2Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tomas Giorello
Marvel: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
As with all comic book characters these days, when it's time for a new chapter in the characters life, they relaunch the series. Valiant is doing just that with their marquee character, X-O Manowar. X-O Manowar, for those who don't know, is an alien battle suit, worn by Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth warrior. Thanks to relative time and space, Aric is now living in the present as Earth's premiere superhero- if you can call the Valiant Universe a superhero universe.
Getting back to “general superhero concepts”, at some point it seems all our heroes find themselves lost in space, not at full power and getting no respect from anyone (see PLANET HULK). Well it's X-O Manowar's turn, even though he is a space born hero. Now spoiler time, becoming a bit dis-enchanted with the whole hero bit, Aric has dumped the battle suit and is slumming it on the planet Gorin. Gorin has three main races, the blue skin Azures, the warlike Burnt and ruling class Cadmiums. And, as you may guess, a real class / race war is a foot. And Aric, of course, is getting sucked into it. In this issue, Aric is assigned by the Azure leader to go on (what he hopes is) a suicide mission. Being smarter than that, Aric turns the mission into a success and he might even have a chance of capturing the leader of the Cadmiuns. Assuming he and his team can escape the tower they are surrounded in. Keep in mind this was all done without his battle suit. So part of the fun is waiting for the time when he finally puts it back on and starts whipping @$$ on a grand scale again.
Written by Valiant main stay, Matt Kindt, this storyline is, what it is. You see with Kindt, while he's a perfectly suitable writer, I often find his stories to be a bit banal. They are, what they are. This tends to put too much responsibility on the art. Like a movie, where the actors and special effects make the film. Fortunately for Valiant and Kindt, they have new find Tomas Giorello. Giorello is an Italian artist who has done some Conan work for Dark Horse, and holy crap is he talented. He's like HEAVY METAL, back when it was good talented. Even his talking head pages are gorgeous. The only weak page was the starting two page spread at the start. Because it's completely empty! It would have looked much better as a single splash page.
So yeah, you should totally give this book a shot. The story is decent enough and the art is frick'n fantastic! If Marvel doesn't try to steal Giorello away to draw Thor, they are idiots!
MAN-THING #3Writer: R.L.. Stine
Artist: German Peralta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
With MAN-THING #3, we are now halfway through RL Stine’s first Marvel comic book mini-series. I previously reviewed MAN-THING #1, and gave it a 5/5 rating. However, I know not everyone felt the same way about the first issue. The only consistent negative comments I saw surrounding MAN-THING #1 was that he was now a failing Hollywood star who could talk. This was a big departure from the original Man-Thing character/story, but something that I secretly suspected would not last very long.
At the end of issue #1, Man-Thing ran into another version of himself and a fight ensued. This fight led to both Man-Things (I think the plural of Man-Thing is Man-Things? Who knows though, we are in uncharted territory with that one) merging into one and being thrown back into the swamp. Once back in the swamp, Man-Thing reverts to his old self in which he’s unable to speak. His swamp is in chaos (Birds are exploding, mosquitoes are super strong, etc) and he seeks out Oldfather to get things back to normal. However, Oldfather is missing and Man-Thing must enter the Nexus of all Realities to find out what is going on.
The art, once again by German Peralta is very solid. Where he shines most in this book is during the swamp scenes, where his art really matches the environment. Once more this book also has another “A Tale from R.L Stine’s Chamber of Chills” short story; this one entitled “LIKE A HORROR MOVIE”. It’s another short and fun horror story and it’s a solid addition to his other two so far. I still really like R.L. adding in horror illustrated shorts (this art work is done by Katie Niemczyk) that aren’t comic book related, since it really gives the book an old school feel.
I know Man-Thing’s ability to speak was a turn-off for some of his fans, so this should make them happy to hear. Hopefully those who didn’t like the first issue, give the series a shot because I’m really enjoying it! Is this series perfect? Not by any means. It is however a fantastic comic book debut from one of America’s most popular storytellers. There is no question that Stine knows how to tell a horror story, and this comic is proof of it. And like with any good R.L Stine piece, he injects just the right amount of clever humor into his story.
It goes without saying that writing for comics is really different than just writing a novel. I really do believe with each issue, Stine continues to get a little bit more comfortable. I really do hope more people check this series out, especially if it increases the chances of us getting another comic written by R.L. Stine. Mr. Goosebumps may have gotten a late start to the comic book writing game, but I’m sure glad to have him here now. I give MAN-THING #3 a rating of 4 out of 5 alligators.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #20Writer / Artist: Bryan Hitch
Inkers: Daniel Henriquies, Andrew Curris & Paul Neary
Colorists: Alex Sinclair, Jeromy Cox & Pete Pantazis
Marvel: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
It's been a while for me, so I thought I'd check back in with my favorite comicbook concept: The Justice League (of America). Former superstar artist (I say former, because seriously, he is not what he used to be- even with three inkers and three colorist backing him up) Bryan Hitch has taken over the book since Geoff Johns left comics (some 20 issues a go). And taking the lessons he learned from Warren Ellis on THE AUTHORITY, it's been all go big or go home.
Getting into the spoilers of this issue, as Hitch kicks off a new story arc (taking over pencils as well), The Flash takes center stage. We start with half of New York City destroyed, and Green (Jessica Cruz) Lantern dead. As the Flash tries to engage her killer, he time-shifts to before she was kill and the city was destroyed. In a 'GROUND HOG DAY' fashion, it all plays out again- and again and again- four times in fact. And that's pretty much the comic. Each time the Flash time-shifts, he goes back further in time. Although, with each time-shift, we don't learn much, until the final one. Ok, now strap in as this kinda makes no sense (i.e. time travel). So the Flash is pushed back to the previous day and hooks up with the Justice League, after they just defeated an alien. For some reason the Flash from the previous day isn't there, just current time traveling Flash. And where the explosion that destroys half the city happened tomorrow, it's now happening today. As the Flash takes the League to ground zero, where we meet the guy who causes all this. The unnamed man has unlocked the secret of zero-point energy and shows off his device to investors. The League busts in, and when the Flash touches the device, it blows up half the city. The League and the man survive, and the Flash blames the League for killing everyone (cause that makes sense in some world). Grieving, the man, now wants to destroy / kill everything / everyone else. Cliffhanger!
Did you get that? The Flash traveled back in time, causing an explosion- but he only traveled back in time because the explosion happened. That is some chicken and the egg stuff right there.
As with his previous JL(A) stories, Hitch comes at them from a good angle. Epic events, some cutting edge science, lots of questions, etc. You see, the League can whip anything, so the key to a good JL(A) story is to have them figure something out first. Before they punch the cr@p out of it. Unfortunately, I just don't think Hitch is a skilled enough writer yet. He gets the big picture, but doesn't really seem to understand the act of storytelling. That is, the reasons why events happen in a story. Case in point, these time-shift do very little to move the story forward. So we just have to sit and watch them, after already getting the point of them. He just goes for crazy @$$ spectacles, and forgets the crazy @$$ spectacles have to tell a story too (or you know, 'Michael Bay movies'). Artwork wise, Hitch no longer impress me. He's not bad, but he's pretty average these days (there are flashes of brilliance here and there, but it's usually just in his backgrounds drawings). Overall, I feel he just doesn't put the time into his art, like he used too.
So based on this first issue, I'm going to guess this storyarc will play out like the others I've read (by him). Crazy epic events, that don't make a lot of sense, that ultimately come to an unsatisfying conclusion.
BLACK PANTHER #13Writer: Ta-nehisi Coats
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Marvel: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Coats saga of the Black Panther moves into it's second major story arc. As he now commands three different Black Panther books (BLACK PANTHER, BLACK PANTHER: THE WORLD OF WAKANDA, and BLACK PANTHER & CREW). A little much IMHO, but if the sales are there...
Anyway, getting into spoilers and what's been going on in the Black Panther's world, Coats has decided to tear Wakanda apart, in order to put it back together again. At the start of this new series, Wakanda had been a punching bag in several storylines. So, malcontents in the country banded together to start a rebellion. With a heavy dose of “Lord of the Ring's” and Egyptian mythology, our man T'Challa put down the rebellion, but has also started to move the country towards democracy. This issue though spends most of it's time digging into the supernatural history of Wakanda, or rather, pre-Wakanda mythology. The Wakandian gods seem to be M.I.A., and snake-men overlords from the ancient times have returned. As the Black Panther (and team) battles these snake-men, T'Challa also takes time to visit his ex-wife, the former goddess, and still famous X-Men: Storm. Hoping to reconnect, and get her thoughts on divinity.
This is the best part of the book. I was not a big fan of breaking up the Black Panther and Storm marriage. But I guess just like Peter and Mary Jane (and formerly Lois and Clark) comicbook publishers have no love for marriage. As for the rest of the book, it's typical Coats style. Thoughtful and overly drawn out. While Coats doesn't have as much padding as Marvel's golden boy, Brian Michael Bendis, his stories are just as long. On some level, reading BLACK PANTHER on a monthly basis is kinda painful, because it's very plotting. I recommend waiting for the trades.
As to the bulk of the book, and a ever growing aspect of Coats' run, magic/supernatural/ancient gods is the focus. Which I must say is kinda odd, as Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world (they say so every issue). I suppose it's just my own hang-up, but it just seems like a wrong direction for BLACK PANTHER.
Overall, Coats' BLACK PANTHER has been an odd duck for me. I find Coats to be a talented writer, and the bulk of the artwork has been great, but it's all kinda boring too. This issue's artist, Torres, kinda exemplifies this. He's a great clean artist, but kinda boring. Especially in his action scenes. I really wanted to love this book, as I've always loved the Black Panther. But, so far the only really interesting characters in the book are the supporting cast members, The Midnight Angels. These vigilante heroes are taking out the trash Black Panther is ignoring, and being branded as traitors for doing it. Which does help sell the main character of this book.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G