Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - August 22, 2018

This week, Marvel takes the stand and has its moment to shine as several of its books dive headfirst into their opening arc's climax, while Superman stands tall and alone in the face of some Daily Planet drama!

Action Comics #1002

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis / Art: Patrick Gleason / Colors: Alejandro Sanchez / Letters: Josh Reed

Action Comics is definitely more the "Clark Kent" side of things than I would have anticipated, and yet I find myself enjoying this material far more than I do with the things that Superman is doing. It's what I liked about the Tomasi/Gleason Superman that began with "Rebirth," and I think Brian Michael Bendis has been doing an excellent job with the character of Clark Kent so far. This issue may be the best Clark issue yet, as he's thrown into the fire and doesn't even bat an eye. People often forget that Clark is second to the best reporter in the world in Lois Lane, so he's a solid journalist. You can also see in this issue where his friendship with Batman has helped with his investigative skills.

Bendis does a solid job of towing the line between Clark Kent and Superman. Obviously Clark has nothing to be afraid of when going into a hostile environment since he's the Man of Steel, but he has to play the part of a meek reporter. It makes for some solid hijinks, that's for sure. And as strong as Bendis writes Clark, he also has a great Perry White. The dude has a commanding presence in the chaotic offices of the Daily Planet, and I found myself enjoying the scenes with Perry a lot more than I would have anticipated.

Not to mention that there's a solid mystery brewing behind the scenes with all of this Red Cloud business, as well as the Ms. Goode dealings, where it seems she has the outs for Superman, but why? I hope that it doesn't turn out that she's the Red Cloud all along, because that'd be too obvious. But, I am curious, what could the Red Cloud possibly be? Hopefully it's a brand new villain, someone we've never met. That way Bendis can leave his mark on the mythos in a standout way.

Kind of like how Gleason has left his mark on me in terms of Superman art. He may be my favorite artist to draw Superman. He just captures the art in this book so well. The scene where Superman flies out into space is just so dynamic and heartfelt. But Gleason also draws Clark Kent very well; very different from his run on Superman, yes, since this one is a bit bulkier and more dopey, which is what Clark Kent would be if he were to keep up his persona.

And I don't know what it is, but it always seems as if Gleason managed to get a fantastic colorist to work alongside with his art. Alejandro Sanchez can color any book for all I care if things are going to be this bright and feel this much like a superhero book should. There's a scene in a nightclub that he knocks out of the park, it immediately puts you in the feeling of some sort of high-end bar, even with little scenery or background artwork to support it. 

Amazing Spider-Man #4

Writer: Nick Spencer / Pencils: Ryan Ottley / Inks: Cliff Rathburn / Colors: Laura Martin / Letters: VC's Joe Caramagna

Hey so this book premiered while I was away and guess what it's absolutely fantastic. It might be my new favorite Marvel book (replacing Marvel 2-in-1). I'm not going to take away anything that Dan Slott did for Spider-Man (why would I? He wrote Superior Spider-Man, my favorite Spider-Man story/comic) and I don't want to compare what Nick Spencer is doing to what Dan Slott did. Because they feel like two entirely different things. The name of the arc is "Back to Basics" and that's exactly how it feels, and Spencer is making that work so well.

I'm positive that there's stories out there where Peter Parker and Spider-Man have been split apart, but there's something so rich and flavorful about this one that just hits the core of the character so well. People often blame Spider-Man for not being the full package of power and responsibility, but here we see the consequence of that. It's such a wonderful idea and allows for someone just now picking up a Spider-Man comic to fully grasp the totality of who Peter Parker is. Sure, we don't have a defined super-villain just yet that he's thrown down with, but, like most Marvel heroes, Peter's greatest enemy is often himself and his own doubts.

We get a great scene of him and Aunt May in this comic that was pretty refreshing, as well as some quality dialogue between Peter and Spider-Man. The end of the comic leaves things at a bit of a cliche, predictable point, but that doesn't make things any less harrowing. The stakes, it seems, haven't been higher for Peter and Spider-Man, since not only are their core values at stake, but, obviously, their lives.

Ryan Ottley continues to be the perfect fit for this comic. He's brought such a dynamism to the comic, such an atmosphere of fun. This looks exactly like how a Spider-Man comic should, and it's all in part due to the simplistic designs of the characters, yet also the emotions that he brings to their faces. When Aunt May is concern, you almost don't need the word balloons to know what she is saying, no do you need them for when Spider-Man is on panel. You just know what the goof is going to say.

Laura Martin's colors bring Ottley's art up a notch, too, even if she doesn't have a whole lot to work with since most of the comic takes place at sunset, so there's only some droll oranges and yellows to work with in the background. She does good work at contrasting colors while Peter and Aunt May are talking, helping to keep the two most important characters in focus against the fairy-detailed backgrounds. 

Avengers #6

Writer: Jason Aaron / Pencils: Ed McGuinness & Paco Medina / Inks: Mark Morales & Juan Vlasco / Colors: David Curiel / Letters: VC's Cory Petit

I have mostly the same thoughts with this book that I do with Justice League: it's wild and insane and I have absolutely no idea what's going on but I know I like it. This one has probably even more insanity in it due simply to the fact that we open the comic to giant-sized Thor and She-Hulk while Iron Man is in a Celestial-sized suit of armor and Ghost Rider is piloting a dead Celestial like Mikazuki Augus pilots Barbatos (Gundam fans, I'm here for you). This issue is nothing but "boom" and "pow" and "AVAST VILLAIN" and it's pretty glorious, though at times it can be a bit difficult to follow.

Because we're dealing with cosmic entities with powers unknown, sometimes characters are warped places or do things that kinda come out of nowhere before they're blinked back into a fast-paced battle. Plus it doesn't help that, when they're punching the Avengers, most of the Celestials look the same and their abilities aren't all that distinguishable from one another.

So, if the fighting is insane but nonsensical, is there any way the characters can help? Why, yes, of course. Jason Aaron shows an exemplary understanding of the voice and expression of several of these characters (having worked on Thor and Dr. Strange for years) and gives them exemplary banter between them all at times. Black Panther really has some strong moments to shine here, showing off his incredible intellect and natural instinct to lead, while Thor and Captain America prove that they can be the sparks of hope that the Avengers need. Ghost Rider even has some cool moments of triumph here.

Unfortunately, the ending doesn't make all that much sense and we just kind of "yada-yada" through the bulk of it, so we're left wanting just a bit. 

Ed McGuinness's art is something I've been praising since this run started and I will continue to do so. He's drawn this comic as wild and zany as it needs to be and that continues here. Everything feels to scale and when the giant-sized Avengers are throwing down you feel weight and power behind every blow. There's one splash page in particular that he nails and it really pumps you up. For me, though, the star of the show has been David Curiel's colors, who brings a real sense of vibrancy and life to all of the characters and action sequences on display here. I really don't know if I'd be reading this comic without his collors to bring these scenes to life. 

Venom #5

Writer: Donny Cates / Pencils: Ryan Stegman / Inks: JP Mayer / Colors: Frank Martin / Letters: VC's Clayton Cowles

Oh and speaking of glorious splash-pages, this one has a double-page spread that I'm sure you'll be seeing as poster-art in the homes of Venom-fans the world around. My jaw dropped at the sight of it and I can only applaud Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin for the absolutely GORGEOUS double-page spread that occurs early on in the book. In many ways, it feels like the money shot of this opening arc.

Thankfully, the art, as it has throughout the series, continues to be that solid throughout. There isn't too much action this comic as we catch our breath a bit from the insanity of last time and prepare for an even bigger battle to come. This issue reminds me a lot of the first one given how many heavy shadows are dark locations are present, but I do like the juxtaposition of the moonlit night behind all of this, it allows the artists to flex a bit more and give them more to play with, and clearly it's paying off. This might be the best team of artists right now at Marvel, from pencils down to colors.

Oh, and Donny Cates writes this super well, but it's Donny Cates so you already knew that. Dude just has a knack with writing the off-broad villains well. I'm still not sure how I feel about the retconned history of the symbiote on Earth but I'm starting to buy into it a bit more with every passing issue, and he manages to weave it into the story rather well. I just can't find myself getting all that invested in the story of Eddie Brock right now. I don't see myself making it past this arc with the Grendel unless something crazy goes down in the final confrontation that's coming up. 

West Coast Avengers #1

Writer: Kelly Thompson / Artist: Stefano Caselli / Colors: Triona Farrell / Letters: VC's Joe Caramagna

I was told to read this based off a recommendation because I had absolutely no intention of reading this whatsoever. And, honestly, it was kind of what I expected it to be: Kelly Thompson killing it with her Kate Bishop/ Clint Barton stuff, and the rest not interesting me all that much. She writes the other characters well, I suppose. I don't know how true to them she stays since I have limited knowledge on Gwenpool, America Chavez, and Quentin Quire. I know I've read stories with Quire in them, but, as someone who doesn't care much for the X-Men, I can't remember which ones.

The framing device of the story--that being a "documentary" detailing the origins of the new West Coast Avengers"--was an interesting one and fits with the tone that Thomspon was going for. It was nice to get each character's perspective on things, limited though it may have been. Kate's interviews were also kind of cute, though not as comedic as some of the material that Thompson did back in her solo Hawkeye book. I will say that if you're a major Kate Bishop fan you have to give this issue a shot: she has the majority of the spotlight as the team leader (deservedly so, Kate is the bomb) and Thomson's portrayal of her continues to be on par with Matt Fraction's "L.A. Woman" material.

The thing that would keep me coming back to this book would be Stefano Caselli's art, it was absoultely fantastic and fast and dynamic. Each character looks amazing and they are also drawn with a surprisingly good level of detail that you don't see too much in team books anymore. Everyone is very expressive and feels so natural with their movements and expressions. There are more than a few pages where his art soars as some top-level stuff being put out right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see this guy on bigger books very soon.

Triona Farrell's colors also complement Caselli's art, though, again she isn't given too much to work with since a majority of the book takes place at sunset or in a dull basement. Still, that doesn't mean the colors are muted; far from it, in fact. Several of the character's costumes have an extra layer of dynamism because of her art and her coloring work, actually, brings a lot to the table when characters are just talking to one another. It makes them feel more like superheroes and less like a bunch of jokers looking to come together for no reason. 

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