Reviews in Brief (1/13 to 1/20 – 2016)

cover-column-1-20Brief reviews of mostly Marvel Comics that came out either January 13th or 20th, 2016, except for No Mercy (which is put out by Image) and Spidey, which came out in December 2015.

Astonishing Ant-Man #4 (released 1/20)
Written by: Nick Spencer
Art by: Ramon Rosanas (w/ colors by Wil Quitana)
This title (if you include Spencer’s truncated-via-reboot run on its predecessor) is getting to feel like it’s just spinning its wheels. The story feels like the ongoing adventures in “Let’s see how much and how often we humiliate Scott Lang” and make it funny. The book needs a little more structure and character development. I am glad, however, that we did get peek at the new Giant-Man we were introduced to in the annual. Oh, and please no more cameos by C-list celebrities who I assume are friends with the writer because he once wrote a Marvel comic, too.

All-New All-Different Avengers #3 (released 1/13)
Written by: Mark Waid
Art by: Adam Kubert (w/ colors by Sonia Oback)
It is too bad that a book written by the great Mark Waid feels kind of like it is going through the motions in an effort to keep a flagship team in print with some of the brand’s most popular/up-and-coming characters. It is the characters (save for Nova) that give the book its potential, so it could still develop into something worthwhile. There is a good chance I will drop this book soon, but I’ll at least give the first arc after the underwhelming introductory story a chance to win me over. I will say that I do love the Alex Ross cover.

Ms. Marvel vol. 4,  #3 (released 1/20)
Written by: G. Willow Wilson
Art by: Takeshi Miyazawa (w/ colors by Ian Herring)
This book remains great. I love the gentrifying supervillain plot (though I was confused as to whether we were supposed to know who the boss bad guy was). I hope this book keeps its focus local, on Jersey City and Kamala’s family and community, instead of letting her involvement with the Avengers etc. . seep into her book. Miyazawa’s art is great, but I do prefer Alphona, so I hope he will be back soon.

No Mercy #6 (released 1/13)
Written by: Alex DeCampi
Art by: Carla Speed McNeil (w/ colors by Felipe Sobreiro)
After the premise-setting bus crash of the first four issues (available in an affordable trade – get it!), I wasn’t sure how this story would go on, but damn does it go on and go on with a vengeance! I love this comic. I love its relentless brutality and the banally despicable college-bound Princeton kids it has for characters. I do have some concerns about its depiction of Mexico/Central America, but I have to see how that plays out as the narrative continues. Still, it is a comic that does not shy away from addressing race and class and gender and sexuality, while remaining compelling.  I am encouraging everyone to pick it up.

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! vol. 2, #2 (released 1/20)
Written by: Kate Leth
Art by: Brittany L. Williams (w/ colors by Megan Wilson)
I don’t know. . . I can’t remember if the personality depicted by Patsy in this comic lines up with how I remember her from my days as a fan of the Defenders, like in issue #100 when it was revealed Satan was her dad, and thus her boyfriend, Damien Hellstrom (aka Son of Satan!) was really her brother, but that may be because there was not a lot to remember about her. On the other hand, I have made the claim that as the constant between the pre-Marvel romance comics days and the superhero zeitgeist of the moment, she is the most important character in the Marvel Universe. It may be more true than ever if this title is a sign of the direction and possibilities of Marvel comics for the coming future with more titles by and about women.  Anyway, I like the book. I like the cartooning style of Williams, I like the mix of personal dramatic plot elements and superhero action. I like the depictions of female friendship. Good stuff.

Sam Wilson: Captain America #5 (released 1/13)
Written by: Nick Spenser
Art by: Paul Renaud (w/ Romulo Fajardo on colors)
I’m not sure if this is doing it for me. There might be a little bit too much 80s/90s Captain America referencing slathered on at once. I like the soap opera elements with Diamondback’s backstory, but the Capwolf joke has lost its shine (if it ever had any) and sometimes Spencer’s choices in the humor department are strained and too particular, like a burn that relies on knowing Mad Men well enough to know the name of anyone beyond Don Draper (and even relying on the reader to know Draper would be pushing it, I think). There are also references to Ayn Rand and Survey Monkey. Still, I like Spencer making Viper, the leader of the Serpent Society, into a very thinly veiled Donald Trump, and his continued exploration of contemporary political themes. They could use some of that over at Howard the Duck, but I guess Nick Spenser can’t write everything. Generally,  I like the comics’ breeziness and how it moves back and forth in time to use the comic media to its narrative advantage. Renaud’s faces could be a lot better, but the rest of the art ranges from energetic to functional. Oh, and the new Falcon is a Latino guy. I’ll stick with it for now.

Silver Surfer, vol. 8, #1 (released 1/20)
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Michael Allred (w/ Laura Allred on colors)
Sure, there was no reason for rebooting to a new volume, and sure the theme of “artistic expression being humanity’s true resource and how much it has influenced our lives” is so played out, and yeah I’m not sure how I feel about Dawn’s dad being drawn to look like Dan Slott, but damn do I love Allred’s art! And heck, I get a big kick out of the set-up to have a Guardians of the Galaxy-belonging space-adventuring Ben Grimm return to Earth as the mind-controlled herald of some alien that spells doom for his planet, in a reversal that will surely see the Surfer as the planet’s protector in a riff on the classic Fantastic Four volume 1, #48 and #49. I will stick with this book because most of all it is a delight to read.

Spidey #1 and #2 (released 12/2 and 12/30)
Written by:Robbie Thompson
Art by: Nick Bradshaw (w/ colors by Jim Campbell)
This new series is kind of weird pastiche of classic Amazing Spider-Man and versions from various movies and cartoons. Not a carefully plotted Untold Tales of Spider-Man (Kurt Busiek’s under-appreciated run from the 90s), these stories create an updated setting for the wall-crawler, moving and changing familiar characters in a way not dissimilar from the recent and disappointing films (Gwen Stacy being a h.s. friend, etc. . .). The dialogue is not so great. It could be my age, but the attempt to sound young and hip falls flat (then again, Stan Lee’s teenagers were pretty poorly written, too). On the other hand, the art is fantastic. Sure there are a few places where figures are a little misshapen or weirdly exaggerated in a way that does not jibe with everything else, but no comic is perfect. Generally, the paneling is creative and compelling and the lines and colors contribute to the book’s light feeling.  I just wonder how tied into the rest of the Marvel Universe this book is going to be. Since it is essentially an alternate take it doesn’t need to, so let’s hope it stays in its own little pocket.  I gave up on Dan Slott’s Spider-Man right after Superior Spider-Man ended, so this is a welcome alternative set in the era where Spider-Man is best, adolescence.

The Mighty Thor, vol. 2, #3 (released 1/13)
Written by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Russel Dauterman (w/ colors by Matthew Wilson)
This book remains beautiful and action-packed. I love it. I’ve lost track of all the recent iterations of Loki—female Loki, kid Loki, teenaged Loki, scruffy metrosexual Loki—but in this issue Thor faces them all, or at least their shades, and in a way Loki must face them, too. One of the benefits of not being sure about the recent changes in Loki is that as a reader I don’t know if I should believe him when he claims to want to help Thor and change the typical Thor/Loki dynamic. It makes this reader more vulnerable to his charms, which is as it should be. And did I say Dauterman is amazing? Dauterman is amazing!

All-New Wolverine #4 (released 1/13)
Written by: Tom Taylor
Art by: David Lopez & David Navarrot (w/ colors by Nathan Fairbairn).
If someone told me at any time since 1988 that a Wolverine comic was going to be one of my favorite titles, I would have thought them mad. And yet, this book is great. It even has a Dr. Strange appearance, I don’t like Dr. Strange! But here he is used to the perfect degree.  The art is great. The action is great. The pathos is great. Good stuff!

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