Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Issue 14: The Defending Bat-Panther-Spider!

DC have come out this week to announce that the name of the character we like to call “Wally” (or Waldo for our readers in the States) is actually “Pandora”.   Check out the source here.  While Pandora’s whole deal is still under wraps, she is set to appear in future issues of Justice League, though given that she time travelled to make appearances in every single DC 52 #1 we’re tipping she’ll be central to some kind of crossover event at some point.  Imagine every single 52 tying together.  Then imagine they actually got it right.  Really right.  Could be cool.  As long as they figure out what her feet look like by then.

Avenging Spider-Man #1     Why another Spider-Man book? The hook here is Avenging Spidey is going to be “Spider-Man Team-Up” in every way except the title.  Spider-Man is arguably Marvel’s most recognised character and what a great way to put him in stories with either other iconic characters just for the sheer fun and joy of it,  but more so,  give exposure perhaps to some lesser known or under-used characters.  Not to mention two huge Marvel films coming out in 2012 named “Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Avengers” will encourage new readers to check this book out.  The most exciting part of this new title though?   Hands down Joe Madureira’s, (or as us fans call him “Joe Mad”) absolutely glorious artwork on every single page, in every single panel.   Joe Mad has been away for several years working on video game projects and when he expressed interest in coming back to comics, specifically drawing Spidey, like Todd McFarlane years before, Marvel launches a whole new title for him!  That’s how good he is. I first fell in love with his art back when he was drawing Uncanny X-Men over a decade ago.  His was one of my all time favourite runs on that title.  His renditions of each individual X-man were stunning, second to, but only by a micron, Chris Bachalo; to who admittedly I am biased as he is my favourite artist.  I could cite so many amazing past issues of Joe Mad’s work, but I leave it to you to pick up this new title for yourself and see his work now! I have wanted to collect a Spidey title for a fair while and a new #1 with sensational art it looks as if I’ve hit the jackpot!  On to the review!

Issue #1 opens with a nicely detailed 4-panel page with Spidey riffing a little exposition to remind us all, or inform any new comer, where he’s currently at in his life.  “Girl problems, a full-time job, membership on any super-team that will have you... including two (two!) separate teams of Avengers.  Spider-Man, where do you find the time?”  I liked this as right away I had a sense of respect for his current continuity from the writer, (Zeb Wells, of Amazing Spidey fame) but also a clever way of immediately not getting bogged down in it and feeling that this will be a book  all of its own.  I don’t want to have to know what’s going on in any other book in order to read this title, and I get the feeling  right away that it won’t be that way. Turning to page 2 & 3 and seeing Spidey in action with some fellow Avengers battling a giant robot and you know what you’re in for art wise!  Although anyone needing an intro to Joe Mad’s art should skip straight to pages 10 & 11 where you’ll be treated to a line up of Spider-Woman, Steve Rogers, Hawkeye, Wolverine, Thor, Iron Man and the Red Hulk.  I guarantee you will look at this and be in instant anticipation for more and already debating inside your head who you’d like to see appear in this book!

Back to page 5 though which is J. Jonah Jamieson, being the Mayor of New York (which for me not being a regular Spidey reader was news) about to gun-start a marathon.   To switch the praise to the writing for a minute, I actually laughed out loud when I read the following line he utters just before firing the gun: “ – Let’s get this over with so you jog-hippies can go back to dressing like normal human beings ...”  Perfect dialogue encapsulating  in one speech bubble JJJ’s personality indeed!  I’m not going to make a habit of listing page numbers in my reviews but this issue is exceptional;  pages 6 & 7 are a double splash page that the sheer volume and detail of what’s going on needs a special  mention.  It is probably fifty or so “Moloids” running headlong into just as many of the aforementioned marathon runners and it is stunning!  I would love to know how long a piece of art like this takes to complete.  I needed no further explanation as to what these Moloids were all about, other than New York was under attack by them.  JJJ appears to make the same assumption, yelling it out loud, then stating: “And they called me psycho when I demanded real bullets for this thing...” as he is making ready the revolver he used to start the race.  With a hilarious cry of: “Eat lead, Bilbo...”  contained within a panel comprised of inked out silhouette, we see JJJ manage to get off two shots  with red lettered “BLAM BLAM” before he is overwhelmed by Moloids.  The art and writing come together perfectly in the next panel,  with the sheer indignation pencilled on his face coupled with the dialogue explanation: “Blanks?! Oh, you patronizing sons of - -“  Love it.

Without giving too much of the plot away, this first team-up comprises Spidey of course and the Red Hulk.  JJJ is kidnapped by the previously mentioned Moloids and the pair are then off to rescue him.  If you’re any kind of a Hulk fan you’re in for a treat as this is one of the best renditions of the character I’ve ever seen. His size, especially in ratio to Spidey, is just perfect. The muscle tone and poses are beautiful, helped along by some superb colouring by “Ferran Daniel”, who I will be keeping a look out for in the future.  A panel with Spidey riding on Red Hulk’s back as he’s “flying” through the air is a favourite.  Thunder clapping a flock of birds because Spidey yells: “Incoming” is both comedic and one of the most kinetic images in the book.  The second half of the book is mostly based in “Subterranea”; the world of the Moloids, and without discussing anymore of the plot, the art quite intentionally sinks into shadow and stark inks. The splash page that ends this comic is one of the most detailed in the book and is a classic cliff hanger, nicely leading into issue #2. (Check out the cover!!) 
Forgive me for sounding like a fan boy in any of all this, but it is truly wonderful to see such a talented artist from such a great period of comics back in the ring. If the writing stays sharp too, I will be with this title for a long time... Who am I kidding? George Lucas could write this and as long as Joe Mad is drawing I will be looking!! Till next time where I’ll get to my Bat-Family share as promised and issue #2 of Avenging Spidey!!   -Ty

O.M.A.C. #4     Kevin Kho is already sick of feeling controlled by the self aware satellite Brother Eye in an issue that explores hopeless defiance that is followed by begrudging submission.  But don’t let the underlining narrative fool you – there’s also talking alligators, mad scientists and an angry girlfriend to pad out this book!  Kevin realises he’s free of Brother Eye’s signal when he enters the subway, only to find himself in a situation where he really needs to omactivate to save his own life.  As mentioned in an earlier review, O.M.A.C. relies on an art style peppered with sweet winks in the direction of the golden age, and the six-panels-to-a-page layout seems to be a staple for the book.  This title is about to crossover with Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. too, which should be a nice monster mash.  -Jem

Batwoman #4  Geez, it’s like someone at DC decided that nobody reading Batwoman realises that Kate Kane is gay, and they really, really want it to be as bloody obvious as possible.  In it’s defense, the sex scene on it’s own is tasteful in it’s soft focus black and white tones, but unfortunately it’s cut against a fight that borders on violent sexual attack.  Perhaps this is to accentuate that oral sex may be the only blissful ignorance one can enjoy in a hellhole like Gotham, or maybe it’s another DC attempt at being “adult” that was already penned before internet comic fans insisted they didn’t want to see Batman chock-a-block up Catwoman.  I’ve been enjoying Batwoman but this is a lazy issue.  It feels shorter too, it isn’t, but with a fight interspersed with a fuck for a third of the issue it’s finished in moments, and what’s left doesn’t move the story forward with the same pacing we’ve been spoiled with thusfar.  Please, please don’t let the wheels have fallen off this one already.  –Jem

Black Panther #525 & #526   A couple of issues back I said I was looking forward to this book being able to hit it’s stride now that all the hammer stuff and spider plagues were dealt with.  Sadly it turns out Marvel have scheduled the most dangerous man alive for the chopping block, but at least the Black Panther seems to be going out with a bang.  Immediately obvious is the expanded colour palette, a welcome break from the almost-one-colour look of the book until now.  The Kingpin, now head of the Hand, is murdering Wakandans in New York and T’Challa is naturally hellbent on getting to the bottom of it.  Rescuing one survivor, he faces off against Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary, while desperately trying to get his patient to safety.  The fight scenes against Hand ninjas are a highlight as T’Challa’s inner monologues remain calm, explaining the science of the combat as he dispatches numerous enemies.  This is so cool, and it’s why I like this character so much.  The Black Panther knows a million ways to break every bone, and often toys with his opponent just long enough to find a crucial weakness.  The Kingpin is used to good effect here too, mirroring BP’s methods and mindset of the fight, and each of these men is so convinced they have the perfect surprise attack planned for the other, the reader is left with a sense that this one may go either way.  The Black Panther rapidly approaches his final issue, after all.  –Jem

Wolverine #19  This book’s gone to shit.  Admittedly, it was probably the title I was most likely to drop even from early on, though I did enjoy the arc about the group of people whose lives were made worse by Wolverine’s actions banding together to get their revenge.  What we have here with this Regenesis branding is a shame, mainly because it’s just blind Saturday morning cartoon fare in the vein of Power Rangers or something.  There’s nothing here to keep me interested.  How hard can it be to have Wolverine doing cool Wolverine shit?  Impossible apparently, so fuck this comic and fuck everyone who’s had something to do with the creation of the last three issues.  Seriously, some of the most boring bullshit I’ve ever read.  -Jem

The Defenders #1   An interesting team book here featuring the likes of Dr. Strange, Namor, Red She-Hulk, Iron Fist and The Silver Surfer… there’s not much that couldn’t be put down with the combined might of this lot.  The recent mini series Fear Itself: The Deep featured a team with three of these characters together and I didn’t mind that one too much, but it’s a little perplexing that the setup didn’t begin there, and we go through the motions of the defenders being assembled without any real reference to half of them hanging out underwater a month ago.  This is even more odd considering the nemesis of the story, the spirit that possessed the Hulk in Fear Itself, is on the rampage, and the creators rely heavily on the reader to have read Fear Itself #7 and know exactly what’s going on.  I’m up to speed though and found this one to be an enjoyable read, and intend to stick with it for a while.  I’ve been catching up on some old school Dr. Strange stuff recently and digging that.  There’s a slight re-invention of the character here as the book opens with a scene of morning after regret following a sexual encounter with one of his students.  I wanted a new Dr. Strange title and this is it.  A word of warning though: this is not a book for the casual Marvel reader.  If you don’t have the background from Fear Itself this will read like garbage, and most will find the artwork on the wrong side of average too.  -Jem

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