Comic Review: Black Hammer, Vol. 1: Secret Origins

Published: April 11th, 2017
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Dean Ormsto

Dark Horse Books, 152 Pages

Review:

I didn’t know what to expect from Black Hammer but in the last year and a half that it has been out, it has been pretty popular and even spawned a few spinoffs within its unique universe.

I have historically loved Dark Horse’s original titles. I’ve read Hellboy and B.P.R.D. on and off for years, I was a massive fan of Umbrella Academy and have occasionally checked out other titles. Plus, I was always happy with their Star Wars books for the long period of time that they had the publishing rights to that megafranchise.

I saw that this was a series by Jeff Lemire, who had some good runs on some major titles over the years, most notably SuperboyJustice League DarkAnimal ManGreen ArrowTeen Titans: Earth OneHawkeyeOld Man LoganMoon Knight and Bloodshot.

Originally, Lemire was going to do the art for this book but he’s a busy guy, so the art was created by Dean Ormsto.

I love that this is a book about a superhero team but it is probably the most nontraditional superhero team book that I have ever read. The story follows a group of former heroes, trapped in a Twilight Zone type of small town. They have been stuck there for years with no way of getting back to their own reality.

The story is highly emotional, as each character tries to deal with their new reality in their own way. The most interesting character is Gail, who was a superhero woman that grew into old age but is now trapped in her superhero persona: a small girl. She has lived a full life, enjoyed sexual maturity but is cursed with an adult mind and needs in the body of an elementary school student.

All of the other characters are interesting too but I felt that Gail’s story had the most to offer, at least only having read the first story arc.

I’m looking forward to keeping up with this series. So far, it’s pretty good. Time will tell how it develops and if it can grow legs. So far, things look pretty promising.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: I’d have to assume Black Hammer, Vol. 2. There are also some similarities in style with other Dark Horse series Umbrella AcademyHellboy and B.P.R.D.

Comic Review: You Are Deadpool

Published: May 2nd, 2018
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Salva Espin, Scott Wilson

Marvel Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

This was a really cool experience and I like how it was organized and laid out. It’s more of a game than a comic but it was straightforward and easy to navigate.

For those of us who were kids in the ’80s, this comic is a blast. It takes the old Find Your Fate and Choose Your Own Adventure format and brings it into comic books. I’ve never seen the concept worked out and presented in a visual way but that was what made this so unique and fun. Plus, Deadpool was the perfect character to take this journey with.

As far as the plot, it was simplistic and not too exciting. It mostly just served the experience in creating a few gags and jokes within the adventure. Since Deadpool loves to break the fourth wall, the jokes are more hilarious, as he talks directly to you, the reader, whenever you make him crawl through shit or get beat up by a low level villain.

And while this was amusing for the one issue that I read, I don’t think that it can work as a series. I guess there are more coming out but I got the gist of the experience from this one issue and probably won’t pick up the others. It may have actually worked better had this been a double issue with a longer story and more options, as opposed to spreading this out over five or six separate issues, which is what they’re doing.

Unlike the Find Your Fate books I read in the ’80s, this doesn’t have enough narrative to keep you engaged for multiple read throughs. It needed more meat and potatoes, frankly. But still, it was an amusing fifteen minutes and I have to give kudos for the concept.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Anything starring Deadpool, honestly.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Four: Pray For Rain

Published: February 25th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

I have really enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s Fatale series. However, this was the low point of the series for me. Although, I still haven’t read Book Five.

It’s not that I didn’t like this story, I did, but it was lacking when compared to the books that came before it. Especially, the first two story arcs that were pretty incredible.

Maybe it’s that this has lost the film-noir touch that really made me fall in love with the first two stories. It’s not that this is completely different, tonally. It’s just that this one takes place in the 1990s, sees Josephine shacking up with a bank robbing grunge band and overall, just doesn’t seem to fit cohesively with the other stories. But maybe Book Five will somehow tie all these stories together in an amazing way. I still don’t know how this will all come together in the end.

The art is still great, the story is interesting but there really isn’t a single likable character in the entire book. Jo has amnesia and is pretty much just in the story to create tension and drama between a group of shitheads. There is also a murderous cop but he’s nowhere near as interesting as other antagonists in this series.

I don’t know, I was disappointed with this outing. Maybe Book Five will help this story make more sense but I feel as if it should still stand strong on its own outside of the larger context.

But for now, I feel my interest in this series slipping away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: Go Down Swinging

Published: March 7th, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Stuart Immonen, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Cheung, Humberto Ramos, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

Let me preface this review by saying, “Holy shit balls!”

Man, oh, man… I friggin’ loved this story and this is the best Spider-Man story arc that I have read since before that 2008 catastrophe Brand New Day, which made me quit reading Spider-Man after two decades of loyalty. Yes, I even made it through that godforsaken Clone Saga in the ’90s without quitting.

While Dan Slott was a big part of Brand New Day and continued to keep writing Spider-Man for a decade, including this story, his last, I had heard good things over the last few years. But it wasn’t until I heard about this story that I figured that I’d finally give the guy another shot. Well, he’s really undone the damage of Brand New Day and also seems to be righting the ship with some of the things that have changed since then. Well, at least this arc starts with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson making out. That’s a big giant leap out of the Brand New Day muck.

So Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, has acquired the Carnage symbiote. He sort of has it under control and used it to remove the restrictions that Peter Parker put in his blood to prevent him from ever being the Green Goblin again. So what we have now is the Green Goblin and all of his powers enhanced by the Carnage suit. So to paraphrase what the official story arc write-up said, “This is Spider-Man’s greatest villain merged with his most deadly.” Basically, shit just got real.

The story sees Osborn hellbent on destroying Spider-Man, which is made easier when he finally remebers that Spidey is Peter Parker. That’s where it becomes an all out assault on Parker and his loved ones. Osborn tells Parker to stop being Spider-Man and if he abides by this, his loved ones will be safe. Peter’s allies unite in an effort to take on Osborne but ultimately, Peter Parker has to put the costume back on and have a big showdown with this new Red Goblin for all the marbles.

The story is intense, really intense. It was hard to put down and the big 80 page finale that was issue 800 was perfection. I understand people’s reservations with Slott’s epic run on The Amazing Spider-Man but this story arc was some grade A stuff, especially in an era where Marvel hasn’t been putting out a lot of quality books.

This served to not just up the ante and give Spider-Man one of his toughest threats of all-time, it also gave closure to a lot of plot threads that have stretched decades. There is an important death in this but it was done tastefully and only made that character better. Also, it was a decades long redemption story that gave a sad but satisfying payoff for those who hated and then learned to love this character over the years.

I also thought that the art was incredible. Marvel has been letting amateurish looking art creep into their titles but The Amazing Spider-Man has kept the best of the best and the quality of Go Down Swinging is such a great contrast to the terrible Marvel books I see, wall to wall, in every comic book shop I frequent.

I can’t praise this enough. And thank god they pushed Mockingbird out of the equation, as that relationship never seemed to work for me (and others from what I’ve read).

Dan Slott may have started out throwing gasoline on a dumpster fire but he ended by giving us one of the high points in the long history of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Since this is the big finale of the long and storied Dan Slott run, all of the Slott Spider-Man stuff before this. However, you may want to pickup the story arc Threat Level: Red, as it serves to setup this big finale. Try to avoid Brand New Day unless you’re into torture.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe, Vol. 2: Threat Matrix

Published: February 25th, 2014
Written by: Fred Van Lente
Art by: Steve Kurth, Jamal Igle
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 152 Pages

Review:

Threat Matrix is the second volume of IDW’s third G.I. Joe run. It picks up from the story in Homefront and happens alongside the events in G.I. Joe: Special Missions and The Cobra Files.

The story is mostly focused on a big terror attack by Cobra in New York City. Cobra is led by the Mad Monk, who had an important story arc way back in the G.I. Joe: Origins series. Here, he is hellbent on ruining the life of Duke. We also see Destro and the Baroness unite in an effort to undermine Monk, as neither have faith in him or his mission and think that he can be the undoing of the Cobra organization. Also, Cover Girl suspects that Duke is a Cobra spy and all the signs she’s looking for seem to support the unfortunate theory.

This is a complex and layered G.I. Joe story and I loved it. There are lots of suprises, there is a ton of action and the art does a great job of conveying the energy of the story.

The big reveal of what Duke’s secret is, however, was really convenient and pretty stupid. I’ll just leave it at that, as I don’t want to spoil the actual story itself.

The last chapter in this is a bit slower and the overall arc concludes in the second to last issue in this collection. The final chapter is mostly just a flashback to Roadblock becoming a member of G.I. Joe. It doesn’t necessarily serve the greater narrative but maybe it leads into something important in the next volume after this.

Threat Matrix was a good read and better than I thought it would be, as the IDW G.I. Joe universe seemed to be losing some steam in this third phase of titles. I just hope that the finale to this phase goes out with a much needed bang and doesn’t just come and go with a soft wimper.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other G.I. Joe stories that happen at the same time: G.I. Joe: Special Missions (IDW) and G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files.

Comic Review: Batman: Night of the Monster Men

Published: February 28th, 2017
Written by: Tom King, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV
Art by: Riley Rossmo

DC Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

I haven’t been too keen on the Rebirth stuff by DC Comics. I also didn’t like the big Batman story that I read by Tom King, The War of Jokes and Riddles. However, a friend told me that there was a story that King did that pitted Batman and his team against kaiju that were wrecking Gotham City. Kaiju are big monsters like Godzilla or King Kong for those who aren’t familiar with the term.

I’m a big kaiju fan, so it was hard for me to not check out a story where Batman must confront giant beasts. Plus, I should give King another shot and Tim Seeley also contributed to the story and I’ve always liked his work, especially his Hack/Slash and G.I. Joe stuff.

I did enjoy this more than The War of Jokes and Riddles but it still didn’t leave me with much faith in this Rebirth era of DC Comics.

The story brings in Hugo Strange as the big baddie. He does some experiments that turn patients into kaiju that are unleashed on Gotham in an effort to draw out and destroy Batman. Strange tries his best to outwit the Caped Crusader and stays one step ahead until Batman once again finds a way to use the mad professor’s overconfidence against him.

The book is action heavy, which was great. Also, the monster designs were pretty cool and unique. However, the story wasn’t that interesting. In fact, it was kind of dull. Also, there are all these new people that are part of Batman’s team that I just don’t care about. I’m a bigger fan of Batman working alone or in a very small group. This felt like it was trying to be like the Arrow TV show with all these random copycat heroes.

However, Clayface is now on Team Batman, which I actually quite enjoyed even if it caught me completely off guard at first. There is this really cool scene where Batman wears Clayface like extra armor, which was just neat to see.

Night of the Monster Men had some good moments but not enough to make me happy that I spent money on it or that will probably make me want to ever pick it up again.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: For superheroes versus giant kaiju monsters, check out Marvel’s run on Godzilla. Also, other Batman arcs under the Rebirth brand.

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: Threat Level: Red

Published: January 24th, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos Gage
Art by: Stuart Immonen, Mike Hawthorne, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 69 Pages

Review:

I’m reading a lot of The Amazing Spider-Man stuff leading up to issue 800, which is to be the finale of the Dan Slott era. Having just finished up Venom Inc., I jumped right into the next story arc, Threat Level: Red, which spans issues 794 through 796. It’s not a long story arc but it is Slott’s penultimate story before getting into Go Down Swinging.

This also serves to setup Go Down Swinging by dropping little hints about something bigger being in the works, as you see the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, acquire the Carnage symbiote.

This short arc is really just three standalone stories.

The first deals with Spidey and his girlfriend Mockingbird going to London to stop Scorpio. The second is an adventure that teams up Spider-Man and Loki, who has replaced Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme. The third and final tale sees Spidey and Flash Thompson as Anti-Venom defend a facility from the Goblin King and his Goblin minions.

While the three stories were fun, it was all mostly filler and the important bits of the story were the evolution of Norman Osborn into the Red Goblin a.k.a. the Green Goblin with the Carnage symbiote under his control.

This was enjoyable and it set the tone for Dan Slott’s final story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The story before it, Venom Inc. and the one following it, Go Down Swinging.