Phil’s Reviews: Stuff I Bought #506

Captain Marvel #1 — Writer: Kelly Thompson;  Art: Carmen Carnero;  Colors: Tamra Bonvillain

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 — Writer: Tom Taylor;  Art: Juann Cabal;  Colors: Nolan Woodard

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2 — Writer: Saladin Ahmed;  Art: Javier Garron;  Colors: David Curiel

Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider #4 — Writer: Seanan McGuire;  Art: Rosi Kampe and Takeshi Miyazawa;  Colors: Ian Herring

Man Without Fear #1 (of 5) — Writer: Jed MacKay;  Art: Danilo S. Beyruth;  Colors: Andres Mossa

Man Without Fear #2 (of 5) — Writer: Jed MacKay;  Art: Stefano Landini;  Colors: Andres Mossa

Web of Venom: Venom Unleashed #1 (of 1) — Writer: Ryan Stegman;  Pencils: Kyle Hotz and Juan Gedeon;  Inks: Six Different Guys;  Colors: Four Different Guys

Captain Marvel #1 is a more-than-decent introduction to the character: a heroic, good-looking Amanda Connor portrait for the cover, a 30-page plus story with a quick look at her past, a monster-fighting team-up with BFF Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew, a lunch meeting with frenemy/colleague/rival/boss Tony Stark, and an encounter with a logical macho bad guy leading to a cliffhanger and the start of the book’s first arc — oh, and an editorial by writer Kelly Thompson talking about why she loves the character.  Whether you remember Carol Danvers from the original Gerry Conway version, or from the Chris Claremont Ms. Marvel/Binary years, or her many incarnations since, or are a brand-new fan drawn by the impending feature film, it’s an effective and attractive beginning.  Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is the first of a new ongoing series with Marvel’s best-known character; writer Tom Taylor says that, befitting its title, he wants it to focus on adventures in the NYC area where Peter Parker lives, and on the supporting cast there. Taylor and artist Juann Cabal worked together on All-New Wolverine; the combination of Cabal’s thin-lined, Mark Martin/David Aja-esque style and Taylor’s imaginative, character-centric storytelling (they created Laura’s sister, Honey Badger, who’s become something of a break-out character) worked well there, and looks like it’ll be similarly entertaining in this title, too. Meanwhile, Miles Moral es: Spider-Man #2 features that arachno-version, now-red-hot thanks to the head-turning success of the animated Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse movie; he’s teamed up with the Rhino to investigate a missing-children case with personal stakes for both, and Saladin Ahmed does a a good job mining their Odd Couple dynamics (his Rhino’s got a dose of endearing palooka mixed in with the regular bad guy), while a last-page appearance by a surprise third partner makes sure readers will come back for the next installment. Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider completes the week’s three-spider-book hat trick by continuing the adventures of yet another Enter the Spider-Verse stand-out; it helps to wrap up loose ends from the Spider-Geddon mini-series and get her back to her own world, where it will continue as an ongoing series with what looks to be the same YA-focused tone of her previous comics.  Man Without Fear is a mini-series bridge between the end of the last Daredevil volume, which saw Matt Murdock hospitalized near death, and the launch of the next one; he lives, of course (that can’t possibly be a spoiler…), but is so injured that he’s wheelchair-bound and facing a long and excruciating recovery. The first two issues of the five-episode weekly mini-series are out this week, so you can get 40% of it now, and the rest by the end of the month; that instant gratification makes an effective selling point for a tale that would otherwise create too long a wait for the launch of the next incarnation. Web of Venom: Venom Unleashed starts out with a long wordless sequence featuring Eddie Brock’s Venom-possessed dog, and eventually becomes a continuation of the previous Web of Venom: Carnage comic, with all of Cletus Cassidy’s powered-up, homicidally-crazy obsession focused on gathering leftover symbiote remnants from everyone who’s ever been possessed by one — half of the Marvel universe, practically — starting with Brock; if you’re a Carnage fan, or just want to know what’s going on in the Venom books over the rest of the year — or admire Kyle Hotz, who with Eric Powell and Kelley Jones is one of the last of the EC Comics disciples — you should get this comic.

Avengers #12 (Legacy #702) — Writer: Jason Aaron;  Pencils: Ed McGuinness and Cory Smith;  Inks: Mark Morales, Karl Kesel and Scott Hanna;  Colors: Erick Arciniega

Thor #9 (Legacy #715) — Writer: Jason Aaron;  Art/Colors: Mike del Mundo

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #40 — Writer: Ryan North;  Art: Derek Charm;  Colors: Rico Renzi

Uncanny X-Men #9 (Legacy #628) — Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson;  Art: Yildray Cinar;  Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg

True Believers: Conan: The Devil-God of Bal-Sagoth! #1 (of 1) — Writer: Roy Thomas adapting Robert E. Howard;  Pencils: Gil Kane;  Inks: Ralph Reese;  Colors: Mimi Gold

True Believers: Conan: Swords in the Night! #1 (of 1) — Writer: Roy Thomas adapting Robert E. Howard;  Pencils: Barry Smith;  Inks: Buscema, Adkins and Stone;  Colors: Mimi Gold

Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel Presents #3 Fascimile Edition — Writer: Steve Gerber;  Pencils: Al Milgrom;  Inks: Pable Marcos;  Colors: Phil Rache

Avengers #12 and Thor #9, both written by Jason Aaron, each focus on the Black Panther, now Avengers chairman, setting up an “Agents of Wakanda” support team (SHIELD no longer being around), consisting of a number of deep-dive and fan-favorite characters; you can see Gorilla Man (from Agents of Atlas) and Ka-Zar on the Avengers cover, up to the right there, and Thor  supporting-cast member Roz Solomon is also on board, along with a number of others, especially of interest to X-Men fans. This is the kind of thing that Roger Stern used to do so well when he was scribing Avengers back in the day, and Aaron’s good at it too; if you like clever combinations of heroes and obscure Marvel continuity mixed in with high-stakes adventuring, you’ll like both of these.  Squirrel Girl finishes a “death of Squirrel Girl” arc as smartly and funnily as ever; if you want to know the impact this book has had, especially on younger female readers, check out all the cosplay photos on the two-page letters column — but don’t pigeonhole this comic as just for that group, because its high-quality storytelling should appeal to everyone.  Uncanny X-Men sees everyone back to the “real” Marvel earth after a detour to an Age of Apocalypse mind-scape, with now-bad-guy Nate Gray more powerful than ever, and mind-possessing Professor X’s son Legion; the weekly format of this first big “deconstruction” arc has let them cover a lot of ground and narrative in a relatively short time (if the thing was monthly it would have taken almost a year, and been less bearable), and we’re all hoping the ramp-up to an (eventually, after an “Age of X-Man” event following this one) reunited X-group should be worth it.  That leaves a handful of reprints; two are of the “True Believers” $1 books, all featuring Conan this month; one, a Roy Thomas/Gil Kane tale, is from original issue #17,  and the opportunity to see Kane’s ultra-fluid, well-choreographed fight scenes is reason enough to get it. The other is #23’s introduction of Red Sonya, with its late-period Barry Smith art (he’d only be around for one more issue) a treat — especially if you compare it to last week’s Conan #1, and see how far he’d developed in less than two years on the book. There’s also a “Marvel Fascimile Edition” (meaning complete with original ads, Bullpen Bulletins page, etc.) of Marvel Presents #3, from 1976, which began the first ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy series; these aren’t at all the characters from the movie, but it’s a cool late-’70s artifact nevertheless, with Steve Gerber’s smart script and subtle social satire, plus the art combination of Al Milgrom’s solid design and Pablo Marcos’s lush inking, making it worth the $3.99.

Young Justice #1 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis;  Art: Patrick Gleason;  Colors: Alejandro Sanchez

United States Vs. Murder, Inc. #5 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis;  Art: Michael Avon Oeming;  Colors: Taki Soma

Green Lantern #3 — Writer: Grant Morrison;  Art: Liam Sharp;  Colors: Steve Oliff

Batman #62 — Writer: Tom King;  Art/Colors: Mitch Gerads

Martian Manhunter #2 (of 12) — Writer: Steve Orlando;  Art: Riley Rossmo;  Colors: Ivan Plascencia

Young Justice is the first title from Wonder Comics, a Brian Bendis-run DC imprint focusing on younger heroes (and, presumably, readers); it’s got pretty much the original lineup from 20 years ago, including Impulse, the Tim Drake Robin, Wonder Girl, and a returned Conner Kent Superboy (he’s a last-page reveal, but since he’s on the cover it’s not actually a big surprise…). The bad guys are from Gemworld; they’re invading Metropolis because they’re tired of Earth generating multiversal crises and screwing up their dimension (and their claim that there have been “seven crises” should generate some interesting lists); since Amethyst seems to be on the cover too, she’ll presumably join the group at some point. It’s a fun comic, with lots of energy; fans who read the originals should like it a lot, and there’s plenty to keep those elusive new younger readers busy too.  United States Vs. Murder Inc. is also Bendis, but creator-owned and decidedly not for young kids (the female president of the US was assassinated by the mob last issue, while being given cunnilingus by one of her Secret Service agents, so you know, not an all-readers title…). However, it’s been fun in its own way, watching an alternate-universe earth where the Mafia took control of the Eastern seaboard and Las Vegas back in the ’60s, and have lived in an uneasy, and now-broken, truce with the US government ever since. Michael Avon Oeming’s unique art, with its spectacular design sense and exaggerated style, works well with the gonzo plot, and it would be no surprise to see this optioned as a series by some streaming-TV-content-hungry media provider. Speaking of gonzo plots, Grant Morrison’s Green Lantern imagines Hal Jordan as a galactic Judge Dredd with a magic ring — as the cover up to the left there indicates, he’s not afraid to arrest anybody, including deities. Don’t worry, fundamentalists: it isn’t really “God,” although his/its ability to fool gullible earthlings is the occasion for some sly tweaking of religious faith; instead, it’s part of a grand-scale cosmic property-sale scheme that’s typically Morrison, complicated to follow but easy to like.  Batman is typically Tom King: a running narrative/situation analysis from Bruce Wayne as he wakes up costumed and in a death trap, with wonderful art and colors from King’s Mister Miracle and Sheriff of Babylon partner Mitch Gerads. Martian Manhunter continues to benefit from its art, too, by the up-and-coming Riley Rossmo; he and writer Steve Orlando toggle between J’onn J’onzz’s history on Mars (with some clever takes on how a society of shapeshifters would work), and J’onzz as a present-day Earth cop with a partner who’s just realized he’s much more than he seems.  Rossmo’s fluid style and facility with both faces/expressions and weird/mystical creatures makes him a good choice for this book, and provides an immediately-identifiable look that should improve its chances of success.

Criminal #1 — Writer: Ed Brubaker;  Art: Sean Phillips;  Colors: Jacob Phillips

Gunning For Hits #1 — Writer: Jeff Rougvie;  Art: Moritat;  Colors: Casey Silver

Cemetery Beach #5 (of 7) — Writer: Warren Ellis;  Art/Colors: Jason Howard

Laguardia #2 — Writer: Nnedi Okorafor;  Art: Tana Ford;  Colors: James Devlin

Die #2 — Writer: Kieron Gillen;  Art/Colors: Stephanie Hans

Outer Darkness #3 — Writer: John Layman;  Art/Colors: Afu Chan

Strangers in Paradise XXV #9 — Creator: Terry Moore

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest #4 — Writer: Alan Moore;  Art: Kevin O’Neill;  Colors: Ben Dimagmaliw

Criminal is Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s welcome return to monthly crime/noir comics; this first issue has a 36-page story about Teeg Lawless, one of the main characters of the original series of graphic novels, whose son has ripped off the wrong people to get the money to bail him out of jail; there’s a five-page editorial/summary from Brubaker that will help if you’re new, and a two-page film-fan’s article about Blood Simple, the first movie from the Coen brothers, and altogether you probably need this book.  Gunning For Hits is about a music-industry rep who’s trying to negotiate a contract with a new group; the rep’s unusual background and skill set make this closer to Criminal than you might think at first, and it’s yet another book where the art, this time by Moritat (although in a couple of places it reminds me a lot of Amanda Connor), is a selling point.  Cemetery Beach is on issue five of a seven-part tale about a forgotten space colony founded by Earthers in the late-Victorian era and now hostile to being rediscovered; it’s actually one long, and roller-coaster entertaining, chase scene with the earth agent and a tough female revolutionary he’s encountered running from the authorities and trying to get back home. By Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, it’s a pleasant and fast-paced diversion while we’re all waiting for them to get back to their other, and much more elaborate, sf series Trees. Laguardia continues Nnedi Okorafor’s series about a world where illegal aliens are, well, actual aliens, and the heroine lives in New York City with a number that she’s helped smuggle in. It works because Okorafor avoids speechifying and theme-hammering in favor of character and world-building, and because Tana Ford’s art makes everyone, human and alien alike, approachable and appealing.  Die is Kieron Gillen’s newest series, about a group of kids who pulled a Jumanji and got sucked into a D&D-like game in 1991; all but one reappeared a few years later, and now after 25 years that one has dragged them, reluctant and middle-aged, back into the game. If you’ve read The Wicked and the Divine you know how good Gillen is at creating interesting and believable characters, and giving them well-put-together worlds to inhabit and interlocking conflicts to navigate: that’s the essence of comic-book soap operas, and he delivers it well.  Outer Darkness is Star Trek in an H.P. Lovecraft universe, with space crews needing exorcists and necromancers just as much as navigators and engineers; it’s by John Layman, the creator/writer of the long-running Chew, although it substitutes that comic’s snarky-ass weirdness for a more serious, noble-rogue protagonist and a darker tone.  Strangers in Paradise XXV has integrated that seminal series’s set of characters with everything Moore’s done since then — from the science/suspense of Echo to the mythological horror of Rachel Rising — and it all works surprisingly, and effectively, well: a late-career valentine to fans from the last 25 years.  League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has been around almost as long — it sees its 20th anniversary this year — and its current The Tempest is a similar callback and consolidation of earlier tales, mixed with a contemporary apocalypse of unexpected origins. Moore, ever the formalist experimenter, and O’Neill style this week’s installment as an issue of the kind of mid-20th-century British kids’ weekly, like Beano, that they grew up on, with each page moving the plot along in a different newspaper-comic-strip style; it’s an inspired flourish, even if it will go over the heads of most American readers, and made more impressive by how it still carries the story: click on the cover just to the left, and note how it summarizes the 20-year history of the characters in just one seven-panel page.

About Phil

With 40 years of experience in comic reading, collecting and reviewing, English Professor Phil Mateer has an encyclopedic mind for comics. Feel free to ask Phil about storylines, characters, artists or for that matter, any comic book trivia. He will post your questions and answers on the AABC blog. His knowledge is unparalleled! He is also our warehouse manager, so if you are looking for that hard to find comic book, ask Phil!
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