Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - September 19, 2018

While the big flag-ship titles for Marvel and DC come out to play, we also get the return of one of this blog's favorite comics of 2018 as well as some of the typical zaniness of Mister Miracle, and a whole lot of the Venom symbiote. It's their time to shine, apparently!

Amazing Spider-Man: Annual #1

Writer: Saladin Ahmed / Artist: Garry Brown / Colors: Lee Loughridge / Letters: VC's Joe Caramagna

This really feels like a comic that should've come out this time next month. It's a little one-shot story about Spider-Man's relationship with the Venom symbiote a little after he got it during the original Secret Wars and while it isn't the creepiest story in the world it's still a fairly dark one. It's certainly an interesting one, as we see a few days of Spider-Man's life basically through the perspective of the symbiote, and discover that the thing would hijack Spider-Man's body and do what it thought Spider-Man would.

Saladin Ahmed is a rising star over at Marvel and he brings a far more unique voice to this type of Spider-Man story than we've gotten used to over the last few months with the change of guard. It feels like a good blend of Nick Spencer's Spider-Man and Donny Cates's Venom work. It kind of has a loose plot about what the villain Hammerhead is up to as well as some relationship work with Black Cat and Spider-Man, but other than that is mostly just an introspective look at the symbiote's thoughts on Peter Parker's work as Spider-Man.

Garry Brown draws this sort of with an old-school style to it, but still letting it feel modern and fresh. While it carries with it the modern aesthetic in terms of location and feel, the artwork itself and some of the character designs are that that may have been seen back in the 80s. Some of that may have to do with Lee Loughridge's coloring work, though he draws this with heavier shades are darker tones to match the tone and perspective of the comic. This is definitely a great book to pick up for fans of the Black Suit Spider-Man era. 

Avengers #8

Writer: Jason Aaron / Artist: David Marquez / Colors: Justin Ponsor / Letters: VC's Cory Petit

This is arguably the best Avengers issue since the first few. I know exactly what's going on, who is where, and all of the characters are fantastic. Jason Aaron crushes it on each and every one of them, be it them on their own or the various chats we see throughout the comic. The strength of this book relies on the strength of the author to give these characters their voices and Jason Aaron does that magnificently. It's these types of interactions that make an Avengers comic great.

Everyone has a shining moment and there are plenty of running gags throughout the comic that pop up every now and then to just make this a very enjoyable read. It's hard to pick a favorite from this comic because they all just work so well. There's plenty of moments that are hilarious, heartwarming, or both! Not to mention that they get a sweet new pad and it's explained well enough for a comic like this. Also, Aaron sets up the comic story arc pretty well, and prety brutally.

Dave Marquez was the perfect artist to pen for this issue. Nothing too action-packed so we leave everything to the characters and making sure that they all look amazing and guess what? They do. There are some slight redesigns here, like She-Hulk and Captain Marvel, but nothing too noticable and honestly I like their new looks. Justin Ponsor returns as the colorist and steps up his game from last issue; last time it wasn't too bad, but there were some spots where I was a bit iffy on what he did. This tiem? He carries through the entire way, making each Avenger look absolutely amazing. 

Bloodborne #5

Writer: Ales Kot / Artist: Piotr Kowalski / Colors: Brad Simpson / Letters: Aditya Bidikar


My favorite new comic of year is back and so is the original creative team! It's a brand new story too. If you remember anything about the last one, you'd know that following that Hunter would be a bit weird and probably not all that in-line with the story of Bloodborne, so instead we return to Yharnam and specifically dive deeper into the Cathedral Ward at the height of the Healing Church's reign, as well as the height of the Hunters, before they all lost their way and went crazy and provided the WORST possible challenges at the WORST possible times.

What's unique, or going to be unique, about this story is that we're following main characters that actaully have names, and have been mentioned once or twice in the lore. I'm also fairly positive that the character we're following now, Alfredius, is going to end up being the old man at the beginning of the game, because there's no way that's Gherman and I won't listen to your lore videos about why I'm wrong (just kidding, I totally will).

Also this comic doesn't necessarily feel like a traditional comic book in the way that the last one did. While the last arc relied a lot on Kowalski's art to tell the story and put us into the deep, mysterious world of Yharnam, this one relies a lot more, strangely, on Aditya Bidikar, the letterer, because the majority of this comic is diary entries.

While it's cool to see the brief glimpses of Galhad and Alfredius's studies, showing the disconnect between the two characters, there's not much powerful artwork that we need to see. Instead, Bidikar's lettering work needs to make it feel like we'r reading a lot of information but not doing a lot of reading. And he letters these pages well, and the final page, which is literally just a quote, feels pretty powerful because of this lettering work and the consistency throughout the comic with that.

Now, having said that, this comic moves fairly slowly and it's not always clear who is writing what piece of the diary, or why they're writing it. I do wish we'd gotten to see more action and a little less conspiracy going on, but if this is just setting up a great mystery in the Healing Church, or possibly a big divide that we'd see later on in Bloodborne, then I'm totally okay with that. This comic does really read like a whole lot of setup and that should come around with a ton of payoff. Regardless, I'm just happy to have this book back in my hands. 

Justice League #8

Writer: James Tynion IV / Artist: Mikel Janin / Colors: Jeromy Cox / Letters: Tom Napolitano

How is that in a Justice League comic the character I wanted to see get more screentime was Black Manta? Honestly, I can't predict anything anymore, not even my own reading tendencies. This is once again a Legion of Doom focused comic, although a lot of it is cryptic warnings from the Batman Who Laughs (serious eyeroll) and then some setting up for the "Drowned Earth" storyline coming up in Aquaman and this book. There's also some stuff with Starman that didn't seem to go anywhere and really will probably be used in the next few issues.

This comic continues the trend of the Justice League book being just..fine. Not great, and certainly not bad. But it's not nearly as good as Avengers. While this issue doesn't deal with the League at all, it just falls flat on its face with trying to make the Batman Who Laughs relevant and creepy, but really I'm just reminded about what a bad and boring villain he is. I wish there'd been more with Black Manta, maybe showing him actually get to fight Poseidon instead of Cheetah getting in the easy kill; or, better yet, show them actually hunting him down rather than just finding him.

The best thing about the comic is Mikel Janin's art because he just draws everything so well in this book. Black Manta and Cheetah's Canadian shenanigans are action-packed and pretty exciting and all of the characters look amazing. He also draws a very menacing Cheetah, and speaking of expressions, all of the characters emote very well on the page, Janin's faces basically speak for themselves and there's very little need for actual word balloons half the time. 

Mister Miracle #11

Writer: Tom King / Art: Mitch Gerads / Letters: Clayton Cowles

I mean, what's there to say at this point? We're 11 issues into the best comic of the last two years and it's not like it's getting any worse. In fact, this issue has a lot more emotional high-points than the last few have, and it has some of the strangest most off-the-wall imagery and moments that even if I were to describe them to you, you'd still probably not believe me and probably have to check out this comic. You should do that anyway, but still.

It's just absolutely incredible what Tom King and Mitch Gerads have pulled off here. It's unlike anything that DC is publishing and it deserved to win the Eisner award this last summer. This issue both feels and doesn't feel like the culmination of the story: it wraps a lot of the tension since the birth of their kid but also leaves us off on a major cliff-hanger. All the while it still just feels like a suburban family drama but with gods. You relate to these characters, you get what they're going through. It doesn't matter that they're standing up against a being of infinite power, they're still struggling with what niceties they should bring to his house because that's what a good family does.

This is the same thing that made The Vision work only this time we're seeing it through the eyes of beings that have an impossible power and are dealing with things on such a cosmic scale that we shouldn't be able to comprehend but Tom King makes so relatable. And Mitch Gerads...

Look, there's no other artist I can imagine on this story. He brings such depth, such emotion, such life to this comic that there's really nothing else to say at this point. If you're not reading this, you are really missing out on something special from an artistic standpoint. What these two artists are doing here is game-changing. 

Venom #6

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

This'll probably be the last issue of Venom that I read. Not because it's bad or anything, it's just that I'm reading a few too many books and have to drop something. And besides, this was a good issue to end on. It finishes off the God Host stuff with Knull and brings some good emotional closure with Eddie, Rex, and their symbiotes. Cates paces this final battle pretty well, constantly keeping the tension up and ensuring that the stakes are always on the rise. There's some heavy sacrifice that goes down here and none of it feels wasted on the page.

There are, of course, some silly things, like Venom loading up with a bunch of grenades and machine guns to make him look like a bad 90s anti-hero, but typical of a great writer, Cates eventually makes it work to his advantage and makes for actually a pretty badass moment.

Stegman also delivers big time on the artwork for this issue. His art has been consistently amazing over the course of the run and tops it off well with an epic fight scene here. Most of the issue is a bunch of battling, but it all looks very-well done and consistent with the style that he's been working with throughout the story. Frank Martin's colors are also fantastic, especially here as he has to work with the constant balance of lights and heavier shadows during the fight scene. 

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