CrazyforRAMU's Profile

Joined: Oct 31, 2017

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7.0
Overall Rating
8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Nov 9, 2017

The Guardians are doing teeth-clenched teamwork and getting caught up in a Grandmaster/Collector dispute; not a healthy place to be. Even though the Guardians have only been out of publication for a half an eyeblink, Gerry Duggan throws a lot of twists into the team. Gamora's made a creepy deal with the Grandmaster, Groot got baby-fied, and Drax is a pacifist now. Also Peter stole the Milano out of the MCU. The author's clever heist plotting, solid ear for dialogue, and strong characterization suggest he'll have no trouble cashing all (or most of) the checks he's writing. Though I can tell Aaron Kuder's art is going to be an acquired taste, I think I'm already well on the way to acquiring it.

7.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #2

Dec 3, 2017

The Guardians' heist from the Collector's Fortress o' Pop Culture goes predictably awry. Gerry Duggan is working hard to script two issues' worth of quality characterization and dialogue every month. He's doing good with that, but he doesn't seem to have the time to get really creative with his plot. Similarly, Aaron Kuder is drawing stunningly good, inventively weird stuff - 40 pages' worth in a month. So it's fair if he goes a little heavy on the splash pages to keep his panel count down. I'm still waiting for the creators to start answering some of the great questions they posed last month. A reheated Hollywood heist story is only gonna satisfy for so long.

6.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #3

Jan 5, 2018

Gamora's dreams reveal her quest is tracking down the Soul Gem, which still has a piece of her stuck inside it. Some solid links to decades-old Guardians backstory make this a treat for hardcore fans, and they point to interesting things in the future. Resurrections? Oh, could be, could be. Frazier Irving's painterly art is occasionally beautiful, but it definitely has its drawbacks. Even after internet research tells me there's a peek at Eternity-in-Chains in this issue (from Ewing's Ultimates 2), I still can't see it. While this issue didn't end up exciting me, I can respect it as nice long-term storytelling and see that it loads up some great payoffs for the future.

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #4

Jan 5, 2018

The Guardians escape the Collector thanks to Rocket's cunning and Gamora's bravado. High adventure beckons, but of course it wouldn't be the Guardians if the team weren't on the edge of breaking up. Nobody's pleased to be used as a means to an end by Gamora, who's orchestrating all this to get at the Soul Stone, and there's even a rift forming between Rocket and Groot. And we still don't know who's growing a sinister crop of evil Groots or what he (?) plans on doing with them. Great plotting and challenging characterization put this up above the realm of average comics, and Aaron Kuder's stellar art helps a great deal.

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #5

Jan 15, 2018

Peter Quill gets his music by chasing down lightspeed Earth broadcasts and recording them on cassette. There's this guy on Reddit, hates everything that's happened to Star-Lord since Abnett & Lanning killed him. *Really* hates MCU synergy. He's way past reason and logic; his instinctive antipathy makes him incapable of liking any current Guardians comic. Don't be like Reddit Guy. In this issue Gerry Duggan proves that, like Chip Zdarsky, he can absolutely make "Chris Pratt-edition Star-Lord" work. Is this Star-Lord less grizzled than the DnA version? Sure. But he's also got heart and sensitivity in a way that DnA's Frowny-Face McGee didn't. Add in some misplaced (i.e. clashing with Mr. Kuder's work) but undeniably gorgeous Chris Samnee art and you've got a real best-case scenario for a filler issue. It's not plot essential, you could skip it if you had to, but it's so wonderfully heartwarming that you'll be glad you didn't.

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #6

Jan 27, 2018

The Raptors come calling for the ship the Guardians stole, or more precisely, a precious bit of cargo. They set off a nice zero-gee fight and throw some impressive twists into the plot, and the Guardians are well worth following throughout. We get another glimpse of the mystery man who's raised of crop of evil Groots, and some tempting hints about the identity of boss-Raptor Talonar pop up too. Aaron Kuder's art makes it all look good, and Gerry Duggan's script provides a lot of fun at a slightly-too-fast pace. Or is the title a little too slow due to the sheer number of moving parts being introduced?

9.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #7

Feb 12, 2018

Gamora listens to the story behind Drax's pacifism. It's an episode in which Drax is forced to confront the consequences of his actions. While you might find this particular straw a little light for breaking the Destroyer's back, I think you'll probably agree the man's reaction - "no violence forevermore" - is *very* Drax. The strong script is further enhanced by a flawless visual performance from Greg Smallwood. While the layouts are pretty simple, the anatomy and facial work are as good as - if not better than - Mr. Smallwood's recent tour de force performance in Moon Knight.

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #8

Feb 26, 2018

Quill fights Talonar, putting it all on the line to save Rocket. The fighting is solid and even while he's being poisoned to death, Rocket drops some funny jokes. Marcus To's art does an excellent job filling in. Gerry Duggan's script employs a few sneaky tricks to dodge complicated situations, but his judgement regarding what gets put on the page is excellent. How are you doing with Talonar's mystery identity? There are enough clues here to nail it, but not so many as to make it a certainty.

7.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #9

Mar 30, 2018

A Rocket and Groot flashback reveals who it is that's been raising Evil Groots in the present-day timeline. Mojo also appears and leaps onto the already way-too-large pile of "problems to address in the future." This issue landed right in the 7/10 zone: A bit above average but definitely not great. Mike Hawthorne's generic space visuals are workmanlike. The sheer volume of plot threads Gerry Duggan is introducing may be a problem, especially with his preferred flashback-heavy structure. There's a limited amount of focus to go around and dicing it up evenly so that every plot gets a pittance of panels instead of pushing through real progress on a single story is robbing this title of momentum.

9.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #10

Apr 7, 2018

Bringing the Collector/Grandmaster conflict to a head actually serves to tie up all of the title's big plot lines and fire the team off with renewed clarity of purpose. It might be exposition heavy, but this is *exactly* what this title needed. Gerry Duggan loads the script with imaginative ideas and a fair bit of cheesy humor and Aaron Kuder illustrates it all with commendable style. The contents aren't *quite* as trippy as the surrealist masterpiece on the cover, but they're close - in a good way.

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #11

Apr 20, 2018

We get a sneak peek at Talon-R's secret identity, and who's that a step or two behind us on the discovery trail? Why, it's Richard Rider! Woo woo! While the most die-hard DnA fans might not be satisfied with this issue's continuity performance, it tells a damn fine story and does it well. Roland Boschi's art has a very personal and very skilled style that makes the comic that much more enjoyable. Gerry Duggan's decision to make his Guardians title a sort of Cosmic Marvel Survey doesn't always work out, but here it's doing a great job of fleshing out the world around the Guardians. But it shouldn't be overlooked - this issue does not contain any Guardians of the Galaxy whatsoever.

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #12

May 3, 2018

The Guardians canvass Earth for Infinity Leads and get a surprise recruit instead. Two big drawbacks here: First, after narrowing down the plot threads with a "we can do X, Y, or Z" choice in #10, Gerry Duggan jumps to "we're gonna do X AND Z whether you like it or not!" Might cause pacing problems. Second, *why* would you preface all your cool Earth-hero interactions with a notice that you left the *coolest* ones - Star-Lord meets Infamous Iron Doom and Rocket Raccoon meets Black Panther - on the cutting room floor? There's plenty of fun in this Earth Layover and Rod Reis's painterly visuals make it look very pretty. Moments of sketchiness reveal that the art, like the script, is at a "really good, but could clearly be better" level.

6.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1

Jan 5, 2018

A quest for a shield-busting superweapon ends up being a wild goose chase and a gooey team-building exercise. The Guardians get fired out of the Secret Empire mess into a weird liminal space between the proper Marvel universe and the MCU. A mostly-MCU Mantis sends them to team up with a totally-MCU Yondu. The quest ends up pointless, of course, but writers Chad Bowers & Chris Sims load their script with a modest dose of snarky humor that softens the issue's frustration. Danilo Beyruth, patron saint of "good enough" indie-style artists, is on board to make the visuals respectable if not memorable, and the whole story slides smoothly in one ear and out the other.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #17

Oct 31, 2017

Gabby cures Laura's trigger scent conditioning with a little help from Jean Grey. There's a beautiful extended Pinocchio reference going on and with better art, this could have been a comic for the ages. Djibril Morissette-Phan does a decent job but also effectively closes the door to true epic-ness.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #18

Oct 31, 2017

Laura orchestrates a triumphant conclusion to the long story of Kimura vs. X-23. Nik Virella's work pulls this issue down. The lack of expressiveness actively undercuts the very dramatic script. I've seen her do good work - her Hyperion series was excellent - but this looks inexcusably shabby. Tom Taylor's script is full of great character work, dramatic twists, and a fair splash of humor. All of which is robbed of its impact by this art. SECOND THOUGHTS: To be clear, I don't blame Nik Virella for this issue's limitations. Whatever editor waved an insultingly small check out the Bullpen window and said "Who wants to put a key issue of Wolverine on their resume with a quick two-week hack job?" betrayed this comic and significantly reduced the quality of the finished product.

8.5
All-New Wolverine #19

Oct 31, 2017

A full-on Laura/Gabby covert op gets interrupted by the start of a desperate plague with a sinister Wolverine connection. Two nicely-entwined storylines introduce a lot of cool new stuff: An X-Force-inspired costume for Laura, Gabby as a field agent, a decent Ironheart cameo, a callback to the human traffickers from issue #15, and an ominous new threat in the form of a space virus. The plots are intriguing and blended together with great skill, and Leonard Kirk's solid (albeit not brilliant) art is *extremely* welcome. Gabby is settling into her role as a comic relief sidekick, but besides being excellent at that she's also quite the little ass-kicker. This is a hugely promising opening for a new story arc.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #20

Nov 17, 2017

Laura may be the only hope of survival for Roosevelt Island thanks to her surprising virus-busting ability. It's a fun, fast ride. The plotting and the science underneath it don't hold up to careful examination, and artist Leonard Kirk reveals that emotional women's faces are his Kryptonite. Aside from those weaknesses, we get a pretty brilliant Wolverine adventure that flawlessly integrates Gabby into Laura's heroing business. Their interactions are a treat, and Ironheart continues to play a small but awesome role.

9.0
All-New Wolverine #21

Jan 5, 2018

An all-star Wolverine team-up squad saves Roosevelt Island - but what does it cost Laura? This is a paradoxical issue. It's incredibly busy when it comes to guest stars, but it's pretty simple in its plot. There's tons of dialogue, but it's almost all gold and it doesn't feel overstuffed. The overdose of technobabble from previous issues is blessedly absent here. There's real heart in the relationships and in Laura herself. Leonard Kirk's simple art might be the weakest part of the package, and it's not at all weak. This is that rare issue that functions both as a payoff for fans who have already fallen in love with the series and as a tool to win new devotees.

9.0
All-New Wolverine #22

Jan 15, 2018

Wolverine hitches a ride to space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. And Gabby and Jonathan are coming too. Putting Ms. Positivity 2017 Gabby Kinney into chummy scenes with first Deadpool and then Groot nearly results in cuteness overload. There's a notably great sci-fi adventure shaping up alongside Gabby's hilariousness, and the creators do a nice job of following directly from the last story arc while also giving this one a distinct flavor of its own. Both Tom Taylor and Leonard Kirk prove to be outstanding at portraying the Guardians. The only real fault of this fast, funny interstellar roadtrip is that we only get to read 19 pages of it this month.

7.0
All-New Wolverine #23

Mar 11, 2018

The Wolverines In Space story slams on the brakes as Fang delivers a expo-dump that does a serviceable-at-best job of explaining the virus plot. Gabby is socked into Bad Stuff in the cliffhanger ending. To fill space up to that point, besides exposition, Tom Taylor packs his script with "lookit how good I can write the All-New Guardians." It's entertaining, but when combined with some rough art by Leonard Kirk, it makes this issue look like a bit of a weak link in the current arc.

7.0
All-New Wolverine #24

Mar 30, 2018

Gabby gets saved along with everybody except the evil bioweapon scientist who caused this whole Brood mess. Everything wraps up so neat and so quick! Some rushed-looking art from Leonard Kirk reinforces the feeling that this arc didn't fulfill its potential. There aren't any fall-out-of-love missteps, but this story presumes on its readers' preexisting love - if you haven't made a conscious decision to follow these Wolverines, this arc dang sure won't convince you to do so.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #25

Apr 20, 2018

Daken gets worked by a new enemy gunning for Laura. A questionable twist ending sours an otherwise stellar script. On the art front, too, Jaunn Cabal's otherwise-excellent visuals (like a stripped-down Frank Quitely in a wholly positive way) are slightly spoiled by disappointing facial expressions. On balance, these aren't crippling shortcomings. They pull this book down from "epic" to "great," not into the depths of "unsatisfying."

8.0
All-New Wolverine #26

May 7, 2018

Daken escapes and we get our first look at Sarah Kinney; something's very hinky with her resurrection, ah-duh. This is a pretty great story, but it's inescapably fictional, a story being built by a storyteller. What do I mean? Laura and Sarah probably had some mighty emotional things to say to each other in between #25 & #26. Those interactions were important to the characters *but didn't fit the story,* so we skipped them. That's a little unsatisfying. Juann Cabal's art, like the script, is undeniably talented but also stalled a step or two below greatness. The Daken action scenes reveal that capturing characters in motion is a struggle for Mr. Cabal. He does use inventive panel layouts to compensate. This is a top-notch popcorn comic, but the depth required for truly moving storytelling is MIA.

7.0
All-New Wolverine #27

Jun 9, 2018

The Orphans of X at last have their Deal explained: They're surviving relatives of the folks Wolverine and his descendants have killed, and they're nursing a mighty grudge. Solid art and a rational plot can't quite overcome the cold, clinical way the characters are presented here. Everyone is too much an actor on a stage, going through the motions because the plot demands "X" regardless of how they might feel if examined more humanely. The Orphans are a little too straightforward and the conclusion of this arc - duh, Laura's gonna wind up hugging it out and defusing this conflict diplomatically - is a little too obvious.

7.0
All-New Wolverine #28

Jun 23, 2018

The Orphans put magic Wolverine-killing bullets into play, so Laura and pals head to Japan to score some as-yet ill-defined anti-magic mojo off of Muramasa. Tom Taylor drops a cheap Fatality Fakeout at the end of this script which really just emphasizes how the plot is evolving by rote. Juann Cabal's art is clean and shiny and stiff. It tells the story but doesn't draw any positive attention. On the good side, Gabby is back to full force as comic relief, and in this issue Daken bestows the Bestest Codename Ever on her.

7.0
All-New Wolverine #29

Jul 27, 2018

Daken sacrifices himself very temporarily to allow Laura and Gabby to find the Orphans. Laura debuts her magic Muramasa armor; looks rather meh. Hand ninjas play a significant role, but Tom Taylor sands some of the stupid off their arrival by putting a clever twist into the later Hand scenes. Juann Cabal is again the Rob Liefeld to Frank Quitely's Jim Lee. The overall quality differential isn't as extreme, but this relationship has the same narrowing of the gap between drawbacks and strengths. Stiff poses and weak layouts, not fully redeemed by super-detailed character work.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #30

Aug 12, 2018

Laura brings the Orphans of X story to a close with a satisfying twist on her "I refuse to be a weapon" theme. While revealing the Orphans as a frustrated support group works with that theme, it doesn't reconcile all that well with their previous portrayal: Global reach, attack helicopters, hordes of special ops goons. The road to get here was mighty bumpy, but I like where we've ended up.

8.5
All-New Wolverine #31

Sep 20, 2018

Deadpool guest-stars in a cutesy assault on the evil animal testing lab that Jonathan the Actual Wolverine came from. It's silly, the artwork is slightly rough, and the whimsy has a counter-productive feeling of being forced. Still, you're fundamentally misreading this series if you expect the sentence "Honey Badger and Deadpool …" to have a non-comedic ending. This issue gives me a good reason to bust out a rare fractional rating. I think an 8.5 respects this comic's close approach to whimsical greatness while also recognizing that it's held back by contrivance.

9.0
All-New Wolverine #32

Oct 8, 2018

Laura fulfills her promise to the Orphans of X by personally extraditing the neo-Nazi scumbag who commissioned her first assassination. It's a nice follow-up, a decent character study, a tough caper story, and an all-around stylish one-shot. The art style is indie-minimalist, and it works tremendously well. While #32 appears to be the darker, more serious reflection of the wacky #31, there's actually quite a bit of sardonic humor to be found.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #33

Oct 17, 2018

Old Woman Laura lives in a very shiny happily-ever-after future, but of course, she has One Last Mission to complete. Gabby does a star turn as Future-Wolverine and the script delivers plenty of fanservice-y surprises. The art has a mostly-successful, streamlined Frank Quitely feel. The futuristic design work - costumes and settings and gear - feels like the weak link in the presentation; while some of the facts of the OWL future will stick with me, none of the visuals will. This story's full of promise for the final installments, though, and this initial issue is more than satisfying.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #34

Nov 10, 2018

The betrayal twist of the previous issue turns out to be a fakeout. Never fear, there's plenty of melodrama waiting inside Latveria. The cast expands with a few more guest stars. Unfortunately, the design budget apparently ran out, and the artist has to start recycling his already-shallow pool of "this is the future" cues - white hair, streamlined uniforms, Tron lights, yadda yadda. The plot is likewise assembled on the cheap. I have to stress that this is melodrama rather than drama: The characters get only the broadest of broad strokes and the plot develops in terribly predictable ways. I enjoyed this and consider it a good comic, but it didn't live up to the title's usual standards of passion and ingenuity.

8.0
All-New Wolverine #35

Dec 3, 2018

Laura and Doom have their Final Showdown of Destiny. There's nothing wrong with the way the story is executed, it's just punishingly straightforward. I'm rating this up because I love the characters and nothing is done here to strain that love, but I have an overpowering feeling that the creators are relying too much on that sort of reception. This story closes in a very by-the-numbers fashion; while it doesn't disappoint, it does land hollowly in a space where a much bigger, bolder finale could have/should have fit.

8.0
All-New X-Men (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

Getting hag-ridden by Mosaic lets Teen Cyclops see what really happened to his old self. Emma Frost is in trouble now! It's a pretty solid character study of poor Teenclops and his social predicaments. I really, *really* hope that the plot points shown here - i.e. Mosaic causing havoc with the X-Men - are picked up in the main event. Most of Mr. Bagley's art is excellent, though he doesn't draw a convincingly mature Medusa.

6.0
All-New X-Men (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

Hank closes the volume by explicitly demonstrating the O5 team can't go back to the Silver Age. I think we already knew that, but it's nice to have certainty. The team celebrates its run with a dance party. Hank wanted to do baseball, but the Extraordinary X-Men played that card last week. It's a pretty quiet issue writing-wise, but Paco Diaz's art is quite a treat. It's a solid match for Mark Bagley's work with a distinctive spin of its own.

5.0
All-New X-Men (2015) #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

The ANX team beats up a crawfish monster in New Orleans. Yes, during Mardi Gras. Since I lived in New Orleans for a decade, let me assure you that yes, the city receives the same erratic "who's that supposed to be?" mis-characterization in this comic as the X-Men do. Warren and Bobby are drawn interchangeably and I have no idea who the green-eyed chubster standing in for Hank is. The gents are just background padding, really, since this story is primarily about Wolverine and Gambit exulting over how awesome Wolverine is. Jeremy Whitley slavering over the chance to write a "strong" female character, what a surprise. It's a decent story but the countless erroneous details make it aggressively forgettable - even if you're not nitpicking the Carnival celebrations.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #24

Oct 31, 2017

"How We Survived the Zombie Clone Apocalypse, by Doc Ock and Ben Reilly." I wonder if these resurrections carry special weight for folks who are more invested in the characters. Ben Reilly is out and about in the Marvel universe again whether or not I love him. So is Doc Ock, and I am jazzed about that. This issue, which is slanted 90/10 toward Ben's story, didn't do a lot to help me fall in love with Ben Reilly. That's this event in a nutshell: Just a Thing That Happened without any real impact on my understanding of / appreciation for Spider-history. I think that's far short of what the creators were hoping for.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25

Oct 31, 2017

Spidey is so focused on chasing Osborn that he barely notices PI falling apart. He still has time to start laying romantic tracks toward Bobbi Morse, though. So, the double-sized A-story isn't that bad. It's really a good 20-pager stretched out into 40 flabby pages, but whatever. It's followed by six backups: An introduction to the Hydrated Superior Doc Ock, redundant "PI is really really in trouble" stories, and a selection of cutesy "maybe I'd 'like' if somebody shared this on social media" cartoons. Plus a ☠☠☠☠ Tsum Tsum tie-in. Marvel had the gall to ask LCS customers to pay $10 for this immediately after abusing their Spider-budgets with an underwhelming crossover event. I'm insulated from pricing outrages by reading through MU, but this is not ☠☠☠☠ okay. I'm betting the title lost some readers over this nonsense, and if so, Marvel absolutely deserved it.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #26

Oct 31, 2017

Spidey and Silver Sable are going after Osborn and they don't care that the bad publicity is crippling PI and making them into enemies of SHIELD. Some splashy fighting accompanies the assembly of this arc's core conflict in the spirit of Star Wars Episode II: sound and fury distracting you from the simplicity of the narrative. It's entertaining and Stuart Immonen's visuals are delicious, but there's a frustrating shallowness to the whole exercise. This issue is a complex double-pass fake-out play that ends up moving the ball about three yards down the field.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #27

Nov 17, 2017

The Stark-ification of Peter Parker is complete as he proves he literally has enough military hardware to take over a third-world country. Norman Osborn plays ball with his deranged nemesis by slipping into full-on Doctor Doom mode. This is a mad, juvenile, silly, stupid adventure that's granted a tiny shred of legitimacy by Stuart Immonen's superb art. Underneath the spectacle, though, Pete is acting ludicrously out-of-character. Why am I not disappointed? Because sometime in the near future, Pete will be hearing from the Spectacular Octopus, and the message is gonna be a horrifying "well done, Parker; I didn't think you had it in you."

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #28

Jan 5, 2018

Osborn engineers a half-brilliant no-powers boxing match with Spidey, but a freedom-enhanced Symkaria is the only big winner at the end of the day. For all the brilliance of the Spidey-Osborn showdown (and to reiterate, it's not that brilliant), the rest of this conflict plays out like a particularly uncreative Bond film. Mockingbird gets sidetracked with a Designated Science Hero mission and Silver Sable gets tied up in a Designated Girl Fight that truly has no place in a 21st-century comic. Wrap it all up with Nick Fury Jr. reading Pete the riot act with a ridiculously cliché "turn in your badge, you loose cannon!" vibe. Stuart Immonen makes it look very nice, but underneath the flashy visuals you've got a few feeble novelties awash in a sea of very tired tropes.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #29

Jan 5, 2018

As the Hydra takeover starts, Doc Ock makes the event personal by revealing his intention to take Parker Industries away from Pete. Stuart Immonen gets to kick off two awesome fight scenes in superb style, but in both cases Dan Slott's script short-circuits the violence so that we can concentrate more on Pete getting verbally beaten up for being a bad Tony Stark analogue and on Doc Ock chowing down on a double helping of scenery. The balance of attention is a little frustrating, but the brewing plot for the Secret Empire tie-in looks mighty promising.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #30

Jan 27, 2018

Before he Can Even with this Hydra mess, Spidey has to have a serious Shanghai showdown with Doc Ock for the soul of PI. Why didn't somebody grab the Parker Industries characters and Cloak & Dagger and do a Shanghai miniseries after Dan Slott set them up? Bits of this issue fall flat because they're begging us to care about the Shanghai folks and it just ain't gonna happen. Everything else here is working great, though. The visuals are impressive, as are the Secret Empire links and the burgeoning Bobbi romance. Mr. Slott is a bit indulgent with Doc Ock's gloating, but he's got his reasons: The details make it clear that he (the writer) has been planning this revenge for several years.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #31

Mar 11, 2018

Peter cuts off his Parker Industries nose to spite Doc Ock's face. Which reminds me: Has Pete *really* not deduced that Ock is running around in a cloned Parker body? This issue has a wealth of dramatic plot developments and splashy big-budget visuals thanks to Stuart Immonen, but there's a slippery je ne sais quoi to Dan Slott's script that makes this issue, strong and revelatory as it is, feel like an under-achievement.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #32

Mar 30, 2018

Norman Osborn takes center stage for a mystical flight of fancy. It's equal parts foreshadowing and "what if" episode, and being drawn by Greg Smallwood really nails down the sinister parallels to the last volume of Moon Knight. Dan Slott's script shows admirable economy, pushing a slender premise no further than it can endure and milking plenty of fun out of it. This is far from the last we'll see of Norman, but the mystical path shown here is wisely left as a road not taken.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #789

Apr 20, 2018

Peter Parker's been kicked so far down that even Spider-Man is suffering through his association with that idiot ex-tech-billionaire. Dan Slott uses "Legacy" as a welcome excuse to refocus on Spider-Man's rich supporting cast in a hugely promising way. (Less promising: The inevitable feeling of "we've sung this song before" that even the characters have to acknowledge.) The Mockingbird relationship is playing well, too. Stuart Immonen's polished pencils provide the pizazz necessary to clinch this issue's spot at "well above average."

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #790

May 7, 2018

Spidey, Human Torch, and Clash have a big property-damaging fight in the Baxter Building. Harry is fed up and quits PI with all the reasonable justification in the world. This looks like another month where Dan Slott split one issue's worth of story into two issues, and #790 is the disappointing residue left in the ice cream tub after the really good plot points were scooped out for #789. Letting Christos Gage handle the scripting doesn't help, but Stuart Immonen keeps the story looking good. This issue must happen before Johnny Storm inherits Reed's billions in Uncanny Avengers, because that would solve *a lot* of the problems Pete is having here.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #791

Jun 9, 2018

Pete's first assignment as the Bugle's science editor *of course* turns into a mystery requiring Spidey/Mockingbird investigation. It's a satisfying (albeit silly) one-shot that has gratifying connections to several of the title's supporting cast members. Once again it feel likes Dan Slott is actually investing effort into the "Legacy" banner and making this feel like super-early Spidey - this script's tone matches the best of the Conway/Andru years. (Lee/Ditko? Hey, let's not push it.) Stuart Immonen's art is entertaining and not at all bad, but there are several missed opportunities that oh-so-slightly suggest he's delivering less than his best here. "Immonen on cruise control" is still a formidable visual performance.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #792

Jun 23, 2018

While dull villain Lee Price Venomizes up Felicia Hardy's gang of c-listers, Spidey and Flash Thompson fall head-over-heels into an entertaining bromance. I have no problem with the fact Dan Slott has torched a little continuity (Spidey and Flash-Venom had an excellent rapprochement at the end of Venom: Space Knight) to maximize the Odd-Couple-ness these two can get up to right now. This event isn't shaping up into a Carmina Burana-backed Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, and that's OK. The splendid little character beats along the way justify the exercise for me. Ryan Stegman's art is both polished and dynamic, and the visuals move the story along smoothly and quickly.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #793

Jul 11, 2018

An half-issue of possessed Spidey makes for some cute sitcom-ish humor. The hero squad takes full shape: It's Flash as Anti-Venom, Eddie Brock as Venom, the Black Cat, and welcome addition Andi AKA Mania. (Plus Spidey once they wrassle his stupid mind-control mask off.) The revelation of Lee Price's ultimate target, though, is utterly underwhelming. He's gonna work his mojo on a pack of generic Puzo-knockoff goons-in-suits, the Five Families. Dan Slott (with Felicia as his mouthpiece) completely fails to make this look like the catastrophic threat it could/should be. This is a fun enough ride, but the sense that the creators are on cruise control throughout is inescapable.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #794

Aug 6, 2018

Scorpio returns from his one-year cross-dimension exile and Spidey spends a little less than a full issue foiling him. The balance of the book is devoted to menacing foreshadowing about a mother of a nemesis coming back for Spider-Man. The foreshadowing is great, the Scorpio story is rather less great. Still, Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen on cruise control deliver a notably above average product in terms of nuts-and-bolts storytelling. I wouldn't race out to buy it the instant it was available, but it's certainly not a disappointment.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #795

Aug 18, 2018

This arc is less an ongoing story than a series of one-shots linked by brief foreshadowing about the upcoming Carnage/Osborn fight. This one, in which Loki manipulates Spidey through some do-goodery, is quite satisfying on its own. Loki comes off well - definitely evil doing good for selfish reasons - and Peter's bearing up well under a harsh run of Parker Luck. The visuals are the ceiling on this issue, though. They do well with bug fighting and smirking Loki, but they don't bring enough emotional weight to the end of Peter's current romance. The script lets us down there as well; the "we discovered we have nothing in common" excuse doesn't satisfy at all in this case.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #796

Sep 6, 2018

Spidey and Anti-Venom team up and it's enough to give Peter an inferiority complex. Most importantly, MJ is surprisingly open to re-entering Peter's romantic orbit. Osborn and Carnage are still on the arch-nemesis foreshadowing train. This issue is all about relationship development, and I really liked the developments. Jameson assuming the role of Spider-Man's snarky mission control guy is particularly great. The script is solid for a progress issue, but the art is disappointing to me. The basic storytelling flow works OK, but the visuals score a C minus on accurately portraying the emotions suggested by the script.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #797

Sep 20, 2018

Everyday Spider-life proceeds for Peter as Norman gets serious about tracking down his nemesis. A sad roadblock pops up to slow down the Peter-MJ reunion that looked so sure last month. Norman Osborn is gloriously maxing out the creepy factor as he taunts, teases, and scares a mystery captive to force out a crucial spidey-clue. It's a complex script maneuvered with skill and supported by high-quality art. The sheer number of moving parts and the undeniable "we're just getting started" feel hold it down in the realm of good rather than great, though.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #798

Oct 17, 2018

The Red Goblin stages an operatic introduction to Spider-Man. It's menacing as all get-out and gorgeously illustrated. I think the pace is squished by the looming #800; fitting the reveal and the triumph of the Red Goblin into the same issue shortchanges them both a little. Beyond that, they're wonderfully done, though, and the sheer dramatic weight of a status quo change this big is worth a little bonus rating.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #799

Nov 10, 2018

Spidey's Amazing Friends swing into action to try and stop the Red Goblin. Their efforts are an objective failure but dang if they aren't entertaining as all get-out. With a superb supporting roster, an excellent plot, and a mother of a twist ending, this issue is tops for story. The art is cover-to-cover gorgeous, taking full advantage of all the script's opportunities. I detect a dip in quality when it comes to dialogue, though, particularly the Goblin's voice. Compared to the high drama of the plot, the spoken words come out curiously flat and forgettable.

10
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #800

Dec 16, 2018

Spider-Man takes down the Red Goblin with the help of many friends and some highly unexpected allies. This is a glorious capstone to a volume, and it makes productive use of a TON of great characters. There are sacrifices and triumphs, heartbreak and laughter, and pure perfect Spidey-philosophy covering both "Great Responsibility" and more subtle lessons. Visually, this issue is one of the best-ever implementations of an artist carousel. The subtly-shifting styles somehow add to the story rather than detract from it. This is a stupendous book in every respect.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) Annual #42

Sep 6, 2018

Betty Brant digs up one last scoop from Ned Leeds with help from Peter and Spidey. This is really beautiful art allied to a notably stupid script. Introducing tritium as a deadly explosive METAL is "1963-era Stan Lee" comic book science. The character relationships are frustrating. The sarcastic, Seinfeldian humor undercuts the faint attempts at being genuinely heartwarming. The Game of Thrones jokes are going to age poorly, too. B story: Playwright David Hein stretches out a simple joke about the hidden dangers of spider-sense. To fill nine pages, it gets over-analytical and over-whiny. This strip, like the A story, gets superb art. This annual reaches an impeccable standard for visuals, but the scripting insight to match it is MIA. This feels aimed at an audience about four years younger than the usual one for ASM.

10
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

Annie cements her place as a permanent part of the crime-fighting family. This is a glorious, uncomplicated, pure example of superheroing. Just great folks bashing horrible villains and exchanging smart words while they do it. It's a very kid-friendly title, and that might end up holding it back at some point in the future. For now, though, it anchors the action in a wonderfully simple but not at all disappointing way.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

Is a little thing like a Sandman bank robbery going to ruin Parker Family Fun Night? Don't bet on it. Artist Nathan Stockman puts his own, cartoonier stamp on the proceedings, and the result is a tremendously satisfying story in its own right that also nudges ongoing plotlines forward. Some fans say this series is great because it reunites Peter Parker and MJ in marital bliss. Respectfully, they're missing the forest for the trees. This is a wonderful story told with immense skill, and that does far more to make this title great than any "pander to the base" changes in continuity.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #6

Oct 31, 2017

Annie at the Xavier School? The Parkers don't agree on it, and Magneto is gonna have something to say on the subject too. The two parts of this book - Parker family adventure and AU X-Men world-building - aren't quite fused seamlessly. The narrative wobbles back and forth between the two goals. The result is a cut above the ordinary, but the joints could have been sanded and smoothed a little better to make this truly epic. Ryan Stegman's linework looks a little rushed but his layouts are impeccable.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #7

Nov 17, 2017

Annie's adventures with the X-Men wrap up in a fast but thoughtful way. The elder Parkers fight their way through a lot of evil mutants, but pride of place in this story goes to Annie's fascinating conversation with the traitor Jubilee. Little Spiderling has a solid head on her shoulders and an impeccable moral compass, and even if she doesn't attend Xavier's her future looks bright. The issue has strong art throughout but it's the stellar dialogue that really cements its place at the top of the heap.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #8

Jan 5, 2018

Liz Allan bamboozles MJ into accepting the Venom symbiote a bit too easily. The fastest way to get your "Venomized MJ" story started is to make MJ a total idiot, and I'm afraid that Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman didn't stray too far from that sad path. The good news is, aside from disappointing characterization, this is an excellent comic. The visuals are particularly impressive and this storyline promises to deliver plenty of memorable action. If only it weren't dependent on forcing MJ to carry the Idiot Ball!

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #9

Jan 27, 2018

Peter does some rather clumsy detective work before finally confronting the evil symbiote that's swallowed his wife. It's a very Pete-centric story and a very safe one; there are some tiny twists of novelty to add some distinction. Juan Frigeri does a decent if somewhat under-detailed job of filling Ryan Stegman's artistic shoes while he shifts to handling the script. His dialogue falls short of memorable but the plot is nicely paced. It also fits like a Tetris piece into a larger Osborn-centric story that makes the coming issues easy to look forward to.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #10

Feb 26, 2018

Normie Osborn's birthday brings Lizard fights and an unfortunate encounter with Spider-Man and Spiderling. Exposure to a healthy parent-child relationship doesn't help Normie's state of mind. This issue is paced decently and full of action, but there's a simplicity to the plot and characterization that compares poorly to the depth of Gerry Conway's scripts. Some clumsy artifice is used to shuffle MJ off-stage for this issue. Nathan Stockman's art works well for an all-ages comic. It'd be nice if he explored more complex line-weight options, though; this book looks like it was drawn entirely with a single technical pen.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #11

Apr 7, 2018

"Business as usual" for the Spider Family turns into "climactic showdown with Normie Osborn" with impressive speed and drama. Brian Level's art is simple but strong, and Ryan Stegman's script is all-around good. Normie subjects Annie to some slightly-too-generic villain monologuing, but her brilliant responses are the highlight of the issue. Even outside those epic moments, the general quality of the story is quite high, and this is definitely an above-average read.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #12

Apr 20, 2018

The day gets saved and Normie Osborn is redeemed mainly via the power of friendship. While the conclusion is satisfying, both the words and visuals are mighty simplistic and it's really only the continued commitment to developing the characters well that pulls this above average. Throwing in a last-minute age-up also guarantees that future arcs will have a different tone than these first 12 issues. Considering how great these stories have been (particularly at the start), messing with the formula so dramatically seems unwise.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #13

Jun 9, 2018

Peter and MJ have apparently been in suspended animation for 8 years while Annie has turned into a stereotypical moody teen. Jody Houser's script is slow and safe and over-generic; Nick Roche's art is cartoony and rushed. His Peter Parker is particularly painful. This simplistic station-keeping exercise recognizes the promise of Renew Your Vows and debatably preserves it, but it seems too terrified to do anything constructive with it.

5.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #14

Jul 11, 2018

The hero conflict of the current arc - the Lizard running amok at Coney Island - turns into a misunderstanding brawl in the "no, see, I need your help" mode that is pretty much Curt Conners's signature schtick. The bulk of the comic is an MJ-centric flashback that is an awful lot - too much - like a rehash of last year's #2. It feels like the editors are *daring* us to keep paying $4 per issue while they dial the creative quality down to the lower notches of the "Infinite comics" zone. I certainly wouldn't dare; even though I'm reading this via Marvel Unlimited I feel a little ripped off. Jody Houser's script is stronger than Nick Roche's art, but that's about the faintest, most damning praise possible.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #15

Aug 12, 2018

The Lizard leads the Spider-family to a mystery villain. After two issues of questionable work on Peter and MJ, Jody Houser suddenly reveals that she's AMAZING at writing Annie. Her voice is more engaging, her insights are fresher, her story is genuinely interesting. Based on the creative team's performance so far, I'm hoping that future stories de-emphasize the parents A LOT and focus on Annie. She even picks up a long-term nemesis here. This issue is exactly the burst of quality I needed to stay interested in this series.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #16

Sep 6, 2018

Annie's school year starts with classmate supervillainy and the unwelcome surprise that her dad has taken a teaching position at her school. The script retains the surprisingly strong grip on Annie's point of view revealed in the last issue. MJ doesn't get much of a chance to shine; circumstances force her into sitcom-mom-ery. I love the super-subtle insight buried in Peter's monologuing, though: Peter Parker is an attachment parent because his parents died when he was super-young. That makes all the sense. This plot is packed with potential. Though the art tends toward cartoony caricature, it's also terrific at expressing emotion.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #17

Oct 8, 2018

Annie tries to shape her newly-powered classmates' heroic journeys on her own. The narrative divide between daughter and parents deepens in good ways; this is almost entirely Annie's story. The cartoony art is still expressive and the script delivers both a compelling plot and engaging dialogue. This story feels skewed toward younger audiences, but it's far too well done to alienate grown-ups.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #18

Nov 10, 2018

Annie's parents have their say but then let Spiderling resolve her classmates' mess on her own. It's a simple story with journeyman art. The final product is elevated significantly by a well-organized script that hits good emotional notes. It does leave two loose plot threads; one is definitely intentional foreshadowing but the other feels more like an oversight. The latter - who started Lacey down the path to vengeance? - would have been a perfect opportunity to involve Spidey and MJ in the story as more than "Leave it to Beaver" parents if this went on longer. Here's hoping that future stories can do better at integrating the whole family into the action.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #19

Dec 16, 2018

An entertaining but pond-shallow flashback shows what Peter and MJ got up to on a super-rare romantic getaway 8 years back. A few Mark 1 Heartwarming Moments liven up the "low-hanging fruit" comedy. This isn't disappointing, but it's heavily non-essential. Some rough, sketchy art seals in the averageness.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc.: Alpha #1

Jun 18, 2018

Venom is literally torn between Eddie Brock and Flash Thompson, starting a satisfying conflict that I've been wanting to see since the end of Venom: Space Knight. The roles for Spidey and lower-billed guest stars are still a little opaque, but this kickoff gives the story a promising start. I respect the quality of Ryan Stegman's art here. I can see that he's tweaking his personal style to line up with Gerardo Sandoval, who'll be illustrating the other half of the crossover. While Mr. Sandoval isn't one of my favorites, the effort Mr. Stegman makes to meet him halfway is impressive.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc.: Omega #1

Jul 27, 2018

Maniac grows to kaiju proportions before getting put down with a solid serving of teamwork. Flash Thompson is the biggest of big winners here. Eddie Brock also gets a healthy attaboy and there's even a hint that the Black Cat might finally be done with her stupid stint as a crime-lord. This crossover went through some very rough patches, but it wraps up in fine style. Slanting the creative duties *heavily* toward Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman helped *a lot.* Let's all just say a little prayer that this is the last we see of Lee Price for a good long time.

1.0
America #1

Oct 31, 2017

America tackles big life changes and the tension between being a superhero and a fallible human. Those bones could serve as the foundation for a good comic. Instead, author Gabby Rivera designed this book as an internet controversy generator first and a compelling story second - if at all. When it comes to provoking thought or entertaining or empowering readers, this comic fails utterly. America fans who enjoy this are putting in way more work than the author is. They deserve so much better. So does artist Joe Quinones; he's wasted on this title.

4.0
America #2

Oct 31, 2017

America learns tiny lessons from Peggy Carter and Moon Girl and completely misses more important hints about the value of family. This issue chiseled some ratings points out of me through sheer volume of content. It smooshes two terrible comics' worth of ideas into one, which makes it efficient if not well-paced. There's interesting plot development; it's a pity Gabby Rivera flubs a lot of individual scenes. On the characterization front, I'm asking myself an interesting question: Rivera's America is a jerk, but would I think she was so much of a jerk if she was a white dude behaving the exact same way? This issue had me questioning my privilege, so I think it accomplished at least one of its goals. It's still failing abysmally in the "tell me an entertaining story" department, though.

3.0
America #3

Nov 17, 2017

America's mystery abuela/ancestor/future self/whatever, Madrimar, guides her through a meditation session with Storm to unlock subtler aspects of her dimension-hopping powers. While it's cool to see America discovering her capacity and need for growth, I had better not hold my breath waiting for someone to point out the potential drawbacks of America's "stay the ☠☠☠ out my way unless you're a badass brown bitch like me" attitude. Her growth is happening mainly in a "you're so awesome, be even awesomer!" fashion. Sigh. Storm is ridiculously out of character, but she's being steered by Madrimar. Weird observation: Gabby Rivera's scripting improves when she's *not* working with Joe Quinones. Guest artist Stacey Lee's Storm section is by a wide margin the strongest part of the issue, but it's due to better writing rather than any major improvement in art quality.

2.0
America #4

Jan 5, 2018

America uses the lessons Madrimar has taught her to revisit issue #1 and save Maltixa properly. No, she doesn't see any wider applications or express any gratitude. She also causes an unresolved time-travel paradox that everybody ignores. This comic fails on so many levels that it gets hard to critique. You can't tell which ideas are inherently bad and which are just poorly executed. Despite being America's greatest advocate, Gabby Rivera has managed to craft an outcome for America that the character herself finds confusing and irritating. Far be it from us readers to feel differently. The artist pool, despite being crowded (five people total handling pencils, inks, and colors), manages to produce some impressively consistent mediocrity.

3.0
America #5

Jan 27, 2018

America calls on Kate Bishop to roadtrip to an ex-girlfriend with her. The foreshadowing on America's next antagonist goes from "fairly subtle" to "screamingly obvious" over the course of the issue. I can see the aim of the dialogue and characterization was some sort of Tom Robbins/Diablo Cody modern-day Age of Aquarius feel, but it turns out sad and try-hard. Like Tom and Diablo were whacked up on prescription tranquilizers and only allowed one slow, low-energy, no-editing pass at their collaborative script. Ramon Villalobos's art flirts occasionally with the memorable, but his refusal to be consistent even with himself when it comes to character designs is off-putting.

3.0
America #6

Mar 11, 2018

Madrimar says the One Thing that can short-circuit America's "get out of my life already" refrain while they team up to save the day. Also, it's driven home to us readers that the Big Bad here is the Exterminatrix, but the actual characters in the comic are still running behind on working that out. Solid intentions meet inept execution all over the book, with Ramon Villalobos getting closer to "acceptably professional" work than Gabby Rivera. Her plotting is almost tolerable, but the nuts-and-bolts dialogue-wrangling is still loathsome.

3.0
America #7

Apr 7, 2018

America's abuela Madrimar gifts her with a double-secret double-latina double-lesbian origin that drapes around her existing backstory like a pointless onion layer. To me the best part of this title is the fact that *America herself* finds this new granny and her crazy Gabby Rivera wish-fulfillment ret-cons irritating, but that's surely unintentional. The vast art team covers the bases from "nearly competent" to "not even close," rendering the visuals just as appealing as the story here. This is about as close as this title can get to entertaining and it's woefully far from the mark. At least the Exterminatrix is sneering around the last page promising something resembling actual conflict in the coming issues.

4.0
America #8

May 7, 2018

The Exterminatrix throws on a platinum blonde wig and goes undercover as Sotomayor University's new Dolores Umbridge-type dean. SU's supposed to be a school for the multidimensional best and brightest, but since Gabby Rivera's actually peopled it with notably dumb versions of America and Prodigy, a painful self-insert character (X'Andria), a single professor without real characterization, and a faceless herd of non-entities, the Exterminatrix's dictatorial upheaval and persecution of America go practically unopposed. A functional plot and some excellent art by Joe Quinones are the silver linings; against them, you've got some eyeball-searing costume choices and some of the dumbest dialogue ever published in Marvel Comics. There's dense, multi-layered stupidity packed into every ☠☠☠☠ line uttered by America and her pals; this script is truly a blooming onion of dumb. Hilarious bonus: This issue has Legacy pages by Robbie Thompson and David Lopez that function *perfectly* with the assumption that America's solo series does not and never did exist.

3.0
America #9

Jun 18, 2018

As the Exterminatrix goes overt with her plans to weaponize America and ruin Sotomayor U, the supporting cast goes to war with her. And America? Here's a comprehensive list of what she does in issue #9 of the comic named after her: 1. Fails to escape from the Exterminatrix. 2. Runs away after getting freed by her witchy professor. 3. Curls up in a fetal ball while her supporting cast (AKA the characters we *really* don't care about) starts saving the day. Heroism! Flaviano's earnest but not wholly successful artwork and the fundamental strength of the Exterminatrix as a classic scenery-chewing baddy save this from being a total trainwreck. Wow, is it ever not a good comic, though.

3.0
America #10

Jul 6, 2018

America deigns to do a little heroing in order to ensure the Exterminatrix is defeated and the forces of groovy diversity and ancestral goodness win the Battle of Sotomayor U. ("Ancestral" is one of Gabby Rivera's favorite words; weird.) There's still a ridiculously overblown role for X'Andria to play, of course. Gotta keep plenty of spotlight on the Mary Sue. Some strong artistic efforts by Flaviano and Jen Bartel are positives; their benefits are wiped out (and then some) by shameful first-draft Valley Girl dialogue and an embarrassingly inept swipe at the tiki-torch-waving alt-right.

4.0
America #11

Jul 27, 2018

After Prodigy and X'Andria make a very muddled victory speech, America blasts off to save Planeta Fuertona from the generic alien parasite-bugs of La Legion. This new story launches with some superb character design work courtesy of Stacey Lee and some slightly promising mythology, but cramming all of this into the series' last two issues is a serious mistake. It feels like Gabby Rivera is at last arriving at the story she *wants* to tell. Unfortunately, Marvel let her get here by publishing 10 spastic issues of unappealing groundwork instead of working it all out in a few hours of brainstorming and editorial conferencing. The page where America actually leaves Sotomayor U is paradigmatic of the whole series and its problems: America delivers trite "honor your unique story" narration while her supporting cast looks up at her adoringly and thinks "take care of yourself" thoughts. They don't actually *talk* to each other. Are these characters admirable? Of course they are! Just look at their good intentions! What do you want, for them to *demonstrate* their virtue? Ugh, how bourgeoisie.

3.0
America #12

Sep 20, 2018

America saves the day by being her extra-special extra-wonderful self. Normally you'd need to delve into the darkest depths of fanfiction to find wish-fulfillment this embarrassingly shameless. Why Marvel's editors chose to ennoble this silliness with 12 issues of good-to-great art is one of the biggest comics mysteries of 2017-2018. This final issue delivers a fair crop of individual panels that are pretty. There are even some nice bits of dialogue. Progressing through the story from idea to idea is torturous, though. It's like wading through a gauntlet of naive kiddos pummelling you with glitter-soaked wiffle bats. To tell a story, you have to show your protagonist making decisions. If your protagonist's key decision amounts to, "You're right, adoring fans, I WOULD make a good messiah," your story is probably not good.

8.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1

Jan 27, 2018

Charles Soule's script uses the Shadow King as an excuse to team up some of Marvel's very best "don't play well with others" mutants. The author has a good read on his characters, and there are some keenly-anticipated roster surprises still to come. This title *finally* pays off the "back to basics" idea of ResurreXion in a wholly satisfying way. Jim Cheung's pencils are unbelievably gorgeous, but he's just the "start with a bang" introduction to the artist carousel. A constantly-rotating art team - even one staffed with Marvel's very best top-shelf artists - may end up being a problem.

8.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #2

Feb 26, 2018

The X-Men dive into the Astral Plane and pat themselves on the back for working out that they're pawns in a larger game. We readers get a closer peek at the Xavier vs. Farouk struggle, and the stakes are *far* higher than the mutants suspect so far. Charles Soule's script wraps some solid, freaky plot twists in a thin candy shell of meta humor. On the visual side, Mike Deodato hammers complex collages out of rather simplistic elements. His usual chromatic conspirator, Frank Martin, expends a lot of effort to deliver an unfortunately muddy result; art and colors combine to make the Astral Plane look like a murky, messy place to visit.

8.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #3

Mar 30, 2018

A brilliant character study of Old Man Logan rubs shoulders with more Astral Plane mysteries and a nasty police/mutant standoff in London. Charles Soule does a great job of examining OML through the lens of Xavier; it's a pity the character is highly overexposed right now. This issue is remarkably close to being a one-shot, smoothly integrating just enough background into the story to welcome new readers without slowing down the pace. The art is workable, but this issue isn't going into Ed McGuinness's greatest hits portfolio.

7.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #4

Apr 20, 2018

The Shadow King claims another hero, but Professor X gets to make his presence felt outside the Astral Plane. This felt like over-development of a few simple plot points. Carlos Pacheco's art does decent storytelling, but it's arbitrarily different - it has a personal style, but that style doesn't feel impressive enough to justify the countless little changes in how these characters are being portrayed. This is probably a negative synergy effect; it's only in combination with each other that this particular script and these particular visuals feel disappointing. And slight disappointments aside, this is still a pretty fascinating, above-average read.

8.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #5

May 14, 2018

While conditions in London sink from "bad" to "holy ☠☠☠☠ bad," Professor X charts out his retaliatory plans. A lot of threads are developing in parallel, with Xavier conducting multiple simultaneous conversations while also fighting the Shadow King. It's a tricky onion of a plot, and it's so complex that there's really no space left for character work. Ramon Rosanas's art is just capable of living up to Charles Soule's script and divvying up the multiple plot threads into a quality reading experience. Kudos to Mr. Soule for another meta-textual gag that makes this story into the thinking reader's answer to the execrable Mojo Worldwide crossover happening in Blue and Gold: Xavier implies with exquisite subtlety that the last few years of X-Men stories (the O5 team and M-Pox, specifically) are just echoes of the Xavier/Farouk conflict playing out on the Astral Plane.

8.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #6

Jun 18, 2018

Xavier turns the tables on the Shadow King and things start looking better for our heroes - but why is this victory less than complete? And that there at the end, can that really be … ? A fascinating plot unfolds like a flower, and Mike del Mundo's art makes it look a very pretty blossom. There's an undeniable bit of clinical detachment and distance from the characters that holds this issue off of all-time greatness, though. It's A Thing That's Happening and it's surely impressive, but there's no real feeling that it's all that Important to the people it's happening to. That's despite the definitely sky-high stakes involved in the conflict. This is a blast to read but probably not destined for later recall.

8.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #7

Jul 11, 2018

The reborn "Xavier" consolidates his position in a way that's more ominous than reassuring, and a fresh crisis rears its head. Charles Soule has a good plot and some interesting character developments, but this series is still dogged by a weird sense of inconsequentiality, like we're gonna wake up at the end and discover it was all just an AU dream. Phil Noto's art is a little sketchy but extremely attractive. I like this hard-lined style better than the softer stuff Mr. Noto has shown in his last few Marvel books.

7.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #8

Sep 6, 2018

The definite ominousness of the new "X" takes a backseat to the more immediate ominousness of Proteus. In theory, this comic should be ratcheting up the tension, but the actual effect is a little "meh." It takes a lot of pages to reassemble the team, gives too many characters a chance to express suspicion regarding "X," and delivers an over-thorough Proteus 101 class for those of us who aren't graduate scholars in X-Man-ology. The art is highly polished but also stiff and stereotypical; this is a laborious but cold reproduction of cutting-edge comics art ca. 2002. This issue manages to sustain interest but it doesn't really deliver a payoff, shocking final-page twist notwithstanding.

6.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #9

Oct 8, 2018

Proteus slips away to set up a freaky-deaky eden while the X-Men slooowly save Psylocke and X. This is a two-clause comic, and the simplicity of the plot isn't counterbalanced by meaty characterization or pretty art. As other commenters have noted, this story rolls along and the X-Men just watch it. Their characters are barely expressed by their words and actions, most of which are too reactive.

6.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #10

Oct 17, 2018

The X-Men fall into Proteus's reality-optional garden and he has a snotty philosophical conversation with X. The stars here are, of course, ACO's eye-poppingly intense layouts. There's plenty of imagination and polish invested in the art, but these images are built on flimsy bones. Characterization, plot developments, philosophical depth - they're all pretty lacking. This seems chronic across ACO's career. Does he have a fetish for shallow scripts? Or do they naturally gravitate toward his very flashy, very "capable of concealing weakness" style?

7.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #11

Nov 25, 2018

The X-Men take down Proteus, but like clockwork, a twist reveals a Bigger Bad waiting to ratchet up the stakes even further. I like the plot developments, but I can also see that the character work is mighty weak. The art is sort of the reverse: The characters are drawn very well, but the settings are forgettable. It's a bit above average, but it just doesn't have enough oomph to get into must-read territory. I'm disappointed to see the "Rogue tries to power-drain a ridiculously big baddie and needs backstopping from another mutant" scene played out again. Cf. No Surrender and especially X-Men Gold for other recent examples. I can't hold it too hard against this issue's creators; they didn't invent the cliche. They're undeniably guilty of using it, though!

8.0
Avengers (2016) #3.1

Oct 31, 2017

Cressida settles into the Avengers and starts pitting them against each other just as the team starts to gel. In both writing and art, this title teeters on a knife edge. It has to evoke the Silver Age without falling into the same narrative pitfalls or looking hopelessly dated. It's a ringing success in my opinion. This issue is mainly devoted to letting the plot chug ahead and so it's pretty light on characterization.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

A highly artistic backstory for Kang collapses into a final showdown against an all-star Avengers squad. It's a very pretty set of paintings illustrating Kang 101. The art is exceptional, the words less so. I wonder whether hardcore Kang fans will be delighted, bored, or outraged? Personally, though I do love Mike del Mundo's art, I'd rather wrap up the dang Kang story already, and this issue doesn't move very far toward that goal.

9.0
Avengers (2016) #4.1

Oct 31, 2017

The Avengers finally figure out Cressida isn't their friend. Is it too late to save themselves? The potential of this throwback series pays off in a big way as Cap stages a grudge match with the Frightful Four to keep his team from falling apart. The action is exciting, the art is beautiful, and the characterization is great. Not only does Mark Waid recreate what these heroes were like in 1965, he also shows us the fascinating interplay that's made them worth following for decades.

9.0
Avengers (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

The Avengers' side of the Kang war is a love letter to the team, but it doesn't go off without its hitches. It's an epic script and epic art, and the only problem here is that they're not really suited for each other. Mike del Mundo's style is nearly overwhelmed by a script this busy, and his mugging faces sabotage the humor of the writing. Despite this mismatch, it's still an awfully entertaining book and the fullest possibilities of time travel - 15-Avenger all-time all-star squad! - are utilized well.

9.0
Avengers (2016) #5.1

Oct 31, 2017

Cressida meets her doom at the hands of Avengers new and old, plus an assist from the Frightful Four. This entire miniseries is targeted to pander to Silver-Age-loving fans like me, but I like to think that the talent and love displayed by its creators are evident to any reader. Mark Waid's writing is deeply enjoyable and this issue is built strictly according to Silver Age storytelling rules (the good ones, at least). The art mishmash - zillions of pencillers, inkers, and colorists - works better than it has any right to, with all the contributors hewing closely to the updated Marvel house style Barry Kitson built in earlier issues.

6.0
Avengers (2016) #6

Oct 31, 2017

Time-travelin' Hank Pym gets the big win and the Kang War wraps up with suspicious simplicity. A roster I love and a spotlight turn for my favorite under-rated Avenger can't fool me into rating this highly. It's way too busy, too rushed, and too confusing to achieve more than basic entertainment. Mike Del Mundo's painterly art again struggles to contain an over-complicated script. Thanks to Mark Waid's plotting, we have to chew through *three* cliffhangers before we can *start* the climax. It's exhausting, and it leans hard on the "it's time travel so who cares if it's confusing" crutch.

6.0
Avengers (2016) #7

Nov 17, 2017

Nadia's nerd-crush Dr. Doom enlists her to help bust up evil witchcraft at the Sue Storm Camp for Girls' Leadership. If this had been published as an Unstoppable Wasp one-shot and given a proper inker to finish the linework, it would be an epic comic. The Avengers were crowbarred into the story and come off as highly unnecessary. The heavy colors overwhelm a lot of the detail in Phil Noto's mostly-excellent art. These pages look like they were released with a vital "black linework" Photoshop layer accidentally turned off. As a compromise between "superb Wasp comic" and "disappointing Avengers comic in desperate need of an inker," I'm just gonna call it a very "meh" mess.

6.0
Avengers (2016) #8

Jan 5, 2018

The Avengers get badly flat-footed and the return of Avenger X turns out to be a big waste of time. Doom and Wasp save the day. Phil Noto's art looks a little better this time around, but the ineptitude of the Avengers has, if anything, gotten worse. This supposedly-top-tier team gets rope-a-doped repeatedly by a very clichéd villain; any six random comics fans would handle Avenger X better than these Avengers do. Above-average art combined with a below-average plot and very middle-of-the-road characterization equals a rather forgettable adventure. The Avengers - and their readers - deserve better.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #9

Jan 15, 2018

Where is Thor? Having a heartwarming alien adventure. How was she sent there and when will she get back? Well … This self-contained one-shot is fun and moving as all get out. But don't let it off the hook due to sentiment; there are important questions about Thor's disappearance that are not at all answered here. It's certainly an enjoyable diversion, but it's not great enough to make you forget those questions. Mike del Mundo delivers his usual 90% awesome art. I'm not a fan of his cartoonier faces. Marvel has legions of artists who can do cartoony; Mr. del Mundo's more serious, painterly work is completely irreplaceable. Fortunately, I'm only talking about three or four goofy faces; for the rest of the issue Thor is a teeth-clenched lightning-catching badass.

7.0
Avengers (2016) #10

Feb 12, 2018

It's an routine "protect the planetary shield" mission with our new pals, the Hydravengers. Mark Waid's script rations out a few nuggets of revealing Secret Empire knowledge and offers a B-plus imitation of Dan Slott's Ock and a C-minus imitation of Duggan's Deadpool. Mike del Mundo's art is up to its usual high standards, but some inconsistent character designs draw the eye in a bad way.

9.0
Avengers (2016) #11

Apr 7, 2018

Contemplating the damage Secret Empire has done to their team, the Avengers split up for three deep conversations. Spidey and the Wasp on "why we hate each other" is good, Thor and Sam on "who leads the Avengers" is great, and Hercules and the Vision on "how do you handle immortality" is remarkably epic. Mark Waid plays the reader's heartstrings like a concert harp, and this issue is a potent tool for reviving flagging interest in this Avengers roster. Altogether it's an impressive chunk of character work and very nice breather between big events. Mike del Mundo's art is, except for one panel, perfect.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #672

Apr 20, 2018

The Avengers and Champions are thrown together by some fast-paced Counter-Earth mayhem. This kickoff features a great plot, intriguing foreshadowing, decent characterization, terrific art, and Good Lord The Dumbest Science. At least the characters who point out (accurately) that Counter-Earth is scientifically impossible are different from the ones that think they can use webshooters to catch an extinction-level asteroid on the fly. It's both Spideys that are guilty there, plus Falcon and Viv Vision. Between the four of them, *somebody* should really have the 9th-grade physics knowledge to spot that even with "super-tensile webbing," they're tying themselves to thousands of tons of rock - how are Falcon and Viv supposed to slow it down? But I nitpick because I'm *engaged,* and that's not an accident. This is a super-promising start to a crossover and I'm eager to see where it goes next.

6.0
Avengers (2016) #673

May 14, 2018

The plot unfolds at a snail's pace, a highly generic High Evolutionary minces on-stage, and Viv gets a big surprise. Right from the initial splash page, the visuals make it clear that this issue is constructed by talented creators running on cruise control, and Mark Waid's script lives down to that assessment. The plot has nuggets of promise and Viv's fate is genuinely intriguing, but this issue's primary purpose is clearly to make sure the arc ends up trade-sized. The portrait of the High Evolutionary is half-interesting; his delusions of godhood are exceptionally fragile and he's probably going to shatter like sugar glass as soon as Spidey rolls up and starts calling him "Herbie."

8.0
Avengers (2016) #674

Jun 18, 2018

The Counter-Earth adventure ends with an emotional hammerblow. It's schmaltzy and foreshadowed and set up oh so obviously, but it *still* lands in the heart as though shot there by Hawkeye. This feels a lot like that point in Hickman's Fantastic Four when … well, you'll know when you hit it. Being illustrated in true tour-de-force fashion by Jesús Saiz certainly helps sell the climax, even if his Human Viv is undercut slightly by looking significantly different than previous artists' renditions. The visuals are quite simply stellar throughout, selling both wham-bam action and highly emotional conversations with equal skill.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #675

Jul 27, 2018

An all-star grab-bag of Avengers loses many team members to a mysterious freezy condition just as the Earth suffers a cataclysmic (but also quite generic) relocation. The chaos provides a few opportunities for splendid little moments of timeless comics coolness, like Hercules grabbing up a runaway Atlas statue globe before it can hurt bystanders. I'm unsure about the overall direction of the plot. The conceit of letting c-lister Lightning open and close the book with POV narration doesn't really work, but if it's ineffective, it's also harmless. Characterization is solid and Pepe Larraz's visuals are beautiful. (Why does Rogue have Giant Hair, though?) This is a fairly strong start. Not strong enough to turn me into an instant fan, but definitely promising enough to pull me on to the next week.

6.0
Avengers (2016) #676

Jul 27, 2018

The Avengers gush over the resurrection of the saintly Valerie "Voyager" Vector, a previously-unknown founding Avenger. Meanwhile, two teams of villains, the Black Order and the Lethal Legion, appear in Egypt. Before their mysterious masters set them against each other, Corvus Glaive takes the initiative and strikes at the Avengers in a ridiculously lazy Fatality Fakeout. Yeah, I'm sure the team's gonna suffer a *lot* of casualties in chapter 2 of a 16-part story. The Voyager introduction is pretty stellar thanks to Pepe Larraz's scrupulous retro art. The fact that she supposedly disappeared during the Grandmaster's debut - also Marvel's first "Contest of Champions"-type story - is super suggestive. I refuse to ignore the nakedness of Emperor Mark Waid, though. He didn't even give his "Forgotten Silver Age Avenger" premise a chance to cool off before resurrecting it. Mr. Waid finished the way-too-similar "Avenger X" story just six months ago, and the appearance of its near-twin here is *not* welcome. Also, when the baddie teams brawl a little, Proxima Midnight squares up with Drall, a tough new female scrapper. It's 20-goddamn-18 and we're doing Designated Girl Fights, Marvel? Really?

7.0
Avengers (2016) #677

Aug 6, 2018

The villains stand revealed as "Contest of Champions"-type pawns, and one of the players is our old pal Grandmaster. Pietro's our POV character and he has a terrible day. Rogue doesn't trust him (fair), and his sister accidentally spoils his big "save the day" moment fighting the Lethal Legion (ouch). I am spectacularly uninterested in the combat or the game, but the Grandmaster's mystery Challenger does pique my interest. So does Voyager. For somebody who's been out of action since Avengers #71, she is INCREDIBLY au courant on code-names and goings-on. I smell a rat. Pepe Larraz's art and some solid "Pietro gets picked last for dodgeball" humor bump this up a bit above average for me.

7.0
Avengers (2016) #678

Aug 12, 2018

The Avengers start working out the rules of the Grandmaster's game. Despite the firm "each issue gives a new Avenger the POV" structure, the story is a mess of interwoven plots and character beats. Real organization seems sorely lacking. Pepe Larraz's art is very talented, but it also mirrors the unfocused nature of the script. This might be a "too many cooks" situation. Whichever writer is trying to get us to care about the Lethal Legion is tilting at a particularly hopeless windmill, but none of the many threads knotted into this story stand out in terms of either content or presentation. This event may wind up very strong as a complete story, but I don't think it's worth the time or the money to follow it week-to-week in individual issues.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #679

Aug 18, 2018

This week's surprise POV character is the Challenger, and his angry relationship with the Grandmaster gives us much-appreciated context for their Game. It satisfies my thirst for understanding while preserving plenty of mystery about the rules. The Avengers take five between rounds, mostly running a "who's sorrier" competition. Beast and Wasp deliver a shamefully stupid explanation for Jarvis's sickness. Handing the art reins off to Kim Jacinto goes fairly well. He works hard on polish here, and though he still has a weird phobia about drawing pupils, this performance is definitely suited to the top shelf.

7.0
Avengers (2016) #680

Sep 6, 2018

Rogue, enraged by losing Johnny Storm, grabs the POV football and beats a bloody vengeance story into the Black Order's faces. That part's great, but the rest of this issue's content is less moving. The writers push the "Oh no, Johnny's gone!" reactions well over the line into filler territory. Wonder Man's contribution to the Jarvis mystery is set up beautifully and then fizzles. The Hulk foreshadowing is in a holding pattern. The visuals are not wowing me, either. They seem rushed. Poses look generic, settings are nonexistent, and in several panels, the artist gets defeated by the challenge of portraying Rogue as a human person with a skull-shaped-skull out of which hair comes.

7.0
Avengers (2016) #681

Sep 6, 2018

A little villain focus and some classic backstory for Voyager liven up endless fight scenes and the Avengers' slow acquisition of all the extant pieces of the premise puzzle. A lot is riding on where this goes next: I'm REALLY hoping that the already-low momentum isn't squandered with a lot of recapping. The art features a few individually beautiful panels. Many others are a lot less beautiful, and there's a critical lack of structure/setting/flow holding the pages together. If I were writing a treatise on good visual storytelling I could pull A LOT of "how not to do it" examples from this comic.

7.0
Avengers (2016) #682

Sep 20, 2018

Red Wolf goes all Sherlock Holmes and deduces that touching the Pyramoids can't be as fatal as it looks. I love clever heroes and I love Red Wolf, but this development strongly contradicts the way the Lethal Legion was behaving in the last issue. It's almost like this story was cobbled together by a too-big team of writers who couldn't be bothered to coordinate, or something! While I admire the polish that Sean Izaakse brings to the individual panels, he's sticking with the established lack of backgrounds. I think "featureless void" settings are a terrible choice for a busy story with so many parallel plot threads.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #683

Sep 20, 2018

With refreshing focus, the story drills down onto a tight vignette of Beast and Wasp simultaneously saving Jarvis and dealing with the final Pyramoid. There's also a Big Reveal on the Voyager front that gets some excellent foreshadowing earlier in the book. I really like the visuals, though the art gets a big advantage from the script's limited number of settings. The strategic writing work - plotting and pacing and those Voyager hints - is superb, but the actual dialogue is a bit trite. The dangers, yet again, of writing by committee. No Surrender looks to be speeding up, which is very welcome.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #684

Oct 8, 2018

All of the Hulk and Voyager foreshadowing is paid off. The former attacks the Avengers quite forcefully and we finally learn What The Deal Is with the latter. The art is great - I had no idea how nicely Joe Bennett & Paco Medina would complement each other - and the plot developments are solid. The pace is a little slow and the extra pages are shamelessly used to hype the Hulk's next series, but the work succeeds at entertaining in its own right and in building anticipation.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #685

Oct 8, 2018

The Hulk rampages through a lot of Avengers. Voyager watches and comes to ambiguous-but-not-really conclusions about what she should do next. It's a passionate story with great high-stakes tension. The pace is perfect, the art is evocative. While the road bringing us here had its bumps, the final act of this story is shaping up into something special.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #686

Oct 8, 2018

The Grandmaster wins his game with a few surprise twists, and we've still got a lot of story to get through. This issue continues the trend of showcasing the new Immortal Hulk, but it's frankly to the story's benefit. Smart, cruel, selfish Hulk is awesome! The art continues to roll the story along solidly, though the proportions (particularly on female heroes) are wobbling a little toward the cartoonish.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #687

Oct 17, 2018

This breather episode delivers many variations on the theme of "what does it mean to be an Avenger?" At its finest, that means Jarvis hauling Bruce Banner out of the depths of depression with Milton quotes and heartfelt admiration. At its weakest, the "breather" part gives Voyager an excuse to recap her now-clear origins in excruciating detail. This issue teeters on the knife-edge of over-indulgence; the next one NEEDS to deliver significant forward plot motion. Still-solid visuals are a strong point in favor of the book's overall quality, though.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #688

Nov 10, 2018

This is the "darkest hour" episode where one hero makes a mighty sacrifice and the rest of the Avengers pull together to triumph. The heroes fall all over themselves volunteering for the sacrifice play: Hulk is punched into space, Lightning and Sunspot make "even if it kills me" moves, and Quicksilver goes stupid-fast to free the rest of the world's heroes from stasis. This last one proves to be the capital-S sacrifice that saves the day. It's a very safe, familiar plot and I sound super-salty about it, but I recognize it's deployed with considerable skill. The art is fine and the words approach poetry in the final pages.

8.0
Avengers (2016) #689

Nov 10, 2018

Powerful Assembling saves the day on Earth while Lightning gets his moment in the spotlight by out-clevering the Grandmaster. Themes, story, and art are all excellent; there are a lot of great connections back to the very beginning. Clumsy words hold this on the threshold between good and great for me. It feels like the narration and the dialogue are making it harder to see the cleverness of the plot; surely their job is to do the opposite. The visuals really make the most out of a cast-o-thousands and deliver tons of impressive moments.

6.0
Avengers (2016) #690

Nov 10, 2018

Jarvis takes the narrative reins for an indulgent epilogue. His final assertion that No Surrender was the Avengers' finest hour is laughable, but there are plenty of other bits of empty rhetoric competing with it. This issue attempts a LOT of seed-sowing and status-quo-updating; for me, launching the Quest For Quicksilver is the only one that really works well. The attempted reconciliation between Hawkeye and Bruce Banner is another standout weakness. The art delivers a fine degree of polish, but after spending so much time with these characters, Pepe Larraz has a remarkable amount of trouble making them distinctive.

7.0
Avengers (2016) #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

A rock-solid monster-bashing tale. Spidey is already abusing his Avengers connections, calling the team to Boston to help him mop up a Maggia meeting fast so he can jet off on Parker Industries business. A kaiju attack kiboshes his plan, of course. Thor does the heavy lifting in fighting both the monsters and special guest villain the Controller. Writing and art are solid, though seeing every line from the Avengers' section of Monsters Unleashed #1 repeated here robs it of some novelty. The art is entirely new, though the kaiju designs are the same.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #1

Nov 25, 2018

A top-tier crisis, a CaveVenger prologue, and some sumptuous (if slightly overblown) art are wrapped around a core conversation about the Avengers that I find fundamentally distasteful. Thor is pretty well done - no surprise there - but Tony and Cap both disappoint. Too crotchety, too argumentative, too self-doubting. I do have some hopes based on promising portrayals further down the roster: I like this take on Captain Marvel and I LOVE T'Challa and Dr. Strange off doing a private Supernatural LARP session. There's a lot of storytelling horsepower on display in the words and art, but both areas lack unifying focus.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #2

Dec 3, 2018

For the second issue straight, the Avengers are faffed around as cosmic chessmen in a game we don't yet really understand. I'm glad Loki's rolled up to dispense a few big picture hints, but I think the creators badly overestimated how much fun it is to watch the Avengers get frustrated and confused. The script and art are both fumbling basic storytelling duties. There are lots of pretty character shots (though Ghost Rider is badly shortchanged in that department), but important details - like what Eson the Celestial is up to - get lost in the busy visual shuffle. This story still has gobs of potential but the tone with which it's unfolding leaves me very cold. Loki's foreshadowing is welcome; his insufferably smug condescension is not. It makes it even harder to take this whole Celestial rigamarole seriously.

7.0
Avengers: Back To Basics #1

Sep 20, 2018

On a wintry day, Ms. Marvel's inspired to dig into Avengers history. She's watching a rollicking Thor-Hulk-Iron-Man vs. Disir & Fenris story of Ragnarok. It takes the story a little while to find its feet, but it's quite compelling when it does. It develops a "welcome to Marvel" tone that's perfect for all-ages readers or MCU fans. I am hoping that Kamala gets more to do - and gets drawn better - in future issues. This first one did just enough to hook my attention and keep me reading. There's a nice spread of humor - everything from slapstick to wordplay to dramatic irony.

5.0
Avengers: Shards of Infinity #1

Oct 17, 2018

A rather promising new world domination group is wasted in this incredibly simplistic "Avengers save the world" one-shot. The target audience is surely young; that does not excuse the 40-year throwback to "let us narrate all our heroics" dialogue. Very fine art does elevate the proceedings. This isn't something an adult fan would feel satisfied paying for. If you happen to have a young kiddo who loves the MCU movies and wants to dip her feet in comics for the first time, though, load this on MU and hand your tablet over.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1

Nov 4, 2017

Meet Ben Reilly, pants-on-head-crazy survivor of the Clone Conspiracy debacle, currently psycho-ing it up in Vegas with an over-righteous Kaine on his tail. I am putting a *lot* of faith in Peter David when I say this comic shows promise. He invests so much skill in stressing Reilly's anti-heroic qualities here that it's tempting to write him off as irredeemable. (He also sabotages his own attempts at humor by undercutting them with Reilly's psychological damage.) Some very rushed art from Mark Bagley and questionable design choices on the new Scarlet Spider costume also contribute to the hesitant "where are we going" feel that makes this a hard comic to like.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #2

Dec 3, 2017

Ben dances into a very delicate blackmail situation while Kaine does horrible things to track him down. Peter David has ratcheted back Ben's Deadpool-iness by about 60 percent, something I *really* appreciate. He's also scripted a nasty torture scene for Kaine - as in using the threat of waterboarding to get information out of a semi-innocent character - so it's clear that both of our main characters are, morally speaking, painted in shades of gray. I like the balance developing between them, but this title is still wandering in search of an x-factor to make it great. #2 is definitely a better read than #1, though.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #3

Jan 5, 2018

The solicit isn't wrong: Ben getting his classic costume back is the highpoint of the issue. Isn't that a bit sad? While Peter David's protagonist characterization has firmed up considerably, the plot has slowed to a snail's pace. There are fights a-plenty and 20 pages get filled up with action and dialogue, but we don't seem to have moved forward very far from where we were a month ago.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #4

Jan 5, 2018

Kaine gets mistaken for Ben Reilly and gets a closer look at his Vegas doings. He doesn't see anything that sways him from his quest to kill his clone-bro, and that fight's on deck for the next issue. "Prince and Pauper" games are always an option when your two main characters are clones, but Peter David doesn't make this example all that memorable. It's paced slowly and offers little in the way of character revelations - Kaine is murderously vengeful, Ben is slimy and still way too villain-ish - and adding complications to casino owner Cassandra Mercury's B-story is a real non-starter. At least Mark Bagley makes it all look nice, but not even his talented pencil can turn this into a book I care about.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #5

Feb 3, 2018

A knockdown Kaine/Reilly fight pushes this book higher than it's ever been. Turning the show over to Mark Bagley and saying, "Spider-fight. Vegas. Use your imagination," turns out to be solid gold scripting, and the results are beautiful. There's just enough dialogue and plot development happening along with the pretty pictures to satisfy. Even Cassandra Mercury's side-plot is fighty and interesting this month.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #6

Mar 11, 2018

Kaine instantly regrets showing mercy to Ben, but Ben's been distracted by new business with the mysterious Marlo Chandler-Jones. Except if that's really Marlo, I'll eat a hoodie. Didn't Peter David recently repurpose Atropos as a reality-warper villain in Spider-Man 2099? (Pre-Hindsight: My guess is mistaken, but I like it so much I'm preserving it anyway. Turns out, we're *supposed* to pull out our Peter David Character Concordance and look at Marlo's shenanigans in Captain Marvel and Chaos War to figure out what this "Marlo's" arrival might portend.) Will Sliney's art is … man, I hated his art on 2099. Yet this issue's visuals work for me. Mr. Sliney is still Marvel's biggest SketchUp fan when it comes to backgrounds, but his characters here look refreshingly human. The contrast between digital and manual work is minimized and Mr. Sliney blends the two into a cool, cohesive style that makes superb use of detail.

8.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #7

Mar 30, 2018

Marlo isn't Marlo; she's Death, and she's stopped by Vegas to lay some heavy ☠☠☠☠ on Ben Reilly. This wild existential ride is a bit of a head-popper, but it's an excellent - and archetypally Peter David - way to rehabilitate an anti-heroic character and give him reasons to do better. Will Sliney's art continues to surprise me positively; I appreciate the extra effort he invested here in making Ben's expressions suitably gob-smacked while chatting with Death.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #8

Apr 7, 2018

Peter David pulls the trigger and jumps his setting into the post-Secret-Empire "ruined Vegas" status quo. Coming along for the ride are some old faces in the form of the Slingers - wasn't some of them supposed to be dead? Well, we did just get a Significant Visit from Death herself last month … This issue delivers a nicely-sized piece of plot development and some decent characterization. After several issues of sterling performance, Will Sliney's art backslides a little. Poses get stiff and everything is looking sterile again. Tipping a few skyscrapers over in the computer-generated backgrounds does a poor job of suggesting that this is a post-apocalyptic Vegas.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #9

May 7, 2018

Ricochet appoints himself as Ben's heroic team-up buddy and they pursue the Hornet. There's a decent plot unfolding along with a little mystery foreshadowing and some low-grade comic relief. The art is leaving me cold again, and when it comes to settings, the visuals combine with the script to paint a fundamentally unbelievable portrait of a "sorta devastated but not really" Vegas that's less satisfying than just pretending the Secret Empire bombing didn't happen. Plus, Will Sliney draws about a thousand portraits of Ben and Ricochet lunging about in spread-legged jackknife splits - it happens often enough to qualify as a running gag, but it's not funny. These are nits I would not be picking at if the main story did a better job of engaging my attention.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #10

Jun 9, 2018

Ben scores a second-act win against the Hornet and his boss, Silas Thorne. The Slingers can't tell if Ben is good or evil. Peter David's script delivers satisfying developments on the main Ben storyline, but all the sub-plots are growing like unchecked weeds. Will Sliney's art remains great at impressive static shots and bad at conveying motion. This is the third issue that's featured his fancy SketchUp model of a big rooftop HVAC unit. Is this some kind of crazy subliminal ad telling me to buy a gigantic industrial air conditioner? On a corporate marketing level, it's hugely disingenuous to put this issue in a Legacy cover and pretend it's any sort of a jumping-on point.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #11

Jun 23, 2018

Ben has a repetitive chat with Death, the Slingers decide to stick the Scarlet Spider on their enemies list, and Cassandra slides into the middle of the conflict just after (mostly) figuring out Ben's secret identity. The plot is sauntering casually in a cool direction, but at this pace it'll take ages to finish. André Lima Araújo is the issue's guest artist. Even though I've acquired a taste for his distinctive (or dumpy, if you're a hater) art, I believe it makes a generally poor choice for fill-in work and in this title it's an especially bad fit.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #12

Jul 11, 2018

Peter David strikes gold by teaming up Ben and Kaine to tackle the Sketchy Slingers together. Will he recognize the glitter and incorporate more double-spider action in the future, or is this a fluke? The issue finishes on a "bam, surprise continuity porn villain" note. I dislike that trick in general and find this example to be particularly weak. Another promising point is Will Sliney trying a hand-crafted art style, for a change. His subtle portrayal of Dusk is excellent, but some of his other gambles turn out less successful. This feels like a turning point in both words and art; I think this title's about to get either *really* good or *really* bad.

8.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #13

Aug 12, 2018

Slate saves Cassandra, the Spiders and Slingers team up productively to defeat their demonic opponents, and a couple good hooks for future stories are deployed. Peter David's script is short on flaws and Will Sliney's more organic, engaged style continues to impress. I dunno if he got a paycheck bump or what, but the leaps and bounds his art has taken in the last few issues are truly amazing.

5.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #14

Sep 6, 2018

Ben burns the title's Mysterio connection to kindle a tiny moment of empathy and Kaine executes a flagrantly filler-y fight with the Hippo. The Hippo's nice and goofy and deep-cut-y and all, but his role here could be filled by literally any big bruiser baddie. Art, plot, and dialogue are all trying to skate on the lower bound of "acceptable" and the combination doesn't quite satisfy me. Where it really stands out is in exemplifying a skippable comic.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #15

Oct 8, 2018

Ben discovers a tiny new sliver of information about the Diogenes Initiative before Damnation drops over him like a flash flood. All the balance of the issue does is explain Ben's militaristic appearance when he shows up in Damnation #2. The script cracks some jokes, but it's clearly settling into cruise control mode. The art remains at its new, higher standard. This is a fun, visually-pleasing read, but a thoroughly inconsequential one.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #16

Oct 8, 2018

Mephisto @%$#s with Ben for 20 pages and our prize idiot falls for the devil's "I can make it all better" line. It has quality art and corny humor, but the mood suffers severe whiplash. The majority of the book is about as serious as Adam West Batman trying to dispose of a bomb, and then the end goes midnight-dark. It's impossible to say whether Peter David is treating Damnation seriously or making a big joke of it all; this installment veers hard, at the last minute, toward the former.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #17

Nov 10, 2018

A tricky issue to asses. The back half features another excellent Ben-Kaine fight, but the first half is unbelievably indulgent. It's Ben belatedly doing the soul-searching he should have done BEFORE shaking Mephisto's hand. But then, that's Ben Reilly all over, isn't it? Making ridiculously wrong decisions and then second-guessing himself a little too late? The art sticks to its high standard of character rendering, but this issue's layouts look perfunctory. There's a memorable (bad memorable) splash page of the Midnight Sons fighting the Ghost Avengers that features a heap of great character drawings - a literal heap, without rhyme or reason.

7.5
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #18

Dec 3, 2018

The foreshadowing about Mysterio retiring in Vegas pays off as his daughter makes a supervillain-y debut with a nice magic angle. Both Spiders are roped into investigating her, with Dusk along for the ride. I like this issue's status quo - both Ben and Kaine are trying to push individual plots forward before Mysteria grabs their attention - but sweeping Damnation so thoroughly under the rug feels wrong. So does this issue's pace. Every scene goes on a page longer than it really needs to, suggesting the story as a whole came up short. I love the art, big break though it is from the title's established style. The final pages suggest the visuals are only going to get wilder as the story turns truly supernatural.

9.0
Black Bolt #1

Nov 9, 2017

Black Bolt awakens without powers in the hallucinatory alien prison his brother was supposed to go to. Not even death is an escape; resurrection merely lands the inmates back in their cells. Author Saladin Ahmed is making a carefully-reasoned choice in creating a distinct narrator's voice for this story. His characterization and pacing are brilliant, with essential backstory tidbits tetrised perfectly into the plot and antagonist Crusher Creel doing a splendid job of illuminating the setting for both Black Bolt and us readers. Christian Ward's painted art is equally impressive. It's not just beautifully drawn; it's beautifully designed. Imaginative layouts emphasize the alien character of BB's prison.

9.0
Black Bolt #2

Jan 5, 2018

Black Bolt falls into a pitch-perfect crowd of ruffians as the story climbs steadily toward an awesome jailbreak. Any fears I had about Saladin Ahmed flubbing the characterization in this book (e.g. leaning too hard on Crusher Creel) are put to rest with a brilliant team-building issue. Not only are familiar characters like Boltagon and Creel illuminated wonderfully, but we're introduced to great new folks like Skrull pirate queen Raava and the fiendish Spyder who stands opposed to the "good" (?) guys' incipient jailbreak. Christian Ward's art is spectacular throughout, swapping effortlessly between artsy high-concept layouts, fascinating action, and expressive characterization. This is another all-fronts winner that makes you wonder why all of Marvel's comics can't be this good.

8.0
Black Bolt #3

Jan 15, 2018

The prison break plan swings into high gear, but its ultimate success is locked behind a cliffhanger ending. In both writing and art there are a few tiny missteps, but that's mainly a function of tackling an ambitious amount of story: Issue #3 delivers *a lot* of content. Characterization is still superb. BB realizes on his own that sending Maximus to this hell-prison would have been unforgivable. Restoring Black Bolt's powers solves one issue; Mr. Ahmed can stop worrying about cheapening Blackagar's voice with too much prosaic dialogue. The cliffhanger is just a tiny bit contrived. We don't need a fatality fake-out to keep us reading; this story is easily capable of captivating on its own.

9.0
Black Bolt #4

Feb 12, 2018

Last issue's cliffhanger segues into Creel and Boltagon socked into a terminal-feeling deathtrap. The solid matrix of the story is Creel flashing back through his career in a lovely way, and it's enhanced by sparkly bits of Black Bolt's conversation sprinkled throughout. *Of course* BB is a great listener. While this issue is almost entirely about Creel, Saladin Ahmed's script is achingly sympathetic and the focus is not at all begrudged. Christian Ward's art proves particularly flexible with Creel's wide-ranging memories.

9.0
Black Bolt #5

Mar 30, 2018

Black Bolt and Lockjaw loop back through the prison collecting his buddies and preparing (again) for a showdown with the Jailer. The slight downside of running a repetitive plot is nicely offset by the oodles of love on display in the BB/Lockjaw relationship. Christian Ward's art remains 90 percent brilliant; there's one panel that feels unfinished. Frazier Irving's guest work on the Lockjaw prelude is an excellent fit for the title and the issue.

10
Black Bolt #6

Apr 20, 2018

Black Bolt and friends triumph over their Jailer, but their freedom comes at a cost. There were two, maybe three moments in this comic that felt less than perfect. They were very brief. Saladin Ahmed's script does many amazing things; the way Crusher Creel tears your heart out using fewer words than an average Starbucks order is the most impressive. Christian Ward's art is equally great. For one thing, he's set an eternally, unbeatably high bar for how "Black Bolt unleashes his full power" should look. I would not relish being the next artist tasked with drawing that after him.

7.0
Black Bolt #7

May 14, 2018

Blackagar and Blinky's cruise to Earth is interrupted by a few little challenges. While the overall pace of the series makes this the perfect time for a "breather" episode, both writer Saladin Ahmed and guest artist Frazier Irving take things a little too easy. The result is an issue that isn't quite a disappointment in itself, but it's this title's first skippable issue - and that is just a little disappointing.

9.0
Black Bolt #8

Jun 18, 2018

Black Bolt's return to Earth starts with a New Attilan episode, complete with misunderstanding brawl. It's written and illustrated beautifully, but it's largely another connective episode. It was about to slide down to "good, not great" in my mind, and then we got a firecracker of an emotional scene with Black Bolt and Ahura. It's heartwarming but wonderfully nuanced and it's a firm reminder that these are great creators telling a remarkable story.

9.0
Black Bolt #9

Jul 11, 2018

Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward pull us with dreadful necessity through the funeral of Crusher Creel. It is very pretty and very moving, but a handful of minor weaknesses leave this just a bit short of the perfection that was Crusher's death. The fact that a surprise villain arrives in the final scene to jerk us back into comicbookland is jarring, too. Though I can't call it perfect, it's *damn sure* still an all-time great comic.

9.0
Black Bolt #10

Aug 18, 2018

Lash makes his play against Black Bolt. He's trying so hard but he is SO NOT going to secure this title's nemesis position. Who is? Well howdy, gigantic surprise ending! The twist, the nice character work on Blackagar and Titania (and even Lash) and the excellent plot all suggest perfection. So too does Stephanie Hans's quietly awesome guest art that nails the midpoint between Christian Ward and Mike Del Mundo. Christian Ward's fight visuals and colors are just a bit rushed. I can see the balance of the book is color-muted to maximize the impact of Medusa in the middle, but what's the excuse for the sketchy stiffness of the fight scenes? Not that this art isn't delightful; it just feels like less than Mr. Ward's best.

9.0
Black Bolt #11

Sep 20, 2018

Black Bolt gets stuck into his final battle with the Jailer, but the focus here is on his ad-hoc supporting cast and their scrambles to help. The last act makes interesting ties to BB's past, and the end promise a wild finale in the next issue. The start comes with some fragmentation in the story and a few pages of rushed art, but these are only weaknesses by the singularly high standards of this title. By the end, it's all high-impact plot developments and stellar visuals again. The contrast between the midnight-blue real world and the watercolors-on-white astral plane is especially gorgeous.

10
Black Bolt #12

Oct 17, 2018

Black Bolt overcomes the Jailer thanks to his loved ones and friends. The issue is deadly serious about that potentially-corny theme, and thank goodness it is. The art is beautiful, the friendships are touching. The logic is questionable at a few points, but there's never been a better demonstration of the fact that a truly great story can leap such gaps effortlessly. While this closes the series in a perfectly satisfying way, it's been such a glorious journey that ending it feels unavoidably sad.

8.0
Black Panther & the Crew #1

Oct 31, 2017

A dead activist may light a powder keg in Harlem. His death has already entangled Misty Knight and Storm, and his unfolding superhero history will (hopefully) assemble the rest of the Crew. A fascinating backstory and a very powerful narrative voice for protagonist Misty Knight are up against Ta-Nehisi Coates's fatally glacial pacing and some slightly questionable art in this promising debut. Thanks to the MU delay I know this series died prematurely, but I don't see any probative faults so far.

8.0
Black Panther & the Crew #2

Nov 17, 2017

Storm takes the POV reins as the story inches forward. She reveals a past as a tourist in Harlem, and she feels guilty over not getting involved before. Is this her time for redemption? The action continues to be powerful but slow. Butch Guice's art is growing on me a great deal. Though the lines have a sketchy finish they also have tremendous realism; these feel like scenes torn straight from life. (Still a bit weak at portraying fantastic action, though.) This issue is more about character study than plot progression, and the peek into Storm's thoughts as a black woman rather than an X-Man is pretty compelling.

8.0
Black Panther & the Crew #3

Jan 5, 2018

Storm and T'Challa team up to discover the enemy lurking behind this story while Misty, in the final pages, gets Luke Cage into action. 'Bout time! The art and ideas in this series continue to be absolutely top notch, which leaves the storytelling pace as the flaw bringing this series down. There's fascinating stuff in both the current incarnation of the Crew and their slowly-revealed links to Ezra's 50s Crusade. It unfolds at such a snail's pace, though! Beyond *responding* to what Jonathan Hickman did with T'Challa in his Avengers run, Ta-Nehisi Coates has pinched his glacial "this will be really important a year later maybe" plotting style. That tool is tougher to operate than it looks, and I'm not sure Mr. Coates has really mastered it. And there's the bigger question of whether *every* story can/should be plotted like an intricate long-term tapestry. Also, it takes a bit of the shine off this title when the Evil Scheme stands revealed and you immediately recognize it as a plot Ms. Marvel tackled in Jersey City two years ago.

9.0
Black Panther & the Crew #4

Jan 27, 2018

Luke Cage's arrival signals a twist on the volume knob. Blowing up helicopters and conducting ominous interviews with Hydra-affiliated honkeys; Luke and Misty have got it covered. Before I picked this issue up, I was thinking that one of this title's problems was not letting any of its awesome stars demonstrate their awesomeness within these pages. You had to rely on your prior reading to love T'Challa, Storm, Misty, and Luke. Naturally, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey deliver a script for #4 that's wall-to-wall awesome for its two focus heroes. Butch Guice's pencils are mostly great, with just a few slightly-iffy faces, and whichever writer was responsible for the laser-sharp dialogue (this is by a wide margin the most quotable issue of the title so far) deserves extra kudos. Even Ezra's flashback Crusade scene gets a dose of awesome, and if Mr. Coates wants to continue in comics after he's done with the Panther, I would love to see him do an independent series on the Civil Rights Movement. Either with a superheroic twist or just straight history; it's a part of the American story of which too many of us (myself very much included) are criminally ignorant.

5.0
Black Panther & the Crew #5

Feb 26, 2018

A valiant effort to establish Manifold as a vital member of the Crew fails due to poor scriptwork and disjointed visuals. The bigger story arc takes a baby step forward after Manifold's questionable connection to Harlem is established. This issue shows off the terrible drawback to Butch Guice and company's super-realistic character designs. By replacing inhumanly handsome/beautiful heroes with folks who look like a Bible study group with an average age of 46, they've rendered the image of the Crew doing heroic stuff (i.e. posing in the sky while saving Manifold's bacon) more than a little ridiculous. The Naturalistic Crew may look great when they're sipping coffee and discussing the history of Marvel Harlem, but they're gonna have to get a lot more active - hopefully without looking quite so stupid in the future - to give this story any sort of satisfying closure.

6.0
Black Panther & the Crew #6

Mar 11, 2018

This abrupt end shows the Crew at last expunging the multi-generational infection Hydra has injected into Harlem … maybe. I can't imagine the creators felt great about cancellation undercutting their big "break the cycle" theme the way it did, but they certainly didn't step up and deliver a blow-the-doors-off finale. This feels like a low-energy epilogue to issue 5; the end offered for Ezra's flashback story was especially underwhelming both visually and narratively.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #10

Oct 31, 2017

Shuri and T'Challa tweak the board before their big showdown with Tetu's rebels. It takes a lot of talking. Shuri convinces Ayo and Aneka to break from the rebels and T'Challa (probably?) enlists Changamire on the side of the crown. A weirdly strident ad for Edmund Morgan's "American Slavery, American Freedom" is included, too. Strong art for a quiet book, and many carefully-chosen words. "Slow burn" is the go-to descriptor for this title, but perhaps it's time to look at the negative connotations of that phrase. Lordy, it's slow. The words are beautiful but the action takes so long to arrive.

5.0
Black Panther (2016) #11

Oct 31, 2017

Tetu's rebellion ends with a fight that's more of a minor scuffle than an epic battle. Putting four different finishers on Chris Sprouse's lackluster layouts do them no favors, but the art isn't the only letdown here. This climactic fight features fewer participants than you'd need for a decent pick-up football game. Ta-Nehisi Coates's plotting is also uninspired; T'Challa saves the day by pulling an Aragorn and letting the spirits of the dead win his war. Changamire also contributes a fatuous "can't we all just get along" speech that impresses the characters a lot more than the readers. This is not a terrible comic, but as the conclusion to a very long and momentous story it's quite the disappointment.

6.0
Black Panther (2016) #12

Oct 31, 2017

The end of the great Wakandan rebellion births a new republic and suggests a new role for the Orphan King. It's a slow and talky issue, but that's hardly surprising based on what's come before. The ideas are as interesting as ever, and there's definitely a sense of closure to this year-long odyssey. I think Brian Stelfreeze has tried to reflect the changes by tweaking his T'Challa design. This Panther looks like more of a man than a god, and I doubt it's accidental. After a three-issue break from Mr. Stelfreeze, though, it also produces some double takes: "Wait, *that's* T'Challa now?"

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #13

Nov 4, 2017

T'Challa struggles with some absentee gods and a new supernatural threat to Wakanda. Lots of action and lots of big ideas. Wilfredo Torres's glamorous art unfortunately extends a persistent problem for this title: Great design work and beautiful talking scenes, but stiff and underwhelming action. This new god-centric story arc would have been a great excuse to poach some talent from the Thor group, and I would love to see this script brought to life by Russell Dauterman or Olivier Coipel. Ta-Nehisi Coates's ideas are more than enough to sustain the title, but they could be executed with more artistic impact.

6.0
Black Panther (2016) #14

Dec 3, 2017

Both T'Challa and his suspiciously-unified enemies use deep cuts into the Panther mythos to bring some old characters back to light. Unfortunately, it looks like Ta-Nehisi Coates hasn't learned from the weaknesses of his first arc. The sins committed here are familiar from the first 12 issues of the title. "T'Challa hosts a conference" remains a dreadfully dull and now overused plot point, and making it a ghost conference of Panther ancestors doesn't do nearly enough to liven it up. The art team takes its cues from the over-quiet, over-slow script, and the visual presentation here is simplistic and cartoony in a bad, short-of-detail way. Even though this issue involves a fair few plot developments, the overall impression is that it's a skippable "status quo" episode in another indulgently long story arc.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #15

Jan 5, 2018

Wakanda fights off another monster invasion with a distressingly small amount of help from T'Challa. The opening monster fight is fun and exciting, but it's the story of how Shuri and Zawavari saved the day with minor assists from T'Challa and the Midnight Angels. Wilfredo Torres and Adam Gorham's pages are individually impressive but they clash with each other a bit. The two artists' treatment of Shuri is particularly divergent. This is a pretty good comic, but T'Challa needs to stop feeling like a guest star in his own title. The story of the contrite Panther has gone on too long - he makes yet another apology speech to Storm here - and the king needs to reassert himself as a hero already.

7.0
Black Panther (2016) #16

Feb 3, 2018

T'Challa leaves his god-problems on the back burner with Storm while he hunts for the abducted Asira. Beating up the Fenris twins is great fun, and he also gives a pretty awesome "you're better than this" speech to Thunderball, whom we're all more likely to think of as "Dr. Eliot Franklin" now. The cool superheroing is dragged down by a committee scene, because Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the art is a little disjointed. I have a tendency to blather about "good storytelling flow" when I talk about comics art. What does "good flow" mean? Mainly that moving from panel to panel *doesn't* leave you confused and lost, and unfortunately that's a pitfall Chris Sprouse's art falls into a few times this month.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #17

Mar 11, 2018

Storm and T'Challa are building something sweet together as they stop rains and fight bug-monsters. Ta-Nehisi Coates ennobles the script by building some emphatic structure into it; Chris Sprouse does excellent visual storytelling to keep the plot train on the rails. This issue could have ended up tiresome and repetitive if it weren't executed with such careful skill. Instead, it offers up nuanced meditations on worship, power, and demagogues - and a pretty kick-butt bug-monster fight, too.

7.0
Black Panther (2016) #18

Apr 7, 2018

T'Challa and Shuri do quality monster fighting and plot-exploring while the Midnight Angels go on a spy mission. It all leads to the reveal of a new adversary, which is a little undercut by the fact that Wakanda is damn near drowning in opposition already. This is a fast-paced issue for this title, but full satisfaction is precluded by some hasty-looking art from both Chris Sprouse & Wilfredo Torres. The visuals carry Ta-Nehisi Coates's script up over the run of the mill, but they drop it off a little short of real greatness.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #166

May 7, 2018

An issue-long spotlight on Klaw does a remarkable job of eliciting sympathy while also emphasizing the depths of his craziness and evilness. It's a pretty excellent story as a standalone, but slotting it in at this moment - thowing an already-slow arc into a holding pattern to do an indulgent amount of antagonist backstory and wearing a Legacy cover that's deceptively welcoming to newcomers - is a pretty unfortunate choice. Though it's good, it's not a good introduction to the current volume or a good continuation of the current arc. And it's not quite good enough to overlook those shortcomings.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #167

Jun 9, 2018

T'Challa and Shuri fire the Chekov's Gun #16 put on the mantel in the shape of Dr. Eliot "Thunderball" Franklin. He's put to work puzzling out the science-y side of Klaw's threat while T'Challa takes a heavy dose of mythology in the Djalia. This issue delivers lots of impressive content and balances smoothly between plot progression and world-building. Overall it's highly satisfying (the visuals in particular are superb), but there's a bit of pretension to some of the language.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #168

Jul 11, 2018

T'Challa and friends throw down with Ras the Exhorter and his Originators. The fight gives Dr. Franklin a Big Damn Hero Moment, which is cool. The main story is framed front and back with a b-story about Ramonda and the Dora Milaje going all "plausible deniability" on a mission to rescue the Midnight Angels. It's a slow start but I look forward to seeing how it develops and bites T'Challa on the ass later. Rating this issue was a challenge for me. Chris Sprouse clearly worked hard on the visuals, but it's also clear that several key elements in the script - dynamic fights, sci-fi flyers, and Ras magically shooting down same - are way outside his wheelhouse. I was also disappointed with the way the frame story had to be paced to hit the surprise ending. I can see it had to happen this way for the plot's sake, but it also gives the impression that plausible deniability is a revolutionary Wakandan innovation that T'Challa and Ramonda thought up a few days ago. Ultimately I can't go lower than 8/10 on this. While there were some eyeball-rolling moments, this issue also had me looking up the Church Committee on Wikipedia (again, plausible deniability), and that's not a level of engagement that mediocre comics can achieve.

9.0
Black Panther (2016) #169

Aug 6, 2018

The ridiculously complex villain alliance working against Wakanda collapses in on itself, and Aneka is perfectly positioned for a revenge rampage as it does. True, this issue's spotlight is off of T'Challa, but this little soundless drama (there are some Klaw sonic cloning shenanigans) plays out perfectly as a star turn for Aneka, Ayo, and their fellow Midnight Angels. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leonard Kirk work beautifully together to invest the little beats of an impromptu escape-and-rescue with tremendous weight. This issue is both tactically and strategically satisfying to me. If T'Challa wants to have a little gloat in the near future about not needing to do much besides wait for this ridiculous alliance to fall apart of its own accord, he'd be entitled.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #170

Sep 20, 2018

T'Challa and friends overcome Ras's Originators in a nice action issue. Some philosophical gravitas is added by a conversation between Changamire and Tetu, and the whole thing ends with a brilliant twist. The art does a tremendous job moving the story through a busy schedule. Though the visuals aren't too memorable on their own, they make an admirable contribution to the reader's understanding.

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #171

Oct 8, 2018

The Panther settles his statecraft scores and puts Klaw down. A gentle interrogation of Asira unmasks Wakanda's true adversary on the supernatural front. I'm both impressed and infuriated by the perfect execution of the last-page surprise villain reveal. It makes a great dramatic capstone to the plot, but its impact also hinges on how well you know Storm's backstory. The visuals for this big fight issue are strong, but they don't capture quite as much motion as they could/should. Visually and textually this lands soundly in "good" territory, but for me, it definitely falls short of "great."

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #172

Nov 10, 2018

The mystical aspects of Wakanda's troubles get solved in a mighty spotlight issue for Storm. It's a clean, forceful script that sets up parallel climaxes in both combat and character relations. The visuals live up to the potential of the story - just. Without being able to spot any giant weakness, I still get the sense that the je ne sais quoi that could take this from "good" to "great" is missing from the art rather than the writing.

7.0
Black Panther (2016) Annual #1

Sep 6, 2018

Three of the Black Panther's greatest authors create brief new vignettes around the character for us. Priest's is a hardcore nostalgia stroke, Don McGregor's is an excellent epilogue to his 70s Panther stories, and Reggie Hudlin's is, nobler intentions aside, a juvenile bit of wish fulfillment. None of them offer much in the way of story, but they are mostly charming. They're also beautifully illustrated; Daniel Acuña's work on the second strip makes it easy to understand why he got the gig illustrating the latest relaunch of the main BP title. This package is a nice treat for passionate Panther fans, but it doesn't quite shed the "inherently skippable" quality shared by so many Annuals.

10
Black Panther (2018) #1

Dec 3, 2018

We're dropped into a wild sink-or-swim sci-fi adventure along with a T'Challa who might or might not be the king we know from previous volumes. The action is breathless and enthralling. Scene-setting hints and plot foreshadowing are woven through the adventure with exquisite skill, never meddling with the strong pace. There are a few pickable nits (very minor ones), but this new world is so audacious and inventive that I'm absolutely thrilled to explore it.

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #1

Jun 23, 2018

Spooky earthquakes wreak havoc with Wakanda's vibranium, but so far only T'Challa can see the weird squid-kaiju associated with them. This is a fairly satisfying read, but it really does not do enough to clamp onto readers' attention and entice them into picking up the next issue. This is the work of an author who knows with bedrock certainty she's going to tell a six-issue story, no more, no less. The faint sparkles of promise dusted over the story so far are kind of counterbalanced by André Lima Araújo's dumpy art. While his stylized visuals are nicely polished, they convey almost none of the grandeur I want to see in depictions of King T'Challa and his kingdom.

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #2

Jul 11, 2018

T'Challa heads into the Mute Zone with Wardog Bros 1 & 2 and meets a pack of smug teens and a female chief with whom he has a mysterious history. Also he has to fight a literal Panther. André Lima Araújo's art is still dumpy but polished, and at this point I'm suspecting that Nnedi Okorafor's story outline clocked in at about four issues and the editor said, "Ennnh, we'll just let André stretch it out." There are some interesting ideas being unfolded v-e-e-e-ry slowly. The amount of teenaged smugness emanating from both appropriate (the Mute Zone's tech teens) and inappropriate (the Wardog Bros) sources is kind of overwhelming to me, but I'm a crotchety geezer. If I had a tween daughter she'd probably *love* reading this, and that is *definitely* the target audience for this title.

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #3

Jul 27, 2018

Nnedi Okorafor's all-ages T'Challa side-story gets interrupted by a completely different (and weaker) kiddie T'Challa side-story. Aaron Covington's script teams T'Challa up with a childhood friend who specializes in robo-animals to take down M'Baku and Baron Macabre. Mario Del Pennino's art is the one silver lining here; it's a perfect model of what "all-ages Black Panther" should look like. Mr. Del Pennino's art drags this issue, kicking and screaming, up to average. If you make Ta-Nehisi Coates's subtle and cerebral Panther your yardstick, though, you can knock a point or two off my rating. It's particularly galling to see Shuri, recently reborn as a uniquely badass spirit-warrior, cast in the role of "helpless mission control girly girl" here. This story suffers considerably in comparison to Ms. Okorafor's; while the previous tale cleared the "kids and parents can both enjoy this" bar (barely), this story chins it and falls into the sad pit of "kids lack critical reading skills so who cares if the plot and characterization are stupid?" That's probably going to be this title's enduring legacy: A clear, concise contrast between "all ages" children's comics and "too dumb for grownups" children's comics.

5.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #4

Aug 12, 2018

T'Challa and his pal Kantu roll M'Baku up in a pointless display of zappy punchy fighting. There are robo-animals and Shuri gets to shoot at M'Baku a little too, and everything wraps up too abruptly. Letting Aaron Covington stretch his story out into three issues might help the breathless pace, but his script is already woefully shallow at two. The faint suggestions of character insight from #3 fall away, replaced by cartoony jokes about how rare it is for T'Challa to express gratitude. Mario Del Pennino's art weakens noticeably, too. It's clear that power armor and hi-tech jets aren't in his wheelhouse, and he's not getting paid enough to stretch his skill set. This story ends up thoroughly unsatisfying for an adult reader, and while kiddies might be more forgiving, there are countless better comics to give them.

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #5

Sep 6, 2018

T'Challa wraps up the Mute Zone story with surprising but welcome quickness. Since the party responsible for the haunting of Wakanda was "sentient vibranium" created by a magical scientist, it feels like the sooner we can put this all behind us, the better. The script is neither notably special nor distractingly weak. The art is again an unfortunate blend of confident polish and unappealing aesthetics. Although I'm sad that this story didn't reach out and grab me, I do appreciate keeping the Black Panther's world wide enough to try experiments like this.

8.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #6

Sep 20, 2018

What's supposed to be a relaxing trip home to Lagos turns into a mutant chase and a fascinating social portrait for Ngozi, the Nigerian girl who picked up both Venom and the Black Panther mantle in a Venomverse AU. This little one-shot has a simple plot and some art that veers from rough to downright regrettable at points. There's a vibrant novelty to the protagonist and her setting that rises over the shortcomings and makes this issue compelling. Besides showing Ngozi as well worth further stories, Nnedi Okorafor also paints a fascinating (but grim) portrait of mutant life in Lagos.

4.0
Black Panther: The Sound And The Fury #1

Aug 18, 2018

The Black Panther saves Dubai (mmm, political rumbles, mmm) from Klaw. It's a cash-in for the MCU film and clearly a book targeted at youngsters. These facts do not excuse its shabbiness. The decision to bundle it with the awesomer-in-every-way Fantastic Four #53 ends up being a mistake. Yes, you get a GOOD comic in the mix, but it's also the perfect comparison to show how hollow and dull the modern strip is. The modern story shamelessly cribs the original's ending, too.

4.0
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #4

Oct 31, 2017

Aneka commits the righteous killing that got her locked up at the start of the main Black Panther series. There's some exciting stuff going on here, but it's over-written to the point of melodrama, robbing it of its impact. The art is generally solid but bad at portraying action, which holds the story up at a few critical points.

4.0
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #5

Oct 31, 2017

Ayo and Aneka go rogue as the Midnight Angels; we get a slightly deeper telling of the tale than we did at the start of the current BP volume. Nemesis Folami and supporter Zola are left in open-ended situations that feel like lame sequel hooks. It would have been better to give them real closure. My chief disappointment is still the dialogue. In an effort to make her characters sound exotic and non-American, Roxane Gay has again stuffed their mouths with an overdose of clumsy, stilted half-poetry.

8.0
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #6

Oct 31, 2017

Kasper Cole gets a mission from T'Challa and a pretty swank update. This "put it all on the field" one-shot is a great introduction, standard adventure, and overhaul for the oft-forgotten White Tiger (no, not that White Tiger, the other one). Solid plotting and great art are let down only by somewhat forgettable dialogue and extremely forgettable villains. This is a perfect kickoff for a solo Kasper Cole series, and the fact that one wasn't greenlit is disappointing. Greg "Foolkiller" Salinger can get a five-issue stealth mini but Kasper can't? What the ☠☠☠☠, Marvel?

9.0
Black Widow (2016) #11

Oct 31, 2017

Natasha fights the Baby Widows for the soul of SHIELD. This surprising set piece wasn't what I was expecting to tie up the dangling plot threads - in fact, it does very little of that - but it's an incredibly exciting and satisfying high-concept fight. There's definitely a positive "Die Hard" vibe here. What's most impressive is that this feels like it will be equally satisfying for faithful readers of the title and casual folks who might be unfamiliar with prior issues.

8.0
Black Widow (2016) #12

Oct 31, 2017

The showdown between Widow and the Recluse is fought for the souls of the Baby Widows. It feels just a little disjointed, but it wraps up the series in glorious action movie style. Collect it in trades and ship it off to Marvel Studios; this volume would make a picture-perfect MCU Widow movie. Check out Mark Waid's "I had zero initial enthusiasm for this project" letter at the end; it just makes Chris Samnee's work all the more impressive. This was his baby from start to finish, and it turned out to be a very stylish, very fun ride.

6.0
Bullseye (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

Stupid crazy assassin Bullseye is inexplicably handed a subtle rescue mission in Colombia. Both the character's prior behavior and the way he's shown here make it screamingly obvious that this is a *bad* idea. Aside from the fundamental mismatch between protagonist and premise, this is a decent attempt at evoking a 100 Bullets feel in both plot and art.

6.0
Bullseye (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

Bullseye draws out his Colombian target by killing gangsters and a key crooked cop. His FBI Widow lady is still on his tail and everything's very brutal in a pro forma way. Ed Brisson probably mainlined Netflix's Narcos while writing this. (Also it's kinda got the same supporting cast as the current volume of the Punisher.) It's not disappointing, but all signs point to this issue (and probably the title as a whole) dropping right out of your memory as soon as you finish it.

6.0
Bullseye (2017) #3

Oct 31, 2017

Bullseye ping-pongs off his cartel nemesis before collecting the mafia kid he's supposed to save. Said kid shoots him at the cliffhanger, d'oh! This book is relentlessly adequate. The script does lay out an excellent chase scene. The dialogue is strictly forgettable and the art is no more than serviceable. A slightly infuriating amount of time is spent again on the B story of the FBI Lady chasing Bullseye. I spent more time pondering the basic premise of the Bullseye character than what this issue (or this title so far) has to say about him, i.e. not much. If you already think Bullseye is ridiculously awesome, you'll love this. If you think he's just ridiculous, enh ...

8.0
Bullseye (2017) #4

Nov 9, 2017

Bullseye's opponents fight over the right to kill him while he makes snotty comments, and SHIELD rolls up on the last page. Bullseye spends this entire issue duct-taped to a chair and it's my favorite issue in the series. That says plenty about my opinion of Bullseye. Writer Ed Brisson lets his characters respond to the highly stereotypical plot points unfolding around them with rapier wit. The setup that got us here wasn't that enjoyable, but the payoff is pretty fun. Guillermo Sanna's art isn't disappointing but also not that memorable.

4.0
Bullseye (2017) #5

Jan 5, 2018

Bullseye gets the last laugh as this adventure dissolves into a mess of corpses and bittersweet endings. This actually happens: Bullseye hijacks a Helicarrier by incapacitating all of three SHIELD mooks. This entire series runs on an "if it looks cool and it's Bullseye doing it, of course it's possible" rule, and this is where I realize I'm never going to agree with that dictum. I didn't come in convinced of Bullseye's inherent awesomeness and this series did nothing to sell me on that idea. It's very juvenile. No matter how many "mature" cop movie clichés Ed Brisson wants to staple on top, it's fundamentally a brainless thrill ride. Some spectacular visuals might have helped sell this conclusion; instead this issue's art appears to be a set of incomplete sketches finished off with a minimum of time and effort. Thanks to this inept showing, I'm going to dread seeing artist Guillermo Sanna's name come up on future comics.

6.0
Cable (2017) #1

Dec 7, 2017

Time-sheriff Cable busts baddies armed with anachronistic sci-fi weapons in the Old West and Feudal Japan. It's a simple premise executed with journeyman skill. Carlos Pacheco's scrupulous art goes a long way toward hauling this story into entertaining readability; James Robinson's script is a strictly by-the-numbers affair. Even in his debut issue, Cable has to deal with repetitiveness; the story is the same in both time periods he visits and it feels like Mr. Robinson is missing a big opportunity to build something interesting via parallels. Instead the repetition simply serves as emphasis, suggesting the longer story might turn into a real slog.

5.0
Cable (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

More feudal Japanese fighting and a regrettable lack of explanations regarding the larger plot. We get one glimpse of the baddie Cable is chasing; it's profoundly unenlightening. Carlos Pacheco's top-shelf pencils are the one thing holding this title up out of the swamp of total disappointment. It'll be tragic if this title doesn't shape up soon and all that artistic talent ends up being wasted on a pointless series.

5.0
Cable (2017) #3

Feb 3, 2018

James Robinson says "here ya filthy animals" and offloads five overstuffed pages of exposition dump to explain the badguy ("Conquest") and his Deal. Eternals/Inhumans war, Time Sword, five MacGuffin parts, Cable's gotta catch him before he catches 'em all. Got it? Okay, back to beating up baddies through time. The Mayan setting is, well, you've seen Apocalypto, right? Like that, but squished into a comic and topped with a potentially-racist serving of "chariots of the Gods" super-tech.

6.0
Cable (2017) #4

Mar 11, 2018

Cable turns the tables on Conquest during their visit to Tsarist Russia. Unfortunately, when Cable tries to cut off Conquest's exposition with an "I don't care," he's speaking for the readers as well as himself. Conquest is a bargain-basement Kang knockoff, and depriving him of the Time Sword is just an average Wednesday for Cable. Artist Yildiray Cinar delivers some outstanding visuals that lend more weight to James Robinson's script than it deserves. The bones of the plot and the pacing are fine, but this issue is a notable storehouse of Terrible Dialogue - line after line that you regret reading.

5.0
Cable (2017) #5

Apr 7, 2018

Cable defeats Conquest with the trick that was painfully telegraphed in issue #3 and James Robinson does woefully little to embellish the script around it. Yildiray Cinar does considerably more on the visual front, squeezing as much fun as possible out of a "history's greatest mooks vs. dinosaurs" premise. Great as the art is, it can't equip this issue (or this arc) with the slightest bit of memorability or re-read value. It does nothing to transform or illuminate Cable as a character; the shallowness of this story and the way it's presented is fundamentally juvenile.

6.0
Cable (2017) #150

May 3, 2018

Ed Brisson and Jon Malin send Cable back in time to explore the "Externals" mess of the Liefeld days. That Highlander reboot folks have been talking about must be DOA if Marvel feels safe going back to these *super* derivative waters. Mr. Brisson contributes some nice tough-guy dialogue that feels very "Die Hard" or "Oceans 11" (in a good way), but his plot isn't promising so far. A straight-up misunderstanding brawl with a baddy Cable's trying to team up with? Ho hum. Speaking of "ho hum" and missed opportunities for irony, Mr. Malin's art is a 90s xtreem throwback executed in painfully earnest "why would you need more than one line width?" style. Jesus Aburtov does heroic work adding much-needed depth and texture with the colors.

6.0
Cable (2017) #151

Jun 9, 2018

After their first confrontation, both Cable and Selene decide to expand their teams. The "who's killing Externals?" mystery chugs slowly toward enlightenment. The storytelling is done in a workmanlike "meets expectations" fashion, but this is one of those tales where the creators have omitted any engaging hooks. There's no compelling reason to pick this story up unless you're already a big fan of the participants. The addition of Armor and X-23 to the hero squad reveal yet another of Jon Malin's artistic weaknesses: He's unable to portray these characters as the adolescent girls the "13 years ago" setting says they should be.

4.0
Cable (2017) #152

Jun 23, 2018

Cable and company zero in on what looks like a big bad, I guess. Ed Brisson's script tells a functional story but completely fails to offer disinterested readers a reason to care about any of this Externals business. The words in this issue do nothing to stir passion, and the art is actively painful. Jon Malin has two modes: questionably competent Liefeld imitation, and definitely-not-competent rough sketches of too-small characters. Mr. Malin was allowed/encouraged, for reasons beyond comprehension, to block out most of this issue in the second mode. The result is entirely too much of "the somnolescent adventures of five color-globs that look vaguely like Cable's team and Doop," and reading it is quite a chore.

5.0
Cable (2017) #153

Jul 27, 2018

Our narrative focuses on Gideon; the heroes spend the whole issue overcoming the goons/psychics/self-destructing-base trap he left for them. Gideon confronts Selene in a murdery fight scene that *really* embraces the Highlander rip-off-itude of the Externals; it's mighty disappointing that Ed Brisson didn't expend any scripting effort in crowbarring them away from their obvious inspiration. Jon Malin's art clocks in at his very best, which means generally unlovely but mostly-functional storytelling. At this point, the speed and forgettability of this arc and this issue are turning into positives. This story doesn't do much entertaining, but at least you can put it behind you quickly.

4.0
Cable (2017) #154

Sep 6, 2018

Cable and company polish off Gideon and the big kahuna paints this story as a successful Blink rescue mission. The script is workable on a nuts-and-bolts level, but it feels scared of investigating the Eternals at any depth beyond the most superficial. Jon Malin's art is Jon Malin's art. Personally I feel that ironic self-aware ineptitude is still ineptitude, and no amount of nostalgia justifies making comics this ugly. Cable's stick-guns are particularly bad; my grandpa sawed more convincing firearms out of scrap lumber for me when I was a kid.

9.0
Cable (2017) #155

Oct 8, 2018

A far more expressive Cable draws Hope into a father-daughter fight against Metus, a horrible shape-shifting techno-organic monster that's chased him for decades. Formidable character work and even more impressive art ennoble a plot that's twisty but just a little predictable. In a major departure from this title's previous brainless story arcs, this new looks like a very cerebral, very scary monster hunt.

9.0
Cable (2017) #156

Nov 10, 2018

The story rewinds to show an earlier Metus encounter during Hope's post-apocalyptic childhood. The transition from the last issue is rather jarring, but this flashback is surely not random. Insanely good art and adroit emotional work in the script make this a delightful - but still very spooky - read. Besides entertaining in its own right, this look at Cable's parental past ratchets up the stakes significantly for the coming showdown with Metus.

8.0
Cable (2017) #157

Dec 3, 2018

Cable teams up with X-Man and a bevy of AU Cables, but their attempt to corner Metus turns into a psychological thriller and ends badly for the good guys. This instalment delivered excellent tension, but I would have liked to keep the story focused tighter on the Cable-Hope relationship. I've developed a pretty certain prediction for the Big Twist in the story, but I hope there's at least one more surprise before the big finish.

10
Captain America (2017) #695

May 14, 2018

Cap sidles back into a little Nebraska town where he had one of his earliest adventures just after leaving the ice. The local Cap festival justifies some superb examination of Cap's legacy, and the very same white supremacist villains from his first visit try to stage a comeback, too. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee deliver a virtually-flawless interpretation of "legacy comic" here: It responds directly to Cap's recent history but also shows his essence in a way that's simply timeless. This comic raised 2-3 crops of delighted goosebumps as I read it. It is a profoundly and fundamentally Good comic, both in moral terms and with regards to storytelling skill.

9.0
Captain America (2017) #696

Jun 18, 2018

Cap's quiet heartland tour gets noisied up when an upstart legacy Swordsman catches wind of him and he has to fight to save Sauga River, Georgia. It's a fine straightforward fight in Chris Samnee's best style, and Mark Waid invests the script with wholesome "aw shucks" charm. Simple, but more powerful for it.

8.0
Captain America (2017) #697

Jul 11, 2018

Kraven kidnaps Cap and throws him into a Most Dangerous Game scenario with a few awesome twists. It's splendid fun, but when a surprise ongoing story starts up in the final scene, it's clearly taking over for a main story that's run out of steam a little early. This is still a blast - Chris Samnee's art is in top form - but it's not as epic as the last two issues.

8.0
Captain America (2017) #698

Sep 6, 2018

Cap's defrosted in a new future that badly needs a hero. The art does a superb job of selling the post-apocalyptic wasteland and Cap's heroic actions and the tough leadership of Liang, the resistance leader. It's the script that lets us down a little. Most of it is solid, but the action is put on hold for four pages so Liang can tell (not show) Cap how things got so messed up. This expo-dump finishes with a nice twist, but prior to that, it's too lazy and bitter. I'm already getting the feeling that this story was squeezed tighter than it should be so that it can wrap up with a big bow at #700.

8.0
Captain America (2017) #699

Sep 20, 2018

Cap's whirlwind assault on Rampart brings the Hulk and the Thing across his path before dropping him into an interesting conundrum at the end. The visuals are solid and the character work is executed with speedy skill, but the plot is rather threadbare. Even as you're reading it, you can feel this story racing towards becoming a minor wikipedia footnote in a few years' time. At least we get a tiny moment of well-executed confrontation that shows off the evil of Rampart/Babbington's "aristocrats are inherently better" rhetoric. And the art is gorgeous as ever. Like anybody with working eyeballs, I'd happily pay for an ongoing series called "Chris Samnee's Clever Fights."

7.0
Captain America (2017) #700

Nov 10, 2018

Running Post-Apocalyptic America breaks Cap, so he redeems himself by time-traveling back and cancelling the whole thing before it starts. Even the worn-out Cap who went through it all has to go; nobody at all remembers the Rampart Reality when it's done. This issue delivers great art and a fundamentally sound story, but the rush to conclude at the big round number was counterproductive. It ruined the pace. This issue just doesn't succeed at painting Cap as worn down by unending tragedy. All of his reactions and decisions feel influenced more by the page count than by what he goes through. I read the first few pages of this comic and then put it down for two days. That's really not a reaction I get from out-and-out good comics.

8.0
Captain America (2017) #701

Nov 25, 2018

Several centuries in the future, Cap's descendant confronts dangerous secrets lurking just beneath the surface of his shiny happy world. It's a thrilling story, but it's surprisingly exposition-heavy for an arc that'll reach four issues. Stellar usage of stellar guest art for the historical flashbacks counterbalances the somewhat weak characterization and scene-setting. The second flashback is Cap working for SHIELD in 1968 and I LOVE how flagrantly it flips the bird at the sliding timescale.

7.0
Captain America (2017) #702

Dec 3, 2018

Jack Rogers's story expands to include his fellow Historians. That part's pretty cool. Less cool are the steps taken to bend not just the flashbacks but also the main story toward "Cap vs. Red Skull and his Cosmic Cube" for the millionth time. Add in visuals that share the plot's downward trend and you have a slightly above-average issue that bodes ill for the future.

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #19

Oct 31, 2017

Rage's trial goes as bad as it could go. Riot time! Aside from happening with fictional quickness, every adversity this trial throws at Rage and Cap is depressingly realistic. It is a bit shortsighted of Cap to forget about catching the real culprits in Rage's burglary until the 11th hour. It makes him look absent-minded at best and at worst it suggests that Cap might be concentrating too much on identity politics.

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #20

Oct 31, 2017

What is Captain America's role when America itself, in all its fractured, intangible, contradictory fury, is the villain? Amazingly enough, things get worse and Sam's prospects get grimmer. This is an emotional freight train, but it falls short of being a must-read masterpiece on its own. This comic just sharpens up the theme of institutional injustice that's been building for the past two issues. It's a pressure cooker built to ensure that things get as dark as possible before this story concludes.

9.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #21

Oct 31, 2017

Sam Wilson decides he can't be Captain America anymore. Explaining Sam's decision requires a lot of recapping, of course, and that might tempt you toward a lower rating. But it's precisely because this is important that it needs such thorough justification. Both Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuña do brilliant work here. This retrospective on Sam's tenure beneath the shield is both powerful and subtle - and it may be laying the groundwork for a new teen Patriot that I'd love to see.

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #22

Dec 7, 2017

A nearly-beaten Sam decides to concentrate on shepherding the most vulnerable out of Hydrated America. There's a bit of a bitter "kick a man while he's down" feeling to Sam Wilson's latest tale. It's given full voice by Misty Knight, who offers the stinging assessment "if only we had a Captain America to fight them" on the Hydra takeover. Sam didn't have any shortage of guilt prior to her arrival, though. This is a perfect tie-in issue, showing exactly how and why Sam ends up as a refugee smuggler in the main event . Sean Izaakse's art helps ennoble the story a great deal; it really impressed me. This comic doles out a few more clues about the missing period between Hydra's Day Zero and the Secret Empire status quo: There was a "Battle of Chicago" that seems likely to be the place where Stevil hoisted the hammer.

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #23

Jan 5, 2018

Sam burns his Inhuman-smuggling bridges with the Mole Man in order to get the renegade Avengers out of Hydrated America. This is a fine comic, but it's clearly intended to be more "Secret Empire #3.5" than "CA: Sam Wilson #23." Sam is reduced to being a tour guide rather than the protagonist. Joe Bennett's old-school pencils give the whole exercise a classic feel and there's some solid humor regarding Mole Man's fave TV shows. This is a bit of a breather episode in the bigger, darker Secret Empire story. The way the title's drifting away from Sam suggests he's going to fade away rather than going out with a bang.

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #24

Feb 3, 2018

Sam straps on the shield one more time after three insightful conversations. This issue is twice removed from telling its own story; not only does it rely utterly on Secret Empire for plot, its scene structure is built to mirror this week's CA: Steve Rogers. And it's dangerously close to being a superfluous rehash before the new Patriot steps in and *finally* gives Sam some useful second thoughts on the whole "give up the shield" idea. Joe Bennetts' pencils make the book look crazy good, though it would have been nice to see his spandex-friendly style turned to a little more action.

7.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #25

Mar 11, 2018

Secret Empire #7.5: Emma Frost and T'Challa get jobbed hard and Stevil collects more Cosmic Cube fragments from them, but the tide continues to turn as the good guys get a shard of their own in the unlikeliest way imaginable. This issue is a ton of fun, but the plot developments here are wall-to-wall ridiculous. This is the key book a critic will beat you to death with if you try to argue that Secret Empire is more serious and grim than an average Marvel event. I'm fine with the ridiculosity, but I struck points off my rating here for the tragic art shift, the genericity of Sam's inspirational speech, and the ugly implication that Stevil survived Secret Empire #7 thanks to Cosmic Cube ☠☠☠☠-ery rather than Miles's heroism and Natasha's sacrifice.

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #10

Oct 31, 2017

Maria Hill goes slightly rogue, Sharon turns SHIELD over to Hydrated Cap, and Steve gets a gimme on killing Jack Flag. The best-written part of this story is the 1940 section, and that's a reheated stew of bits that were more memorable in their MCU incarnation in the first Cap movie. To extend the food metaphors, the art in this issue is suffering from serious "too many cooks" problems, with none of the modern parts measuring up to Jesus Saiz's 40s flashback.

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #11

Oct 31, 2017

Hydrated Cap puts Helmut Zemo in place as his Evil Bucky. This issue has some pretty momentous plot twists, though Cap does go on a bit too long in his "It ain't easy making the world safe for Hydra" inspirational mode while recruiting Zemo. I recognize that Nick Spencer is intentionally maintaining the ambiguity about Hydrated Cap - is it just his memories that have changed or does the whole world's past match them now? - but it's starting to get frustrating here. A few extra sentences from Zemo could clear the whole thing up, but this issue is artfully scripted to keep the reader guessing.

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #12

Oct 31, 2017

Surprising enemies rear up. How hard is Evil Cap going to have to fight for Hydra before he gets to take over the world? Nick Spencer tosses out a few fresh leads for the unending debate over exactly what Kobik has changed: just Cap's brain or the whole world? This issue's evidence is leaning heavily toward the latter. The art isn't bad, but it's definitely an inferior stand-in for Jesús Saiz's work. It's a necessary evil with this title's breakneck shipping schedule.

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #13

Oct 31, 2017

Zemo takes center stage as he assembles a huge Masters of Evil roster. For a title that seems like it's racing to squeeze in all the necessary preamble to Secret Empire, CA:SR sure likes to take its time. Zemo's recruitment drive occupies a full seven pages with minimal dialogue. The hurry is more evident in the plotting. Though Nick Spencer is trying to preserve ambiguity around a lot of key points, I think he's also accidentally obfuscating some parts by shortchanging them on page time.

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #14

Oct 31, 2017

Madam Hydra/Elisa Sinclair assembles her own Hydra faction. Is she gonna lay it at Steve's feet or …? Both artistically and narratively, this is a much more stylish presentation than the grab-bag of baddies Zemo rounded up in the last issue. The curse of Marvel Unlimited is that I'm already aware that Secret Empire is going to turn into a big dumb hero-vs-hero fight; the looming Hydra Civil War presented here is much more interesting to me.

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #15

Oct 31, 2017

In 1945, the Red Skull stole Hydra from Evil Steve's mentors. Now he returns the favor. The big moment here is Steve giving the Red Skull a mighty "I'm loyal to nothing except the dream" line - except this dream is Hydra triumphant! Geddit!?! After mulling it over, I've decided to call this "stolen gravitas." Nick Spencer is counting on Cap's heritage to cloak his Evil Cap story in a weight that it isn't quite earning on its own. This month's melodrama is accompanied by a few pages of fill-in art that make it very easy to slide my rating down a few points. This issue is especially disappointing when compared to the better-written, better-drawn Uncanny Avengers #22. Shame the recap page tells you to read that comic first.

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #16

Oct 31, 2017

Steve takes full command of Hydra and launches the organization against the world. There are a few silver linings (Kobik's out of Hydra's hands) but also an awful lot of bad news (Bucky and Dr. Selvig are apparently dead). This issue confuses "mature drama" with "relentless grimness" and it's pretty tough going. The smorgasbord of artists, including my anti-favorite Jon Malin, certainly doesn't help me buy into the drama. This sets a bad precedent for the upcoming event because it's momentous but not enjoyable; reading this feels like an obligation, a price I'm paying to get up to speed with Secret Empire. There are some emotional and thought-provoking scenes in here, but again, grim and poorly-illustrated.

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #17

Dec 3, 2017

An interview with Supreme Hydra Steve Rogers is equal parts informative and frightening. The interview conceit is an excellent way to gift-wrap "What's Up With Hydrated America, Part 1: Mutants and Inhumans." Besides updating us on those groups (got a "breakaway" republic that's actually a Hydra gimme and socked into concentration camps, respectively), this issue also features a heaping helping of Stevil's chilling #MakeHydraGreatAgain rhetoric. That rhetoric has a frighteningly seductive appeal - and it certainly sounds relevant (maybe even too relevant) in 2017. Strong dialogue and fascinating ideas, but the art is getting positively schizophrenic in its inconsistency and there are a few glimpses of Hydra's "Day Zero" takeover that are more infuriating than intriguing. Stevil hoisted Mjolnir? Picky modern Mother Storm Mjolnir which will not even consent to be lifted by Odin? And we're finding out about it in an incidental flashback panel?

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #18

Jan 5, 2018

Stevil visits Europe to do some fascistic trash-talking to the UN and gets cut off at the knees by T'Challa. Unfortunately, the rising surge of international resistance is too late to float Namor. We get a little bit of insight into why he decided to surrender his Kobik fragment to Stevil, but we're still hoping he has more devious plans. There're strong ideas and strong dialogue here, but there are also some artistic missteps mainly in the province of Andres Guinaldo. Steve - and others, like Emma Frost - are looking *way* too frazzled and middle-aged. It might be intentional, but it is definitely not pleasant to look at. This issue also features a montage of international heroes fighting Hydra that dances on the line between clever deep cutting and too-clever pandering.

7.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #19

Feb 3, 2018

Stevil ditches the American colors to put on Hydra green and has some frustrating (for him - us readers are delighted) conversations with the Odinson and Sharon. This contemplative script by Nick Spencer does a good job of unpacking Stevil's post-SE #7 state of mind - it's shaky as all hell. Sharon in particular scores some harsh points. This is a solid issue, but it's undeniably a supplement to the event without a plot of its own. Andres Guinaldo's art is a touch disappointing again as well.

6.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #125

May 7, 2018

Dr. Eve and shapeshifter Mim return to drag Carol into some cross-dimensional shenanigans. That's a wonderfully promising story; unfortunately, it occupies at most a third of this book. The rest is filled up with painfully flawed attempts at humor and characterization. Michele Bandini's art is as ever a bright spot. We don't need to touch the visuals or the main plot; they just deserve a script that displays a better (i.e. basically functional) sense of what is and isn't interesting to the reader. I would love to see Margaret Stohl explain why she thinks "Brand wants to go to a spa" is inherently hilarious. I think exploring just how divorced from reality she is on that point could produce a rich vein of Ricky Gervais-type cringe-humor.

2.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #126

Jun 9, 2018

While Captain Marvel grapples with a mark-1 Evil Mirror Universe, her antagonists are on an Indiana Jones trip designed to drag the Reality Stone into the story in preparation for the next Infinity Whatever. Margaret Stohl accidentally demonstrates how shabby Captain Marvel's post-CW2 status quo is by transreversing her supporting cast's personality traits; it turns out Evil Wendy, Puck, and Sasquatch are just as bland and uninteresting as their normal versions. Add in some remarkably terrible names for EM characters and some art that feels like Michele Bandini is losing his enthusiasm for the title and we've got a regrettable reading experience. "Evil Mirror Universe" is an evergreen premise for just about any hero, but this lackluster execution wastes it utterly. On the devil's advocate side, looking at the solicit reveals that this story must have taken a pretty large swerve away from Ms. Stohl's original intentions, and it must have done so late in the production process. Though that doesn't excuse the hard-to-follow nature of the plot, it does explain it. And another silver lining: Natasha Romanoff as a criminal superspy named "the Widower" is a pretty cool idea. I normally go with a 4/10 rating for "bless 'em they're trying their best" efforts, but there were a *lot* of extra negatives dragging this issue down. It has many dreadful moments with the potential to come back to you weeks or months later and remind you of what a bad read it was: "Lord Starkill" is a strong contender, "extra-orbital remote Quinjets" is another, and so is Ms. Stohl's belief that the moral inverse of "Captain" is "Corporal."

3.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #127

Jul 7, 2018

Carol and her Zetas go up against the Ravagers, the eeeeevil mirror universe equivalents of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Swapping Groot for a giant walking carrot called Root is, sadly, this issue's high-water mark. The fight goes sour because Carol loses her ability to take any of this nonsense seriously and goes into a giggle fit. Which is a pretty reasonable reaction, except for the fact that it's all being orchestrated by Margaret Stohl. It's dangerously close to her outright saying, "Can you believe Marvel pays me to write this crap? Why on earth do you pay to read it?" With forensic care, you could piece together a rational plot buried under this issue's cringe-provoking attempts at comedy. It's clear that the Infinity Stone content was wedged in sideways, but Ms. Stohl didn't put a lot of overtime into the effort to smooth out the joints and make the finished product easy to read. You know what this reminds me of? Carol's had plenty of sassy "Sex in the Super-City" conversations where she does funny banter with a pal like Spider-Woman or Jessica Jones. This arc would make a *perfect* crazy anecdote for Carol to tell in a situation like that: "He had a talking carrot named Root backing him, swear to God!" A few hundred words, tops, across two-three pages. It'd be perfect. Seeing it stretched across five issues by an author who doesn't really understand Carol or Marvel or comics or comedy is just bloody torture.

5.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #128

Aug 12, 2018

The Ravagers and Zetas run a poorly-conveyed scam on Thanos the Just. The implication, barely explored at all, that the 616 is considered a hell-dimension by AU folks like Good Thanos, is intriguing. The lesser plot threads - Thanos and Eve's mysterious quest for the Reality Stone - are much more promising than the main space pirate story. Can we hold the creators responsible for failing to recognize that? Hooo, yes. As usual, stellar art by Michele Bandini bravely hoists this issue out of trainwreck territory.

5.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #129

Sep 10, 2018

Carol hears and then thwarts Dr. Eve's plan in double quick time. The net effect is squirting her back into the 616 with a Reality Stone and a free (though still incorporeal) Bean. Here in the last lap, the script reveals a fair-ish skeleton shaping the action. Both plot and structure are sound. The tone is still woefully discordant. Scenes that are structured to be gut-bustingly funny end up pulling winces rather than laughs. There's also a dismal failure to understand which subjects will resonate with readers; this issue gives a full page of spotlight to a fight between AU Puck and AU Rocket over updating spaceship computers while far more promising topics, dramatic and comedic, remain under-explored. As has become this title's unfortunate SOP, superb artwork rescues a tremendously flawed script and keeps this final issue from being an all-out trainwreck.

6.0
Carnage (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

There are some gorgeous early pages of Chthon going absolutely ☠☠☠☠-house on cannon-fodder lizard-women. Then business has to turn to the inevitable day-saving courtesy of Jubulile. It works, Carnage gets captured, the team of heroes splits up. The art trails off considerably after the exhilarating high of the opening scenes. All of the more interesting characters we've met on this journey get shelved and Eddie Brock, of all people, steps into the "I'm the lynchpin character" spotlight.

7.0
Champions #5

Oct 31, 2017

The Champions fight a racist sheriff with the help of Gwenpool (not actually helpful). While it's a decent little adventure, Mark Waid is struggling in his quest to make this title accessible to all ages yet also real-world relevant. In this instance, the villain is a bit too gritty and real for the protagonists to get a proper super-heroic grip on, leading to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. Issue #3 was a much more daring collision between superheroics and real-world problems; in contrast, this outing seems tame and over-cautious.

6.0
Champions #6

Oct 31, 2017

The Champions sit around being cute, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Meanwhile, the Freelancers are strapping on a big ole boot. I'm still loving the character interactions in this team, but Mark Waid has *got* to move away from Captain Planet "Evil for the sake of Evil" villains. This title has a laudable message, but throwing the team against cartoonishly evil, inescapably fictional baddies weakens it considerably. While issue #3 had its flaws, it featured the Champions tackling real-world injustice and that is, to me, the whole point of the book.

6.0
Champions #7

Oct 31, 2017

The Champions fight furiously to protect their reputation from the Freelancers. Wait, seriously? This issue could spur an interesting debate about corporations co-opting socially-responsible ideas. The key points aren't effectively addressed in the comic, though. Worse yet, the more you think about the matter, the weaker this comic's plot looks. Kamala receives some very dubious characterization; would damage to her team's rep really move her to tears and uncontrolled violence? Many of these same themes are addressed in her solo series with infinitely more insight. As the final nail in the coffin, Humberto Ramos draws most of his young heroes as disquietingly-proportioned noodle-people.

6.0
Champions #8

Nov 9, 2017

It takes a full issue for the Champions to figure out a rather obvious counter to the Freelancers' brand hijacking. Also Viv gets hit with a truckload of character development and looks to be the focus for upcoming issues. Viv's story is fascinating, Sam gets a moment to shine, and there's a touch of nice bonding between Amadeus and Scott. Mark Waid still doesn't get Kamala, though. Starting the issue with her throwing a destructive six-page tantrum is not good. I also take issue with the pacing and lack of insight. Mr. Waid uses fakeouts and smash cuts to keep things shallow until Sam swoops in and solves the branding problem once the story has reached issue length. That whiffs strongly of filler. The issue's also embarrassingly full of pseudo-Millennial slang that rings completely false to me, even though I'm closer to Mr. Waid's age bracket than that of the book's intended audience.

8.0
Champions #9

Jan 5, 2018

A cute but shallow Viv-centric issue concentrates on introducing a new hero rather than fully unpacking the super-heavy baggage the young synthezoid is carrying. "Shallow" might feel unfair, particularly to newcomer Red Locust, but it does seem accurate. She could be heading great places in the future but for now, she's presented as the Edición Mexicana of the standard 2010's Plucky Marvel Girl. She and Viv bond over a very generic adventure that offers tiny glimpses into the Locust's past and tiny reflections of Viv's own daughter-father relationship. It's a tale told well, but as others have pointed out, the Champions are close to finishing up a full year of comics and it seems to be all prologue. Humberto Ramos's art is back up to full strength, at least; the chance to flex his design chops in creating the Red Locust has inspired him to greatness.

7.0
Champions #10

Jan 8, 2018

A short Champions team tangles with an Inhuman internment camp. Humberto Ramos's art is mostly great, barring some places where seeking detail results in confusion. Some of the characterization rubs me the wrong way: Should Miles be so hot-headed? Should Viv be so passive? And like many issues of the Champions, this one presents a moral conundrum that can, with a simplistic read, look extremely bad: One of the Inhumans argues in favor of surrendering liberty in exchange for the relative safety of internment (for the children's sake, of course). It gets loathsome because 11 pages earlier, the same Inhuman watched a Hydra robo-guard *incinerate* two teen Inhumans who were discussing escape. What kind of "relative safety" is that? Let us be charitable and assume that Mark Waid is challenging his young readers to carry the moral debate through its next steps. Or let us be harsh and say he's just scoring cheap awareness points by lazily steering his heroes and readers past important debates without daring to really engage with them. Whichever way you lean, it's certainly a more interesting discussion than whether Emma Frost looks better in a black costume or a white one. (The answer's white, BTW.)

8.0
Champions #11

Feb 12, 2018

The Champions team up with a clutch of other teen heroes to search, almost entirely without success, for Las Vegas survivors. Mark Waid's script includes some valiant stabs at tragic characterization; it's the one made with Amadeus Cho, of all people, that *really* strikes the mark. This issue pins an alarmingly high and specific number of fatalities on the airstrike Stevil ordered - nearly 700,000 people died in Vegas. Though that's sobering, one of the team's responses - to construct a hypothetical strawman who's willing to condone/ignore this genocidal act and then rip on that strawman - is misguided and cowardly. Their rage at Stevil and Hydra is a much better response; I wish Mr. Waid had focused solely on that and explicitly tied it to the kids' willingness to throw in with Natasha's assassination plans in the wider event.

8.0
Champions #12

Mar 30, 2018

A one-shot fight against Psycho-Man unfilters all of Cyclops's emotions. The manic portions are cheesy comedy, but Mark Waid strikes a rich vein of heartbreak in writing Scott's darker moments. Humberto Ramos's art is a little uneven, but the attention lavished on some crowd fights toward the end shows that this issue doesn't actually have a net shortage of artistic effort. Overall it's well above average, and Cyclops's pain provides an sharp emotional hook that will help a lot of readers fall in love.

7.0
Champions #13

May 3, 2018

The global day-saving efforts of the Champions and Avengers don't slow down the still-mysterious plans of the High Evolutionary. It's a little frustrating that the HE's lackey gives this busy issue a cliché "your efforts are too late, moo hoo hoo ha" conclusion. Mark Waid's script starts pretty brilliant but runs out of steam halfway through. From the Shanghai scene onward, both the problem-solving and character interactions feel very dull. Humberto Ramos's art is scrumptiously vibrant throughout; this is a very pretty comic.

6.0
Champions #14

Jun 9, 2018

Viv's a human now, the High Evolutionary gets beat, there's still more heroing to do. In all the crush and hoo-ha, Mark Waid thoroughly lost the thread of strongly-voiced team collaboration that made the Champions special. This is just a nigh-random assembly of Avengers and Junior Avengers taking turns reciting alternating "smart guy" and "tough guy" lines on the road to saving the Earth from an utterly clichéd doom. Even Humberto Ramos's art can only do so much to ennoble this blah story, and everything in this issue beyond the dramatic change in Viv's status quo pops out of your head like a disposable turkey thermometer as soon as you close the book.

7.0
Champions #15

Jul 6, 2018

Maxi-salt mini-reaction: Hey, the High Evolutionary is "pure electronica" now! Break out the molly and the glowsticks! UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ! Viv's "death" ends up shorter than a Brian Michael Bendis fight scene. While the Wasp looks on in dismay, Vision activates a "backup" synthezoid Viv. Human Viv escapes from an under-explored weirdo zone where she was briefly trapped with the High Evolutionary. All of these metaphysical adventures are fascinating, and they tempted me toward a higher rating. But the reason we don't learn enough about Viv is because this issue *also* burns a lot of pages on the stupidest, eyeball-rollingest, most disappointing conclusion to the Avengers crossover *imaginable* - a big pointless hero vs. hero argument. It's a giant waste and Mark Waid even explicitly draws our attention to how he leaves matters unfinished between the two teams. At least Humberto Ramos's art is impressive throughout; the digital High Evolutionary looks cool and Vision's Frankenstein basement is marvelously creepy.

7.0
Champions #16

Jul 27, 2018

While Viv goes through a creepy sequel to the last Vision series, her teammates hunt up replacements for her. This issue has a shotgun blast of a script, peppering in some absolute brilliance (Viv's scenes, the coyote scene) along with some rock stupidity (Kamala thinking Spider-Gwen - whom she MET recently - is made up, Amadeus and Riri talking in really trivial math). The art team works hard to elevate things. The Champions sections are classic Humberto Ramos, solid and appealing; the Viv portions are cleverly tweaked (more shadow inking, less-saturated colors) to evoke the look of the Vision series.

8.0
Champions #17

Sep 20, 2018

Viv 2.0 goes full-blown murderous bonkers sooner than anticipated. The Viv-on-Viv conflict is so tense and creepy that it pulls this issue up way past average despite the forgettability of the rest of the team's antics. It's interesting that all the best Champions stories so far have spotlit single team members; why can't the creators make the team as a whole compelling? As seen here, the issue extends to the visuals as well as the scripts; panels with just one or two characters are orders of magnitude better than those with big crowds.

8.0
Champions #18

Oct 8, 2018

Viv concludes her doppelganger story and the roster finally changes as Cyclops says a touching goodbye. Those pieces are outstanding. This issue is a farewell to the original creative team, too, and it reflects some of their weaknesses as well as their strengths. In several panels, the Champions become an amorphous blob of gangly teen limbs. At the worst point, the blob even speaks with one eerie, communal voice. It's a visual demonstration of these creators' failure to forge the Champions into a real ensemble. Also, Mark Waid can't resist one last chance to cast aspersions on Kamala by writing her an over-fragile "boo hoo hoo" response when Cyclops takes off. Sigh.

8.0
Champions #19

Nov 10, 2018

Arctic mysteries await the Champions. For now, attention is focused on superb character dynamics and the team's snazzy new super-science ride. The dynamics are all-time great; the Big Blue Brick is just there. The development of the plot suffers from the pages lovingly devoted to the BBB. I think the creators got hung up on the question "How do we get the Champions to the Arctic?" early on in the brainstorming process. Outside of the attention they lavish on their answer, they're doing terrifically promising things with the Champions.

8.0
Champions #20

Dec 3, 2018

The Champions fall afoul of the Master of the World, who ties them up in a "what do we do when baddies do good stuff?" conundrum. Meanwhile, local girl Amka is tooling up towards becoming a hero herself. Truly beautiful artwork and impeccable characterization make this a delight. The cliffhanger undercuts #20 a little by promising bigger and better things to come, though.

9.0
Champions #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

A kaiju attack interrupts the Champions' introduction to their evil counterpart team, the Freelancers. Jeremy Whitley does his best Dennis Hopeless impression and turns in a funny if slightly overstuffed script. Ro Stein and Ted Brandt do amazing art that resembles a Saturday morning Disney cartoon (ooh, I'm dating myself) in entirely positive ways. This is exactly what an all-ages comic book should look (and sound) like. It's also the only Monsters Unleashed issue so far that has real bearing on its main title. The Freelancers introduced here - the evil money-grubbing FYGM nemeses for the Champions - will play an important part in future issues.

8.0
Civil War II: The Oath #1

Oct 31, 2017

Hydrated Cap gloats over Tony and reverse-psychologizes Carol. Here comes Secret Empire. This is effectively a bonus issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers (Read CA:SR #10 first), and it really doubles down on the ugly yet frighteningly seductive rhetoric that motivates Hydrated Cap. The only thing holding this book back is its grab-bag of artists. Do *not* let multiple people contribute pages to an issue that's aiming for a "painterly" style. The result is inevitably less than the sum of the parts, and even handing the entire book over to the weakest of the artists would deliver better results than this mishmash.

7.0
Cloak and Dagger (2018) #1

Aug 6, 2018

This new series delivers a decent precis on Cloak & Dagger and their respective powers, establishes them as broken up but SO primed to get back together, and kicks off a sinister mystery that looks like but surely isn't Cloak's powers going haywire. Dennis Hopeless's script is a touch simple but executed with solid skill, and the art team under David Messina contributes strong visuals in the Stuart Immonen mold. A decent introduction to the characters, though the story probably isn't headed towards all-time greatness. While I'm not bowled over by the content here, the pricing and medium are impeccable: If you're gonna release a TV show cash-in comic, a digital issue a buck cheaper than a paper edition is the way to go.

7.0
Damnation: Johnny Blaze - Ghost Rider #1

Oct 8, 2018

Johnny Blaze has died and gone to Hell. Turns out, that's just step one in a bigger plan. He's separated from the Spirit of Vengeance, so the two of them have to collaborate. Johnny's voice and the Spirit relationship are handled very well. The art does great with Johnny's face, but the action-packed Hell roadtrip falls a little outside Phil Noto's wheelhouse. This book is also held back by a sense that most of the obstacles in the protagonists' way are arbitrary thoughts dreamed up mainly to keep the front and rear covers far enough apart. It sure is pleasing to see Johnny's death given meaning, though.

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

Daredevil whips a super-serum out of Bullseye while also tackling existential philosophy. This two-parter (with the previous issue) is just stellar storytelling. It grapples nicely with core Daredevil questions like "why be a hero?" Bullseye turned out to be a bit of a MacGuffin delivery service, but the questions Matt asks himself here are top notch.

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

Daredevil begins telling the story of how he got his secret identity back. I really don't want to spoil anything here, because there's a freight train of a twist and it's executed really well. Try to skip the solicit before reading this one. The rest of the writing is great too, neatly encapsulating Matt's post-secret-identity life and his problems with it.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

Matt continues his confession up to the point where he falls into the Purple Man's clutches. I am fully sold on the story and the way it's being told - in words. When it comes to the art, I'm not convinced that this is "intentionally, stylishly messy" rather than "lazy/rushed/inept messy."

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

With the Purple Man slinging existential questions at him, Daredevil experiences a moment of identity clarity. This issue features an awesome allegory of Matt Murdock drinking in a bar with all the past iterations of Daredevil. Serpentine Killgrave asks him what's the worst thing he could do. After soul-searching that brilliantly manifests itself as several great DD-on-DD brawls, he strikes his answer. What's the worst thing Daredevil could do? Watch the world burn and do nothing. This is the turning point of the "Purple" arc, and though there's one issue to go, the question of how Hornhead got his secret identity back is already practically answered.

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #20

Nov 25, 2017

Matt polishes off his confession with a satisfying explanation of how he regained his secret identity and turns at last to his future. Though there are few surprises left in the plot (with one big exception), the characterization throughout this issue is great. It feels like a well-fitted capstone on top of the title to date. Though I'm not a big fan of Ron Garney's art - he'll always be filed under "similar to Frank Miller and JRJR yet not as good" in my mind - I can recognize he's served up some excellent layouts here.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #21

Jan 5, 2018

A legal drama bombshell is set off with a rather forgettable villain-foiling. Luke Cage and Echo lend a hand so that Daredevil can get a d-list mook arrested and try some new legal trickery on him. This arc has strong "wow, this is epic" potential, but this opening gambit is not going to be the highlight. Charles Soule deploys some nice pacing and artfully conceals his future plot points to give us a solid twist ending. Goran Sudzuka's art is competent but doesn't even try to jump the bar into memorability. To rate this issue above average requires a touch of charity and a lot of faith in the writer's scripting skills.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #22

Jan 5, 2018

Daredevil's day in court devolves into an acrobatic fight - big surprise! This 80%-serious look at how superheroes might mesh with a real-world legal system is mostly great, let down by just a few lapses into comic book logic. Goran Sudzuka's flat art sustains the story without earning much notice, and Charles Soule's dialogue is similarly unremarkable. The plot unfolding here is fascinating, though, and it makes both this issue and the whole arc well worth a read.

6.0
Daredevil (2015) #23

Jan 15, 2018

The Kingpin brings legal and criminal muscle to bear. Jen Walters in Hulk mode helps with the latter, but what's Matt going to do about the former? Guest artist Alec Morgan's work lowers the quality of this comic significantly. If Mr. Morgan had been on the job longer and made his style an integral part of the Daredevil experience, it *might* be tolerable. Getting blindsided with this cheap Nick Pitarra imitation is a painful slap to readers already dizzied by the high-stakes game of artist roulette this title has played in the past. The unpleasant visuals spoil some fascinating legal and extra-legal storytelling; this issue might have been all-time great if it looked better.

5.0
Daredevil (2015) #24

Jan 27, 2018

Matt reconciles with Foggy as he faces legal reverses. At least Tombstone's pathetically easy to fend off! The reconciliation scene is great, but it absolutely did not need a full issue. The Tombstone fight is particularly forced. I *really* feel condensing #23-24 into one script and then passing it to a better artist would have been the right choice here.

6.0
Daredevil (2015) #25

Mar 11, 2018

Matt Murdock (and Charles Soule) have spun this whole "let superheroes testify in court" case up onto the point of a knife in order to maximize the drama of the final decision. While this issue does reveal that decision, exactly what it's going to mean to Matt, Daredevil, New York, and the rest of the Marvel Universe is still very much a mystery. The script presents fascinating ideas and some great dialogue, and it definitely deserves better than Alec Morgan's woeful art. But this isn't a case of flawless words assassinated by bad visuals; even with better (i.e. competent) art, there would still be some weaknesses in this script.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #26

Mar 30, 2018

A slow segue draws Matt out of New York crime-busting and into mystical ninja-fighting in China. The slow pace gives Charles Soule plenty of time to do good character work, and Ron Garney is back to deliver superb fighting along with some impressive vistas. On their own the villains for this arc look underwhelming, but the last-page twist promises interesting developments to come.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #27

Apr 20, 2018

With Daredevil captured, Blindspot gives him a comprehensive "how I went good then bad" autobiography. Matt is in a tight spot - and not just because his apprentice knows his secret identity now! This is such a satisfying recap that it just solidifies my belief that the first nine issues of this title are skippable; Blindspot tells you everything you need to know here. Ron Garney's deceptively simple art goes past mere storytelling to make a positive contribution to the issue's mood.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #28

May 7, 2018

Blindspot's mom is so callously selfish that she drives him back to heroing, saving Daredevil in the nick of time. It's a fast conclusion that does a good job of pulling Blindspot back into the heroic fold, and Ron Garney's art rises at a few points out of "good" all the way to "epic." It's eminently satisfying but just a tiny bit too quick and comprehensive; the pivot into the Mayor Fisk plot feels rushed. I'm hoping Sam sticks around; the "you really matter" message this arc sends him will be severely undercut if he fades into limbo again.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #595

May 21, 2018

The curtain's peeled back on Wilson Fisk as mayor of New York City. The Trump parallels are undeniable, but it's a story that holds up on its own. Charles Soule's script is plot-heavy and characterization-light, which works. Stefano Landini's art is striving for clean storytelling and mostly succeeds, but there's something nebulously cold in the visuals that matches the intellectual feel of the script.

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #596

Jun 23, 2018

Mayor Fisk draws a police dragnet around Daredevil, but that's nothing compared to his plans for Matt Murdock. Charles Soule starts with a thrilling chase and enhances it with a host of impressive callbacks and foreshadowings. Stefano Landini does a sterling job following the rapid pace and providing impressive scenery, and his character stylings evoke a terrific Eduardo Risso vibe. It's a great story on its own, and the solid tie-ins to important characters from earlier in this volume add so much depth that this issue easily lands in all-time great territory.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #597

Jul 27, 2018

The ramifications of Deputy Mayor Matt Murdock are explored at great length and Daredevil gets pointed toward another run-in with Muse. It's a story told with considerable skill but not a lot of urgency. Stefano Landini's art is still impressive, but this issue invites me to point out his talent for conserving talent. A few good backgrounds and a few sharp faces earn a lot of goodwill; there are a surprising number of bland panels and potato-people when you take a closer look. The ongoing arc still feels momentous, but I doubt this is going to be a high point in retrospect.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #598

Aug 18, 2018

Muse takes aim at Mayor Fisk in a serial killer artist vein as Matt Murdock & Daredevil pursue more superhero-y solutions. This is a stylish chapter with a scalpel-clever script. The pacing is a little iffy, though, with Muse's scene at the end (his NYPD fight in particular) getting shortchanged in the rush to squeeze so much into this issue. It does a good job of ratcheting up the stakes and pushing the plot forward, but this issue isn't a payoff in its own right.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #599

Sep 6, 2018

Daredevil spends the whole issue obsessing over Fisk. Wilson successfully blamed Muse's cop killing on the Punisher and Matt can't abide the abuse of truth and justice. (2018 POLITICAL ALLEGORY AHOY!) His obsession ends up hurting Blindspot when the younger hero impatiently confronts Muse on his own. This is a deeply engaging story, but it's progressing slowly and with less memorable writing than it deserves. The art is likewise compromised; the structure is impeccable but the finishes are terribly sketchy.

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #600

Oct 8, 2018

Daredevil's plan to take down Fisk goes awry, Blindspot triumphs over Muse in a Bad Way, and a one-two smasher of a twist ending drops a whole new maze of problems onto the title going forward. The plot is magnificent, as are the visual layouts. The finishes remain sketchy, but there's a confident poetry in the lively linework. The B story celebrates Foggy Nelson. Fair enough, but it doesn't say much/enough about WHY Foggy's worth celebrating. The two monster twists are an excellent way to celebrate hitting #600, though at least one of them arrives with instant questions about how it could possibly make any sense.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #601

Nov 10, 2018

Mayor Murdock takes charge as the Hand assaults NYC. It's plot-heavy and the developments are interesting enough to carry the issue by themselves. Some impressively clean art helps, though the character proportions have me ever so slightly worried.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #602

Dec 3, 2018

The Hand's motive and modus for attacking New York are still unclear; Matt and Sam get into a guilt-o-matic squabble over whose fault it might be. Besides that, this issue showcases plenty of good first steps being taken by both mayor Matt Murdock and Daredevil. The strong, simple faces sketched in the mayor's office scenes are wonderfully expressive, and the rear half balances the talking with plenty of action. There are good roles for Foggy and Blindspot to play, too. This issue is surprisingly light given the "demon ninja" plot it's handling, but it's a consistently fun read.

7.0
Daredevil (2015) #603

Dec 16, 2018

Daredevil's plans to defend against the Hand look mighty questionable, and that's before the Beast releases a cloud of Green Yick over the city. The plot barrels along speedily, but Matt comes off unlovably smug in both words and art. The initial Elektra scene offers some wonderfully choreographed action.

7.0
Darkhawk (2017) #51

Jun 18, 2018

Chad Bowers and Chris Sims turn this issue into a public audition to meld Chris "Darkhawk" Powell into Gerry Duggan's current run on Guardians of the Galaxy. It might be a tremendous treat for passionate Darkhawk fans, but that's not me. As an ignoramus on the subject, I found this a thorough introduction - maybe too thorough, but pretty compelling. I think it pulled the curtain a little too far back for a one-shot: Yeah, Powell's complex relationship with his father could be developed into a nice parallel to mentoring the semi-independent Razor in an ongoing series. It weighs this single issue down too heavily, though. Kev Walker's art is superb for the gritty story of Officer Powell; I'm not sure he'd be the right long-term artist if the story heads in a strictly Cosmic direction.

6.0
Deadpool & The Mercs For Money (2016) #8

Oct 31, 2017

Negasonic Teenage Warhead punches the reset button on her bad fix for the IvX conflict. Just how powerful is she? This little alternate future folds up with the rather depressing suggestion that the IvX conflict is/was inevitable. There's some nice characterization with Wade and some decent art to appreciate; overall this is a satisfying two-part tie-in tale.

4.0
Deadpool & The Mercs For Money (2016) #9

Oct 31, 2017

The Mercs make a hash out of trying to steal Shiklah's monster wand. This issue was a disappointing lesson for me: There's no such thing as a sure thing. I would have sworn that Christopher "Gwenpool" Hastings scripting a comedy book was guaranteed gold, but this issue is packed with unfunny humor and dull plot developments. Iban Coello's art is a silver lining, though. I will never like the ridiculous boobs he's given Domino, but he draws a whole lot of monster wackiness here and he does it with commendable talent.

8.0
Deadpool & The Mercs For Money (2016) #10

Oct 31, 2017

The heroes undo a bunch of Shiklah's schemes. That's great, except that they've delivered a romance-minded Dracula to a very receptive Monster Bride. Whoops. This is the first installment of this event I've really enjoyed. I think a big part of it is *finally* giving Christopher Hastings a full comic's worth of plot to work with; he adds plenty of humorous embellishments to this eventful adventure. Iban Coello's art game is also in top form, and beautiful visuals help a great deal to make this comic fun.

4.0
Deadpool (2015) #25

Oct 31, 2017

Deadpool 2099 finishes up with several answered questions and a few dangling plot threads. Warda gets reined in by having electronic Preston installed in her head, Deadpool tells the story of Shiklah's last stand - sort of - and Ellie's mutant power is revealed. The art has slid out of parody into straight 90s cheese and the writing is strictly forgettable. Sorry that this is mostly summary. It's just such a "meh" comic!

6.0
Deadpool (2015) #26

Oct 31, 2017

Madcap ruins Deadpool's Valentine's Day. Let it be a testament to talented creators that even though I am sick unto total death of Madcap, this was still a pretty entertaining read. Taut pacing with plenty of plot twists helped a great deal. I kinda wish we got the Rogue appearance the lying solicit promised us, though.

7.0
Deadpool (2015) #27

Oct 31, 2017

Phil Coulson watches Steve Rogers handle some very suspicious time-travelers with Deadpool's help. As Secret Empire #-1 starring Phil Coulson, this isn't a half bad comic. As a part of Deadpool's ongoing story it's a hot load of nonsense, though. Deadpool is a star exhibit in the case against double-shipping. It feels like story, art, and characterization have all been compromised significantly to pump out more issues faster.

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #28

Oct 31, 2017

Shiklah just can't take Deadpool anymore, so it's time for a breakup. Also an apocalyptic monster vs. humans war, wuh-oh. Wouldn't it be great if *this* apocalyptic monster war had something to do with the *other* apocalyptic monster war going on in Monsters Unleashed? Oh Marvel, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I think this issue has a slight misalignment between its tone ("wacky Deadpool marriage hijinks") and its plot ("monsters take Manhattan"), but it's certainly a lot of fun. Strong, clean art by Salva Espin helps.

6.0
Deadpool (2015) #29

Oct 31, 2017

The Deadpool/Shiklah breakup is finalized, gigantic property damage is downplayed, and the crossover ends with a sad trombone noise. This event wasn't worth putting three series on hold. There are some decent one-liners here and Salva Espin's art is excellent, but the plotting, pacing and characterization feel quite flawed. Gerry Duggan's way of writing Spidey is to dial Deadpool down from "R" to "PG," and the "character development" offered for Shiklah and Wade is more of a "enh, let's wrap this up already" surrender than a dramatic and satisfying change.

6.0
Deadpool (2015) #30

Nov 17, 2017

This rather indulgent "Deadpool's Guide to the Galaxy" vacation produces a novel solution to Wade's Madcap problem: He's gonna sell him to the Collector. It's two issues' worth of funny stretched over four issues' worth of pages, and all in all, it's not something I'm eager to ever read again. Most of it was "LOL Memes" Deadpool at his most forgettable, and Gerry Duggan roundly ignored the opportunity to provide some backstory on the new Nova Corps. That feels appropriate for a silly Deadpool book, but also a bit frustrating. Mike Hawthorne's endlessly adequate art gets slightly notable when an Asgardian interlude lets him briefly imitate Russell Dauterman.

9.0
Deadpool (2015) #31

Dec 7, 2017

Wade commits the eighth deadly sin: Choosing the Wrong Side. I don't want to spoil how this plays out, though the cover is strongly suggestive. How serious are things getting? Cap asks Deadpool to can the humor on this mission, and Wade complies. Even though his faith in Cap starts off absolute - as he says, "who's ever said 'Cap is on the wrong side of this' and been right?" - he recognizes by the end of the issue that he's made some soul-mangling choices on Stevil's orders. A brilliant look at grim deeds with a powerful script and very nice art; Gerry Duggan has written exactly the sort of tricky morality riddle that a high-concept event like "Cap turns evil" makes possible.

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #32

Jan 5, 2018

A paternal Deadpool is working as a Hydra enforcer and developing some serious second thoughts. Gerry Duggan adds in rock-solid links between Wade's personal experiences with his daughter and the renegades he's supposed to be hunting down for Supreme Hydra Stevil. We also get some nice worms-eye glances at how Hydrated America is working. Why is Deadpool flying around in a Battlestar Galactica Viper, though?

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #33

Jan 27, 2018

Dadpool and Ellie have a Serious Talk about life under Hydra and a fascinating flashback story about Preston and Deadpool on Day Zero kicks off. This flashback story is even more interesting than the main tale of Hydrated Deadpool - which remains plenty interesting in itself. The family drama (crossed with super-spy drama!) unfolds with real weight. Artwise, the storytelling duties are carried off capably but I've got a hard-to-define sense that this issue could be stronger visually. For one thing, I think the restricted palette used to set off the flashback scenes is way too brutal.

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #34

Feb 3, 2018

While present-day Deadpool runs a wacky prison scheme with the Trapster, past Deadpool compounds his sins in a flashback showdown with Preston. Some very dark moments nuzzle up to some fine comedy, and the tag-team art by Matteo Lolli and Mike Hawthorne displays it all serviceably. The plot is suddenly jam-packed with mysteries, but I have faith in Gerry Duggan's ability to circle back to his foreshadowing in later issues.

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #35

Mar 11, 2018

For those of you who didn't connect the dots between Deadpool #34 and Secret Empire #8, Gerry Duggan does it for you while also singing a swan-song for Deadpool's days as an Avenger. Superb - if pretty depressing - character work elevates this issue above average and gives Deadpool's Secret Empire story a rather more meaningful end than the main event received.

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #36

Mar 30, 2018

Deadpool wraps up one volume and prepares for another. It involves a lot of arson, and that speaks eloquently to Wade's current mood. We're back to bleak outlooks and black humor. While this transitional issue setting up Despicable Deadpool is nicely executed, it doesn't go too far out of its way to distinguish itself. Art and characterization are both incremental, building on what's come before and pointing down into a grim new chapter for Wade's life.

6.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #1

Jan 15, 2018

Deadpool is getting mind-controlled into quite a lot of hero murders. Can an all-star detective squad take him down? The most promising part of this story is the least-expected one: The detective squad is surprisingly well-written and their chemistry is fascinating. The "Deadpool killing heroes" content, though, leaves a lot to be desired. We've got a shockingly high body count but the number of *memorable* deaths is low. And for an AU Deadpool book, the fourth wall is remarkably solid so far. The "From Zagreb With Love" art team (Dalibor Talajic and Goran Sudzuka) plays some nice stylistic tricks to distinguish Deadpool's POV from our view of the "real" world, but they are a little too successful at making that real world look ugly and grim. I can see this book disappointing a *lot* of different expectations, but there just might be an interesting story in it anyway.

6.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #2

Jan 27, 2018

Deadpool lays waste to a lot of spider-people while the detective squad chasing him gains an interesting operative. There are little twists to this story of Wade getting OML'ed that make it interesting, but each positive is counterbalanced by some bit of weakness. Cool guest star and intriguing plot? Aha, but the dialogue's dreadful. Awesome fantasy scenes featuring Babysitter-Pool and a fruit pie eating contest? Aha, but many of the character designs are horrible and the fight scenes are woefully stiff. Like a lot of Marvel's less-enjoyable current series, this feels like a first draft effort fast-tracked into the market by an uncaring editorial team.

4.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #3

Mar 11, 2018

Deadpool's killing spree starts to whittle down the detective squad tracking him, but the violence is starting to lose what little shreds of novelty it had. Ugly art and a dull script that requires liberal application of the idiot stick to the heroes' heads to make the plot work. It's an awful lot of "meh" to wade through for a payoff that's leaning too far toward "this is what Deadpool did at the start of the OML timeline."

4.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #4

Mar 11, 2018

Deadpool unceremoniously caps the Detective Squad chasing him along with a lot of heavy hitters. Gwenpool provides a vital twist that turns Wade against his puppet-masters. This issue features some more threadbare stylistic allusions in the art, many of which are used to conceal the deaths of underage heroes - a smart decision but not a brave one. Forgettable execution of a threadbare premise leaves us wondering yet again what the point of this exercise is.

4.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #5

Apr 7, 2018

Deadpool turns on the badguys up to and including the Red Skull. The end of this miniseries lands him in some very Logan-esque territory, and while there's a certain conclusiveness to the way the plot wraps up, the payoff is by no means big enough to justify all the pages spent in the journey. Not only is it the capstone to a profoundly unnecessary series, but it's a *generic* one that has minimal bearing on the past four issues of hero-killing. The Talajic/Sudzuka/Mrva art closes on a realistic, gory indie note. There's nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't have a hope of elevating Cullen Bunn's forgettable script.

6.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #1

May 3, 2018

Deadpool and OML are randomly (*really* randomly) thrown into a bog-standard "dangerous new mutant on the run" story. It starts with a slow-paced but brilliant "crosses the line twice" joke that establishes a notably high visual bar; Mike Henderson and colorist Lee Loughridge deliver great art throughout. As the script unfolds, though, it becomes clear that Declan Shalvey is struggling to merge an absurdist sense of humor with a fast-paced plot, and his attempt ends up hurting both. Even worse, he can't find a strong voice for either Wade or Logan. Besides sounding "off," their comedy chops stink, and that's a pretty big problem for a title that wants to be silly.

7.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #2

Jun 9, 2018

Deadpool and Logan tumble through an expository chase sequence that makes all the actors and the stakes clear, leaving us about where we should have been at the end of #1: Omega teleporter girl being chased by corporate goon squad, go! The pace is badly flawed, as is Declan Shalvey's take on Deadpool, but Mike Henderson's art is a big silver lining. This is a notably gorgeous take on a "chase da new mutant" script that any Marvel fan could write in their sleep.

8.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #3

Jul 6, 2018

Deadpool and Logan fall into the clutches of the Genericorp baddies along with Maddie. Declan Shalvey's grip on the characters finally becomes adroit, and their interactions are highly entertaining in a snarky MCU-type way. Mike Henderson's art continues to satisfy with elegant simplicity and Lee Loughridge's colors add depth. The villains and the setup are a bit too simplistic to call this all-time great, but it's definitely a fun little read. This issue pulls the series up to "top discount bin pick" or "lazy Sunday Marvel Unlimited read," and it won't be too hard to keep it there for a few more issues. On the "blah"-ness of the antagonists, though: I'm consciously choosing to think of them as "Genericorp" and their lead baddie as "Mr. Badguy" because I know with terrible certainty that they're never, ever, going to matter outside of this series. And inside it, their only role is to handle the kidnapping and getting-shot-and-snikt-ed duties because somebody's gotta do it.

7.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #4

Jul 27, 2018

Maddie and her heroes navigate themselves out of the clutches of Genericorp, but uncovering some Horrible Mystery turns Logan against the idea of freeing her and puts the "vs" back in Deadpool vs. OML. It will surely be justified in the final issue, but for now the sight of Logan - LOGAN! - arguing "this young mutant girl is too dangerous to be free" is horrible. The art continues to delight in a minimal/brutal way, but I'm losing the few shreds of faith I had in any of this being memorable enough to stick in my mind after I've finished the series.

5.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #5

Sep 6, 2018

In a huge anticlimax, Wade and Logan discover they've been played by the "innocent" girl. And that's it. No satisfying closure. I suppose releasing a brand-new villain into the wilds of the Marvel universe is kind of productive. The creators were sorely mistaken in thinking that stretching a first act out across five issues would produce a complete story, though. I still love the art, but it's dragged so far down by this anchor of a script that I'm really struggling to think of another comic where words and pictures were so far apart on the quality spectrum.

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #1

Oct 31, 2017

Frank and Wade face off over a brilliantly inventive plotline. Rock-solid, brutal gunplay is backdropped with some outstanding settings here. The characterization on our two leads is also handled very well, building up great parallels in their thought processes. I've never been much of a fan of either guy and I'm suffering from serious Deadpool overload right now, but I gotta respect a book put together this well.

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #2

Nov 4, 2017

The Punisher starts using Wade as a trick sidekick. Turns out when Deadpool wakes up from getting shot in the head, he can't quite remember that he's feuding with Frank. This arrangement sorta uses up the issue's allotment of clever, and the rest of the story is formulaic "Wacky Deadpool" hijinks (fighting the absurd Dia de los Muertos-themed Don of the Dead) with the Punisher hanging around to provide a sardonic counterpoint. The Bank is turning some wheels to save his own butt further down the line and it's hard to tell where this title is headed. I really hope it all turns out satisfying in the end.

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #3

Nov 25, 2017

Taskmaster takes on the key villain role as the Deadpool/Punisher team-up rolls onward. While this issue's revelations are fascinating and surprising, they don't *quite* blend into the previous issues. The humor is back up to top quality and there are more than enough cool twists to build anticipation for the next installment. There's also an outstanding chase/fight going on here, capably illustrated by Pere Pérez's smart layouts and clean lines.

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #4

Dec 7, 2017

Punisher and Deadpool team up to defeat Taskmaster and save the innocent kid. So heartwarming! And then Wade celebrates by shooting Frank in the head. Um, that sentence gets a lot more serious when you reshuffle the names into that order. Wade has a pretty wonderful conversation with the kid at the start of this book, and then we're into full-on three-way fight time. In both scripting and art this fight is ambitious, but I think the finished effect isn't *quite* as amazing as the creators hoped. It's still better-than-average entertainment and it does a perfect job of building anticipation for the finale.

6.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #5

Jan 5, 2018

The series ends with lame meta-humor, fourth wall abuse, and a super-dated Batman vs. Superman joke. Who do you think won? Deadpool runs this issue from start to finish. Perhaps the best way to say it is that Fred Van Lente is *way* better at writing archetypal Deadpool than archetypal Punisher. His attempt to subtly explore the fundamental questions of Frank Castle's motivation a la Born - in the middle of a Deadpool fight - is doomed from the start. The art is still impressive and the action is fun, but the way the larger plot falls away and leaves us with nothing but two action figures smashing together is a bit of a let-down.

4.0
Deadpool: The Duck #3

Oct 31, 2017

A poorly-connected episode sees DeadDuck headed to a secret Roxxon lab in Dubai. Some tasty art and a bit of funny dialogue do not plaster over the huge cracks in this title's plot. At the end of the day I think all that can be said about this title was that an effort was made to deliver on the premise, and that effort isn't worth a reader's time by itself.

6.0
Deadpool: The Duck #4

Oct 31, 2017

Howard gets control of the DeadDuck body just in time to get stuck in a SHIELD/Roxxon crossfire. Some decent plot twists, added focus on Howard, and the still-great art all collude to drag this title up into respectable entertainment. Don't get me wrong, I still wouldn't recommend the title as a whole, but this is probably the high water mark.

2.0
Deadpool: The Duck #5

Oct 31, 2017

Wade and Howard get separated, Dr. Bong is foiled, and puke-eating is given way too much attention. Just because Deadpool notes that the finale is revolting and anticlimactic doesn't make it any less so. A good miniseries should be like a killer bar story: It's awesome or hilarious or hair-raising; definitely worth sharing. The story of Deadpool the Duck is none of these things. It's embarrassing and tedious and tiresome. It's something all the participants - readers very much included - would like to put behind themselves as quickly as possible.

9.0
Defenders (2017) #1

Jan 5, 2018

A blast from Luke's past, Diamondback, unites four street-level heroes. While there are a lot of questions opened up by this start - and some of them are salty "how the ☠☠☠☠ does this fit into continuity" questions - overall this looks like a mustn't-miss treat. Brian Michael Bendis's script is rolling along at (for him) breakneck speed, and the art produced by superstar team David Marquez and Justin Ponsor is several cuts above the ordinary. It's delicious for comics fans of every sort even though it was prepared as a feast for folks coming straight off the Netflix series. Try to read the FCBD teaser first, as this issue connects directly to the events shown there.

9.0
Defenders (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

Some mystifying scenes at the start and finish frame an absolutely golden fight scene - Jess, Danny, and Matt vs. Diamondback. Solving Luke's poisoning is a bit arbitrary, and the surprise twist ending is a giant WTH moment, but it's intentional. In between is a magnificent fight scene showing off David Marquez's best art, and that's one hell of a good best. There's also plenty of solid dialogue. There may be a mandate that this series has to include everybody who's appeared in Marvel's Netflix shows, and that could be responsible for the some of the questionable bits of this issue. It might not be flawless, but it's definitely not boring, and the pace is remarkably fast for a Brian Michael Bendis joint.

10
Defenders (2017) #3

Jan 27, 2018

Diamondback gets even more dangerous and the Punisher learns that you reeeeally want to have a plan for handling Luke Cage before you go shooting his wife, no matter how rubber-bullet-y you're being. There are about three weaknesses in this comic, all of them highly forgivable. On the other side of the scale, there are at least a half-a-dozen "holy ☠☠☠☠!" moments that tempt you to put the issue down and applaud. Some of them are pure writing goodness, some of them are visual triumphs, and some are rare combinations of script and art working in perfect harmony. What do I mean? A panel where Daredevil's baton hits the Punisher's gun just as he pulls the trigger, sending a bullet past the mook it was aimed at and right into the reader's face, that's what I mean. This is a great issue by many measures, but artist David Marquez's performance is the most praiseworthy. He should be able to pick up future work by slapping this comic down in place of a resume - and he'll deserve every paycheck it gets him.

8.0
Defenders (2017) #4

Mar 11, 2018

Some background on Diamondback's current criminal endeavors combines with a pretty satisfying fight scene that lands him in police custody. The focus of the title is starting to spread out a little too quickly (Ben Urich is filling in for Daredevil this month, apparently) and I'm disinclined to give Mr. Bendis too much credit for tying into his other titles. This issue connects to Spider-Man #17 in a way that's less "fun easter egg" and more "crass cross-promotion." Along with the script, the visuals are also looking slightly less polished here. This is still an excellent book, it's just not quite the tour-de-force that the first three issues were.

8.0
Defenders (2017) #5

Mar 30, 2018

Diamondback busts out of custody and the Defenders scramble to oppose him. This is a solid issue, and if you're gonna paper over plot holes with banter, it might as well be some of the industry's funniest, toughest dialogue. Amusing as it is, the sheer volume of chatter works against this issue, tying David Marquez up into too many too-small panels. The story's well worth following, but this is a quiet "get from point A to point B" episode, not a blockbuster. Granted, there's a twist ending that kinda contradicts that description, but my words are accurate up to the last three pages.

8.0
Defenders (2017) #6

Apr 20, 2018

Recapturing Diamondback and socking him into court barely slow him down at all. While Jessica solicits help from Deadpool, Diamondback reveals he has an even bigger guest star of his own. David Marquez's art is back on the top of his game. This issue lets him do some exceptional fight scenes and a remarkable "courtroom sketch" interlude that's refreshing without any disappointment. The script is not Brian Michael Bendis's best, but this series forces you to confront the fact that even on cruise control, Mr. Bendis is *still* one of the most entertaining voices in the Bullpen.

8.0
Defenders (2017) #7

Jun 9, 2018

Elektra and Danny have a glorious fight, Diamondback makes a maybe-notable kill, and Deadpool moons somebody. It's a very busy script by Brian Michael Bendis's standards. David Marquez's art is epic. The eight-page Elektra/Iron Fist sequence is a triumph of visual storytelling, complete with clever thematic color-coding by Justin Ponsor and Paul Mounts. The visuals are so strong that I *almost* overlooked the fact that this series has a kitchen-sink "chuck it in" mess of a plot. The humor's a little cheap and the story is absurdly forgettable. As a vehicle for ferrying Mr. Marquez from one memorable spectacle to another, though, this issue's script hums like a well-maintained sports car.

7.0
Defenders (2017) #8

Jul 6, 2018

The Defenders soldier on as their story risks Total Villain Overload. At least Daredevil shared his secret identity; that's nice. Individual scenes in this book are brilliant, but the overall picture is aimless and messy. Speaking of aimless and messy, David Marquez's art looks rushed this month. Michael Avon Oeming (oooh!) helps out by drawing an artfully-designed but slightly underwhelming flashback. How many times does Brian Michael Bendis want to revisit the "Fisk takes over from Don Rigoletto" scene? It's already become the Kingpin's Uncle Ben moment, and Mr. Bendis deployed it in Spider-Men II way too recently. This title is still tons of fun, but the sprawling scope of the story and the rushed art leave me thinking this issue is only a bit above average.

8.0
Defenders (2017) #9

Aug 12, 2018

Diamondback goes down in a guest-star-studded fightstravaganza. Brian Michael Bendis seems already to be taking a victory lap on his way out the Bullpen door; this script is stuffed full of his effortless characterization. "Effortless" is a double-edged word, of course; while it's easy to love these characters, it's hard to see much passion in their portrayal. David Marquez's ever-swank art is cut from finer cloth. The superb visuals shut the door to disappointment the script might have left open and render this an all-around solid issue. This series as a whole won't be remembered as a turning point in Marvel history, but it's always a blast to read.

7.0
Defenders (2017) #10

Sep 6, 2018

Series called on account of creator switching publisher horses in mid-stream. A few conclusory scenes put the kibosh on the Hood; the balance of the book is fulsome farewells. The fact that these are both scripted by and directed at Brian Michael Bendis is pretty weird. The art is solid (albeit not David Marquez's best) and there are some good laughs, but it's far more a victory lap than a cohesive storytelling comic.

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #287

Apr 20, 2018

Deadpool gets straight to business in trying to kill his buddy Cable, but time-travelers are infuriatingly tough to pin down. Gerry Duggan delivers a fast, funny script that ramps up to greatness by the end. The semi-low-key portrayal of Deadpool as suicidal is terrific. Scott Koblish's art is a bit of a limiter. He's strong on faces and figures, but some of his layouts are confusing and these action scenes shine an unwelcome light on his limitations when it comes to drawing guns. At the end of the day, this issue isn't ugly or anything, but the visuals don't have the smooth flow or dramatic impact they'd need to push the issue to all-time greatness.

9.0
Despicable Deadpool #288

May 7, 2018

Cable barely has time to prepare for Deadpool's arrival when he's stuck in TVA custody, but he still manages to gain the upper hand. This is a beautifully-paced issue with a nicely twisty plot. There's a lot of violence, a little dark humor, and plenty of fascinating questions about where we go next. Scott Koblish's art complements the tone of the script perfectly, and the whole package is an ideal read for folks who are ready for a near-nihilist Deadpool.

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #289

May 21, 2018

A serious attempt to kill Stryfe turns into an absurd "LOL memes" hypothetical. It's fun in a very silly way, but it feels like a comedy relief detour on the longer arc. I'm not sure if Gerry Duggan is successfully threading the needle between "laugh at my jokes" and "cry at my pain;" it feels weird to look back at *this* Deadpool expressing suicidal feelings just a few issues ago. Scott Koblish's art continues to aim for fun über alles, with details suffering slightly. But hey, he draws a pretty dang good dinosaur fight!

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #290

Jun 23, 2018

As promised by the giant stone cover-letters, Cable dies. That makes this a Cable-centric issue, and rightly so. Gerry Duggan unloads a lot of wild ideas on the time-traveling mutant here, and their exciting-but-derivative nature is perfect for the highly absurd tone this story arc is aiming for. It's a very good issue but it's too feather-light to be a great one. Scott Koblish's art, which veers into Ed "Big Daddy" Roth madness at some points, also fits the "good fun but not epic greatness" quality level.

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #291

Jul 11, 2018

The Stryfe/Cable/Deadpool fight ends in a big loss for the good guys. Wade is back on the hook as Stryfe's murder bitch, and the duty weighs heavy on his soul. This story is headed into grim territory, but Gerry Duggan deserves fair credit for navigating the shift in tone from manic time travel shenanigans to crushing depression in a consistently believable way. The high point of humor for this issue is Wade making a "Bruce Timm" crack when he's teleported onto Stryfe's blimp. It's a solid gag just for the general blimp-itude of the setting, but it's also a fair humblebrag on Scott Koblish's art. While Mr. Koblish is dirtying up the details of his characters to match the grimness of the script, there *is* a Timm-esque strength and clarity to his underlying designs.

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #292

Jul 27, 2018

Deadpool distracts himself from the grimness of being Stryfe's hired gun by indulging in a very "LOL memes" visit to Stevil's prison. There's not too much wrong with this, particularly if you're in the mood for wacky Deadpool, but it's a half a good comic stretched out to fill 20 pages. Rather than making hay out of the deep opportunities offered by a conversation with Stevil, Gerry Duggan has Wade blow up his toilet, har-de-har. At least next issue promises a catch-up with Rogue.

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #293

Aug 12, 2018

Rogue tries and fails to arrest Deadpool while also doing some basic psychoanalysis. Constructing the entire issue as one smooth fight scene makes it feel deceptively short, as do the visuals. Ruth Redmond lays some vibrant springtime colors over Matteo Lolli's art, and I inadvertently found myself speeding through the panels faster than the art deserved. On the other hand, there is something subtly disconcerting about Rogue's character design, and slowing down to scrutinize it doesn't help. This is fast but fun, and I think the frustration I feel with this title's pacing will disappear when it's all completed and available in one big beautiful chunk.

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #294

Sep 6, 2018

Madcap reconnects with Deadpool but his revenge plans are stymied by the fact that Wade has thoroughly ruined his own life since the turn to "Despicable." It's a rather thin premise and it's not polished much, particularly not in the visuals. I'm satisfied with it, but I think that would change if I had paid money for it rather than reading it for free via MU. On the plus side, if this is a firm goodbye to Madcap, I'll be very happy. I never was much impressed with the premise of "let's use Eeeevil Slapstick to out-Deadpool Deadpool."

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #295

Sep 20, 2018

Wade comes up with a creative dodge on his "kill Evan" assignment, but he still executes a lady, racking up more of that negative karma. This issue has a good plot, good pacing, and three concentrated Thoughtful Points where the author tried extra hard. It's an enthralling read, and yet it doesn't really stick with you. There's a hard ceiling on how much the art can do, too. Some troubling facial work on Kitty Pryde, and a rare rush job on the coloring.

9.0
Despicable Deadpool #296

Oct 8, 2018

Deadpool vs. Cap! It starts as a standard "here's some punching so this looks more active than a text spat" fight, but at the halfway mark it quantum-leaps forward. Wade bamboozles Steve repeatedly and effectively while scoring some excellent philosophical points. I think that's the only real drawback: Steve plays the chump a bit too thoroughly. Sure, his confidence is rattled after Secret Empire, but in order to put Wade on top, this script forces him into total rookie mistakes. Setting that point aside, the issue is pretty superb. The script is fast but not shallow, the art is bold but detailed, and Wade's character development is both thoughtful and clever.

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #297

Oct 8, 2018

After "Deadpool fights heroes," the logical next arc is "Deadpool fights villains," and this issue sets that up. It's very black humor and it gets a little decompressed at the end, but it does introduce a promising road ahead of Wade (probably a very bumpy one). Wade's characterization is deliciously demented and the art does a good job of telling the story while also making the world around the protagonist look a little extra grotesque.

9.0
Despicable Deadpool #298

Nov 10, 2018

Deadpool vs. Taskmaster & Bullseye & Differently-Able Bystander is a gem of pure absurdity. It looks great, it makes good jokes, and it's strictly obedient to its own deranged logic. The final page (foreshadowing another round of Deadpool vs. Heroes) is quite the letdown, but mainly because what comes before is just that brilliant.

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #299

Nov 10, 2018

Deadpool reiterates his "nobody loves me" grievances, this time to an audience of Hawkeyes. In the background, key supporting cast members - Preston and Adsit - are prepped to take the field in the upcoming climax. It's executed very well, but there's a definite tinge of "seent it" that's limiting my appreciation of NLM Deadpool.

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #300

Nov 25, 2018

This volume of Deadpool's adventures closes with a triple dose of gross-out humor, desperate hero-to-Deadpool combat, and heavy memory erasure following a spotlight reel of hypothetically "greatest" hits. This is thoroughly in line with the rest of the volume, so I expect it'll be satisfying to a fervent fan. That's not the way I'd describe myself, though, and in between these widely-separated covers, I just don't find enough memorable fun to call this a really good comic.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

Dr. Strange banishes Dormammu with a display of archetypal Dr. Strange-iness. It's a much-anticipated return to form at the end of a rather disappointing story arc. It feels like it's been years since we've seen good old Doc S making with the sparkle-fists and chanting dread incantations, but it's finally back. The subtle flowering of the supporting cast is fun, too. Wong is about to play a central role, and there's some nice foreshadowing pointing toward big things in librarian Zelma's future.

6.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

Mr. Misery finally unleashes his revenge plan on Dr. Strange, and it's a doozy. There's a final-page surprise guest star that sort of throws off this issue's pacing; the longer story about beating Mr. Misery is thus stuck at the first plot point. Guest artist Frazier Irving contributes painterly art that's passably beautiful as long as you can forgive a nigh-total absence of backgrounds.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

Thor helps Doc S save his old patients from Mr. Misery in tumor form. Saving Wong, though - that's up to Stephen alone. Jason Aaron doubles down on the body horror in this gloriously nasty medical thriller. Chris Bachalo's artwork is at its height and together the creators really sell the "bizarre and revolting" part of Dr. Strange's work without actually driving the reader away. It filled me up with creepy-crawlies but it also had me turning the pages at top speed. There is a bit of "power creep" on Thor that you can use to work yourself into a rage if you wanna be an insufferable comics know-it-all.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

Dr. Strange defeats Mr. Misery (sort of?) in this subtle examination of his relationship with Wong. This is a tricky comic. You have to read it very closely to catch all of the character development, and I see valid arguments for rating it anywhere between 9 and 4 out of 10. Mr. Bachalo's art is likewise polarizing: This serving is simply going to reinforce your existing opinion of his talents. This issue certainly isn't flawless; I think the key complaint both fans and haters can agree on is that the details of how Mr. Misery's beaten and where he goes could use some more attention.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #20

Jan 5, 2018

Aaron and Bachalo's farewell to Dr. Strange cements Zelma into his story at the expense (maybe) of Wong. This goodbye is full of warm fuzzies, and even Wong's departure is reasonable (and easy to reverse if future creators are so inclined). Sorry to spoil the supporting cast change, but there's not much else in this issue to discuss. It's a rather safe script and a rather indulgent one. It's a victory lap for the creators' whole run, and fortunately, that run has been just epic enough to make this celebration feel justified. Kevin Nowlan's Weirdworld interlude paradoxically makes Marvel's wildest fantasy dimension look mundane, but it works as a contrast to Chris Bachalo's insane Sanctum Sanctorum status quo.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #21

Dec 7, 2017

Doctor Strange runs into a grab-bag of cool allies beneath the Darkforce Dome - will they be able to break Mordo's hold on New York? Turn your Doctor Strange book over to Dennis Hopeless, get Jessica Drew and Ben Urich added to your cast. I'm A-OK with that transaction. His characterization of Jess and Ben is flawless, of course, and he also demonstrates an insightful take on the very stressed-out Strange. Plus Daredevil and a surprise special guest are in the mix too. Niko Henrichon's messy art is vibrant and brilliant for showing people and monsters separately, but the scale challenge of "human heroes vs. giant monster" makes some of the action scenes hard to follow. So there are a few flaws on display here (the dialogue pushes just a touch too hard to get Stephen and Jess into "snarky buddies" territory ASAP), but this story could definitely be headed to great places.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #22

Jan 5, 2018

Questionable ally Kingpin offers some "deal with the devil" help that even Dr. Strange is (eventually) hesitant to accept. This issue is beautifully drawn by Niko Henrichon and Dennis Hopeless's script packs in a ton of laughs. Maybe too many laughs and too much sass; that's where it falls short of true epic-ness. It's particularly hard to ignore the fact that Spider-Woman is completely superfluous here. Even Ben Urich plays a more important role in the plot; Jess is apparently just along to crack one-liners. They are amusing one-liners, at least!

7.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #23

Jan 27, 2018

Dr. Strange teams up with demon-ridden Kingpin, white knight Ben Urich, and ghost-plane-flying Spider-Woman to take down Mordo before he can gobble up every last bite of scenery in Manhattan. It seems Dennis Hopeless is pretty contemptuous of Secret Empire, but his over-the-top D&D parody tie-in dances on the line between "whew, much-needed comic relief" and "ugh, wacky for the sake of wackiness 'LOL Memes' humor." Niko Henrichon's messy art heads in the same direction: Is it exuberant and vivacious or hopelessly rough and unpolished? Reader attitude will ultimately be key in deciding whether this issue is delightful or tiresome, but a stronger creative effort could have grounded it solidly in the former camp.

5.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #24

Mar 11, 2018

Dr. Strange beats Baron Mordo through trickery. I'm not avoiding spoilers; the issue provides precious little detail beyond that. It's also so poorly-scripted that it actively discourages you from digging into greater depth. This whole tie-in ends up as a pointless shaggy dog story - the characters themselves admit that defeating Mordo was just a side-show. Artist Niko Henrichon has a little more endurance than writer Dennis Hopeless; he continues providing valiantly intricate visuals well after the script runs out of steam. Even the art has its limits, though, and the story wraps with a thoroughly disappointing sad trombone sound.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #25

Apr 7, 2018

Doc S and Zelma get their breakfast ruined by a magic blast from Strange's past and he has to confront a short-sighted fix he dropped on a problem many years ago. Some sterling character work and outstanding visuals elevate this one-off story into something a bit special, though the ambiguity of the ending pulls it up short of all-time greatness. Kevin Nowlan and Juan Frigeri fight a noble battle for top art honors; both the former's Mignola-esque flashbacks and the latter's present-day Bachalo-inspired work are great. Though this doesn't carry a "Legacy" banner, it turns into a very thoughtful contrast between the humble, humorous Dr. Strange Jason Aaron has built and his colder, more melodramatic characterization from the 70s & 80s.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #26

May 3, 2018

Zelma and Doctor Strange do a little classic dungeon delving in this thoughtful look at their mentor-pupil relationship. Niko Henrichon's art is scratchy and brilliant if just a teeny bit lacking in long-term memorability. John Barber's character work on Zelma is outstanding. It's clear though she snarks at Strange constantly, if their adventures cost her a leg, she'd show up the next day with extra snark about how her sudden shoe surplus was all Strange's fault. Sorcerous adventure has got its hooks deep into her, and that's wonderful to see when it's illustrated so well.

9.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #381

Jun 9, 2018

Loki is Sorcerer Supreme? How can that be?! Donny Cates pens a fascinating new chapter that builds directly on Jason Aaron's work. Some parts of the previous volume are accepted whole-heartedly (Zelma, yay!) and others are respectfully challenged (the "high cost of magic" concept). There are engaging mysteries stretching out both ahead of and behind this new status quo. Beautiful art, sharp character work, and successful touches of humor all combine to promise something special from this new story.

9.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #382

Jun 18, 2018

Dr. Strange explains the Exile of Singhsoon, but there are still tons of mysteries on the table. There's also plenty of heart and heartbreak; this is a mighty eventful comic. Let us not overlook, between the "OMG the dog" and "OMG Stephen's ally" shockers, there's also a huge "OMG Stephen did *what* to Zelma?!" surprise. Not only does Donny Cates double up on twists, he also packs the spaces around them with plenty of lovely characterization. Gabriel Hernandez Walta's art sells the emotions and the action perfectly; this is every inch an A-list comic.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #383

Jul 6, 2018

Doctor Strange has a Baldrickian cunning plan to regain his power and humiliate Loki. Step one involves getting the Sentry to help him commit some medium-strength magic burglary in Asgard. The Baldrick-ness of Stephen's plan comes through in both its absurdity and its hubris. We get a flashback explaining just how he lost his position to Loki. Even though the Vishanti said, quite explicitly, "you need taking down a peg or two, proud man," Stephen is rattling hell-for-leather down a path practically guaranteed to earn him an ironic comeuppance. The tone of Donny Cates's script becomes a little inconsistent and the visuals are weakened here by a Niko Henrichon flashback that doesn't quite rise to Gabriel Hernandez Walta's visual standards. There's still a core of sincerity and heartbreak - wrapped around Bats, of course - that holds this issue at "great" or "near great" even if it's a bit weaker than the last two.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #384

Jul 27, 2018

Doc Strange hurls all his stolen Asgardian power at Loki, backed by a few clever/dangerous twists. It's all fun and games until the stakes hop abruptly into the world-destroying tier at the end. Gabriel Hernandez Walta's art looks superb and Donny Cates's character work is fine. I worry about the relationship between this volume and the last one. When the Empirikul became an existential threat to all of magic, Stephen didn't do as much or risk as much as he's doing now. And remember, his current motivation is basically "the Vishanti gave my job to Loki and I bungled the transition." It looks terribly petty of him to unleash … what he's unleashed … over that.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #385

Sep 6, 2018

Loki and Strange save the world, restore magic, and put the Cloak of Levitation (with all the rest of the Sorcerer Supreme responsibilities) back on Stephen's shoulders. Doctor Strange's success comes with fearsome costs. It's a decent ending, but the script opens a can of ambiguous worms regarding Loki's motivations and doesn't really put it to bed in a satisfying way. Solid art and high stakes keep this issue from getting disappointing, but the ambiguity anchors it at "good" without crossing over into "great."

7.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #386

Sep 20, 2018

Dr. Strange tries to drive Mephisto off the material plane in a rigged card game. It goes just about as poorly as a rigged card game could. I half-appreciate how thoroughly this issue recaps the Damnation one-shot; it does a fine job of standing on its own. It's a bit repetitive and slow if you're all caught up, though. The scribbly art style works great on Mephisto and demonic hordes and possessed blackjack cards, but it's a little glitchy in portraying Stephen's face.

7.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #387

Oct 8, 2018

Doctor Strange undergoes a twist in Mephisto's captivity. The script is full of potential and features really strong plotting. The visuals let me down, though, specifically in their repeated fumbling of human facial anatomy. The characterization and dialogue in this comic are really delicate; I can't appreciate their full impact when every page distracts me with wall-eyed women and creepy skeletal teeth. Compositions and finishes are great, but the characters within them are so relentlessly disturbing that I have to penalize the finished product as less satisfying than it could/should be.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #388

Nov 10, 2018

Another turn of excellent work - pushing Doc Strange halfway through the mental prison Mephisto has trapped him in - cements Bats's place as the breakout star of both this title and the Damnation event. Plot developments here are a little uneven. Stephen continues to act a sucker even after all of Bats's hard work, and by the final pages, the plot creaks under the weight of one guest star too many. For me, the art is also a balancing act: I love the action scenes and the Eldritch Horrors, but I remain an anti-fan of this style when it comes to ordinary people's faces.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #389

Nov 10, 2018

Dr. Strange leapfrogs his personal story right past the end of Damnation. Magnificent monster-fighting art, solid humor with Bats, and some quality character work make this a thoroughly impressive comic. I'm not sure I agree with the title page's suggestion that this takes place "concurrently" with Damnation #4, though; you really need to read that issue before this one.

9.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #390

Dec 3, 2018

Stephen closes a chapter in his life by getting a proper goodbye from Zelma. And Spidey is there in maximum "Kooky Peter" mode to sand down some of the awkwardness. The core relationship chat delivers excellent closure, though it's a bit understated. I was in the perfect mood for Kooky Spidey, so that turned into a nice little bonus bringing this finale up to greatness in my eyes.

6.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

Low-power Dr. Strange struggles to defeat a monster with the help of Googam, son of Goom. I was doubly underwhelmed here as both a fan of Chip Zdarsky and of comics in general. The humor seems somehow lazy and strained at the same time. Superb art from Julian Lopez helps make this story entertaining, though.

6.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #5

Oct 31, 2017

A spotlight on Newton reveals a dark, driven soul. Our heroes take their first tentative steps on the road to tracking him. I feel like the author could have done more to make Newton relatable; this felt very generic to me. Guest artist Nathan Stockman delivered a very enjoyable visual experience; I'm hoping to see more of his work in the future.

6.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #6

Oct 31, 2017

One brief plot point stretches into a whole issue thanks to choose-your-own-adventure timey-wimey shenanigans. The writing is nothing special but the art is fairly impressive. Overall, I enjoyed this trick more when the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl played it. Not an actual disappointment, but a mighty "meh" reaction is probably not what the creators were hoping for when they dumped extra effort into this gimmick issue.

6.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #7

Oct 31, 2017

The sorcerers team up with the Avengers to beat Newton, but there's a bigger demonic threat right on his heels. Though I can tell this is an entertaining book, it's one that disengages me rather nastily. It starts with bad dialogue in the front and wraps with a demon design at the end that I find laughable. In between is a heaping helping of questionable writing. Javier Rodriguez's art is a major bright spot, though. Except for that demon, all of the fighting and quipping here looks great.

8.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #8

Dec 3, 2017

Newton's bigger threat, the grabby hand-monster, plays the "not magic, advanced alien" card and the battle against it rolls on. It's a tremendous relief to get a nice, unambiguous monster baddie that needs beating. This issue is devoted entirely to explaining its Deal, so the beating will commence next month. Other potential downside? Grabby the Author-Monster still looks ridiculous. The rest of this book is very solid, though; Robbie Thompson understands that you have a double duty to bring the funny when you get both Spidey and Howard the Duck as guest stars.

7.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #9

Jan 5, 2018

Grabby the magic monster is defeated and many (not all) of the heroes' injuries are healed. But the victory is not without cost. I won't spoil the exact nature of the cost; it should be screamingly obvious to anybody who's paid attention to the previous issues. That's my biggest fault with this issue: The plotting is lazy. Characterization is also strictly pro forma, but at least the dialogue is decent. So why isn't this whole comic a disappointment? Because problematic as it is, the plot gives artist Javier Rodriguez an excuse to go completely ☠☠☠☠ mental in a great way, especially in the first scene. The first five pages of this issue are likely to stick in your memory long after the larger story has faded away. It's definitely a treat for the eyes. It's just a pity this issue couldn't be a treat for the brain as well.

8.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #10

Jan 27, 2018

The source of Wiccan's fatal power-up is revealed, and it's going to be a real doozy for Strange and the other sorcerers to tackle. Robbie Thompson has a weird talent for riding his serieses right to the ragged edge where I'm about to give them up and *then* making with the amazing plot twists. His pal Nathan Stockman delivers some guest art that works great for the wild future X-Men interlude that fills the majority of this book, but I'm not sure how well it's going to fit the more sorcerous action coming up. This issue did a fine job of reviving my interest and building anticipation for the last two issues.

8.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #11

Mar 11, 2018

The surprise left-field fight against Grownup Evil Valeria Richards turns out more satisfying than it has any right to be, with Big Damn Hero moments for Future Wiccan and the Mindful One. As with the series as a whole, not every shot taken by Robbie Thompson's script here scores points. The balance is still stacked heavily in favor of hits, though. Nathan Stockman's art helps a great deal by grounding all the magical action with emotive faces, and Jim Campbell's colors are impressive as well.

9.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #12

Mar 30, 2018

All the Sorcerers Supreme ride together one last time to get Yao where he needs to go. It's a very fun trip. Though it lacks real conflict, the characterization work and Nathan Stockman's visuals are impeccable, and this is a terrific reward for sticking with this series. United by a great theme running start-to-finish, this issue ends up entertaining, impressing, and satisfying.

8.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #1

Sep 6, 2018

Doctor Strange resurrects Las Vegas and Mephisto hitches a ride into the mortal realm. It's a premise that generates a few memorable moments, but this presentation feels more like a prologue than chapter one. While Mephisto manages to show off some promise for the future, casually ping-ponging 700,000 people over the net of death leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The art is as good and Sienkiewicz-y as it wants to be once the demons come to town and things get magical.

5.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #2

Sep 20, 2018

Wong assembles his wacky heroes, takes them to Vegas, and immediately gets them into a heap of trouble when they try to fight Mephisto's eeevil Ghost Rider-Avengers. There's some entertaining humor and wit in the script, but it's all very "easy layup" work. The pace of the event is in trouble; this makes two issues straight that are drowning in redundant recaps. This issue's visuals commit my #1 mortal sin of comics art: They make the finished product less enjoyable to read than a prose-only script. This comic is relentlessly disappointing to look at.

5.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #3

Oct 8, 2018

The Midnight Sons all together do less to advance their cause than Bats the Ghost Dog does in this issue. Also, Johnny Blaze gets hard done by. I think the script has plenty of potential, but the visual rendition is frankly unacceptable to me. There are clear signs of both incompetence and apathy, and the story does not nearly have the strength to overcome the unloveliness of the art. I could dig out at least two more ratings points if this were illustrated better.

8.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #4

Nov 10, 2018

The good guys thoroughly beat Mephisto by bamboozling him on multiple levels. It's a standard-issue Nick Spencer Big Conflict: Pompous narration on top of strong visuals that ends up less memorable than word-free art would be. Once the battle is won, things take a turn for the better with some solid character work for Stephen and Wong. The art isn't the best-ever example of painterly work, but it's a healthy step above average. This is a nice comic to look at and that helps make it a pretty fun read.

8.0
Domino (2018) #1

Nov 10, 2018

Domino introduces herself and her partners and tries to plead her life story as a hard-luck case. A loving, continuity-gag-heavy birthday party undercuts that theme, but a cliffhanger attack by a mystery villain gets it back on track. Art and writing are both talented, but loose and stylized. This feels like an acquired taste in words and visuals, and both feel like less than the creators' best efforts.

8.0
Domino (2018) #2

Nov 25, 2018

Domino is rattled by threats external (the Topaz deal) and internal (is one of her friends betraying her?). Solid character insights, another brilliant merc gig - one that deserves more space, in fact - and superb art all make this delightful. Balanced against that, the pacing is still disjointed and the script machine-guns out a surplus of good ideas instead of polishing just a few into greatness. The overall level of quality is still very high, and there's far more enjoyable audacity than nitpicking material here. The Topaz Deal is sketched out more fully here. I like that the most obvious inspiration - the Picture of Dorian Gray - isn't name-checked directly. Yet.

6.0
Edge of Venomverse #1

Jan 5, 2018

X-23 + Venom + homeless kiddies = lots of hard-knock street life. There's a few great twists in Matthew Rosenberg's script that make this an exciting story. It ends with a wonderful surprise cliffhanger, too. However, Roland Boschi's art is letting the reader down. It starts at a "just barely acceptable" level and slides into actual "I can't tell what's going on" illegibility by the end.

8.0
Edge of Venomverse #2

Jan 27, 2018

An illuminating and hilarious romp with Gwenompool (she's still working on the name) reveals some handy Venomverse information and an adorable crush on Matt Murdock. This might be the high-water mark of the title thanks to Chris Hastings' self-aware commentary. He makes a great point about "alternate universes = no consequences" that I will bet a zillion dollars main series author Cullen Bunn completely lives down to. Irene Strychalski is pushing her art into an interesting Will Robson area that works perfectly for a silly story like this. It's a fun read but also a feather-light one, and my suspicion that the main event won't be nearly as enjoyable is overpowering.

9.0
Edge of Venomverse #3

Feb 3, 2018

Simon Spurrier and Tigh Walker crank the crazy up past the redline to deliver an insane Road Warrior AU for the Host Rider - Robbie Reyes enslaved to the twin demons of the Spirit of Vengeance and Venom. It's a delicious, madcap ride and the only disappointment is knowing that the Host Rider's role in the upcoming event cannot possibly be as cool as this introduction. Not only does the Rider rampage through SHIELD to get to Mr. Hyde and eat his sins, he also has to best a gloriously absurd antagonist - Octosquatchpool!

5.0
Edge of Venomverse #4

Mar 11, 2018

OML slashes through some generic daddy issues before getting Venomized and sucked into the crossover event. Where previous issues took a high concept and put a fascinating spin on it, Ryan Key's script is a strictly by-the-numbers affair. Considering that OML has to fight a t-rex to get his universe's symbiote, this is a real waste of potential. André Lima Araújo's art perpetuates a love-hate affair. I love a lot of his technical linework and blocking, but I've never been impressed by his signature "look how dumpy these heroes are when I put spandex on realistic bodies" move.

6.0
Edge of Venomverse #5

Mar 11, 2018

Venomized Deadpool battles evil tapeworms for 20 pages. If that sentence sent a thrill down your spine, this comic will be quite satisfying. Shine on, you beautiful broken diamond! If your response was more "WTF" or "gross" or "☠☠☠☠ no," this comic isn't strong enough to change your opinion. What value it does have comes almost entirely from James Stokoe's brilliantly horrifying art; Clay McLeod Chapman's script is Marvel's millionth trip to the "forgettable psycho clown Deadpool" well. It's notable only in being exceptionally shameless in its "wacky hijinx are the whole point" attitude.

8.0
Elektra (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

Elektra battles action movie clichés and (eventually, presumably) Arcade on her trip to Vegas. This introduction leans a bit too hard on shopworn plot points, but there's impressive style on display in both the writing and the art. It's a comic of voids, so far. The creators paint a Las Vegas full of open spaces pulsing with menace and latent threats. I love the little freeze-frame calamities Juann Cabal hides in the backgrounds. This series could be bound for greatness if we get some quality characterization and inventive plotting to go along with its exquisite style.

6.0
Elektra (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

Elektra is caught in a dumb ol' Murderworld. She's rightly embarrassed to have this much trouble with Arcade. More stylish choreography from Juann Cabal helps save this from being a full-on disappointment, but the realization that we're in for three more issues of Elektra vs. Arcade is an anti-thrill. I wish the creators had dared to include a little character insight; I'm not coming into this title with any real love for Elektra and the odds of me developing any here are looking increasingly slim.

6.0
Elektra (2017) #3

Nov 4, 2017

Elektra cruises through a very standard Murderworld fight and a showdown with Screwball is pending. The most damning thing I can say about Matt Owens' script here is that its empty platitudes nearly turned me against Juann Cabal's splendid art. He deserves to sink his teeth into a deeper, meatier Elektra story. His potentially-memorable art is wasted on a shallow miniseries that's doomed to instant forgettability.

4.0
Elektra (2017) #4

Dec 3, 2017

Elektra beats Screwball and rescues her pal; all that's left is the inevitable pro forma spanking of Arcade. The one pure positive this title was giving me was Juann Cabal's clean, high-quality art, so I have difficulty describing just how disappointed I was to turn to page one and meet a Cro-Magnon Elektra charging at me like I was defending the world's last bathroom from her epic case of ninja diarrhea. Martín Morazzo's feeble Frank Quitely impersonation was certainly not the je ne sais quoi this title was missing. I appreciate the effort expended to weld it to Juann Cabal's work, but I cannot say that effort was successful. With that depressing start, I was on edge and negatively primed to catch the cringe in every one of the lame gamer jokes Matt Owens packed into the script. There was a bit of perfunctory characterization that saved this issue from being a complete wreck. The problem is not a lack of talent; there's still plenty of potential in evidence. I think a sharp editor - really anybody with the time and power to exercise the faintest bit of oversight - could have corrected a lot of the missteps taken here.

6.0
Elektra (2017) #5

Jan 5, 2018

Elektra beats Arcade. Was there ever any doubt? It's not a disappointing issue, but this series as a whole is tremendously irrelevant. It alters Elektra's character not one bit, and though Arcade bows out with a few hints about a bigger plot affecting the "Daredevil family," there's a certain je ne sais quoi screaming that nobody except Matt Owens cares about this foreshadowing. Jaunn Cabal's art closes out the run with nearly as much style as it had at the start, but it's been a big waste of talent and opportunity. Mr. Owens *could* have told a meaningful and interesting story and he had the artistic backing to make it truly epic. Instead we got two issues' worth of Arcade fighting stretched into five issues and a story that even the most die-hard Elektra fan would likely call skippable.

7.0
Exiles (2018) #1

Nov 10, 2018

A multiverse-eater, a rogue Tallus, and Unseen Nick Fury start building a new Exiles team around Blink. You can see the talent and passion lavished on the book, and that makes you think "good comic." But there's an elusive shadow of doubt that says otherwise. My theory? The creators are engaged with the story rather than the characters right now, and the familiarity of the story - here comes Mindless Bitey Destroy-The-Multiverse Monster No. 46 - is fundamentally unsatisfying in a way that not even the cleverest layouts in the world can make up for. Those layouts ARE pretty and clever, though!

5.0
Exiles (2018) #2

Nov 10, 2018

The last two heroes slot into place and a new arc plot gets slapped on top of the existing one about the Time-Eater: There's also a cabal of Watchers gunning for the Unseen. While I think this new twist is mighty promising, it also serves to weaken the first two issues even more: The introduction of the Time-Eater now looks premature, and the "origin universe tour" seems like a horribly uneven first draft. Sure, Wolvie rescuing delicious pies from Li'l Magneto is a gem. But it follows the weakest Surtur fight ever committed to paper, and the stops in #1 weren't so hot, either. So far this series seems inexcusably half-baked. Tremendous potential doesn't make up for uneven plotting, off-putting characterization, and problematic visual storytelling.

7.0
Exiles (2018) #3

Nov 25, 2018

The broken Tallus ports the Exiles to three new AUs. Peggy "Captain America" Carter and her sidekick Becky Barnes are gold nuggets. They're embedded in a LOT of spoil that really should have been bashed away in a lengthier, more critical writing/editing process. A terrible Morph cameo, the continued obsession with the Unseen, hippie Namor, building Khan's "character" out of wall-to-wall cliches - this title's ratio of good ideas to bad ones is MESSED UP. Racing through LOTS of ideas fast doesn't help. The good ideas are exceptionally good, though, and they're delivered to the reader in a chariot of excellent art. The layouts strike a perfect balance between innovation and readability. My objection to hippie Namor is due to his exceptional pointlessness in the story; as an isolated element, he's hilarious. But that's this volume of Exiles all over: Excellent ideas being wasted and loser ideas receiving too much attention.

6.0
Extraordinary X-Men #18

Oct 31, 2017

Forge gets a gentle letdown from Storm and a pep talk from Old Man Logan. This series has burned a lot of panels discussing how under-appreciated Forge is; the message ends up decidedly mixed. Logan's contribution owes a lot (i.e. way too much) to Fury Road in its writing and especially its Andrea Sorrentino art. In terms of the bigger IvX plot, this issue does let us know that Forge's responsibility is to blow up the last Terrigen cloud. Good luck with that!

8.0
Extraordinary X-Men #19

Oct 31, 2017

This title ended at #16 and we're deep into "DVD extra" territory with these last four one-shots. In this one, Sapna picks the Absolute Worst Moment to bug Illyana about her afterlife in the Soulsword. Jeff Lemire employs some questionable plotting and forgettable dialogue to revisit the fate of the protege Magik had to kill three issues back. The "blah" writing is elevated by some gorgeous art provided by Eric Koda. I'm amazed at his command of anatomy, expressions, and lighting. It's well worth a look-see, particularly for us Marvel Unlimited subscribers who don't have to get resentful about dropping cash on an issue that is beautiful but undeniably superfluous.

6.0
Extraordinary X-Men #20

Oct 31, 2017

Though I didn't even notice it, Cerebra went MIA during IvX. This issue rescues her and closes this phase of the X-Men's story with a good ol' baseball game. It's a very modest finale, but modesty is the appropriate choice when your whole series (with the exception of #17) has been a consistently mediocre exercise in status quo maintenance.

9.0
Falcon (2017) #1

Apr 20, 2018

Falcon and his apprentice, the new Patriot, take a stab at defusing Chicago's gang problems. The plot verges on the simplistic, but as it serves primarily as a vehicle for delivering characterization and insight, the simplicity does very little to impede my enjoyment. The characterization is superb. Sam's tumultuous thoughts after Secret Empire are given the space and complexity they deserve, and Rayshaun "Patriot" Lucas *finally* clicks into place as an awesome character after some false starts in his previous appearances. Rodney Barnes turns in a super-dense script with tons to ponder, and Joshua Cassara's art is likewise jam-packed with appreciable details. It has a scratchy vitality that makes action scenes and introspective moments look equally great. Though it's not quite flawless, this #1 is so ambitious and overstuffed that it's just about the most appealing offering on Marvel's menu at the moment.

7.0
Falcon (2017) #2

May 21, 2018

Chicago explodes in full-blown riots, but the farcical incompetence of the baddies makes it look like Falcon's taking this too seriously. Inconsistent tone and a surplus of jokes - most of which get very stale very quickly when you re-read the issue - hold Falcon #2 back. Joshua Cassara's art is still very tasty, though. His initial riot scenes are impressive in their grit and detail.

8.0
Falcon (2017) #3

Jun 23, 2018

Falcon, Patriot, and Dr. Voodoo are united and take a clear run at Blackheart. It all goes great until the shocking final moment when it really, really doesn't. This is a fight-heavy issue and Joshua Cassara puts in hard work to make the art tell most of the story. Rodney Barnes's script is excellent, dialing back the pop culture humor and stiffening the story with excellent thematic links from start to finish. It's a fun, fast read and it definitely makes #4 look unmissable.

8.0
Falcon (2017) #4

Aug 12, 2018

Sam has to fight through an identity crisis to escape Hell. While it feels terribly goofy at first glance, the longer I look at it, the more impressed I am. Rodney Barnes's script does a great job of raising the stakes on Sam's "who am I" worries, using the threat of damnation to make them much more than self-indulgent angst-for-the-sake-of-angst. It also helps that Mr. Barnes ambitiously tackles older identity issues (like "Snap" Wilson, yowza) in addition to Sam's recent conflicts with Steve Rogers. Joshua Cassara's gritty art still works great at portraying a violence-torn Chicago and now it does equally good work conjuring up a memorable Hell. This issue really locks the arc down as a perceptive and transformative portrait of Sam Wilson.

8.0
Falcon (2017) #5

Sep 6, 2018

Falcon brings his Chicago/Hell story to a fitting end. Some interesting scene structure choices liven up a script that's a bit short of issue-sized; things still end up a trifle too wordy. I do like spreading the focus and the heroics around ensemble-style; Sam did plenty of soul-searching in the previous issues and sharing the big win feels reasonable. The art sticks at a high level and helps pave over the weak spots, leaving me with a satisfying read.

7.0
Falcon (2017) #6

Oct 8, 2018

While Deacon Frost revs up his antagonist engines, Sam and Shaun play romantic games (not with each other). Their line-to-line progress is pretty sweet, but by the end of the issue, a surprisingly small amount of ground has been covered. The visuals are deceptively quiet. All they do is match up with the prior artist and carry the story forward with a horror-comic twist - and that's actually a much bigger achievement than you might think. This issue is more than moderately satisfying, but there's also a distinct air of unfulfilled potential.

7.0
Falcon (2017) #7

Nov 10, 2018

A simple vampire-fighting story is ennobled by two solid character scenes. Sam promising Shaun's mother to keep him safe gives the front half much-needed emotional depth. Misty shutting down Blade's romantic interest is clever and fun. The word-light action scenes are competent but don't stick much in your memory, and Deacon Frost's plan falls into the depths of badguy cliches. The content on the page is satisfying and entertaining, but building it up into something more than an average-plus comic relies too much on the enthusiasm of a charitable reader.

6.0
Falcon (2017) #8

Dec 3, 2018

Sam saves the day with plenty of help from his friends. His romance with Misty is rekindled, Shaun comes through OK, and Blade is the big loser. He doesn't get the girl, he doesn't help out much, and his arch-nemesis gets killed in front of him by a bird. Poor Blade! This issue had nice visuals and some excellent moments, but the plot didn't make nearly enough sense. And some of the moments were a lot cheesier than they should have been. "The only place I wanna see feathers is on a plate." Really, Blade? You eat your chicken unplucked, do ya?

6.0
Foolkiller (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

Deadpool spirit-guides Foolkiller through a meta-fictional, self-referential wank of middling quality. Meta-fictional wankery is author Max Bemis's wheelhouse, so there's a healthy load of humorous "comics about comics" material here. This feels like the place this title should have started, and it makes the previous three issues look that much worse in comparison.

5.0
Foolkiller (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

A few swerves lead us to more meta-wankery with a side of very generic-feeling daddy issues. The point of the issue and the series appears to be "villains are people too - but, like, murderous deadly people who can't be trusted." No amount of self-aware introspection is gonna make me forget that this series introduced a poop-themed villain named ☠☠☠☠ King, though.

6.0
Gamora #3

Oct 31, 2017

Gamora connects with her Badoon princess. Again. The art continues to be gorgeous but in a rather generic "sci-fi dystopia #12b" way. I see some of the same trouble in the story - this issue in particular feels like "Biography of Space Princess L'Whatever guest-starring Gamora as the Assassin." It has a surprise ending that leaves me very optimistic about the next issue, though - it should be a deep dive into Gamora's psyche.

6.0
Gamora #4

Oct 31, 2017

Gamora faces a moral quandary: Will she hold vengeance as her prime motivation or choose a more constructive path? Nicole Perelman has made the questionable storytelling choice of putting this moral cart well in advance of her basic plot horses - the question of how Gamora and/or anybody else is escaping from Ubliex is still very up in the air. I'm not surprised to find out artist Marco Checchetto has also done a lot of Star Wars work; his designs and choreography make this story feel a lot (too much?) like "MCU Gamora's Jakku Vacation." (Maybe technically a Nar Shaddaa vacation for all you SW hyper-nerds.)

6.0
Gamora #5

Dec 7, 2017

Grinchy Gamora's heart grows three sizes and she decides to escape with a pack of noble refugees instead of her bloodthirsty bandit relatives. Nebula pops up at the end to try (and fail) to provide last-minute tension. She's handed a pack of trite pop culture villain jokes that would fit perfectly into Beverly Hills Cop; they sound wildly out of place in the mouth of an exotic alien assassin. A shallow action script elevated with some top-notch Star-Wars-esque art plant this comic firmly in middle of the road. It'll satisfy folks who arrive with a pre-existing love of Gamora, particularly in her MCU incarnation, but there's nothing here to win the character new fans or elevate this title into a must-read.

8.0
Generation X (2017) #1

Nov 25, 2017

New fish Nate "Hindsight" Carver discovers the X School. Plus side: Jubilee! Downside: Quentin Quire, Purifier attacks, general madness. Does he really want to try surviving this experience? Christina Strain makes a valiant effort to split the difference between "welcome to the X School, newcomer" and "here's all the cool folks you remember from Wolverine & the X-Men, faithful superfan." The tension between those two poles makes up for a lack of novelty, and strong characterization throughout also helps. Amilcar Pinna's art is highly stylized; he loves using forced perspective to exaggerate facial features. Though it feels gimmicky in places, I can respect the amount of effort lavished on the details and the precise linework. This debut is a long way from flawless, but there aren't any horrendous mistakes and this series is off and rolling with oodles of promise.

6.0
Generation X (2017) #2

Dec 7, 2017

The Purifiers are dispatched like the jobbers they are; Jubilee reveals that this clutch of students is the Xavier Institute's remedial vo-tech class. That's an intense disappointment to Bling and Quentin Quire, but it sounds just about perfect to newcomer Nate. I don't have fundamental objections to following low-powered mutants, but I don't like the defeatist "lower your expectations" attitude Jubilee hands them. If this doesn't turn into the story of great kids exceeding modest expectations *very* fast, it'll be a horrible waste of time and potential. Amilcar Pinna's distinctively weird art is shrinking on me rather than growing; his fisheye-lens faces appear to be a pony's single trick rather than one of many distinctive artistic tools.

6.0
Generation X (2017) #3

Jan 5, 2018

The Generation X class assembles on its own to confront a mysterious threat in Central Park. Nate's powers get some excellent spotlight, Nature Girl gets a rare chance to talk, and we even find out what janitor Andre's Deal is. Amilcar Pinna's art is getting more consistent but it's still aggressively odd. That might be an asset with a stronger, more confident script, but Christina Strain's work isn't quite solid enough to carry the unconventional visuals. This issue is the start of the heartwarming "come together and exceed expectations" story this title needs so desperately, but it's handled in a strictly by-the-numbers fashion.

4.0
Generation X (2017) #4

Jan 27, 2018

Face to face with Monet/Emplate, the GX class fails to cover itself in glory. Christina Strain tucks a decent character study of Bling! into this issue along with some nice development of Jubilee. The wider plot has a fair few flaws, and then there is the art. Let me be as clear as possible: I would rate this issue *at least* two points higher with better art. While previous issues left me unthrilled by Amilcar Pinna's work, bringing Martín Morazzo aboard to pinch-hit is about the *last* corrective step I would have recommended. His is a completely different acquired taste, and it clashes dreadfully with Mr. Pinna's in addition to being generally hard to look at. This art commits the one unforgivable sin of comics visuals: It steals the reader's attention with its ineptitude. A delicate script like this desperately needs all of that attention focused on the interplay between the characters.

6.0
Generation X (2017) #5

Feb 26, 2018

Eye-Boy gets a hand from Nature Girl when his mutant powers go on the fritz. While there are some undeniable glitches in both scripting and art, they're accompanied by plenty of imagination and heart. This ends up being an entertaining read even though I didn't fully buy the power-fritzing - the lack of a solid explanation for that would be King Glitch #1.

8.0
Generation X (2017) #6

Mar 30, 2018

Quentin Quire shanghais Nate and Ben into Shenanigans at their friendly local supervillain auction. Eric Koda's art does an impressive job of fusing some strong anatomy and natural posing with inventive layouts that echo Amilcar Pinna's weird style. Pity the linework is so uniform - but that, too, is a choice designed to keep this title's visuals consistent. Christina Strain's found an excellent balance of plot and characterization by trimming the roster again; I'd much rather see a deep dive like this than some shallow attention spread across the whole team.

7.0
Generation X (2017) #7

May 3, 2018

The supervillain auction stuff turns out to background noise, which is actually a good thing for this title. (Kade Kilgore drops a huge insult on Quentin before fading out, which is fun.) Focusing most of her attention on Ben Deeds, Christina Strain paints a nicely-nuanced portrait of a realistic angsty teen. Speaking of realism, Eric Koda's art veers a little too hard into it. He sticks with clean linework even though the shortage of detail renders a lot of his characters interchangeable.

6.0
Generation X (2017) #8

May 21, 2018

Roxy gets unwelcome counsel, Monet exists, and a surprise guest for Quentin Quire causes a catastrophe, typical. It's a good thing Christina Strain keeps the students entertaining, because this issue's script does very poorly at advancing the plot. Random crap happens, but at least we like the characters it happens to and their reactions to it. Amilcar Pinna's art has slid into an unfortunate groove: It's getting cleaner and prettier, but also thereby less distinctive.

8.0
Generation X (2017) #9

Jun 9, 2018

The team reunites while cleaning up Krakoa's mess. While nobody's seriously hurt, some important relationship developments provide more than enough drama to make this issue fascinating. Christina Strain's script does an excellent job of weaving together prior plot points into a consistent tapestry. Amilcar Pinna's art is also on a serious upswing. His panel composition and storytelling flow have firmed up considerably and now he adds distinctive flourishes that are weird and delightful rather than weird and off-putting. This issue was a tremendous surprise not just because it's terrific in itself, but also because it pays off a lot of prior work in the title that seemed questionable at the time. This is the issue where I become a real fan of Generation X by Strain & Pinna.

8.0
Generation X (2017) #85

Jul 6, 2018

Monet/Emplate is suffering some serious schizophrenia, but that doesn't stop her/him/them from invading the Xavier School in a terrifying way. The lion's share of the issue is devoted to soap operatic teen angst and romantic triangle woes in a way that would be torturous if you dropped into it with zero preparation. Since this is a 10th issue, though, Christina Strain is perfectly justified in assuming her audience is committed to loving these characters and she pays off that love in spades. Amilcar Pinna's art remains wonderfully weird. While some of his attempts at emoting miss the mark, plenty of them land in the bullseye. This is another book where it's downright *wrong* of the Mighty Marketing Marvel department to claim that "legacy" means "good jump-on point," though. The solicit is shamefully deceptive.

8.0
Generation X (2017) #86

Jul 27, 2018

Jubilee fetches Quentin back to the Institute just in time for a serious Monet showdown. There are quality relationship upgrades and plenty of attention for all the core cast members before a mother of an ending delivers a huge status quo change. Christina Strain's script is excellent. Amilcar Pinna's art delivers great details and characters. This issue portrays a lot of action, though, and at multiple points Mr. Pinna's work looks too static. Also, the twist ending is a little too ambiguous. I had to seek out internet help to understand what happened on the final page - and I don't think the blame for the confusion falls entirely on me.

8.0
Generation X (2017) #87

Sep 6, 2018

Monet is saved, Jubilee is back to sparkling, all the relationships tie up beautifully, and we get heartwarming goodbyes from this crew. This is one of those bittersweet ends where all the threads tie up together and you're ready to see the team tackle a dozen more challenges, but the cancellation demon says no. Words and art are both on top of their game in depicting this happy triumph.

6.0
Generations: Banner Hulk & The Totally Awesome Hulk #1

Feb 12, 2018

Amadeus Cho is dropped into a classic Banner Hulk vs. Army brawl in the desert. Swapping ideas with Silver Age Banner leads Amadeus to admit for the first time that his Hulk is, like Bruce's, a curse. This revelation would mean a lot more if I had the slightest iota of confidence in Greg Pak integrating it into Amadeus's ongoing story. Mr. Pak's Totally Awesome Hulk is such a poster boy for "live and don't learn" that I can't see this blast from the past meaning much in the future. Nitpickety art note: Does Marvel *really* not have anybody in the editorial food chain who noticed or cared that Matteo Buffagni equipped General Ross's Hulkbusters with *Nazi* tanks here?

9.0
Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1

Feb 26, 2018

Laura finds herself in a position to help Logan rescue his adopted daughter from the Hand. Tom Taylor turns in a letter-perfect action script with a freight train of great feels tied onto the final scene. Ramon Rosanas's art is amply serviceable throughout, guiding the reader through fights and emotions with equal aplomb. There's a tiny hint of something missing from the visuals, suggesting that strong as this is, it could be even stronger, but I can't put it into words. Still, this is a mustn't-miss performance and the undoubted standout of the Generations series.

9.0
Generations: The Unworthy Thor & The Mighty Thor #1

Mar 11, 2018

Two Thors meet in an Ancient Daze Vikings vs. Apocalypse fight, and both Thors Learn a Thing. Besides impressive reciprocity, Jason Aaron also gifts his script with a wise protagonist: Unlike previous Generations issues, in this one we get to follow Thor (Jane edition) along the path of reasoning from "where the ☠☠☠☠ am I?" to "looks like I need to team up with this other Thor." It might be a short trip, but it feels *really* good to actually follow our protagonist through it. Mahmud Asrar contributes some powerful (if slightly short of detail) art and the entire journey is a no-drawbacks blast from start to finish. A healthy helping of solid humor helps things along considerably.

8.0
Generations: Hawkeye & Hawkeye #1

Mar 11, 2018

Kate is sucked into a Deadliest Game setup with a *very* early Silver Age Clint. Sass and teamwork and the accidental introduction of the word "asshat" to the Silver Age ensue. The script is even smarter than it seems, and it seems plenty smart. The story ends up being funny and just a little heartwarming, with Youthful Clint unconsciously earning Kate's admiration all over again. Stefano Raffaele's art is a bit of a high-wire act, particularly in the faces: He goes for broke every time. While sometimes his faces end up mismatched with the script, when he *does* nail the right expression the results are epic. I do wish both the script and the art spent a *little* more effort on the climactic Bullseye fight; it comes off too short, too confused, and it wastes a nice Chekov's Gun.

8.0
Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1

Mar 11, 2018

A time-jaunt that dumps her into the presence of Phoenixed-but-not-evil Jean Grey gives Teen Jean the opportunity to grill her older self on the firebird. Does she take the chance? Does she dare warn older Jean about what comes next? This is a pretty decent read and R.B. Silva's art is a pleasure to see. I'm not sure why Marvel commissioned a painstaking imitation of "Generations: Phoenix by Dennis Hopeless and Stuart Immonen" instead of just hitting up those creators directly, though.

4.0
Generations: Iron Man & Ironheart #1

Mar 30, 2018

Riri Williams supposedly gets amazed by a peek at the woo-woo future of Sorcerer Supreme Tony Stark. This is a resounding failure on multiple fronts. Brian Michael Bendis's not-as-clever-as-it-wants-to-be script makes two big calls on the ridiculously over-staffed art team: To show us an amazing future and to show us how much it impresses Riri. The first goal is, debatably, achieved; the second is just completely hosed. Of the many many plot problems, The one which irks me most is that Riri is sidelined into a snarky but passive cheerleader for the "lookit how awesome Tony Stark is" show. Again.

4.0
Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1

Mar 30, 2018

Carol and Mar-Vell team up to save some throwaway yellow pacifist aliens from Annihilus. While there are a few nuggets of gold lurking deep in the script, they're buried under a deluge of forced humor and ham-handed characterization. It feels like Margaret Stohl studied Mar-Vell by reading his 1968 series and she gave it up for a lost cause in the middle of Arnold Drake's writing tenure. While this rendition is slightly better than Drake's, it's still terribly dull and it lacks the cosmic nobility of Starlin's Captain Marvel - a giant missed opportunity. Brent Schoonover's art is earnest and ambitious, but also terribly stiff in a lot of places. While a touch of charity allows you to believe that both writer and artist are trying their best, describing the results of their efforts as successful, satisfying, or entertaining would be going too far.

8.0
Generations: Captain Marvel & Ms. Marvel #1

Apr 7, 2018

Ms. Marvel visits the days when Carol Danvers ran a women's magazine and Kamala takes the long look at her hero that she's needed since Civil War II. Even though G. Willow Wilson's plotting and joking lean hard into the corny "very special episode"-ness of the premise, she can't resist doing some pretty brilliant character work while exploring Kamala's view of Carol. Good development, a strong thematic message, and yes, lots of cheesy humor from "Awesome outfits cost less than $20 in the past? I want to go to there!" to a cute Peter Parker cameo. Paolo Villanelli runs wild with the mandate to turn this into "70s Hair: The Comic," and the results are awesome. Ian Herring's sepia-toned palette helps sell the retro ambiance too.

7.0
Generations: Miles Morales Spider-Man & Peter Parker Spider-Man #1

Apr 7, 2018

Miles travels back to a pivotal point in Peter's history: ASM #31-33, the classic "If This Be My Destiny" arc. Bendis and Pérez concentrate on quieter moments outside the action of the original, jiggering the plot just a little to give Miles (and us readers) a maximally-satisfying peep at this moment in Peter's life. It feels like an oversight that Marvel didn't think to package this with a reprint of "If This Be My Destiny" or even throw in an ad or an editor's note or something. No, actually, what feels like an oversight/total bull☠☠☠☠ is that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko don't even get a pro-forma "Spider-Man created by" credit here despite the fact that Bendis and Pérez lifted a *lot* of words and images directly out of ASM #32. No credit at all. LEGACY! The new story is sentimental but not flawless. I feel like Ramón Pérez takes an extra foot out of the inch given to him by a "make it look sketchy like Ditko" directive, and Brian Michael Bendis's script drags more than a little before landing at the solid gold final scene. You'll feel really great after finishing this comic, but a closer review will show that virtually all of that goodwill comes out of about six pages. Cornball coloring error: How can you have three white hands in a panel where the only people present are Peter and Miles?

9.0
Generations: Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America #1

Apr 7, 2018

Nick Spencer closes out Generations by telling an achingly important story about Sam Wilson. In the Vanishing Point, he gets to live out an entire life. It still intersects with Steve Rogers's, but this experience gives him superb reasons to hand back the shield and become the Falcon again. He wants to forge his own path. Paul Renaud's art is ever so slightly a limiting factor, but it still delivers powerful storytelling and enhances the emotional impact of the script.

2.0
Ghost Rider (2016) #3

Oct 31, 2017

Poorly-written Hulk and Wolverine continue their monster hunt with very vestigial involvement from Ghost Rider. Silk is added to the lineup; this twist is spoiled by the cover's corner box. Though it's clear this book is aimed at a younger audience, this does not in any way excuse the terrible writing and lazy art featured throughout. Biggest question: why is "Totally Awesome Hulk and All-New Wolverine Team-Up Featuring Special Guest Stars Silk And Maybe Ghost Rider" being published under the title "Ghost Rider?"

4.0
Ghost Rider (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

Robbie *actively refuses* to get involved with the stupid guest-star plot that's monopolizing his title. Pity his own concerns aren't any more interesting. We are four issues in and much like its protagonist, this title shuns the call to adventure. The art is satisfactory for a bottom-shelf book (that's Danilo Beyruth's beat, apparently) and some of the dialogue is okay; plot, pacing, and characterization are all still terrible.

2.0
Ghost Rider (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

Ghost Rider finally deigns to blast the purple space monster with generic shut-you-up hellfire for several pages. The guest stars are utterly useless, Ghost Rider wastes a lot of time, and readers are left without any engaging character or story hooks whatsoever. Artist Danilo Beyruth seems to be just as tired of this story as I am, contributing some lackluster art that really seals in the "blah" feeling of the series as a whole. Even the fan letters at the end illustrate the problem of this series: Fans love Robbie Reyes but have only the most generic of compliments for this particular story. Robbie is a great *concept*, but concepts don't generate entertaining comics by themselves.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

Gamora ignores an offer to get off Earth and instead gets imprisoned by Captain Marvel. This is some medium-to-heavy character assassination of Carol Danvers. She's weepy and contradictory and she chunks Gamora in prison to await trial for "crimes against the United States government." Didn't Gamora come to Earth *at Carol's request* to help her fight a war? Other "attractions" in this comic are a few over-complex breadcrumbs you can use to chart out Thanos's story arc from CW2 through Unworthy Thor and over to his solo series.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

Angela gets all of three pages to reflect on non-Guardians business (like the fact that *the love of her life is MIA*) before she gets mistaken for Gamora and swallowed up by "here comes Thanos a-bloody-gain" foreshadowing. It's surprising to find out this arc and this title are going to wrap up with a Thanos fight. Not a good surprise. It was at least nice to see an acknowledgment - however brief - that Angela was torn straight out of a "happily ever after" situation for this volume of Guardians nonsense.

2.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

Brian Michael Bendis's farewell to the Guardians is monstrously self-indulgent in many different ways. The good side: This double-sized issue features some superb art by Valerio Schiti and a cavalcade of A-list guest artists. The bad side: All that brilliance is enslaved by a script so aggressively terrible that I half suspect it's a put-on. Like Mr. Bendis is saying, "See, you complain about my Guardians being slow and directionless, but a fast, driven Guardians book stinks!" No, Mr. Bendis, *your* fast, driven Guardians book stinks. I recommend reading Mr. Bendis's self-indulgent two-page farewell letter at the end. He comes within an inch of admitting that he glommed onto the Guardians in order to hog as much MCU spotlight as possible.

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

Groot has a grudge match with a fiery Leviathon while his teammates bicker. This would have worked a lot better as Rocket & Groot #1.MU. The rest of the team is largely wasted. There are flashes of brilliance to David Baldeón's art here, but he runs out of steam on his splash pages and produces less memorable work than he could.

7.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #146

May 14, 2018

The Guardians join up temporarily (?) with Scott Adsit's Crappy Novas to try and make them less crappy. The plot splits up like a backwoods road and in this issue we follow Ant-Man and Gamora on an interesting rescue mission. It's a good yarn and Ant-Man has some impressive anti-charisma with Gamora. Fun plotting and solid visual blocking are counterbalanced by a slight lack of polish in the way the characters are finished, both artistically and narratively. I'm also a little uncertain about Gerry Duggan's tone with the Novas; while I can see the promise in treating them as corrupt cops in need of reform, so far they're coming off a bit farcical.

8.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #147

Jun 9, 2018

Gamora and Ant-Man come home safe, Peter Quill and Rich Rider kiss and make up, and awesome pregnant Nova Eve Bakian has a Big Secret. This issue surfs through these three plot points with sketchy, speedy visuals and a little bit of cute dialogue, but the polish of Gerry Duggan's words is terribly rough. This book opens with a line that I can't believe was proofread by a competent editor, and a few similar clunkers pop up throughout the book. Mr. Duggan might just be overstretched with all his double-shipping commitments, and he's getting ☠☠☠☠all in the way of editorial support. Fast and rough though it is, this issue tells an impeccably cool story.

8.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #148

Jun 18, 2018

Drax finishes the last first-tier Nova Corps quest and the Guardians don't quite hit the road to go find the next quest-giver NPC. There's quality plot development and good character work, but the Nova Corps storyline feels like an anchor in a negative way. Marcus To's art is a lot like Gerry Duggan's script - packed with real talent, but moving just a touch too fast to drill down and do something truly remarkable.

7.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #149

Jul 6, 2018

While Groot and pals get stuck into a nice fight with the rogue Groots, Rocket solves the rogue Nova problem in an incredibly clever way so that he and Star-Lord and Adsit can prepare for an imminent Raptor assault. Gerry Duggan's script is magnificently paced and features tons of intricate twists unfolding with huge satisfaction. Marcus To's art is powerful and great at capturing both dynamic motion and expressive faces. But the dialogue is so cheesy and the art is so under-detailed! If these gentlemen had two more weeks … If Mr. Duggan could sand away the clichés and use the *best* joke instead of the first joke. If Mr. To could detail up his characters and *especially* his settings to make this into a real space opera instead of a rehearsal on a barely-dressed stage. What a comic it could be with a little more time and work! Another potent bullet in my "double shipping ruins comics" arsenal.

8.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #150

Jul 11, 2018

A big Raptor fight gives Ant-Man a chance to shine, but the rest of the book turns into a too-busy roster shuffle. Adam Warlock gets a healthy slice of attention, but for now, his storyline is quite separate from the Guardians. There's so much going on in Gerry Duggan's cosmic world that the "where to next" picture for the Guardians isn't as clear as it could be. Marcus To's art is a noteworthy high point; he's closing this volume down with a triumphant demonstration of his full potential. Great to look at, but a little confusing to read - this issue is a nice allegorical capstone for Mr. Duggan's full Guardians run to date.

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout #1

Nov 9, 2017

By the extremely limited standards of what it is, a piece of Disney memorabilia, this is a successful comic. It will amuse 10-year-old MCU fans on their way to or from the associated Disney World ride. The fact that Marvel or your LCS will sell you a copy for $5 is a little embarrassing, but you can easily avoid that by just not buying the thing. I hope the creators are happy with their paychecks, because their lackluster work certainly isn't going to pay any dividends in the form of critical acclaim.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Dream On #1

Oct 31, 2017

The Guardians are trapped in a lotus-eater machine and escape by turning it around on their captor, Death's Head. Quietly decent art can't rescue a script full of tired jokes and weak characterization that's terrified of doing a single thing that might confuse MCU fans. The plot is also nothing special, featuring a telegraphed twist that is at least executed at a good pace. This has *got* to be a cash-in for the second Guardians film. The fact that it's bundled with a reprint of Guardians (1990) #1 which introduces Taserface supports this. Overall, terrifically skippable.

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #1

Nov 9, 2017

Taking a lame bodyguard gig to satisfy their debts, the Guardians fall afoul of a horrible pan-dimensional space-plague. And Pip the Troll. I think grandmaster Jim Starlin is way more interested in his villain than his heroes, which makes this introductory adventure a little dull. It reads like a very lazily-run D&D session: "You're drinking in the local tavern and you review your debts. You're terribly broke. The local guard says you must complete the quest he offers." Alan Davis's art doesn't delight me, either, but this miniseries has plenty of potential.

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #2

Nov 17, 2017

Mother Entropy starts testing the Guardians (and Pip the Troll!) to find her new avatar. Dream sequences are inconclusive; next up is bodyswapping. This title just isn't connecting with me. There's plenty of potential left, but so far it feels stuck in neutral. I still think Jim Starlin is more interested in Mother Entropy than his heroes, but this little psychodrama provided frustratingly few insights into her character and I wasn't really feeling the funny in the dream sequences. Alan Davis's art is a little stronger this time around and his Gamora is looking less hydrocephalic. I am optimistic about the comedy potential of the body swaps.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #3

Nov 25, 2017

A blasé bar fight crowns Pip the Troll as the new Mother Entropy; next, the Guardians have to save the Shi'ar from him or visa-versa. The body-swapped fight could have been great. Unfortunately, crafting distinctive character voices is not one of Jim Starlin's strengths. After this desultory kickoff, the whole Mother Entropy plot is looking underwhelming; it's extremely easy to predict what plot points the last two issues will be hitting. Whether it's intentional or accidental, Mr. Starlin is writing Pip and the Guardians as morons, and that's not a lot of fun to read. Alan Davis's art commits no sins, but neither does it step up to provide any of the excitement that this script sorely lacks.

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #4

Dec 3, 2017

The Guardians' fight against Mother Entropy goes very wrong very fast. Can Quill and Groot save the day? You can't ever fault Jim Starlin for lacking scope and ambition; this story turned into a universe-spanning version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" with impressive quickness. Trimming the team down to the under-utilized pairing of Groot and Peter is an interesting choice; between their lack of a common language and the huge scope of their enemy, their future looks mighty grim. It's a welcome bit of tension after the last issue, but it doesn't look like this title is going to end up being particularly memorable.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #5

Dec 7, 2017

Groot saves the day by manifesting never-before-seen abilities and the creators point us ham-handedly toward a "let's all forget this ever happened" ending. Did you know Groot is the *only* sentient being in the known Marvel universe who doesn't breathe oxygen? That's the biggest of the bitter assumption pills Jim Starlin would like you to swallow but by no means the only one. Granted, this series is clearly intended for a young, non-critical, MCU-loving audience, but that in no way excuses the feeble storytelling on display here. Kiddies (and grown-ups and just generally everybody who picks up a comic) deserve better than this.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #1

Feb 3, 2018

Writer Fred Van Lente guarantees this is gonna be "the greatest comic book based on a video game based on a movie based on a comic book in Marvel history." I wish anything that happened in this issue was as clever as that sentence. Some half-hearted attempts to replicate the decision-making process of a point-and-click video game fail to add novelty to the cut-and-dried story. Salva Espin's art looks shockingly effort-free, and he distinguishes himself negatively by drawing the worst Rocket Raccoon I've ever seen in a professionally-illustrated comic. A few glimmers of genuine humor avert total trainwreck catastrophe, but this is a terribly inauspicious start to a series.

5.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #2

Mar 11, 2018

A trip to Sakaar devolves into a lot of absurd sub-plots, and some of them get pretty enjoyable. The revelation of the Guardians' target is quite welcome, and Fred Van Lente manages to sock Rocket and Drax into an impressively silly gladiatorial scheme. Salva Espin's art is decent, with the continued exception of his woeful Rocket. While this book is still definitely flawed and assembled with a minimum of effort, it has some rewards to offer up to readers who grace it with their attention.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #3

Apr 7, 2018

Even with a cute backstory for Cosmo, this story dragging the Guardians to Titan struggles to justify the time it takes to read it. Salva Espin's cruise-control art is the stand-out shortcoming, but Fred Van Lente's plotting isn't all that memorable either. The character work is the silver lining, and even that is uneven.

5.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #4

May 7, 2018

Prior to a Blood Brothers showdown, Groot hilariously short-circuits a heist plan to retrieve Cosmo's "treasure." It's fun, but it's also a very over-elaborated riff on Groot's prison break gag in the first movie. Salva Espin's art is particularly nice this time around, but it doesn't do quite enough to elevate the lazy script all the way up to roundly entertaining. The "quasi-MCU" setting suffers badly in a post-Infinity-War world, as the creators could draw freely from already-released films but had to guess at how Thanos and Titan should be portrayed. Their take on the Black Order - a nihilistic death-cult worshipping Thanos but flying totally below his radar - is kind of too good for a crass tie-in miniseries.

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #5

Jun 9, 2018

Thanos and the Eternity Forge (the Telltale game's MacGuffin) put in brief appearances as the Guardians extricate themselves from Titan and discover their adventures have basically brought them through a dangerous loop right back to where they started. Cosmo does at least imply that this has all been pointless, but a hint of abashed self-awareness is not nearly enough to mollify readers (like me!) who feel like their time has been wasted. This series definitely isn't worth paying for, and I would debate the wisdom of even reading it for free on Marvel Unlimited. The time it takes is not rewarded all that well by the feeble humor, shaggy dog plot, and lazy art.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #1

Jan 9, 2018

Kate's second try at becoming an LA private eye is off to a rollicking good start. She starts accumulating a supporting cast with speed, and this issue celebrates everything we love about Kate Bishop without ignoring all the baggage the character has accumulated. This solid start has plenty of promise, and Leonardo Romero's stylish layout designs combine with Jordie Bellaire's sun-drenched Venice Beach palette to give this title an instantly distinctive look.

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #2

Jan 9, 2018

The arrival of the splendidly salty Detective Rivera caps off Kate's new supporting cast, and Kelly Thompson moves the script into real action with laudable speed. This series was idling on the launchpad up to the awesomely-designed alley fight; now we're rocketing off into a thrilling neo-noir caper that promises to be really delightful. The villains are intriguingly menacing, the action is laid out with visuals that would do David Aja proud, and this title shoots right to the front of the pack in terms of ongoing Marvel solos.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #3

Oct 31, 2017

Hawkeye and her new Scooby gang find Mikka in the belly of the still-mysterious TBC cult. The pacing is a bit slow here and the art is still not my favorite, but Kate's lovable sass keeps this soft-boiled detective story chugging. I do like how much effort is lavished on the settings, but I wish the actual characters got a little more artistic attention too.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

Hawkeye beats the baddie by forcing him to listen to the Sound of Music. There is lots of other stuff going on and lots of the other stuff is great but "Hawkeye saves the day thanks to Julie Andrews" is very much a thing that happens. I'm gonna roll with it because I like lots of the other stuff, but I'm not ignoring this development which could be charitably called "wacky and whimsical" and more harshly termed "corny and saccharine."

10
Hawkeye (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

Kate Bishop + Jessica Jones is just as much of a snarky detective-fest as you dreamed it would be. They're on the trail of a "missing" person who is probably a shapeshifter. Or the recipient of *incredibly good* plastic surgery who also owns a pet dragon. The characters are expressed perfectly and the pace is flawless. This episode concludes with a satisfying cliffhanger that promises another great ride next month. Guest artist Michael Walsh seamlessly blends into the title's style, and the clever layouts and fight scenes more than make up for the occasional lack of facial detail.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #6

Nov 9, 2017

Kate and Jess solve their case once it becomes clear that Dhalia is a shapeshifting dragon Inhuman. This team-up fizzles at the end, due in no small part to the complete exhaustion of Michael Walsh's artistic talents. The ties to the title's growing long-term story about Kate's dad are pretty cool. There's also still plenty of wit in the Jessica/Kate team-up, but by the final (poorly-rendered) cliffhanger panel, I'm very ready to welcome regular artist Leonardo Romero back.

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #7

Jan 5, 2018

Hawkeye is invited into an incredibly obvious trap and powers straight through it in an awe-inspiring way. A complicated and brilliant action scene is tempered by cuts to Kate's past that flawlessly establish the personal stakes of this new arc and ratchet up the impact of the twist ending. Kelly Thompson delivers one of the strongest single-issue scripts I've ever seen. It could use a little more artistic oomph, but even Leonardo Romero's detail-lacking visuals sell the greatness of this story. He might not draw the most realistic people but he certainly puts in some hours designing impressive layouts.

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #8

Jan 9, 2018

Kate's confrontation with her dad goes so great she punches her way into a potentially-deadly fight club situation immediately afterward. This issue presents a lot of plot threads to sort through, and Kelly Thompson's script tackles the challenge with admirable vigor. She uses an excellent intercut scene structure to maximize the emotional impact of everything Kate's dealing with. Leonardo Romero's art is really clicking with me, for a change. I get it: Once you find the perfect line, why ☠☠☠☠ it up with any extra ones? His action scenes are superb. I do still wish he'd study up a little more on expressive faces, though.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #9

Feb 12, 2018

Kate wraps up her fight club caper and consciously avoids diving into her whole mess with Madame Masque and her Dad. She's instantly guilty about it; I wonder if Kelly Thompson isn't projecting a little regret about punching the pause button on the main plot this month. The last issue had a flawless intertwining of the case-du-jour with the bigger family plot, but this month's offering isn't really weakened by focusing mainly on the former. It brings the case to a resounding conclusion and offers plenty of fun along the way.

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #10

Mar 30, 2018

Gosh, isn't Kate acting strange? Smooching her Scoobies and shooting guns and all? Let's talk about the *amazing* way the creative team split this book into two incredibly different stories while keeping them related. Thoughts, dialogue, art, colors - the split between Kate and Fake-Kate resonates in every creative choice. It's an impressively thorough job and I think the only place that could *maybe* stand improvement is the rather sketchy (even for Leonardo Romero) finishes in the Fake-Kate section. That's the tiniest and most forgivable of flaws; this book is a really thoughtful and exciting treat. Killer cliffhanger, too.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #11

Apr 20, 2018

The "Madame Masque as Dupli-Kate" story winds down a little early to do some welcome character work with Kate. Everything going on in her head is fascinating. Her Scoobies are rather less interesting and starting to look a bit cardboard; this is the second issue in a row where "handsome brown boy" plays an important role and I still can't remember his name when I'm not looking directly at it. Leonardo Romero's artwork was good throughout, particularly in the double Kate fights. I liked most of Kelly Thompson's writing but kicking the issue off with that over-clever, over-twisted "apple doesn't fall far from the tree" line was a dreadful mistake.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #12

Jun 9, 2018

A reasonably compelling contrivance brings Laura Kinney and family to LA to pursue an investigation together with Kate. It's not the most momentous crime-fighting but it is a supremely enjoyable load of cute bonding between a lot of lovable female characters. (Plus a dog and a wolverine.) Michael Walsh's art is workable, and he gifts Laura with a few really splendid grimace-faces along the way. It's an enjoyable breather and also an opportunity for Kelly Thompson to flex her characterization muscles.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #13

Jun 18, 2018

Kate's Momquest takes a backseat to dealing with the lady who's out for Clint's blood. Kelly Thompson has elected to get some extra mileage out of the Hawkeye Legacy one-shot by recycling her new villain from it. While the imposition gets slightly cheesy at the end (the Secret Empire connection is gilding the lily), overall it works awfully well. Kate and Clint have a seamless chemistry and treat each other as true equals. Leonardo Romero's art is in top form, and he clearly went the extra mile to make the Graumann's Chinese Theater showdown look great.

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #14

Jul 11, 2018

While Clint enacts the stupidest, short-sighted-est, Clint-iest plan ever to try and save her, Kate is going through some top-notch powerful family feels. A very strict assessment of this comic on pure storytelling grounds might peg it at "good but not great," but anybody who rolls into this after enjoying the last 13 issues will get a significant boost out of this comic's running gags (frozen peas, exploding bobby pins) and gently sarcastic self-awareness (what *is* up with Kate's hip-holes, anyway?). For fans of Kelly Thompson's Hawkeye - and who else is reading at this point? - this *is* great.

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #15

Aug 18, 2018

The Hawkeyes and their antagonists break contact and strengthen their positions before meeting up for a final showdown. It's an awesomely busy plot carried out with continuous sass of the highest quality. The art maintains a solid story flow through two very busy fight scenes. In its penultimate issue, this title is glorifying in the smarts and heart that made it great. Even if the next one ends up disappointing (not that I think that's likely), this issue is a treasure - and a tremendously fun and funny read.

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #16

Sep 20, 2018

A basic (though wonderfully entertaining) triumph over Eden and Masque turns into something bigger. The end of the series forces the creators to jam a few long-term plot points into the finale. It's a good read overall, but at least two developments are clearly included here because there's no more space to address them later. They don't clash but they don't quite blend. The visuals are particularly great. It's a word-heavy script, but to keep things from getting boring, the layouts are a little extra inventive. There's more detail than usual, too.

9.0
Hulk (2016) #2

Oct 31, 2017

A little PTSD Hulk-Out for Jen sends things spiraling toward disaster for her client, though the connections are subtle right now. "Subtle" is really this title's watchword. Both the art and writing invite you to peer closely into small moments in Jen's life and unpack the meaning hiding beneath the surface. Keep your eyes peeled for Patsy Walker in the final pages!

8.0
Hulk (2016) #3

Oct 31, 2017

Backstory for Jen's client (her Deal is that she's an allegory for Jen's Deal) and a visit from the Hellcat. I'm hoping this "slow burn" doesn't slide into "no burn," but this is a quiet interlude in an already-quiet series. It's still wonderfully subtle and stylish, but there's just not a lot of action to illustrate this month. I think critics who have said this title would make a better GN than a monthly series might be right.

8.0
Hulk (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

The fires are about to burn out of control as Jen Walters confronts the darkness in Maisie Brewn. This issue is hung up on a bit of a catch-22. It works well as a fresh introduction to the title. Maybe too well - it feels slightly redundant after the story that's unfolded in the previous issues. This arc is clearly paced to fit a complete story into the first trade. That means the big climactic fight can't really start before #5, and for all its self-sufficient quality this issue feels a lot like filler.

8.0
Hulk (2016) #5

Nov 4, 2017

Jen finally queues up a Hulk-out when Maisie reveals she's turned to an uncontrollable inner demon to protect her from the world. (ALLEGORY!) Is it decompressed? Oooh yeah. Is it suffering from some of Marvel's most tone-deaf marketing (i.e. deceptive solicits and covers) ever? Yeah, and that's saying something. I do love the way fan reactions mimic the social challenges that real PTSD sufferers have to deal with: "You're not even the same person," "This is just generic trauma and your story isn't special," "I'm trying to be compassionate but get over it already, LOL." I've heard a third-hand rumor that this title's slow pace is editorially mandated; i.e., Jen has to remain traumatized up to Secret Empire. If that's the case, it still seems like a poor choice to stretch one three-issue story into six issues. None of these individual issues are disappointing, but the slow pace makes it impossible to call any of them great. This month's flashback to Jen in the hospital - and her subtle, achingly great conversation with Carol - shows that there's no shortage of tangents we could explore instead of hammering on this allegorical connection until it starts to fray.

6.0
Hulk (2016) #6

Dec 7, 2017

Jen at last Hulks out to beat the fear-golem-whatever-thing her client has cooked up. On both the allegorical "Jen faces her fears" and the straightforward "Hulk smash monster" levels, this is underwhelming. I feel like this story arc has run out to that fragile edge where experimental creators sink or swim, and this issue feels mighty sinky. The intent in script and art was to make this fight look tense and scary; the result is a muddle that seems afraid of showing off its star. Jen's new Hulk form looks incredible, but we're intentionally denied any good opportunities to scope it. The generic blobby opponent is particularly forgettable; colorist Matt Milla makes a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to perk it up with some mottled greys and browns. The bright spot in this mess is the implication at the end that Jen's decided it's time to stop hiding from the world and start rebuilding herself properly. Here's hoping the next arc is a little more eventful and a little faster.

8.0
Hulk (2016) #7

Jan 5, 2018

We jump ahead in Jen's healing journey and start a new story about what looks like YouTube pranksters administering MGH to unsuspecting folks and filming the results. Mariko Tamaki continues to handle Jen's evolving character with great skill and sensitivity, and the setup for this new arc looks impressively novel. Georges Duarte's art is pretty solid, though both script and visuals appear to be moving away from the "Hulked-out Jen is uncontrollably feral" precedent established last month. That's a tiny bit disappointing. Overall, though, this issue delivers just the dose of forward progress that the title needed.

6.0
Hulk (2016) #8

Jan 27, 2018

Some detective work with her assistant gives Jen a good handle on what's happened to baking guy Oliver. This issue really shows the perils of decompression. Mariko Tamaki's script runs in a large circle with weak scene transitions and a confusing chronology. Georges Duarte's art offers similar frustrations. He uses computer trickery to create his settings, and the results are impressive; he's got a real talent for perspective and blocking. Where he attempts to imitate Nico Leon's character work, though, he gets into trouble. His visuals are on firmer ground the closer Jen is to Hulking out. That makes him an imperfect fit for her current "hesitant hero" situation.

5.0
Hulk (2016) #9

Mar 11, 2018

The Hulk puts a fright into the scumbags who dosed Oliver with MGH, but Oli is still on the loose. The big-picture plot continues to shamble along like Man-Thing with a flat tire. Ms. Tamaki lards the script with too many naturalistic but ultimately inconsequential conversations. A talent for replicating small talk *absolutely can not* substitute for dramatic plot or character development. Add in a horrific case of fill-in-artist mismatch and you've got a pretty disappointing issue.

6.0
Hulk (2016) #10

Mar 30, 2018

Jen lets out the Hulk to finish Oliver's monster story in a slightly unsatisfying way. There's a lot of play about duality here, and Jen's narration segues from glib Frankenstein chatter into some great talk about rage and suffering. The art is a remarkable disappointment. Julian Lopez & Francesco Gaston both do great work. Either could easily produce an above-average Hulk comic on his own. And their hugely contradictory styles could be cleverly merged by making one responsible for Jen and the other responsible for the Hulk. Simply splitting the book in half, though, manages to weaken both of their productions and significantly degrade the comic's reception. Basically, you are guaranteed to hate at least 50 percent of how this book looks. This issue gets a 6/10 rating by the most frustrating route: balancing hugely promising ideas against hugely flawed execution.

8.0
Hulk (2016) #11

Apr 20, 2018

Sassy "talk to the readers" Jen makes a welcome reappearance on a momentous date night. Going this comedic might be a surprising choice after the last 10 issues, but the creators carry it off with tremendous skill. It's a very fun read and an especially great showing for Patsy Walker. And there's a nice little hook tying this otherwise self-contained one-shot into the stalkery foreshadowing that started in #10. Bachan's art is expressive and funny without being short of detail, but Frederico Blee takes a heavy-handed approach with the colors that detracts significantly from the linework.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine #1

Nov 10, 2018

The Reavers try to rob Logan's tomb; that segues into the discovery that his body is missing. The A story covering the robbery is excellent. The B story setting up four extremely-questionable follow-up titles is disappointing. On a pure storytelling level, it's satisfactory, but the core premise is rock stupid. Logan's corpse going MIA SHOULD trigger an all-mutants-on-deck X-Stravaganza. Who do we send out instead? One X-team that's all female for some reason, one villain squad, and two teams made up of the Netflix Defenders plus Spidey and Iron Man. It's abject nonsense. The poor planning in the B story is worth at least one penalty point; if I was buying at full cover price instead of reading this on MU, the penalty would be higher.

8.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda #1

Nov 25, 2018

This issue does a good job identifying the reader's key question - why THIS lineup of Wolverine's Avenger buddies? - and building the answer into a compelling flashback mystery. The script delivers a team dynamic that's strongly reminiscent of Brian Michael Bendis (in a good way), and the visuals are suitably cinematic for a globe-trotting James-Bond-esque thriller. The question of how integral this story is to Logan's return is still open, but the creators have done a good job of making it interesting in its own right.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer #1

Dec 3, 2018

This dense introduction to the villainous Logan-hunting party delivers some welcome attention to the Soteira Group, the bigger bads who have possession of Logan right now. While the nasty characterization of the protagonists is refreshing, it clashes with the "dirty-faced angels" treatment they're getting in other titles (Daken in X-Men Blue and Deathstrike and Sabretooth in Weapon X). The darker take shown here isn't deep enough to override the goodguy treatment; this just muddies the waters. This issue also has some visual problems: the marvelously real faces are great in individual panels but the progression from picture to picture is disjointed. This only gets worse as the story moves away from talking and toward fighting.

2.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1

Dec 3, 2018

An all-female crew of Logan's mutant pals goes hunting for Magneto in Madripoor, but instead they "just happen" to run into an all-female baddie squad. This is a strong contender for the least enjoyable comic I've read in years. The all-X-chromosome gimmick is unjustified, the flashback characterization of Logan and his ladies is pond-shallow, and then there's the art. It's not just me disliking Thony Silas's shovel-faced Nagel-ripoff style - though I certainly do dislike it. No, what really arouses my ire is the fundamental and, I contend, objective incompetence shown in anatomy, blocking, and visual storytelling. Logan's double-barrel chest on the very first page, the inept and confusing portrayal of Mindblast's airport disguise, the way Storm's keepsake is almost-but-not-quite-perfectly hidden from view ... There is no end to the artistic missteps. This comic is a failure even on the basest level of juvenile titillation. T&A were definitely in the cards - look not just at the rosters but also at the X-Women LITERALLY and EXPLICITLY dressing in stripper clothes for their Magneto meeting. But sexy, too, falls outside Mr. Silas's wheelhouse today.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Weapon Lost #1

Nov 25, 2018

Daredevil goes into maximum hardboiled mode and treats Logan's absence as a missing person case. He recruits from the ranks of the NYPD, teaming up with Frank McGee and Misty Knight. I like the team and love the tone, but the pace seems slow. The flying vehicles and making a big joke out of crazy Cypher sit poorly with me, too. This definitely wouldn't convince me to buy the series in floppies, but it makes a fine MU read.

6.0
I Am Groot #1

Dec 3, 2017

Baby Groot is sheared off his team and plonked onto the wild world of Terminal for some presumably adorable hijinks. The Flaviano / Marcio Menyz art team dishes up some enjoyable toonish visuals. Before we can get into the intriguing mysteries of Terminal, we have to struggle through an overlong dose of the Guardians at their most marketable and kid-friendly. This is notably the stupidest Peter Quill has ever been portrayed on-page, and after the last few years that's *really* saying something. I think an uptick in subsequent issues is very possible now that we've weathered a somewhat dull, pro-forma start.

8.0
I Am Groot #2

Jan 5, 2018

Terminal is a spectacularly weird world, but at least Groot finds a pal who can understand him. This series is clearly designed to amuse both kiddies and parents, and I think it achieves those goals. There's an edge of grotesquerie to Flaviano's art that's sure to delight children, and the bigger question of what the Terminal world is *really* intended for will keep grownups guessing. This feels like a modern swing at the sort of fantasy themes addressed in Bill Mantlo's original Rocket Raccoon miniseries, and I mean it as the highest sort of praise when I say this series is shaping up as a worthy successor to that one.

6.0
I Am Groot #3

Feb 3, 2018

There's a magic portal on Terminal that can return Groot to his native dimension, but the Administrator will throw every last robot on the planet between the little tree and his goal. Writer Christopher Hastings clutters the script up with "buddies" to provide exposition for our verbally-challenged hero - lazy. The Administrator phones in to exposit more and explain the whole core conflict - lazy. Even artist Flaviano gets in on the lazy action by blowing up some super-loose panels to splash-page or double-spread size and pretending they're impressive. None of this makes the issue terrible; it just makes me feel like an idiot for comparing this title to Bill Mantlo's original Rocket miniseries last month.

6.0
I Am Groot #4

Mar 11, 2018

Another edition of "Flaviano's CuteGroot sketchbook with random plot threads by Christopher Hastings," hooray! Except not hooray, because this kinda stinks. There's about a ten-year age gap between the reader who will delight in the pretty pictures and the reader who'll be interested in and capable of puzzling out Mr. Hastings' mystery plot. I cannot really imagine #5 as a big answer-everything conclusion that redeems the time we've invested in this series, but I guess anything's possible. This issue barely hits 6/10 even with a bonus point for my suspicion that the Administrator's "trap a perfect moment forever" agenda is a super-stealthy critique of the tiresome superfans who believe there's a progressive conspiracy to make Marvel comics suck now. Even if that *is* Mr. Hastings' intention (and I may just be projecting), it's executed too subtly (and in a poor venue) to really bite.

6.0
I Am Groot #5

Apr 7, 2018

A heap of explanations makes satisfying sense out of Terminal and Groot gets a chance to fight a surprising guest star before getting plopped back home. The final scene with the Guardians, like the start, is painfully clichéd, dragging down an otherwise above-average conclusion. A farewell letter from writer Chris Hastings notes the difficulty in telling stories about a protagonist with a three-word vocabulary; it's a pity his response to that challenge never got much past "What's that, Grooty? Timmy fell down the well?" levels. The final dose of Flaviano art is quite impressive, capably balancing out any remaining script problems and ensuring that this issue ends up being decently entertaining.

8.0
Iceman (2017) #1

Jan 5, 2018

A succinct and well-rounded introduction encapsulates Bobby Drake (OG) and what's going right and wrong in his life right now. Sina Grace takes pains to script some genuinely touching moments that show Bobby at his best: Instructing his younger self and saving a young mutant from a Purifier. He's an exemplary senior X-Man and that's always worth remembering. On the downside, his fight with a single very green Purifier is underwhelming and the initial "Bobby writes a dating profile" conceit is a bit too cute for the room. Nicely-integrated family drama makes it clear his Terrible Parents haven't even accepted him as a mutant yet; his sexuality is gonna be a whole other kettle of fish. This isn't flashy, but it's a rock-solid base to build a great character study on.

4.0
Iceman (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

Bobby and Kitty have an Uncomfortable Ex Chat in the middle of rescuing a new mutant. This could have been a really nice comic; it's a pity we get a problematic rough draft instead of a finished product. It's riddled with ugly spots that betray a lack of polish. That applies to both the writing (corny jokes with bad delivery, lack of smooth line-to-line flow) and the art (sterile poses, poor faces, minimal design continuity with the last issue). I don't think rushing this issue out the door to meet a double shipping schedule was a good idea. To paraphrase Shigeru Miyamoto, a delayed comic can eventually be good, but a rushed comic is forever bad.

8.0
Iceman (2017) #3

Feb 3, 2018

The Purifiers, apparently on a "spoil Bobby's relationship with his parents" mission now, strike during what was supposed to be his coming-out dinner. Jokes aside, this issue is an achingly good execution of the classic "mutants as a stand-in for homosexuals" trope. It's a splendid action story, too, and expanding the Purifier attack from #1 into an ongoing plot is much appreciated. Alessandro Vitti's return to art duties is also a good thing; let's hope moving this book to a monthly schedule fits his capabilities.

7.0
Iceman (2017) #4

Mar 11, 2018

Iceman faces off with Daken when Zach, the increasingly-horrible mutant teen from #2, goes AWOL. Sina Grace's plotting and characterization are rock solid, but his dialogue is painfully contrived and not half as hep as he'd like it to be. Visually, Edgar Salazar does sterling work on settings and characters, but his pencils are robbed of their impact by Ed Tadeo's scratchy, shallow inking. There's potential for greatness here - most notably, this creative team is terrific at using Bobby's powers in smart, novel ways - but the flaws aren't overlookable. I can't really call any comic "great" when the dialogue delivers eyeball-rollers every two pages.

8.0
Iceman (2017) #5

Mar 30, 2018

Bobby's coming out to his parents goes poorly even before the Juggernaut attacks. Sina Grace's script does a good job juggling the two struggles and building them into something greater than the sum of their parts. Easy-to-miss feature: This issue has superb links to other X-Books. Juggsy's whole excuse for attacking the school is the mistaken idea that the Blue squad (they teleported him to Hell last year) lives in Central Park. And Quentin and Idie walk directly into this issue out of Generation X #6 without missing a beat. Alessandro Vitti's art is a bit of a limiting factor - it tells the story well but some of the people in it look simply dreadful.

7.0
Iceman (2017) #6

Apr 20, 2018

Losing Natasha in Secret Empire makes this OG Champions reunion a rather sad affair. And Sina Grace bends his script heavily toward Bobby's first gay date, so his old teammates serve primarily on wingman duty. Some of the romance gets glitchy when Mr. Grace pushes too hard toward sass, but the hero relationships are rock-solid. Robert Gill's art is just barely satisfactory. It gets the story told but it doesn't attract any positive attention; scripts that park Warren Worthington, Johnny Blaze, and Bobby Drake together all in civilian clothes are probably haunting Mr. Gill's nightmares now. Thank goodness for leather biker jackets!

7.0
Iceman (2017) #7

May 14, 2018

Bobby does a sterling job of flattening ersatz Sentinels and getting through his first date, then decides to make a big change. I respect the lofty goals this comic is aiming at. Though its successes elevate it above the ordinary, its failings can't be ignored. Sina Grace portrays Bobby very well, but his dialogue skills are too rough to make this breezy slice-of-life Claremont-esque plot structure work. Robert Gill is a talented penciller who does noteworthy fight scenes, but the potential of his artwork is undercut by messy lines that lack hierarchy - sometimes the shading overwhelms the outlines. This is a would-be-great comic held back by critical talent shortages. I hesitate to say it needs *different* creators; maybe they need more time and/or assistance. I think adding a dedicated inker, for example, might elevate Mr. Gill's visuals to true greatness.

6.0
Iceman (2017) #8

Jun 18, 2018

A family dinner with the Drakes and both Bobbies takes a disturbing turn, and Daken presents himself for a key antagonist role in future issues. While this comic covers plenty of promising ground, once again it feels like Sina Grace's script is an under-worked rough draft stab at developments that could/should land with much more memorability. How the Bobbies react to the Drakes' insta-creepy desire to treat time-displaced Bobby like a potential parenting do-over is a perfect example. Elder Bobby's condemnation of this idea *should* be the capstone of the issue, but Mr. Grace has him spew a bunch of forgettable platitudes in this oh-so-crucial moment. Robert Gill's art stays in its usual groove: Wonderfully detailed, but robbed of clarity by a lack of lineweight variation.

4.0
Iceman (2017) #9

Jul 11, 2018

Daken turns Bobby's farewell party into a villain apotheosis. He's activating a Death Seed, and he wants to do it in front of Bobby because … I dunno? He feels that Bobby's "timey-wimey nonsense gave me a gay revelation" schtick is stepping on the toes of his own more simplistic "I'm bi and sleazy and evil" deal, maybe? It's not fun to look at (except for a few pages of nice Bobby vs. Daken fighting), the jokes aren't funny, and the otherwise promising plot takes way too much effort to unearth. I agree with the MFR review: Reading this series is a chore. I wish it weren't, but it is. Sina Grace is so obsessed with packing his dialogue full of snark and wit and bad jokes and tryhard hipness that deciphering the actual plot points is a headache. I have no problem with portraying Bobby as a devotee of lame jokes. When *literally everyone he talks to* shares an obsessive need to wise-crack (and does a generally terrible job of it), the result is unpleasant and exhausting. Daken's first line is a Doge meme reference. He goes on to make a lampshade-hanging joke (not a good one) about "fridging" as he commits a notably terrible (in the "ooh, what a cheap twist" sense) murder. "Fridging" is usually bad because it exposes the shallowness of the victim; it reveals they exist solely to complicate the protagonist's life. While this issue's death avoids the misogynistic overtones of many fridgings, it is every bit as cheap and crass as the other worst examples of the trope. Robert Gill's art is almost as problematic as the script. Ed Tadeo's inking lends Mr. Gill's lines some needed variety, but he burns up all the slack Mr. Tadeo provides and then some. Most of the issue is filled with bland, indistinct, inexpressive characters wearing scrupulously detailed but also very boring civvies. As noted above, things do get more exciting once Bobby and Daken *finally* start to fight, but that's two pages out of 20.

6.0
Iceman (2017) #10

Aug 18, 2018

Bobby drives Daken away and everybody realigns their status quos a bit as they pick up the pieces. This issue is mostly brawl, with solid art and deadly-serious scripting, but it really only manages to engage my interest in the implications of the aftermath. It's a definite improvement over the previous issue, but I'm suffering from a little "once bitten twice shy" hesitation after essentially writing this title off at #9.

7.0
Iceman (2017) #11

Sep 20, 2018

Bobby goes on an abortive date with Rictor and the pair of them get called in to simmer down a fractious self-hating middle-aged mutant right in the Drakes' old neighborhood. Some excellent flashbacks to key points in Bobby's life - from his pre-Xavier childhood to as recent as Teen Jean outing him - deepen the story. This issue whacks the "mutant = gay" bell as hard as it's ever been whacked, and most of it works well. "Pray away the mutation" is a bit on the nose. The visuals are serviceable and the script is structurally sound. There's still plenty of roughness around the edges of the dialogue, though.

8.0
Immortal Iron Fists #2

Mar 11, 2018

Pei gets a lesson in high school tribalism, Danny lays out the threat of the Exponential Demons, and Madame Yeoh smoothly lubricates potential friction between their two worlds. This title is building toward something outstanding, and it hasn't made any serious errors so far. Afu Chan's stylized art is settling into a solid groove and Kaare Andrews's script delivers plenty of forward motion. There are just a few glitches in his Millennial tween dialogue, but he hits more pitches than he misses.

6.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #709

May 3, 2018

Greg Pak and Greg Land spew up *just so many* words and pictures to say "Sakaar turned into Fury Road after Banner Hulk left." (Which I think contradicts a *bunch* of follow-up development *done by Greg Pak* but whatever.) Hair-Gel Hulk settles into protecting innocents and fighting gladiator fights, and Mr. Pak's script offers the raw materials for a nice "Cho's Trunk Monster = the Worldbreaker" comparison. There are sharp limits to how much credit I'll extend an author for giving me a Character Development Kit rather than actual character development, though. Mr. Land's art is polished, as ever, and thoroughly generic, as ever.

5.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #710

Jun 9, 2018

The Hulk clears one gladiatorial hurdle and waits patiently for the next one. Meanwhile, serious realpolitik is going on right under his nose and he remains oblivious. For the Marvel universe's eighth-smartest hero, Hairgel Hulk sure does act like a knob most of the time. Greg Land's art has polish, but there's a credible fault against it: It's already *hard as heck* to care about Sakaar's population of random red muppets; Mr. Land isn't helping by making them difficult/impossible to tell apart. The sheer squandering of potential here does disappoint me. Why even bother going back to Planet Hulk if this is all we're doing with it?

4.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #711

Jul 6, 2018

The Hulk's interminable Gauntlet battle against the Generic Sakaar Warlord drags on, with this issue's final-page surprise promising us a no-doubt lazy script-flip of Thor: Ragnarok in the near future. The general quality of storytelling in this arc (both words and art) remains close to average. (Greg Pak shamelessly stealing the best line from the Ragnarok trailer is a notable low, though.) This is my third serving of oatmeal in a row and the consistent blandness is pushing my rating down even if the gruel is otherwise inoffensive. Cho-Hulk buying into the Warlord's obviously-rigged "rule by gladiatorial combat" system is profoundly disappointing. I think it's my dissatisfaction with that lazy, non-heroic decision that drives my fundamental dislike for this arc. *Some* heroes can descend into gladiating (not a word, I know) and find compelling stories on the bloody sand. Hairgel Hulk is not one of them. The entire point of him is tempering strength with intellect, but his behavior from page one of this arc has been childishly stupid. On the ripoff front, check out the masks Greg Land puts on the Warlord's bodyguards. They're psychos from the Borderlands games, and this iteration of Sakaar does look a lot like Pandora. While the games' makers were keenly aware of the absurdity of their setting and mined it for both humor and drama, Greg Pak and Greg Land expect readers to take their flimsy imitation far too seriously.

4.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #712

Aug 12, 2018

Over the backdrop of a by-the-numbers Hulk vs. Odinson arena fight, Amadeus Cho retreats inside himself to have Baby's First Utilitarian Morality Debate with his Trunkmonster. He defeats the monster's simplistic "needs of the many/ends justify the means" argument and manages to win the day without killing his Asgardian pal. The issue closes with an exceptionally dumb cliffhanger, promising us that the next and final dose of Planet Fury Road will be just as frustrating as the previous ones. Greg Land has one unique talent: He has an unerring nose for picking out scripts so shabby that his shortcut-riddled art won't look like the weak link in the creative lineup. If this issue's story were at all compelling, you might work up the interest/outrage needed to figure out if Mr. Land flat-out swiped his Odinson from Leinil Francis Yu and/or Olivier Coipel or if he was just "heavily inspired." But it's just blah pictures beneath blah words and the stakes are too low to get really incensed about some derivative art.

5.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #713

Sep 6, 2018

Hulk Saves the Day. Inside Amadeus's Hulkmobile metaphor, the kid falls to the Trunkmonster. While that's hypothetically ominous as all get-out, it has approximately zero effect on the pro forma conclusion of the Sakaar story. The Warlord, leading contender for "most generic nemesis 2018," is killed after being beaten by the Hulk. Amadeus doesn't even get to worry about the ethical implications of the killing; one of his random bug-people followers handles the shanking. The rest of this comic's storytelling sins are minor, but the Hulk dodging that killing is a huge mistake. In fact, the story would work so much better with the Trunkmonster forcing Amadeus to kill that I wonder if that wasn't the direction Greg Pak wanted to go before being editorially vetoed.

8.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #714

Oct 8, 2018

The Trunkmonster Hulk returns to Earth, and his supporting cast begins to realize something is wrong after he administers a vicious beating to an old foe. It's satisfying to FINALLY fire the Chekov's gun that was set up two years ago with the Trunkmonster personality split. Replacing random Sakaar mooks with the book's established supporting cast is good, too. The pace is a little slow and the Sherlock Holmes fight mechanic ripoff is disappointing. Some top-shelf art compensates for the script's weaknesses; this is exactly the way Cho-Hulk should look.

8.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #715

Nov 10, 2018

The struggle between Amadeus and the Hulk develops internally and externally. There's solid character work going on and a fair slice of action, too. I'd agree that the biggest problem with this story arc is its title; nothing except the protagonist's travel itinerary links this to the original World War Hulk. This issue features more art at a very nicely refined level, virtually every panel is clean and clear and attractive. I think the script also deserves some credit for convincing me to re-engage with the Trunkmonster conflict despite how old it is at this point. Some astute handling of the supporting cast - Greg Pak writes a great Kamala - bolsters the issue further and puts it solidly into "good" territory.

6.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #716

Nov 25, 2018

A powerful roster of friends and peers turns up to fight the rogue Hulk, but the outer struggle is secondary to the metaphorical fight between the Hulk and Cho. The script digs profitably into the meaty, satisfying center of that inner conflict. Unfortunately, some artistic weakness holds my rating in the realm of average. The pencils handle blocking and anatomy well, but the faces and linework are problematic. I'm unpleasantly surprised by the inking; I think better work there could have solved a lot of the visual problems.

6.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #717

Dec 3, 2018

With help from his friends (and especially from his sister's day-saving technobabble), Amadeus finagles a "meets minimum closure standards" victory over the Dark Hulk. The aftermath: He loses a bunch of muscle mass and now maybe he's permanently green? And he feels real contrite? And New York nabbed all his Olympus Group moolah to pay for property damages. This conclusion is clearer about Amadeus's FINANCES than it is about his super-powers or his feelings - it's fair for me to be underwhelmed by that, right? Add in some mercurial art that includes too many disappointing panels and you have a recipe for a big finale that finds itself stuck at "thoroughly average."

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #2

Oct 31, 2017

Doom takes steps to right things in Latveria, but it looks like he'll have to deal with Mommy first. Mr. Bendis bears down and tells a *lot* of story by his standards, and Mr. Maleev's art is looking its best. It falls short of greatness only because the cliffhanger suggests that the next issue is going to be a barnburner.

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #5

Oct 31, 2017

Doom's tense meeting with Mommy is gussied up with a few other scenes and a big twist. Without spoiling it, I can say that Mr. Bendis has picked the perfect nemesis for Iron Doom. This series looks to be headed for exciting places in the near future. This issue was highly satisfying, though it probably isn't a good pick as evidence in the case for Alex Maleev as a great artist. Rather underwhelming visuals.

4.0
Infamous Iron Man #6

Oct 31, 2017

Doom gets embarrassingly worked by the Wizard, of all people, while other antagonists queue up for subsequent issues. The Sharon Carter character assassination started in the other Iron Man title continues here; Mr. Bendis simply doesn't care that Sharon is not Maria Hill and writes her as though she were. If you know your Doom history, this plot (particularly the flashback) is underwhelming. If you don't know your Doom history, the flashback is nigh-gibberish. That's a hell of a Catch-22. Final infamies: Alex Maleev makes most of the action look stiff and pens a heinously unrecognizable Ben Grimm in a college flashback.

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #7

Nov 4, 2017

Wonder of wonders, Doom is starting to win Ben Grimm over, slightly, to the idea that he might be doing good. What is the Maker gonna say about that? This issue had some points against it: The pace is still terribly slow and the art can only be considered great with the huge caveat of "for Alex Maleev" appended to it. (Mr. Maleev just cannot deliver action in an exciting way.) I was won over by the great dialogue put into the Doom/Thing conversation, which felt extremely in-character for both parties. In fact, Ben was a treat throughout this issue. I love him in salty PI mode.

6.0
Infamous Iron Man #8

Dec 3, 2017

Doom brushes off Riri and discovers he's receiving future visions from an incomprehensibly surprising source. Alex Maleev supplies decent art for a script that is basically 2.5 conversations, but Brian Michael Bendis fumbles *many* balls here. For a start, this issue doesn't tie to the latest Invincible Iron Man in a satisfying fashion. Doom & Riri's talk is pretty brilliant; the Maker & Ben chat is a lot more forgettable. Riri's endless sniping with Tony-AI is even less entertaining here than it is in Invincible, and the final half-conversation where Doom meets his surprise guest star is just a giant WTF moment. On a strategic scale, Mr. Bendis is really dragging his feet on bringing Doom and the Maker into direct conflict. What's getting put on the pages is decently entertaining, but the amount of wasted potential building up here is woeful.

9.0
Infamous Iron Man #9

Jan 5, 2018

Victor gets confused by future Tony, captured by SHIELD, and kidnapped by his mom. This is an incredibly fun issue, and the fact that the protagonist is unconscious for most of it somehow makes it better. Brian Michael Bendis scripts smart, well-characterized decisions for Riri, Ben, Mama Doom, and an anonymous pack of SHIELD grunts. There's also probably a ton of foreshadowing going on here, covering everything from Iron Doom's endgame to the eventual return of the Fantastic Four. Alex Maleev's art is particularly impressive; he might struggle a bit with ordinary superhero action but he's quite bloody brilliant at magic. Art and plot are above average, but it's the dialogue - particularly the superb film-noir-ish conversation between Ben and Johnny Storm - that really pushes this issue into greatness.

9.0
Infamous Iron Man #10

Feb 3, 2018

Doom gets some really nice moments with what looks like his mom, but the jig is up and we're headed into a heck of a climax. Is it time for a Doom-Grimm teamup? I've had my issues in the past with the way this title is paced and drawn and written, but it is *really* firing on all cylinders at this point. I think one of the real keys that makes this issue work is that we get to see Victor do something clever, and it's shown with subtlety rather than told like a lecture. This issue is a big fat reward for sticking with Infamous, and the prospects for the finale look especially bright.

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #11

Mar 11, 2018

Doom's surrendered himself to SHIELD, and here comes Dr. Strange. But then Brian Michael Bendis upsets the whole apple cart with a monster twist that sure doesn't lack for ambition. The finale will have to be *exceptional* to make this revelation fit with previous issues in a satisfying, "not a cop-out" way, though. Alex Maleev's art is especially impressive this time around, and I'm starting to suspect he would have been a significantly better fit throughout if this was a straight "Dr. Doom" title instead of a DoomStark hybrid. The guy can draw the ☠☠☠☠ outta magic is what I'm saying.

5.0
Infamous Iron Man #12

Apr 7, 2018

Brian Michael Bendis loses big on a double bet: that A) we'll be satisfied with an "it was Mephisto all along" ending instead of the Maker fight we wanted and that B) *four pages* of Mephisto-as-Zack-on-Saved-By-The-Bell soliloquy is the best way to explain everything. Possibly the most blatant copout ending in the modern Marvel era. Character relationships are handled decently and Alex Maleev's magic art is still superb. Rating this gets a little tricky because everything outside the Mephisto soliloquy suggests an above-average comic. But I have a rather fundamental rule: 6/10 comics have to be satisfying, and "satisfying" is simply not an adjective I can attach to any book that resolves a major plot thread in such a lazy and contemptuous way.

8.0
Infinity Countdown #1

Sep 6, 2018

Four very incidental event pages are wrapped around a double helping of Guardians of the Galaxy. That's mostly but not entirely a good thing. The characterization done in the dialogue isn't so hot - Drax and especially Rocket sound like idiots. The two big battles burn a lot of pages, too - it feels like each one gets twice as much attention as it really needs. The visuals start strong and hit a truly high note by the end; even the colors get magically deeper as the Gardener fight bends towards its climax.

8.0
Infinity Countdown #2

Nov 10, 2018

Our Guardians heroes are all collected together again and Warlock starts doing his own heroic stuff. This issue's script pays off a lot of foreshadowing, sets up plenty of awesome sights, and takes a fair stab at humor. It's a buffet presentation, though, and I would have liked a bit more of a centralized, developing plot. The art pays off in a big way on everything the script promises, especially in the Guardians section. I particularly like the watercolor hues; they add tremendous depth to the already-detailed linework.

8.0
Infinity Countdown #3

Nov 25, 2018

Warlock rescues the Silver Surfer from Ultron, but that doesn't produce an ally. The Guardians manage to turn the Power Stone on thanks to a tip from Robbie. There is a lot of excellent stuff going on, but it feels like all the parts of the story are orbiting a still-hidden center. This book is pulling my attention to a point exactly equidistant between Adam Warlock and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvelous balance, but there's nothing exciting there and while I'm squinting at nothing, the many other moving parts are losing focus. This doesn't ruin the story, but it keeps the individually-good pieces from assembling into a great whole.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1

Aug 18, 2018

Kang lays out the Infinity Ballgame for the freshly-resurrected Adam Warlock. I can see the huge challenge in front of the script: This needs to be newbie-accessible, but also satisfying to Warlock mavens. I'm not sure it's entirely successful, particularly on the 2nd point. The art fills in the gaps and elevates the tone, supplying the grandeur that this cosmic prologue desperately needs. We move forward into the event with the shocking news that Magus is just going to be the warm-up nemesis; the face of the Big Bad is still hidden.

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Prime #1

Sep 6, 2018

A story that's primarily expository recap is livened up by a Wolverine fight with a twist and a surprise villain shift at the end. Those two scenes are outstanding, particularly in their writing. The visuals are a classic Deodato/Martin presentation. I know their work has tons of fans. Me? I usually can't get over how lazy the style is, and this issue is no exception. Pointless fractal panel-grids are slapped down to conceal that the average panel-per-page count is under 4. I take away the impression that many pages are just monotinted line drawings, even though that's really not the case. Frank Martin does some careful coloring work but then washes too much of it away in a misguided effort to build "bold" one and two-color themes for each scene. Taken together, words and visuals combine into decently entertaining and even talented storytelling. As yet, I'm missing the cohesive anchor to get me engaged with this latest Infinity Whatsis. The villain shift at the end of this issue might do it, but for now, this is just another "thank goodness MU lets me read this cheap" event.

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Daredevil #1

Dec 3, 2018

This one-shot chronicles how loser thug Turk Barrett stumbled across the Mind Stone and how Daredevil almost but not quite retrieved it from him. It's a fun, clever, but thoroughly non-essential bit of background for this year's Infinity Mess. The art is a major missed opportunity; considerable talent is assembled to produce a very non-memorable set of visuals. This would be a severe disappointment as a full-price purchase, but it's a nice collection or Marvel Unlimited read.

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1

Dec 16, 2018

Carol shows off the possibilities of the Reality Stone by touring AUs where critical moments in her life went differently. It's a fascinating selection of possibilities and the art is outstanding, but the script doesn't quite succeed at making Carol's reactions seem rational. Perhaps the AU vignettes should have been in a different order? It seems to start at the highest emotional intensity and then trail off.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1

Dec 3, 2018

Chris Powell is stuck on the Earth-sidelines as Big Raptor Events unfold out in the cosmic world. A left-field fight opens up a surprising hitchhiking opportunity for him, though. This series kicks off with tons of promise and some distinctively great manga-style art. This issue burns a few too many words mulling over new power limitations, but that's a pretty minor nitpick. The balance of the book is thoroughly enjoyable, and it does an excellent job building "and then what happened?" anticipation.

6.0
Inhumans Prime #1

Oct 31, 2017

The Inhumans track down Maximus, sock him in prison, and shift closer to a democracy. This is Al Ewing's launchpad for the upcoming Royals title, and it demonstrates some great and less-great ideas. I love adding Marvel Boy to the mix and he's got a great angle on the Inhumans' situation. I also love bringing Swain back onto center stage. The parade of mediocre artists cripples this book. None of them are standouts, and the constant stylistic shifts dragged my attention back to the mediocrity over and over. The artist carousel knocked at least two points off my rating - possibly more.

8.0
Inhumans: Judgement Day #1

Aug 6, 2018

A last-ditch psychic gambit allows the Inhumans to send the Progenitors packing, and Medusa gets her hair back, hooray! This issue has a resonant core of outstanding character work as Medusa and Black Bolt reunite on the Astral Plane. It's wrapped in infuriating cheese and untapped potential, though. The Medusa & Black Bolt scenes are very sweet stuff. They're great on their own, but they do NOT draw enough water to fully redeem all the time and imagination wasted in the Royals series. The art echoes the script: Kevin Libranda's reality scenes are the dreary packing material safeguarding the luscious psychic core illustrated by Mike del Mundo.

9.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #1

Mar 11, 2018

We meet the young adult versions of the Boltagon boys and Medusa as the three of them are whirled up in potentially-lethal court intrigues courtesy of the Unspoken, the King-Regent who would really like to supplant the House of Boltagon permanently. Christopher Priest writing an Inhumans mini? One that tackles the Alpha Primitive problem head on? Has Marvel started intercepting my letters to Santy Claus or what? Phil Noto's art is achingly good, too; this story is kicking off with all the potential in the world.

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #2

Mar 30, 2018

Elisha the rebel Alpha shepherds his exiles to a meeting with the Wizard; back in Attilan the Unspoken chucks more familiar faces (Karnak & Gorgon) into the mix. Thanks to Christopher Priest and Phil Noto, this is exquisitely conveyed in words and art, but it's a quiet slow-burning foundation-laying episode that doesn't really deliver a "wowser" moment.

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #3

Apr 20, 2018

Bentley the Wizard grows increasingly suspicious, Medusa spats with Elisha, and we get a lovely peek into the boyhood of Karnak and Triton. Phil Noto's art remains beautiful and this issue is plotted and characterized quite well. But Christopher Priest is intentionally mangling a lot of dialogue (especially Black Bolt's and Medusa's) to emphasize how alien and royal the speakers are. It's both unpleasant and contrived, and there are countless ways to achieve a similar effect that don't sound like fingernails on a blackboard. It's the one ham-handed technique deployed in a book that's otherwise remarkable for its subtlety.

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #4

May 14, 2018

The royal kids uncover Kadlec's plot against them while also dealing with a fairly hilarious FN Spider-Man encounter. There's great humor and dramatic character work done here, but it's not without faults. Most of all, I'm wondering if the non-chronological order really earns its keep; this would still be a great story if it progressed in 1-2-3 order. There are ample sub-plots (Triton, Karnak, Crystal) to intercut with to keep the structure complex. Phil Noto's art is nigh flawless on a panel-by-panel basis but sometimes the storytelling flow relies too heavily on the words rather than the visuals.

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #5

Jun 18, 2018

Black Bolt gets his first real opportunity for heroism and kingly sagacity as he leads his family against Elisha. The story as a whole has been very entertaining, but some characters were under-utilized (Crystal, Bentley Wittman) and some (Gorgon!) were completely superfluous. Also, the resolution relies on a nested double example of "my plan hinges on hard-to-visualize hacking so I'm just going to shout about it during a fistfight" that rubs me the wrong way. Phil Noto's art is gorgeous to the end though, and I finish the story *almost* as enthusiastic about the idea of more "Inhuman Babies" adventures as Christopher Priest wants me to be.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

A half-a-fight issue sees Riri sidelined while Pepper kicks a lot of ninja butt. It's moving at the classically glacial Bendis pace, but it's a nice straightforward fight with some excellent art. Not memorable but definitely enjoyable. It's nice to take a break from obsessing about Riri's identity, even if we do it by watching her underperform in a fight.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

Riri beats the Techno Golem, her mom is being sweet, AI Tony is being weird. It's satisfying to close the Techno Golem story and Stefano Caselli's art is especially great. By the standards of the title, this is a strong comic, but I contend that those standards have been bashed down too low. Take the Techno Golem story that's run from #3 to #5. I think *any* 20th-century comics writer would consider this to be a one-comic story: Protagonist teams up with a guest star to defeat a villain while the supporting cast runs a few soap opera scenes. Brian Michael Bendis has turned that one comic into three and that's not okay.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #6

Oct 31, 2017

The whole world suddenly has an opinion on Ironheart (IRONIC META COMMENTARY). In quick succession, Riri gets "hay come work with us" offers from the ladies of Stark Industries, MIT, and the Champions. Riri gets a bit anxious over her sudden celebrity. In the shadows, multiple actors move on Latveria, suggesting that Riri's story is headed for a collision with her "Substitute Iron Man" peer, Victor Von Doom. The plot is light on action, but the dialogue is solid and Stefano Caselli's art remains very pleasant.

8.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #7

Nov 25, 2017

Riri experiences a loss, struggles with the admiration of AI Tony, and the Latverian crisis comes closer to boiling over. On the one hand, the "welcome to trade paperback #2" feeling in this issue is almost palpable. On the other hand, it's a textbook-good example of how to do a reintroduction issue. The key plotlines to address in future issues are queued up nicely, and SHIELD espionage is used to great effect to drop good character info on top of some "day in the life" scenes of Riri. Stefano Caselli's art is a pleasure as always, and this feels through and through like a premium top-shelf comic. If you were ignoring Invincible up till now, this would make a splendid "jump on board" point.

8.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #8

Jan 5, 2018

Riri enlists in Sharon Carter's war with Lucia Von Bardas, but she's smart enough to ask insightful questions about why she should be doing it. The questioning of authority is rounded out with a pretty awesome fight vs. Lady Octopus and some iffier flashbacks to Riri's early days as a precocious kid. Mr. Bendis is choosing to make gags with a theme that could arguably be summarized as "silly genius-girl, black women don't face oppression any more." It's a fast, comedic treatment of a contentious subject that deserves way more serious thought. In more tactical matters, the dialogue in this issue is pretty snappy (weird plug for Freaks and Geeks, though, and a weird decision not to drop astronaut Mae Jemison's name even though two different scenes are clearly referring to her) and Stefano Caselli's art does a good job elevating a middle-of-the-road script into something above average. Colorist Marte Gracia is also doing great work; the tweaked lighting on Ironheart's armor in the crime scene spread is super impressive.

8.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #9

Jan 27, 2018

AI Tony takes center stage while Riri beats Bardas with the world's simplest trick. By this point, I suspect that everything in this title besides the AI Tony/Riri relationship is just background noise. It's a view that offers tremendous potential frustration, as it really kind of closes the door on the thing I want to see most: Riri leaving Tony's shadow and blossoming on her own. Stefano Caselli's art is polished as ever, but there are some tiny hints of hustle in the colors this month. It's still one of the most visually-appealing books Marvel is publishing, and the stable art team is highly appreciated.

9.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #10

Feb 26, 2018

Against all odds and expectations, Riri navigates the Latverian crisis to a happy and hilarious ending. I do love it when everybody acts smart and everybody wins - well, everybody except for horrible villains like Lucia Von Bardas. Some more beautiful art from Stefano Caselli and a remarkably funny script carry this story arc out on a high note.

7.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #11

Apr 7, 2018

We fill some time in the run-up to Legacy with guest artists and the hagiography of Tony Stark. Brian Michael Bendis complicates this indulgent party with his afterward, revealing that the most eye-rollingest "c'mon, seriously" thing Tony's shown doing here is something that his saintly recently-deceased neighbor actually did. Sentiment aside, it's a just slightly above-average retrospective on Tony Stark, most of which (excepting the abrupt pivot into generic manga-town in the final pages) looks very pretty.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #593

May 3, 2018

The Stark Women find out Tony is missing and all of Infamous Iron Doom's captured supervillains have busted out of prison. I said recently that even when he's on cruise control, Brian Michael Bendis is still good, but this issue's script was apparently designed to make me look like an idiot for saying that. Terribly slow pacing, go-nowhere dialogue, erratic characterization, bonafide typos (a shocking lot of them) - how did things go so wrong so fast? How did Mr. Bendis lose Doom's voice *completely* in the few short weeks since writing him last? Ben Grimm's little speech to him is the *only* nicely-written part of the book. Stefano Caselli and Alex Maleev do triage by supplying some very strong art, but this issue is too far gone to get pulled past "acceptable" by nice visuals. There are the tiniest of tiny hints that Mr. Bendis has a method to the madness, and some of the seeming errors (Doom sounding *wrong* and a picture of unmasked Spider-Man appearing at the Stark Expo) *might* suggest Mephisto is still lurking in the background. But a better-crafted, faster-paced book would make my alternative theory - "everybody up to and including editor Tom Brevoort is in 'phone it in mode' right now" - a lot less convincing.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #594

Jun 9, 2018

The Tony Stark Nanny Squad fights the Stark Board, Iron Doom fights his grudge-group of villains, and nobody in this story called "The Search for Tony Stark" has actually started searching for Tony Stark yet. How exactly did the creators combine two titles into one and *still* end up with a shortage of material? Brian Michael Bendis's script is way too lazy and digressive, and it feels like Stefano Caselli and Alex Maleev are in a contest to see who can put in less effort on the visuals. Mr. Maleev is the winner in this issue, slapping muddy green washes over linework that I think would look downright shameful without color. Mr. Caselli is *definitely* trying for the slacker prize too, though, and his pages aren't up to his usual high standards. Also, this issue adds yet another checkmark to the box on Riri's "heroism" scorecard labeled "passively survives a dangerous situation until a third party neutralizes the danger." Sigh.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #595

Jul 11, 2018

Riri scores a PR coup over the Stark Enterprises weasels and the Nanny Squad abruptly finds a big lead in the MIA Tony case. Infamous Iron Doom is also there in the form of five desultory pages, three of which are good. The visuals throughout this issue are superb, and the bones of each main plotline are promising; to assemble all this potential and then deliver about eight good pages wrapped in a bunch of tiresome "lazy Bendis" filler is a real shame. A comic that half-satisfies on each of the Riri, Tony, and Doom fronts turns out barely satisfactory overall. This issue is less than the sum of its parts.

7.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #596

Aug 12, 2018

Riri deals wisely with the Starkweasels confiscating her gear, Tony hallucinates a cool conversation with Howard, and Doom nearly loses an embarrassing fight. The art throughout is solid and most of the character work is entertaining, but this comic is stuck in neutral when it comes to plot progression. This issue is effectively "random scenes from the lives of Tony Stark and associates." Brian Michael Bendis doesn't let Tony take center stage but fails to promote a usable replacement, sticking us with this weak quasi-anthology that might be entertaining but can't really be called a story.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #597

Sep 20, 2018

Riri gets shuffled into a whole new supporting cast at MIT. Infamous Iron Doom has a lengthy, unsatisfying, unsuccessful fight against Parker Robbins and his Blue-collar Bandits. The developments aren't all that interesting, and the art for the fight scenes is remarkably bad at conveying what's happening. There are two marvelously interesting panels at the start where Doom says bitter words over his mother's grave, though. That's mighty slim pickings when you consider all of this title's potential.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #598

Oct 8, 2018

Tony makes a frustrating sort of contact with Riri and her new pals. Doom's story is twisted arbitrarily into a collision course with Iron Man. Visual and textual storytelling are both solid here, but avoiding mistakes is not nearly enough to overcome the entrenched antipathy to this storyline I've built up. This might not be the WORST of the title's "marking time till 600" issues, but there's no doubt it's one of that fraternity.

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #599

Nov 10, 2018

Doom, Tony, and Riri all bend toward the climax in this surprise-sodden issue. The art is excellent and some of the dialogue is very nice; balanced against that is the inescapable feeling that we're about to fall into a giant, stupid traffic jam. The introduction of Leonardo Da Vinci is the clearest sign of impending disaster. There is just the tiniest possibility that that surprise could be made entertaining with a LOT of development. A lot of development is exactly what it's not going to get thanks to all the other stuff queued up for #600. Instead, it's just going to be a hallucinatory widget, a weirdo thing for all subsequent writers to ignore.

5.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #600

Dec 3, 2018

Brian Michael Bendis spent eight issues setting up six major stories (plus many smaller mysteries) and refusing to develop them. Each deserved a full arc for resolution. Now they're all abruptly chopped off in a single double-sized issue. And just to make sure that things are extra train-wreck-y, art duties go to a rapidly-spinning carousel of A-listers. That ensures that the issue lacks a consistent artistic vision and comes out extra super disjointed. My vote for "favorite train wreck moment" goes to Mike Deodato refusing to let Alex Maleev have the "Parker Robbins is really a demon" point to himself. And Bendis and the editors just let him poach it! Despite all the strikes against them, I did find a few of this issue's payoffs enjoyable. Rhodey's resurrection was straightforward and satisfying (if not all that logical), and uniting Miles and Riri almost made the SHIELD 2.0 idea interesting. Moving forward, though, this issue leaves a bumper crop of dangling plot threads that are potentially toxic. If nobody on Earth ever speaks the words "Tony Stark, Sorcerer Supreme" again, I'll die happy. About the only thread I'd be interested in seeing continued is Doom vs. Hood, because it's the most flagrantly unfinished story.

8.0
Iron Fist (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

Danny Rand struggles without K'un-Lun to anchor him. A super-ominous kung-fu tournament on a mystery island sounds like the perfect next step! There's some skill in the way Danny's gritty status quo is introduced, both visually and narratively. I have hopes for the future, but so far this title's fighting a severe case of decompression. This issue could have hit at least one more plot point without losing anything substantive.

6.0
Iron Fist (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

Danny gets through 1-1/3 of seven kung-fu duels along with a *lot* of yackety-yak from his hosts. Several references to the events of "Immortal Iron Fist" tempt one into drawing inevitably unfavorable comparisons between the two series. This issue has pacing problems, some underwhelming kung-fu, and so. much. talking. There's still space to turn it around, and there are some tempting mysteries in the air that could develop into greatness if treated properly.

6.0
Iron Fist (2017) #3

Nov 9, 2017

Choshin grabs the villain ball and sabotages Danny's trial progress. I see more shortcomings than strengths in the creators' work here. Ed Brisson's plot leans toward "kung fu cliché-fest" rather than "loving homage" and Mike Perkins' hyper-realistic art works well for fight scenes but gets glitchy and unnatural when portraying talking heads. (The cliffhanger ending is also hobbled by some artistic muddiness at the worst possible time.) This issue does a fine job of scratching the kung fu itch, but it's not doing so in a way I find particularly memorable.

6.5
Iron Fist (2017) #4

Jan 5, 2018

It's time for Danny to wrap up the trial nonsense and get straight to the big bads. More workable but non-memorable kung-fu action, including more villainous kung-fu scheming. This arc is serving its purpose of recentering Danny and reminding him that being the Iron Fist is about protecting something bigger than his own skin. I will give artist Mike Perkins some extra credit: He artfully conceals a pretty major twist with the appearance of the next trial fighter through the first half of this book. Then Danny rapidly chews through three more competitors and gets ready to clear his name.

8.0
Iron Fist (2017) #5

Jan 15, 2018

Danny's final fight with the Wolf ties everything back to K'un-Lun in a compelling way. In retrospect, I think the creators did an admirable job of laying a solid fire in every issue of this title. While the spark didn't kindle for me in #2-#4, here the deep continuity did the trick and lit a mighty blaze. I really liked this! The final fight has impact thanks to artist Mike Perkins and colorist Andy Troy; the Wolf's Tiger Claw style is memorable in a way that much of the prior kung-fu was not. Ed Brisson's script is solid, too. A few lines of dialogue still veer into cliché, but this issue also offers up strong storytelling. This is a fine conclusion for the first arc and it's sold me on the prospect of another.

6.0
Iron Fist (2017) #6

Feb 12, 2018

Iron Fist gets tossed into a Shang-Chi team-up against the kung fu equivalent of the Purple Man. The script offers some decent quippery and a few not-all-that-amazing plot twists. Mike Perkins' art is overloaded with detail; there are some points where storytelling flow and character emotions take a backseat, visually, to proving how very realistic Mr. Perkins can be.

8.0
Iron Fist (2017) #7

Mar 30, 2018

Danny triumphs even after his mind-control opponent throws Shang-Chi against him. The setup that got us here didn't do much for me, but I really dig the payoff. Quippy humor, brutal kung fu, and Danny exercising just a touch of wisdom - all things I love in my Iron Fist comic. I really respect Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins for zeroing in on exactly how much story they can chew and then biting off just that amount, no more and no less.

6.0
Iron Fist (2017) #73

Apr 20, 2018

Choshin comes to New York and Danny recruits Sabretooth to help him solve an Important Burglary. You better believe these plots are connected. Ed Brisson holds my attention by salvaging the best bits of his Liu Shi storyline; on the other hand, he and Mike Perkins conspire to turn Danny and Sabretooth's pre-team-up brawl into an epically forgettable formality. This particular issue drags the title back down to nurturing the seeds of greatness. This arc might do amazing things in future issues, but its outset is pretty blasé.

6.0
Iron Fist (2017) #74

May 14, 2018

Sabretooth and Danny track down the fake Constrictor and Choshin's crew rolls up just in time to set the stage for a three-way battle royale next issue. Ed Brisson's script is brisk but shallow, and Mike Perkins's art is overstuffed with heavy shadows and too-realistic faces (and disturbingly small hands). Dialogue tags are absolutely essential to figuring out who's who, and that's never a good thing. While this issue has plenty of action, none of it is lent memorability by the way it's drawn; what we end up with is violent noise that drops into the background and gets forgotten pretty much instantly. This is a serviceable popcorn comic whose creators absolutely refuse to turn it into anything more.

6.0
Iron Fist (2017) #75

Jun 18, 2018

Choshin bends the story toward K'un-Lun for real and some nick-of-time character development deals Sabretooth in for further adventures. The character stuff is done pretty well; Ed Brisson's script is a cut above average. But Mike Perkins's "realism uber alles" art continues to rub me the wrong way. To my mind, sacrificing distinctiveness for realism is a very bad trade. I'd much rather have flashy, anatomically-improbable fights if they made it clear the stars were Iron Fist and Sabretooth rather than "wiry dude in an Iron Fist costume" and "slightly beefy hairy dude with long fingernails."

8.0
Iron Fist (2017) #76

Jul 11, 2018

War for K'un-Lun! The creators, particularly Mike Perkins, bring the ruckus to make this fight look as epic as it should. The plot and pace are pretty epic as well; I just wish the dialogue was drawing deep water, too. Sabretooth injecting salty everyman humor into the fight for kung-fu heaven is pretty good, but there are a whole lot of missed opportunities for memorable lines. Worst of all, Choshin gets stuck into a fight + argument with Sparrow, the current Yu-Ti. When he takes a perfectly loathsome villain-appropriate "woman quit kung-fu-ing and get back in the kitchen" tack, Sparrow matches stupid with stupid by using an "I'm trying to save K'un-Lun from phallocentric man-perialists like you" approach. It makes you feel like an idiot for rooting for her. Ah well, at least their fight *looks awesome.*

9.0
Iron Fist (2017) #77

Aug 18, 2018

Danny drops back into the fight for K'un-Lun and saves the day. He arrives exactly when I was expecting; his backup was a huge surprise but also hugely welcome. A perfect pace and heaps of action-movie-style "hell yeah" moments made this climax delectable for me. Though I had many issues with how the creators executed the story as a whole, the payoff is thoroughly satisfying.

8.0
Iron Fist (2017) #78

Oct 8, 2018

Danny Rand is blessed with the first good Damnation tie-in. He goes through a Penance Stare fever dream and emerges to find Fat Cobra is just the first of the old friends waiting for him. The whole plot is outstanding, though the front half is a bit of a continuity wank. The art speaks to me. I prefer this expressive style, cartoony yet finely-detailed, to the photorealistic dross of previous issues by miles. It captures a deeper truth and speaks more clearly to who the characters are and what they're doing.

8.0
Iron Fist (2017) #79

Oct 17, 2018

There's a lot of "win fights to reclaim your soul" going around. Eventually, the machinations of middle-management demon D'Kay suck Danny and Fat Cobra into the mess along with Orson. By the end of the issue, everybody's got somebody they have to fight for. This is something of a best-case scenario for an event tie-in: A compelling story, some quality continuity ties that demonstrate love for the protagonist, and a logical use of the event as a launching pad. More of that smooth, expressively stylized art sure helps, too.

7.0
Iron Fist (2017) #80

Nov 10, 2018

The Iron Fist conflict collapses into the laziest possible setup: All the heroes versus a dozen anonymous demons in a battle royale. The art does the best storytelling it can, but it's held back by an appallingly cheap and cliched story. Two major plot developments that should rightfully have been discarded as "nah, that's too easy" are played depressingly straight. It's a decent comic, but as a resolution for the arc and a finale for the series, it's pretty sad.

5.0
Iron Man: Hong Kong Heroes #1

Oct 8, 2018

A very MCU-ish Stark Expo in Hong Kong is attacked by Arnim Zola, Baron Mordo, and a bunch of magic Hydra-bots. Tony will need the help of a full Avengers roster and new local heroes Arwyn and Wendy Wong to save the day. I like the basic concept of the Wong sisters and the SERE-X suit Arwyn wears. I look forward to seeing them in a quality story. This doesn't quite qualify; there are a LOT of problematic storytelling glitches.

6.0
IvX #3

Oct 31, 2017

Inferno and Iso save the day and rally the NuHumans to oppose the X-Men where their royals failed. It's still paint-by-numbers Big Dumb Event plotting, with the added irritation of inserting parallel scenes so that both sides can agree that the authors' chosen plot railroad is the Only Possible Way to proceed. The characters are nicely done (both in writing and art), which just makes it that much more disappointing to see them stuck in this meatgrinder of an event.

6.0
IvX #4

Oct 31, 2017

Medusa starts busting out of Limbo; Mosaic trawls through Magneto's head and brings some shocking news to his NuHuman pals. Discount the unwelcome comedy routine in the middle of this book where a bug-eyed Mosaic-in-Magneto runs around looking for the bathroom; that's unquestionably embarrassing. The ending twist, which casts the allegiance of the NuHumans into question, is danged exciting.

6.0
IvX #5

Oct 31, 2017

Karnak's got it right: "This conflict … was inherently flawed from the beginning. I suspect events may have begun to fracture." The key fracture in this issue is that the NuHumans have sided with the X-Men and Moon Girl is helping Forge rebuild his Terrigen-killing machine. That doesn't stop Emma Frost from attacking them when they show up in Iceland. Even though their goals are highly compatible with hers, nope, we gotta fight. After more than 50 years, the Misunderstanding Brawl is still Marvel's go-to meat-and-potatoes conflict. Javier Garron's art remains decent but distinctly underpowered for a big splashy event.

3.0
IvX #6

Oct 31, 2017

The entire war was Emma Frost's breakdown, and fortunately, that message gets out during the final battle. I'm mostly in favor of the status quo this event leaves behind, but the rigamarole required to get us to here was *epically* dumb. Medusa punched a literal "save the X-Men" button at the climax of the event. And what are the odds that Storm's going to face any negative consequences for *launching a war* when the right solution was a two-minute phone call to New Attilan?

9.0
Jean Grey #1

Nov 9, 2017

Jean's "me time" in Kyoto is interrupted by the Wrecking Crew and, more seriously, a vision of the Phoenix Force. Dennis Hopeless deftly handles the challenge of establishing Teen Jean as a character separate from both her past incarnations and her current team. Whomping the Wrecking Crew is a good way to demonstrate her abilities, and I loved the inventive way telepathy was portrayed. Victor Ibáñez contributes brilliant art that's vibrant without being too sketchy. Jean's voice still needs some work to differentiate it from Mr. Hopeless's previous protagonists (i.e. Spider-Woman), but this strong start suggests that won't be a problem with a bit more time.

8.0
Jean Grey #2

Dec 3, 2017

An all-star team of Phoenix alumni is tons of fun to hang with, but ends up providing Jean with little insight. The Phoenix squad (Colossus, Magik, Quentin Quire, Rachel Grey, and Hope Summers) is portrayed in script and art with oodles of style, humor, and entertaining characterization. In point of fact, they'd be *way* more fun to follow than several of the extant X-teams. *cough Gold cough Weapon X cough* The weakness of this issue is that aside from going on a high-octane Reaver hunt, the Phoenix alumni association doesn't actually do a lot to help Jean or us readers understand what's going on with the Firebird right now. Though we don't know where we're going, it doesn't matter as long as the ride is this much of a blast.

8.0
Jean Grey #3

Jan 5, 2018

Alongside a giant sea-monster fight, Namor offers Jean a rock-solid idea about standing up to the Phoenix. The entire issue is constructed as a frame around the sharing of that tremendously simple idea. The frame is equal parts awesome fight and snarky conversation, and both aspects work extremely well. The characterization of both Jean and Namor is superb, and the art team goes all-out in giving this underwater caper a distinctive and attractive look.

7.0
Jean Grey #4

Jan 27, 2018

The Odinson turns an orc bar-brawl into a rather shallow lesson about flexibility in combat for Jean. There's a rollicking fun spirit to this casual fight, and Harvey Tolibao loads the art with impressive helpings of detail. Yet reading the script closely reveals a lot of unsatisfying glitches. Why doesn't the Odinson mention that he and Thor fought the Phoenix recently? The captions contradict the dialogue (and the art) about the setting - is this Jotunheim or Norway? We're not gonna go deeper than Jean's "Lord of the Rings rejects" snark about the fact that LotR orcs are Suddenly Just a Thing in the Marvel universe? And then once we're picking on nits, why do a solid 60% of Mr. Tolibao's faces fail to match up with the feelings suggested by the dialogue around them? Impressive as these visuals are, they'd be much improved by a stronger script and a firmer attachment to the emotions of the characters.

8.0
Jean Grey #5

Mar 11, 2018

Psylocke puts Jean through a little sink-or-swim training to sharpen up her psychic weapon skills. It's another quality standalone story, but the bigger plot is also moving forward very nicely. Dennis Hopeless does great scripting and characterization work. Anthony Piper's art is functional but a little limited; this issue feels like it could have been truly epic with stronger visuals.

7.0
Jean Grey #6

Mar 11, 2018

Dr. Strange's questionable assistance puts Teen Jean properly in touch with the Mystery Voice in her head: It's the "don't you dare call her 'real'" Jean Grey that sorta-lives in the White Hot Room, and she'd like to feed Teen Jean a triple serving of unpleasant truths. This story has no shortage of ambition, but there are some flaws where the creators' reach exceeds their grasp. Dr. Strange ends up rather useless and his introduction is mangled. Paul Davidson's art is impressively weird and distinctive, but his era-hopping parodies don't quite land with full force. He's also struck with the perennial guest artist's problem - fully embracing a very personal style isn't a great idea when he's in and out in a single issue.

8.0
Jean Grey #7

Apr 7, 2018

This week on the Teen Jean sitcom, Ghost Jean does her very best to ruin a mental health day with the Scarlet Witch. I sort of made peace with the episodic, comedy-heavy aspect of this series back in #4, and this time I can just enjoy the remarkable way Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque's art pays off all of the humor in Dennis Hopeless's script. Mr. Alburquerque crafts tremendously detailed settings and executes a lot of great sight gags; this comic has a visual depth and density that's sorely lacking in most modern Marvel books. The dramatic twist at the end promises a lot more conflict in the next issue - exactly what this book needs - making it an excellent cherry on top.

8.0
Jean Grey #8

May 7, 2018

Ghost Jean steers Teen Jean through an Emma Frost dreamscape to extract a remarkable prize. Somehow Dennis Hopeless's try-hard humor worked for me, mostly, so I found the journey more than satisfying. Victor Ibáñez's art gets the story told and triggers no disappointments, but it's also not adding much in the way of memorable visuals. The ending certainly introduces some tension and ratchets up my anticipation for the next issue.

8.0
Jean Grey #9

Jun 18, 2018

Ghost Jean's scheming puts Teen Jean in serious trouble, events bend toward a climax, and Dennis Hopeless shows off some stellar byplay between Emma and Ghost Jean. Victor Ibáñez contributes some superb action art (and lots of good fire, which is thematically important) but flubs a few faces. This was an awfully good issue - top-quality presentation of a straightforward premise - but I was hoping for even more awesomeness. I have so many questions about the shard of Phoenix Force in Emma Frost. Was it responsible, maybe, for her recent villainy? But I've gotta remind myself that this is Jean Grey's comic, not Emma's - no matter how well Mr. Hopeless writes them both.

8.0
Jean Grey #10

Jun 23, 2018

Teen Jean versus the Phoenix is quite the epic battle, and it drives to an unexpectedly grim conclusion. The script is extremely strong and it navigates a tricky shift in tone perfectly. Alberto Alburquerque's art is strongly reminiscent of Mark Bagley's work in a positive way, but his faces veer a little into cartoony bathos when it's time to illustrate dismay and shock. All in all it's a surprising, satisfying high note for this title to build to, and we're apparently supposed to wait till after Phoenix: Resurrection to explore the aftermath.

8.0
Jean Grey #11

Aug 12, 2018

Teen Jean faces a cavalcade of past Phoenix hosts in the White Hot Room, then argues her way into a resurrection. It's a fun story and TJ is at maximum lovability throughout. With 30 pages to play with, failing to reserve 2-3 of them for the conversation the finale is BEGGING FOR is criminal, though. Teen Jean and Grownup Jean taking a hot minute to compare notes and say "grats on the 1UP" to each other? Psssh, who'd want to see that? EVERYONE, MARVEL, EVERYONE WANTED TO SEE THAT. I'd probably be less disappointed if Teen Jean wasn't being turned over to the tender mercies of Cullen Bunn immediately after this. He's damn near the Bullpen's least-introspective scripter and Jean NEEDS a little psychological unpacking after this ordeal.

9.0
Jessica Jones #1

Nov 17, 2017

Jessica's life has fallen apart to an appalling degree. What did she do to her family? Can she distract herself with a case leading into the cracks in the Marvel universe? As a #1, this issue is built out of questions. That applies to Jessica's personal life, the details of her case, and also the fundamental workings of Marvel reality. Yowza. All of the questions are fascinating, and they fill this series with promise. Michael Gaydos's gritty, empathic artwork might have been too dark for the shiny, happy Jess we've seen in other titles lately, but this script jerks her back to the dark days of Alias and makes the visuals work perfectly.

9.0
Jessica Jones #2

Nov 17, 2017

Jessica's daughter is alive but everybody else in her life is angry with her. Including folks she doesn't even know - like the mystery party that's just sent the Spot to kidnap her. A satisfying answer to one of this title's big questions is incredibly welcome, but there are plenty of other mysteries. Read close. Hanging above all the other questions is a huge one. This issue implies with terrific subtlety that Jess has burned all her bridges for a reason - what mission is she on? Michael Gaydos's art holds pace with the fascinating script, illustrating complex scenes effortlessly.

8.0
Jessica Jones #3

Nov 17, 2017

Jess meets Alison, a lady who wants to harness her considerable rage for almost certainly sinister purposes. The whole issue is a classic Bendis conversation with a few frills to liven it up. The conversation is a fascinating one and there are plenty of interesting questions still to answer. I felt this issue fell short of perfection because Michael Gaydos fell into headshot exhaustion illustrating Alison & Jessica's endless chat. True, the point of the art may have been that these are two give-nothing-away hardass ladies with the ability to throw world-class RBFs, but it translates into a pretty dull sequence of visuals.

9.0
Jessica Jones #4

Nov 17, 2017

Jessica is not completely alone on her mystery mission. Though this issue is even talkier than the last, the amount of character and plot development packed into the conversations makes this quite the engrossing tale. This series is where all of the cleverness that was MIA during Civil War 2 landed. A little insight into where Luke's head is at right now definitely helps, too. All this plus a dose of classic Bendis "crazy cape imitators in the police station" humor.

8.0
Jessica Jones #5

Nov 17, 2017

A yawning void of nihilism reaches for Jessica and she makes some frightening choices. This is about as dark as we can get and still pull up. This issue is robbed of a little impact because there's not really any doubt that the pull-up is coming, but it's damned interesting to bring Jess to the edge of the abyss. There's frightening, fascinating alternate-reality weirdness down there, but the odds of going any further are slim. Just this glance is enough to scare the pants off Jessica Jones, and when you consider what a hardass she is, that's pretty dang scary.

8.0
Jessica Jones #6

Nov 17, 2017

Jessica's sting works perfectly but Luke takes Danielle. So not such a big win. The lion's share of the issue is Jess and Carol's big sting going down. And it's a rather underwhelming show. I can see a superb long-term plot reason to make this unsatisfying: It ratchets up Jess's guilt over risking her family to discover that the villainous scheme she foiled here is super forgettable. Regret is an awfully tricky emotion to aim for; though Brian Michael Bendis hits it, the resultant feeling isn't all that pleasant.

9.0
Jessica Jones #7

Nov 17, 2017

Danielle Cage comes super-close to reuniting her parents, but no cigar. Awww. Meanwhile, why is Maria Hill bleeding all over Jess's bathroom? This is the issue where the subtle themes of self-destruction that have run through the whole title really come to the forefront. One of the biggest but subtlest running questions has been "is Jess gonna start drinking again?" In issue #7 we get an emphatic "no" after a little supreme temptation. Though her first attempt to patch things up with Luke doesn't work out great, making the effort counts. And the upcoming Hill case should do a great job of giving her detective brain something to chew on while she keeps trying with Luke.

10
Jessica Jones #8

Nov 17, 2017

Maria Hill lays out her case for Jess like she's just another Alias client. This is quite simply a flawless setup throwing two great characters together with all of the dialogue and characterization responsibilities handled by a supremely talented writer who also happens to be their creator. It's really Bendis at his positive Bendis-iest, right down to the joke about how Tony Stark is offensively good at sex. There's even a decent rooftop chase scene at the end to let Michael Gaydos shake off the stiffness of a conversation-focused front half.

8.0
Jessica Jones #9

Jan 5, 2018

Jessica finally patches up her marriage after snarking her way into prison a second time. This month the progression of the Maria Hill plot takes a backseat to Jess's personal life, and that's entirely OK. Some high-quality Bendis conversations make this issue a cut above the norm; they're counterbalanced by some underwhelming art from Michael Gaydos. Some of his drawings are terrific, but there's a lot of copy/paste going on and his filtered photo backgrounds grow tiresome.

7.0
Jessica Jones #10

Jan 15, 2018

'Twas Maria Hill put the hit out on Maria Hill! Can Jess solve things by looking at family connections? "Oh, ☠☠☠☠, the whole book's just one scene and I've only got 6 pages left! Maybe I can bump up the scene with Jess's mom and tie up the parental stuff in cheap parallelism? Need a name for the new detective then … Susanna … Punch! That sounds like a human name, sure!" There's plenty of good stuff in this title, but sometimes reading it issue-by-issue leads to an aimless feeling. I also get the feeling that Alias didn't have that disjointed sense, but I might have a case of rose-colored hindsight.

8.0
Jessica Jones #11

Feb 12, 2018

Jessica brings a mysterious secret to Maria from her father. We get some tempting clues about it, but not the secret itself. Instead, we get a whole lotta mature humor. Javier Pulido does a brave Steranko impression in this issue's flashback, but the ambition outstrips the execution. Jokes about uterus punching and forcing Maria Hill to pee in a cup make a fair substitute for swift plot progression. Solidly-executed humor only goes so far, though.

7.0
Jessica Jones #12

Mar 30, 2018

See issue #10; it really *was* Maria Hill who put a hit on Maria Hill, and now we finally know why. It's a cool idea but it was executed indulgently, taking way too long and leaving way too many loose ends. Javier Pulido's flashback art is even less impressive the second time around. The layouts are nice but the level of detail put into the drawings just does not say "premium $4 comic experience."

8.0
Jessica Jones #13

Apr 20, 2018

Jessica goes pretty damn paranoid at the news that Killgrave is loose in the world. The story that unfolds suggests that, if anything, she's *not being paranoid enough.* Carol Danvers provides comedy relief, Luke Cage is archetypal Luke Cage, and Danielle appears to be the crux of it all, yikes. A fascinating premise and great characterization, but the pace is a bit slow and Michael Gaydos's art pulls up short of the "epic" mark. (I'm even tireder of his filtered photo backgrounds now than I was back in #9.)

9.0
Jessica Jones #14

May 21, 2018

"Purple Man speaks to Jessica Jones through her daughter" is a mother☠☠☠☠ of a set-up, and Brian Michael Bendis puts on his superstar hat to deliver on all of the creepiness the premise has to offer. Some of the supporting scenes (particularly Alpha Flight on babysitting duty) get cheesy, but some of them are just as formidable as the key scene itself. Carol and Danny get chances to do great good. Michael Gaydos's art is as strong as ever, and this script really hits the ideal tone for his visuals: Profound alienation and strong undercurrents of fear. This issue builds anticipation for the next chapter to almost unbearable levels.

9.0
Jessica Jones #15

Jul 11, 2018

It's finally time for a direct Jessica Jones/Killgrave confrontation. Brian Michael Bendis twists expectations magnificently after a head fake toward a would-be-disappointing "Netflix Killgrave gave me nifty ideas about making him a contrite monster" direction. Events actually play out in a *far* more interesting manner. While this series as a whole has had some pacing problems, within this issue the inevitable, awful progress from page to page is essentially perfect. It all builds to a terrifically intriguing cliffhanger; besides being enjoyable on its own, this issue sells the ☠☠☠☠ out of #16.

8.0
Jessica Jones #16

Aug 12, 2018

Killgrave takes the upper hand. For the first time in the series, Jessica drinks whiskey. I love how significant Mr. Bendis makes that. What I love a lot less is him poaching his big last-page twist out of the first season of the Netflix Jessica show. I was so happy to see this series take another direction last month; seeing it circle back is disappointing. There's still plenty of heft to the dialogue, characterization, and art leading up to the twist. This is a good comic. I just wish it could have been a novel one.

8.0
Jessica Jones #17

Sep 20, 2018

The Purple Man bows out in a philosophical way. It's written pretty well and the art does impressive tricks to liven up a talk-heavy script, but this isn't quite all-time great. Killgrave doesn't deserve an ending like this; it's more suited to a villain with some shreds of sympathy. The Purple Man has never been more than a monster, particularly in Jessica Jones's orbit.

9.0
Jessica Jones #18

Oct 8, 2018

Did you notice that every hero Mr. Bendis writes has fought the Armadillo in the past couple of years? Here's where his girlfriend hires Jessica to find out why. By itself, it's a decent one-shot. The ending's a little rushed. Why? Because this book makes space for extra helpings of quintessential Jessica Jones casework: a big client interview and then enthralling clue-gathering with a lot of different heroes. This is absolutely a victory lap for Mr. Bendis and Mr. Gaydos and Jessica and they absolutely deserve it and it's absolutely a blast to read.

6.0
Karnak #6

Oct 31, 2017

Karnak confronts Adam and finds the young reality warper's flaw. Is the victory thanks to Karnak's skill, or was it Adam's gift to him? Warren Ellis presents Karnak as a big ball of repressed shame and jealousy over missing out on Terrigenesis. Is that deep or shallow? The sketchy "Alex Maleev crossed with Mike Deodato" art is a hindrance rather than a help and a major factor in making this issue (as well as the whole title) rather forgettable.

8.0
Kingpin (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

Maybe-honest Kingpin hires washed-up reporter Sarah Dewey to write his biography. This is a very strongly written comic, and it starts up a story I'm interested in following. The art is aiming for a hard-boiled look, but it seems a bit rushed and some panels appear unfinished. Certainly a very promising debut.

7.0
Kingpin (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

Kingpin slowly, subtly briarpatches Sarah into working for him. I'm not thrilled with getting two fancy ball scenes in as many issues, but other than the repetitive settings there isn't much wrong with this. The art is solid and there's some real insight in the characterization. It's tough to tell at this point whether this series is being dramatic or melodramatic, though.

10
Kingpin (2017) #3

Oct 31, 2017

You thought this title was gonna be Daredevil vs. Kingpin with Sarah stuck in the middle? Wrong! Have a Kingpin/Tombstone gang war instead! I have huge respect for Matthew Rosenberg for taking some cliched scenarios and making them fresh again through sheer storytelling effort. Ben Torres's art also comes into its own. It's solid throughout and when this issue explodes into a fight at the end it gets truly stellar. I love the way Wilson Fisk is a little larger-than-life not only in terms of size but also cartoony animation. It's subtle but it makes a difference, and it keeps the focus firmly centered on him whenever he's on-page.

9.0
Kingpin (2017) #4

Nov 17, 2017

The Kingpin saves Sarah's life first literally, then metaphorically. But does he taint all he touches? Miguel Sepulveda's guest art is the only potential weakness in this issue, and it's not really all that weak. Matthew Rosenberg's script delivers action, emotion, and heavy moral quandaries for both Sarah and the reader. (Also a surprising amount of solid humor.) This is Sarah's "too good to be true" moment, and the only questions left for the final issue are how and why it's all going to fall apart - and what will be left in the aftermath.

7.0
Kingpin (2017) #5

Jan 5, 2018

Sarah's story with Fisk comes to an abrupt and perfunctory end. Bad guy wins, comic over, go home. Of all the miniseries Marvel's launched in the last year or so, this one more than any other needed at least one more issue to wrap up its story. Here, Sarah discovers she's let the Kingpin get his hooks in too deep and makes the fateful decision to roll with it. Her choice is presented with too much subtlety and speed to have the proper impact, and getting illustrated with some very non-evocative art by Ben Torres doesn't help.

4.0
Legion (2018) #1

Aug 6, 2018

David Haller and his nemesis personality Lord Trauma race each other to New York and celebrity psychologist Hannah Jones. This issue is plagued by a shortage of passion and creativity. It feels like a B-minus performance from a pair of 19-year-olds with a "tell a story about multiple personalities" assignment early on in a freshman-level creative class. The technical skills are decent, but the material is devoid of interest. The thing of which I am most certain is that Wilfredo Torres's flat no-shadow visual style is an absolutely TERRIBLE choice for a tense psychodrama-slash-horror story. This is close to a 5/10. If it had had ONE engaging character, ONE compelling mystery, ONE little hint that it was more than a crass "we can earn some bucks slapping any old thing onto the LCS shelves with a Legion title thanks to that new TV show" exercise …

4.0
Legion (2018) #2

Sep 20, 2018

David Haller dumps Hannah the psychologist into his mindscape with zero preparation. Therein she encounters Tami and tons of yippee-skippy symbology, like a super-low-rent imitation of Alan Moore at his most whimsically magical. Though the script is far from flawless, I can just believe that the writer is earnestly trying to tell a good story. I do not get a similarly earnest impression from the art, and the contrast leaves this issue doubly disappointing.

4.0
Legion (2018) #3

Oct 8, 2018

Psychologist Hannah tries to rally David's alters against Lord Trauma. I could just about make peace with the plot; it's pond-shallow but functional. But the art remains far too rough-draft-y. It makes it impossible to contend that this is a professionally-finished comic. The human characters are terribly sketchy, and the visuals blatantly refuse to deliver the wild dreamscape that the script calls for inside David's mind.

3.0
Legion (2018) #4

Nov 10, 2018

Dr. Hannah wins a skirmish against Lord Trauma, but that just focuses the baddy's attention on her. The script is mechanically sound, but the inescapable realization that David Haller is merely the supporting character/setting in his own title is incredibly disappointing. The fill-in art also proves that "different" doesn't mean "better." It's still terrible at settings, plus it fumbles the portrayal of action so badly that the characters have to narrate everything in Silver Age Stan Lee style.

4.0
Legion (2018) #5

Dec 3, 2018

Dr. Whozits defeats Lord Trauma while David looks on with vague approval. It's approaching a decent story, but fundamental problems strategic (why is this Dr. Whozits' story instead of Legion's?), tactical (ugh, that twist ending), and visual (what was the art budget? Tree fiddy?) drag it down into thorough disappointment.

9.0
Lockjaw (2018) #1

Sep 20, 2018

Lockjaw's quest to find his siblings entangles Dennis "D-Man" Dunphy. It's a wild collection of topics that go into greater depth than you'd expect from a teleporting dog comic: Good Boys! Depression! Hilariously prejudiced retirees! Space hamsters! Stellar art and smart writing make this ride weird and wonderful, though the introductory Inhuman cameos are just a touch indulgent. It's a perfect "oh, wow, what is this craziness?" find on Marvel Unlimited.

8.0
Lockjaw (2018) #2

Oct 8, 2018

Lockjaw and D-Man's Savage Land trip delivers some exquisitely-drawn animals and a fair helping of humor. The characterization is a little off. Ka-Zar takes a weird turn in the final scene. Prior to that, Dennis tries to paste an "I'm depressed" monologue over a fight scene that doesn't suit it. Those sour notes make this a slight step down from the awesome debut, but it's still an excellent comic.

8.0
Lockjaw (2018) #3

Nov 10, 2018

A trip to Spider-Ham's world hooks Lockjaw and Dennis up with a heap of helpful exposition from the dog's sentient sister, Doc Jaw. Doc Jaw is terrific, and this issue's cartoony visuals are absolutely tops. The now-revealed big picture plot is a little flimsy, but I recognize its primary purpose is setting up fun adventures for our protagonists. It does that job extremely well. This title is in no danger of getting deep, but it remains thoroughly enjoyable. And I might be mistaken about lacking depth; this issue's script includes some interesting hints that Lockjaw's sibling quest will impact Dennis's relationship with his own sister in a powerful way.

10
Lockjaw (2018) #4

Dec 16, 2018

The story concludes by revealing a shockingly good origin story for Lockjaw, showing his triumph over Annihilus, and kicking a healthy slice of action and growth to D-Man. Superb art and formidable funny writing throughout. Sheer enjoyability and the significant service this series has done in clarifying Lockjaw's origins make this final issue all-time great. Plus, the creators take a one-panel dig at Brian Michael Bendis's impromptu resurrection of the Ultimate Universe.

8.0
Luke Cage (2017) #1

Nov 25, 2017

A supposed suicide draws Luke Cage to New Orleans to explore his superhero roots. A positively beautiful character introduction leads into a slow mad science mystery, but then we wrap up with a nice fight scene with some startlingly high stakes. David Walker has definitely started an intriguing story here, and most impressively he's captured the neo-noir detective feel of the old-school 70s Cage comics. Nelson Blake's art is clean and spare, but it those traits have negative consequences. That final fight is apparently set on America's Loneliest Highway. Blake's clear talent for inventive action layouts fills me with hope, though.

8.0
Luke Cage (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

Luke discovers that Dr. Burstein left behind a brewing super-powered gang war when he died. And did he commit suicide or was he helped into the grave? Great characters (in both writing and art) and a great plot come together nicely here. There are a lot of missing details, (again in both words and art) though. David Walker's dialogue leans pretty heavily on clichés, and Nelson Blake's art shows off a little too much background that looks a little too generic. If you asked me how to sharpen up the art - and the series as a whole - I would say faster, tighter, messier.

7.0
Luke Cage (2017) #3

Jan 27, 2018

Luke fights his way deeper into a twisty southern-fried kudzu gang war. It might seem like we haven't made much progress, but they key is that Luke now knows what he doesn't know and what questions to ask. Plus we get more excellent characterization for him and for Warhawk as well. Nelson Blake's figures continue to look great, and they're blocked into the panels nicely, but we've gotta talk about backgrounds comma lack of. They're under-detailed and oh-so-clean. Luke's moving through a world without shadows, which feels wrong both for the general noir-ish tone of the story and the supposed New Orleans setting. Probably an issue colorist Marcio Menyz shares responsibility for.

7.0
Luke Cage (2017) #4

Feb 26, 2018

Luke confronts Dr. Burstein, but the many other dangerous factions moving around the good doctor replace Luke's final reckoning with a lot of deadly fighting. This issue has an excellent script with insight, great pacing, and strong character work. It also has some distinctly disappointing art. Nelson Blake still draws nice figures but they're still adrift and motionless in too-big, too-blank spaces.

6.0
Luke Cage (2017) #5

Apr 7, 2018

The New Orleans story comes to a tragic end and Dr. Burstein firmly sticks the "mad" - as in psychologically *wrong* mad - in mad scientist. Luke displays some awesome skills that go beyond punching; the way he deals with KevLar at the start is brilliant. Nelson Blake's art is dragging this book down for me. From the rushed "close enough" characters to the column-dropping Morgan mansion, the visuals are consistently underwhelming. There are some good, expressive faces and a few nice action poses, but they're drowning in a sea of regrettable panels.

8.0
Luke Cage (2017) #166

May 3, 2018

Luke tries road-tripping home and gets tangled in a mind-control mess in small-town Mississippi. Four issues ago, I said this series needed to get "faster, tighter, messier" - mainly in its visuals, but also in its plotting. This new arc looks to be exactly that. Guillermo Sanna's simple but evocative art is superb, and Marcio Menyz's strong colors fit it perfectly. David Walker balances the script on an interesting line: The ominous problem of a superhero stumbling into a villainous scheme is conflated with the more real-world problem of a wrong-colored stranger in an unwelcoming town. The issue is not *about* that contrast, but it looms huge over the story in a way that I think readers who are sensitive to subtle racism will find very gratifying.

7.0
Luke Cage (2017) #167

Jun 9, 2018

We get a brisk, ominous look inside the Ringmaster's mind-control prison. Luke's memory is on the fritz and we still have tons of questions. That's this story's compromise: It's atmospheric and ambiguous, but that means we don't get a ton of forward plot progress. The good news is that the story is told with enough confidence in words and pictures to satisfy even without a comprehensive rundown on the villain's plans. The cafeteria fight scene gets sadly undercut by the detail work applied to Guillermo Sanna's otherwise-excellent art. Flat tattoos and execrable jumpsuit lettering draw the eye in a wholly negative way.

7.0
Luke Cage (2017) #168

Jul 6, 2018

A full breakdown of how and why the Ringmaster ended up mind-controlling a Georgia prison and the little town around it. Also includes a few pages of Luke Cage content! Guillermo Sanna's art is full of life and the details of the plot are explained with skill, but there's an undeniable sinking feeling when we realize we're gonna concentrate on Ringmaster getting himself stuck in a Loop of Futility and pretty much ignore all the dramatic potential of amnesiac Luke Cage.

8.0
Luke Cage (2017) #169

Aug 6, 2018

Luke gets his memory back and wallops his way through the Ringmaster's mind-control victims to shame the man himself. It's a simple story but not at all a bad one; Luke polishes it off with an impeccable moral about the special evil of forcing people to deny their true natures. Guillermo Sanna's art is also deceptively simple. This issue is mostly "Luke Cage beats up a prison," but the anatomy and posing are consistently flawless and the shading is done with notable care. The creators kick off the issue with a nice "If This Be My Destiny" homage, too.

9.0
Luke Cage (2017) #170

Sep 6, 2018

Luke and Danielle tell a wonderful bedtime story together. It illuminates the bonds of love running through the whole family and does a superb job of capturing the boundless imagination of kids. It falls short of perfection only in that the real-world art is slightly rushed; the fantasy scenes of King Luke and Princess Danielle are outstanding. This whole series has been solid but largely unmemorable; it ends here with a standalone issue that easily slots itself into the short list of "all-time great Danielle Cage-Jones comics."

6.0
Man-Thing (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

A talkative version of the Man-Thing squares off against the classic mindless beast version. So existential! Kiddie horror megastar RL Stine tries his hand at comics. He's undeniably a big fan of the Silver Age; besides overblown dialogue and narration, this issue features a bonafide four-page weirdie as a backup story. The curious thing is that Mr. Stine is throwing Man-Thing back about a decade past his origins and heaving overboard all of the mature cynicism that made Steve Gerber's original a formative influence on the gritty Bronze Age. Overall quality-wise, I'm not sure if this experiment is a success. It was probably a blast for the creators, but so far this feels like too much of a departure from the established character and the norms of contemporary comics.

4.0
Man-Thing (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

Ted "Man-Thing" Sallis stumbles around his swamp making terrible dad jokes. At the end there's a faint glimmer of an actual plot starting up. Writer RL Stine builds his script with a "comics are for 10-year-olds" attitude that I thought was safely extinct these days. It's a shame Steve Gerber isn't with us any more, because I would love to hear what he thinks of this version of the character.

3.0
Man-Thing (2017) #3

Nov 4, 2017

An endless recap, a single new plot point about an evil queen forcing Man-Thing into a gladiatorial battle, and a terrible B-story. In case you haven't had the pleasure of reading Marvel's shoddier comics from the early Silver Age, RL Stine is on a mission to recreate their shortcomings down to the last detail. Plotted not with creativity or passion but with laziness and an endless supply of dad jokes. The art is nice, but it can't distract you from the constant (and astute!) suspicion that this title will become an obscure footnote of crappiness ("Didn't RL Stine write a Man-Thing comic? Oh yeah, it totally sucked.") in a few year's time.

4.0
Man-Thing (2017) #4

Dec 7, 2017

Man-Thing is forced to kill the Oldfather. Sure he's been hypnotized and jerked through a bunch of hallucinatory craziness, but this murder *definitely* happened for real. RL Stine has mistaken Man-Thing for Hulk, dream sequences for plot development, and his readers for idiots. The plot is virtually random, and the only bright spot is that it gives German Peralta plenty of opportunities for great art. The natural takeaway from this issue and the series as a whole is "why can't Mr. Peralta get put on a *good* title?"

3.0
Man-Thing (2017) #5

Jan 5, 2018

Man-Thing saves the Oldfather but ends up losing himself in a trite alternate-reality "surprise" ending. The series concludes with a twist that matches the Twilight Zone in tone but falls far, far short of that standard in terms of quality. This issue and the title as a whole prioritized cringe-y dad jokes over character or plot and put the Man-Thing through a bunch of sooner-forgotten-the-better nonsense adventures. RL Stine half-resolves his plot with a pair of MacGuffins, driving home the point that this story is first and foremost a vehicle for delivering lame jokes. Let us never speak of it again.

7.0
Marvel Legacy #1

Apr 7, 2018

Jason Aaron nearly spoils a bunch of awesome coming attractions by trying to thread a story through them. The most preview-tastic parts of his story - the million-year-old Avengers, the resurrection, the revelation of the mystery narrator - are all highly welcome. Robbie Reyes's impromptu African adventure is decent. But Thor, Sam Wilson, and Ironheart stopping Loki's frost giants is terrible. It's not *just* the in-your-face shilling for the "makes sense only to Jason Aaron" Thor/Sam romance; the humor is atrocious, too. But! The previews are awesome and there are great blast-off points here for a dozen epic stories, many of which absolutely *demand* to be followed. The deep and talented art roster does mostly outstanding work; as always, anything that results in Esad Ribic drawing more Marvel pages is a good thing.

4.0
Marvel Super Heroes Adventures: Spider-Man and the Stolen Vibranium #1

Nov 10, 2018

When Doc Ock tries to steal Wakanda's vibranium, the Black Panther calls in Spidey for a team-up. Both that specific plot and the concept of a kiddo-friendly "Stan Lee's Avengers Babies" title are sound, but Marvel does readers of all ages a disservice by executing them so cheaply. The super-deformed, unsettlingly-muscular character designs are polished up nicely, but nobody bothered to ask if the result was attractive. It is not. Spidey's humor is handled poorly. As an ultimate sign of how much care was taken with this comic, the creators and editors all managed to miss the fact that Okoye misspells her own name when introducing herself.

10
Marvel Two-In-One #1

Jul 6, 2018

We follow Ben Grimm through a star-studded meditation on the legacy and future of the Fantastic Four. It looks gorgeous and spends 18 pages Tarzanning its way from one heartstring to another in a wholly positive way. Ben Grimm is one of the easiest characters to do "heartwarming" with in the whole Marvel universe; that takes away nothing from the truly beautiful performance Chip Zdarsky puts him through here. Mr. Zdarsky's Doom is also fascinating. Where Brian Michael Bendis's Infamous Iron Doom is a hero with a villainous past, Mr. Zdarsky's Doom is a villain trying to be a hero. The difference is important. For me, it achieved that rarest and most precious of reading experiences: Stripping away decades of crusty maturity and converting me into a giddy kid again, progressing with wide-eyed passion from awesome panel to awesome panel, fully entranced. This comic is a treasure.

9.0
Marvel Two-In-One #2

Aug 6, 2018

Ben gets into a classically silly fight on Monster Island before Doom steps in to steer the story in a Machiavellian manner. Chip Zdarsky's big scripting fault is making the question of who's manipulating whom between Ben and Doom a little too ambiguous; the details and general tone of the book are otherwise perfect. Jim Cheung's art is even closer to perfect; his only fault is missing a clear opportunity to SHOW that Reed's prank is as perpetual as Ben says it is. The election schtick backing the fighting scene is super cheesy, but consider how tricky it is to tell a political joke in 2018 without alienating anybody.

8.0
Marvel Two-In-One #3

Sep 6, 2018

Ben tries to solve Johnny's power seep before they go gallivanting into the multiverse; this leads them to supporting character Rachna Koul and some nice upping of the ante. There's also a Hydro-Man fight thrown in there. The pace is excellent and the humor is fun, but this script is a delicate structure that cannot hold up to much examination. Large pockets of stupid lurk just under the surface. I also find Rachna deceptively shallow. Her "superpower maintenance gig" is pretty novel, but her character - snarky, spiky, overconfident genius lady - is very Central Casting so far.

9.0
Marvel Two-In-One #4

Oct 8, 2018

Johnny and Ben finally tee up to a delightfully interesting AU, but before they get there, Rachna really pegs out the awful-person-o-meter by insulting Spidey. It's like they always say, a super-scientist who is nice to you but mean to Spider-Man is not a nice person - but then, Rachna's not nice to ANYBODY. I appreciate the way this title gives each issue a firm focus. The concentrated themes allow for significant depth and there's plenty of strong characterization to weld the episodes into a coherent whole. Plus the art has been pretty stellar throughout.

10
Marvel Two-In-One #5

Oct 17, 2018

Johnny and Ben watch the "Doom triumphant" AU spin toward its end, but their presence pushes AU Reed and some surprising allies into action. Forget all the "I can't wait for the FF to come back" stuff; this RIGHT HERE is everything you want from the Fantastic Four. Highest stakes, tremendous heart, and imaginative ideas, all conveyed with the strongest possible storytelling skills in words and art. The nonstop drumbeat of questions answered and new questions raised makes this issue both a delight in tself and a powerful advertisement for future issues.

9.0
Marvel Two-In-One #6

Dec 16, 2018

It's the big finish for the Doomlactus AU, and the creators peg the needle on bigness. Epic action with superb "Time Runs Out" visuals, important lessons for the Infamous Iron Doom, and a couple all-time great "Holy ☠☠☠☠!" surprises. The only hesitation is in the tone of the ending, which seems to fall short of its full potential for meaning because our heroes are leaving this AU behind.

7.0
Master of Kung Fu (2017) #126

May 21, 2018

Shang-Chi crushes a cheap Hand scientist's dreams of training Kung-Fu animals. CM Punk has worked hard to deliver a funny story, but his jokes are too generic and his antagonist is too lightweight to carry more than 2-3 pages against *any* Marvel hero. This is a "kooky tone-setting scene explaining why Shang-Chi has a monkey sidekick" moment inadvisably blown up to issue length. As an introduction or standalone story it's just too flimsy; this might do as a comedy breather episode in an ongoing Shang-Chi series. Dalibor Talajić does at least work hard to make it look pretty.

6.0
Monsters Unleashed #2

Oct 31, 2017

The monster war accelerates as Elsa Bloodstone tracks down Kei Kawade. The real plot inches forward in the shadows around another monster-bashing extravaganza issue. The best parts are the cool Kirby references. Kei Kawade's Orrgo hoodie is amazing. We learn something interesting about Greg Land's curious artistic style here: If you want him to draw a realistic teenage girl, hand him a nine-year-old character. His Lunella looks excellent except for looking twice as old as she should. Alas, she's the only character in the book that escapes the Generic Land Female Face.

4.0
Monsters Unleashed #3

Oct 31, 2017

Kei Kawade's role is explained - he's a bloody Inhuman, sigh. According to Karnak, it is his destiny to stand against the "Leviathon Mother" and her kaiju hordes by summoning Kirby monsters from the 50s. Stiff dialogue, lazy art, and poor structure spoil some good plot twists here. Leinil Francis Yu is a great artist, but this issue is miles away from his best work. I dunno whether his deadline was too short, or he wasn't getting paid properly, or he just thinks Monsters Unleashed is stupid, but every page of art radiates a palpable aura of "I barely give a half a ☠☠☠☠."

4.0
Monsters Unleashed #4

Oct 31, 2017

Half of Marvel's heroes protect/cheerlead Kid Kaiju while the other half punch monsters. This event has a nice premise, but the main title has barely any more narrative backbone than Marvel's 90s swimsuit specials. Salvador Larroca's art is great but his talents are spread too thin; every panel is a completely separate monster fight. Random heroes shouting out the names of random Kirby monsters does not equal a thrilling global catastrophe story.

4.0
Monsters Unleashed #5

Oct 31, 2017

The Leviathon Mother is defeated by Kei's five all-new monsters in a transparent pitch into the subsequent ongoing. A ton of clumsy, easily-fixed missteps in both the writing and the art make it clear that the creators mistook "aimed at a young audience" with "A-game effort not required." This event could have been an awesome celebration of King Kirby's birthday; instead, it was a crass extrusion of minimum-effort comics entertainment product by creators who were palpably uninvested in the story.

9.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

Kei and his monsters settle into their incredibly weird status quo, but they're soon challenged by Mole Man and the New Intelligencia. All of the character and humor and fun that was missing from the Monsters Unleashed event comes home to roost here. Between the excellent writing (from Cullen Bunn, no less! I'm reevaluating my opinions for sure!) and David Baldeon's swing-for-the-fences awesome art, this was incredibly enjoyable. It's a thrilling all-ages debut, but there's enough complexity in the setup (particularly the Kawade family's relationship with SHIELD) to satisfy grown-ups as well as youngsters. Plus Scragg is brilliant.

8.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #2

Nov 25, 2017

Mole Man breaks from the Intelligencia to make a heart-wrenching plea for Kei's help. I feel like the narrative is suffering from focus loss; this issue concentrates on the bad guys and is weaker for it. The Mole Man stuff is pretty brilliant, and the climactic revelation of the baddies' new minion is really promising. Left to their own devices, Kei's monster crew is half-entertaining. David Baldeon's art is cartoony, clear, and entertaining, but it falls short of epic memorability. The final-page character-reveal splash is a little disappointing - but then Frank Cho is a tough act to follow.

7.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #3

Jan 5, 2018

Kei gets reunited with his monsters in the clutches of the Intelligencia after a Bloodstone/Hellbender brawl. The fight scene and all of the dialogue are packed with cheese that should be delightful to younger readers but it gets just a bit tiresome for grownups. I'm struggling with some personal antipathy to the way David Baldeon draws Lady Hellbender. While I admit Frank Cho's original rendition was a rather generic Cho Glamazon, Mr. Baldeon's "Joker's Daughter crossed with a Power Rangers villain" take isn't doing much for me. Design choices aside, the visuals are energetic and fun. On the writing side, I'm getting worried by the lack of agency Cullen Bunn gives the heroes. Right now, this is just a bunch of things happening to Kei and his monsters; they need to start making choices and taking control of their story.

5.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #4

Jan 27, 2018

Kei escapes from the badguys, mostly, but he's not out of the woods yet. Next issue, maybe, finally, some monster fighting! It's starting to feel like all the potential of this series is getting wasted. Letting Ramón Bachs pinch-hit for the last six pages certainly doesn't help. His line quality is extremely rough compared to David Baldeón, and though his designs are consistent, his posing and blocking are clumsy.

6.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #5

Feb 26, 2018

Kei and his allies have their long-awaited showdown with the Intelligencia and their monsters. Cullen Bunn's script is a very satisfying one, held back by the occasional clumsy line of dialogue. Ramón Bachs's art is, unfortunately, holding the comic back much further. His layout and posing skills look very good, but there's an unfinished, unvaried roughness to his lines that distracts over and over again.

6.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #6

Apr 7, 2018

Kei Kawade recaps his whole Deal and lays a new problem at Elsa Bloodstone's feet. Cullen Bunn's script has gone a bit too far into "fresh start" mode. Andrea Broccardo's art delivers some nice polish, but underwhelming and inconsistent character designs are a big problem. Visually, Kei's hero-monsters are starting to look interchangeable, and the redesigned twist ending guest star is supremely underwhelming. This new arc could be headed to interesting places, but the odds seem to be against it.

7.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #7

May 3, 2018

Jive Sucka Foom stands revealed as the Poison version of the Foom we know and love. He gives Kei's monsters a ton of trouble, largely because of a fascinating psychic echo between master and beasties. Kei's doubting himself, so the monsters are doubtful too. It's a nice attempt at adding needed depth to this title, but tying into Venomverse is a real clunker of a "problem du jour." On the art side, it's clear now that Andrea Broccardo is aiming for a manga feel, but it's not quite working when it comes to Elsa and Kei's faces. You certainly can't fault him for lack of detail, though; his monsters and his Savage Land (and his dinos!) are all bursting with vibrant life.

7.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #8

Jun 9, 2018

Proper Fin Fang Foom (in continuity with his last appearance in the Drax solo, no less) saves the day with kaiju battling and telepathic psychological counseling just when Kei needs it. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, and the heavy bias toward monster fighting suits Andrea Broccardo's artistic tastes. While I was initially grumpy about the Venomverse tie-in, the crossover wound up enlightening me regarding the main event: Venomverse was a close-to-all-ages piece of kiddie action-horror. That makes it eminently suitable for tying into the kid-focused world of Monsters Unleashed and explains why I was so underwhelmed the event itself. It was never *meant* to be complex and mature and meaningful, and it was my mistake to fault it for not being those things.

8.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #9

Jul 6, 2018

A giant bee attack gives Kei a chance to bond with the Mighty Scragg as they tackle the insects on their own. The result is a silly but very visually-rich adventure thanks to Francesco Gastón's confident art. He brings equal levels of polish to Kei and his monsters, a talent *you would think* would be absolutely necessary to drawing this title. Justin Jordan's script is also a treat, clearly drawing its inspiration from premium Warner Bros cartoons from the 90s (e.g. Tiny Toons & Animaniacs). Aiming wholeheartedly at an all-ages audience renders this issue just a little insubstantial, but it's so earnest and full of passionate fun that a lack of maturity isn't really a problem.

7.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #10

Jul 27, 2018

Kei and Aegis go charging into a Cthulhu ripoff situation to help Elsa. This title is wobbling down the slope from "fun for all ages" to "aiming at young, uncritical readers excuses mediocre storytelling," but it hasn't quite reached that sad destination yet. Bachan's art is fine for mecha and monsters but lets us down tremendously when it comes to people. Elsa's drawn in that curious caricature style that makes me think I'm looking at an old Mad Magazine parody.

8.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #11

Sep 6, 2018

A moon excursion with Karnak and Lockjaw gives Kei and Mekara time to bond. I love Mekara from start to finish; rather than handing her a "you need to loosen up" moral, this comic settles on a wholesome "you be you" message that teaches younger readers there's a time and a place for order and rules and, yes, nannying. The art is great for Mekara and most of the moon-fight, though Kei is veering a little too cartoony again. This is a good solid comic for adult readers; it becomes positively stellar if you're looking for a "read with kiddos" book.

6.0
Monsters Unleashed (2017) #12

Oct 8, 2018

The title wraps with a classic misunderstanding brawl that pits Kid Kaiju & Moon Girl against another kiddie Inhuman with mechs to match Kei's monsters. It's a featherlight concept. The writing slides past "all-ages" into "kids only" and the visuals - besides being another jarring turn of the artist carousel - become downright disappointing in some places. This is an abrupt but understandable end to the book; the title's promise was always there, but it was too rarely brought forth on the pages.

7.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #15

Oct 31, 2017

Moon Girl realizes she has Dr. Doom gunning for her. Riri Williams is there as a cheerleader. Ironically, their in-universe relationship - unknown Lunella fawning over famous, fabulous Ironheart - is pretty much a reverse of the real-world situation - contentious flame-magnet Riri desperately hoping some of Moon Girl's well-earned adoration rubs off on her. Some nice art goes a long way toward making Lunella's obstinate arrogance seem cute instead of infuriating.

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #16

Oct 31, 2017

Lunella is very rude to Dr. Strange and has her first clash with Dr. Doom, all on Halloween. Her ideas about magic and Dr. Doom are frustratingly scattershot, and the way this issue tiptoes around the idea of Doombots is a problem. But the action and pacing are great, and there are a lot of visual treats worked into Natacha Bustos's Halloween extravaganza. Next month's stop on Lunella's Marvel universe tour (X-Men ahoy!) looks promising too.

7.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #17

Oct 31, 2017

With a little superfluous X-Man assistance, Lunella figures out she's facing transdimensional Doombots. The X-Men cameos are cute, but a bit forced. The art is a high point, as usual, and clarifying the nature of Lunella's opposition for this arc is very satisfying. I also think there are promising signs here that the "having friends is a good thing" message of all these team-ups is, at last, getting through to Lunella.

9.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #18

Nov 4, 2017

Lunella calls in all the super-friends she's made for a Doombot showdown on Thanksgiving. It's not a perfect comic, but it's awfully close. Don't be too quick to dismiss it as kid's stuff. Pay attention and you'll see that this comic goes past "yay teamwork" and "yay diversity" and has excellent points about *why* those things matter. The lessons Lunella shares here are exactly the ones I was hoping she'd pick up over the course of this story arc, making this a tremendously satisfying conclusion.

9.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #19

Dec 3, 2017

Everybody gets bored in science class, but when Lunella gets bored in science class it means it's time to launch a Moon Girl interstellar rescue mission. I hope I'm not overselling it when I say this comic is the next best thing to inviting Bill Watterson to put Spaceman Spiff in the Marvel universe. I checked; there are just two pages in this issue that I don't adore. The dialogue is entertaining throughout, the plot poses plenty of fun questions, and finishing the issue gave me a feeling I don't get often enough from contemporary Marvel titles: Eager anticipation for what comes next! I can only imagine how hard it must be for Marvel-savvy parents reading this title with their kids to restrain themselves for a whole month. Planet with a beard? We know where this is going!

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #20

Jan 5, 2018

Moon Girl identifies Girl Moon's problem but doesn't solve it. Instead, she's got parallel universe shenanigans to deal with. Once again Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain spoil us rotten with some superb kid-friendly art. This is gigantic visual treat. Brandon Montclare's script is fun and funny, but my inner 8-year-old is tugging at my sleeve asking "but WHY didn't Moon Girl help Girl Moon?" I don't know, tiny me. I don't know. We'll have to wait a whole month to find out, argh!

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #21

Feb 3, 2018

Devil Girl and Moon Dinosaur are unbelievably irritating, but Lunella has to learn a bigger lesson by *not* getting tangled up in a drag-out fight with them. The impact that this mirror universe detour has on the bigger story of Illa the Girl Moon is unclear. If you're gonna take indulgent side-trips, though, taking the one that leads to big beautiful t-rex fights and Lunella mocking Moon Dinosaur as a Barney/Big Bird hybrid is definitely the right choice.

7.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #22

Mar 11, 2018

Moon Girl uses a Brilliant Trick to solve the Illa the Girl Moon's orbital mechanics problem. Much as I loved Lunella's solution and the characterization done around it, I felt like the nuts-and-bolts writing was a bit weak here. Skipping Ego's reaction to meeting his daughter felt like a missed opportunity, but we do have one issue left in this arc. And Lunella ignoring the mushy stuff after she's solved the problem might be part of her characterization, too. The art is still gorgeous, keeping the overall reading experience for this issue well above average.

9.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #23

Apr 7, 2018

Turns out, Illa the Girl Moon gets her Tender Reunion Moment with her dad Ego after all. And since we're booked on the feels train already, Lunella takes us back to the Valley of Fire for a huge decision. We may not agree with her choice, but it's certainly not a casual one. Stellar visuals and a moody pace ensure that this big moment lands with all the impact it deserves. A good comic, but a rough one to read with little Moon Girls of your own, I think.

7.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #24

May 7, 2018

Lunella misses Devil Dinosaur a bit and sees the wisdom in partnering up again. The universe throws some outrageously inappropriate possibilities at her. This issue showed off some great characterization for Lunella, some "meh" guest art, and some real "WTH were you thinking" guest-star choices. It's a fun read for grown-ups, but you might want to get this one lost in the mail if you're reading Moon Girl with your own mini-Marvelite. Not that anything in *this* issue is bad for kiddies, but a Lunella-age fan developing a sudden curiosity about Mojo, Ghost Rider, or Daredevil might be problematic.

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #25

Jun 9, 2018

"Moon Girl without Devil Dinosaur" is off to a roaring start as Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm fall into Lunella's orbit. The art and characterization are well up to this title's usual lofty standards. While DD's absence is keenly felt - especially by young readers, I bet - he still plays a tremendous role in influencing Lunella's thoughts. From a grownup perspective, it's pretty magnificent storytelling and it illustrates Lunella's growth in a beautiful "showing not telling" way. But some of the character intricacies are *so* subtle that I wonder if I'm not reading into the comic and giving writer Brandon Montclare unearned extra credit. It's a good book for sure, but I think if it were a great one I wouldn't have that doubt.

6.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #26

Jul 11, 2018

While Ben Grimm and Eduardo have a frustrating encounter with a mostly-off-panel FF imposter, Galactus fails to impress Lunella or us readers with the arrival of "Omnipotentis," a lamewad "Double Galactus" baddie that eats universes instead of planets. Lunella also anti-endears herself by sassily demanding more respect for her intellect, first from the Silver Surfer and then from *Galactus.* She explicitly believes that because she survived one babycakes space adventure in the vicinity of Ego the Living Planet, she is, by some outrageously optimistic reading of the transitive property, Galactus's superior. The currently-ongoing arc has a lot of strong pieces to it. I'm willing - maybe even hoping - to believe that Lunella being a jerk to Galactus and the big bad being horrifyingly stupid are weak links that couldn't be removed/fixed without collapsing the whole story. Maybe Mr. Montclare felt he wrote himself into a corner. Maybe he just plumb ran out of time to polish and refine. It does happen. Good bits: Eduardo (aka El Dinosaurio!) and Ben are, by every measure, more interesting (and lovable!) protagonists than Lunella right now. They keep this issue from trainwrecking. Alitha E. Martinez also delivers some excellent guest art. It preserves the premium cartoon feel of the title while also putting a unique spin on the characters. Her Ben Grimm is especially terrific.

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #27

Aug 12, 2018

Lunella takes the reins of the new Fantastic Three, piloting them through a perfect low-stakes mission (getting a cat out of a tree) before turning back to the ongoing universal destruction threat. The slowdown is vitally necessary, as is Lunella's reasoned acceptance of the value of teamwork. The return of Natacha Bustos's art is also highly welcome; she puts satisfying cartoony polish on a plot that leans heavily on slapstick.

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #28

Sep 20, 2018

The Fantastic Three make a mediocre showing against the Super Skrull, convincing everybody that another teammate is needed. This issue is slightly short of plot development, but retrenching and clarifying the current situation works out well. The art hits its usual sweet notes, with some especially pretty profile portraits this time around.

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #29

Oct 8, 2018

Lunella finally agrees that her team needs a fourth to take on Omnipotentis. Her pick is obvious. On the other hand, Galactus's role in her plotting is a little too far from obvious. That mystery balances out the wonderful twist ending, holding the issue down in "good but not great" territory. Intro scene villain Cellar Dweller is very random and, frankly, too promising for a three-page left-field cameo. I hope we see him again!

8.0
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #30

Nov 10, 2018

Lunella and her ersatz Fantastic Four save the universe, of course. The resolution of the conflict is thoroughly middle-of-the-road. It's average for any comic and notably sub-par for this title - both visual and textual storytelling are weak. But the final scenes go for all-out heartwarming as Lunella applies learned lessons to her relationships. She advises Ben & Johnny to go find their family and gives an epically great apology to Devil Dinosaur. These moments are precisely what's needed to redeem the "meh" heroics earlier in the book.

9.0
Moon Knight (2016) #11

Oct 31, 2017

Marc's history gets as far as meeting Frenchie, and in the Overvoid, Marc is inches away from getting ritually sacrificed. This issue is a somewhat quiet interlude in an altogether epic story, but it is completely non-disappointing. Mr. Lemire is laying down a definitive new origin for Moon Knight, and it's a pleasure to see it unfold. Mr. Smallwood's art continues to set the gold standard for good "sketchy" work.

9.0
Moon Knight (2016) #12

Oct 31, 2017

Marc gets a hand from his alternate personalities so he doesn't die in the Overvoid. Back in his origin story, his mercenary work propels him into the Bushman's orbit. This is a fast, "get from point A to point B" issue and a deceptively simple one. Seeing Marc's other identities resurface is initially great - then you realize it's a potent reminder that his brain is still broken.

8.0
Moon Knight (2016) #13

Oct 31, 2017

The stage is set for a climactic final issue that will show both the birth of the Moon Knight and, hopefully, the death of Khonshu. While it's written and drawn with consummate skill, this issue is so clearly focused on groundwork for the climax that it can't really be great in itself. There are no revelations here, just a slow amplification of tension and a raising of the stakes. The commitment to the parallel structure (i.e. putting both the origin and the climactic fight into the last issue) is impressive but also perhaps a little over-ambitious.

9.0
Moon Knight (2016) #14

Dec 7, 2017

For today, Khonshu bends to Marc Spector's will, cast down as merely a manifestation of his mental illness. Who knows what tomorrow might bring? Of all the brilliant things in this finale, the very best might be the fact that it steers well clear of anything as trite as "Kill the bird-god, cure the illness." Marc is not cured, but his triumphant realization is that even with flaws and damage, he is a good man. He's confident again that whatever this tricky thing called reality is, it includes a place for Moon Knight. This issue didn't deliver the full-on origin recap that I was expecting, but there's no disappointment in getting this tremendously focused and powerful conclusion instead.

8.0
Moon Knight (2017) #188

May 21, 2018

Max Bemis makes a bold choice by making this issue entirely an introduction to a new nemesis; it's a brand-new Moon Knight book starting without a scrap of Moon Knight. It's also, challengingly, a direct sequel to the last volume; I don't think this would make a lick of sense without reading the Lemire/Smallwood volume first. Jacen Burrows's art is flat but beautifully detailed and finished. This is a promising start but there are still giant questions marks over how the series will evolve.

9.0
Moon Knight (2017) #189

Jun 18, 2018

Moon Knight arrives in his own title with a tremendous splash. Max Bemis continues the story of new nemesis Patient 86, shows Moon Knight taking down a perfect, creepy single-issue villain, and plants his flag on a distinctly different but undeniably fascinating take on the character. Where the previous volume was moody and symbolic, this one is stuffed with complex ideas and characterization. Setting up Jake Lockley as Spector's "mad dog on a chain" personality is remarkable. The art team (Burrows/Ortego/Lopes) does a tour de force with this issue's gritty settings and brutal action. There are remarkable gory details; the way the villain's lip rings tear out when Moon Knight beats on him is going to stick with me for a while. The sheer density of Mr. Bemis's script slows the story down slightly, but that's not much of a problem when the writer clearly has so much to say.

9.0
Moon Knight (2017) #190

Jul 11, 2018

Our mystery villain gains a name (Sun King) and an ally (Bushman) and throws a doozy of a takedown plan at Moon Knight. It involves Marlene and a gigantic twist and plenty of great character interactions inside and outside Marc's head. Jacen Burrows's art is still highly refined, and the way the plot develops is utterly entrancing. Some cracks in the facade are appearing, though, because Max Bemis can't resist indulging in some self-aware humor. I've read other stories by Mr. Bemis that *needed* a gloss of ironic detachment to climb up to readability; I hope he realizes this arc is strong enough (like "all-time great" strong) to stand on its own. A layer of hipster "it's just a comic LOL" gags could actually do a lot of damage to this philosophically twisty story.

7.0
Moon Knight (2017) #191

Aug 12, 2018

Marc meets his daughter and the Sun King kidnaps Marlene. Lots of words are burned setting up Ra vs. Khonshu as a mythic Apollonian vs Dionysian conflict. Mr. Bemis is clearly enjoying a little Alan Moore cosplay here, but it's superfluous to the story and not executed all that well. Marc doesn't NEED abstract cosmological motivation when the baddies are holding Marlene hostage. This issue also struggles in introducing Dia, Marc's pink-haired daughter. Mr. Bemis misses the brass ring when it comes to scripting natural and/or endearing dialogue for a kid. The art is still outstanding and the plot is moving along nicely, keeping this comic well above average. It's just not achieving the mythological greatness it's aiming at.

8.0
Moon Knight (2017) #192

Sep 20, 2018

Marc lets himself be drawn deep into the Sun King's trap, but he breaks plenty of bones along the way. The core story of sassmonster Moon Knight treating idiot villains to benevolent contempt is brilliant. The first and last scenes aren't up to the middle's high standards, though. The first is a wank-y walkback of Zombie Frenchie and the last is another colonic dose of Ra vs. Khonshu philosophy. It's an interesting opening salvo in an ethical debate, but Marc fabricates a cliffhanger by abruptly declaring a victor in that debate - disappointing. The visuals throughout are stellar, with a complex combat double spread at the midpoint standing out even further.

8.0
Moon Knight (2017) #193

Oct 8, 2018

After brutal preparations, Marc faces off with the Sun King. The superb art succeeds in selling this as the desperate, scary struggle it should be. Going strictly by the script, there's an unsatisfying "clap your hands to make him stop believing" Tinkerbell magic to the way Marc wins. This comic is a testament to the positive difference an engaged artist can make.

8.0
Moon Knight (2017) #194

Nov 10, 2018

Marc tells a ripping scary story about running into a crypto-Nazi villain as a young boy. It's a gripping tale, but I don't think it makes quite as much of an impact as the creators would like. It gives Marc's Jewish heritage some appreciable attention. The villain raises a ton of questions, though - how/why would an ardent Nazi impersonate a rabbi and keep it up for SIXTY YEARS? - and the story chooses to answer only the dullest one - how is he still alive? - in the dullest way possible - generic comicbook super-science. It does leave a nice door open for a sequel in another flashback, or even a contemporary tale.

9.0
Moon Knight (2017) #195

Dec 3, 2018

Moon Knight was really hoping that he'd filled his quota of "weird" for this volume, but nope, here comes the Collective, a Cronenbergian nightmare of malevolent melded-together misanthropes. I felt the self-deprecating hipster origin of the Collective went on a touch too long, but this was otherwise magnificent. Ambitiously, audaciously crazy. I appreciate how shamelessly the villain is tailored to the hero, thematically speaking. This issue knocked the physical confrontation out of the park; I can't wait to see the psychological match-up in the next one.

6.0
Mosaic #5

Oct 31, 2017

Mosaic cuts his father's puppet strings after learning he's been dancing to Daddy's tune for 12 years. His origin story has gone on for too long and built expectations too high for this noisy, logic-impaired action movie ending to really satisfy. I can only hope that Morris's next stop is New Attilan. Not only is the start of his heroic career long overdue, but it'd be nice for somebody to take a second to *name him Mosaic* before he crosses the six-issue threshold.

8.0
Mosaic #6

Oct 31, 2017

Mosaic is snatched out of his ongoing origin story to meet the Inhumans. Bout time! An extended interlude with Lockjaw gives this issue some excellent humor, Morris finally gets named "Mosaic," and he contributes to CW2 without really understanding what's going on. This interlude was a perfect break from Morris's increasingly-dull origin story. Bruno Oliveira's guest art gets the job done, but it's another case where I don't think speeding up the shipping schedule was worth losing Khary Randolph's distinctive style.

6.0
Mosaic #7

Oct 31, 2017

Morris flirts with Iso and self-awareness, summarizes IvX, breaks with the Inhumans, and falls bass-ackwards into a fight with Diablo and Moloids. This issue puts in some solid storytelling work on explaining Mosaic's powers, a decent romance with Iso, and Morris struggling with selfishness. In each case, though, the author neglects to stick the landing, and the last act takes a rather unwelcome turn into conventional villain-bashing as Mosaic stumbles arbitrarily into a chance to be a hero. Bruno Oliveira's art is vibrant and dynamic but a little unpolished. There are seeds of greatness here but they're not being tended properly.

9.0
Mosaic #8

Dec 3, 2017

Mosaic finds his heroism in a solo fight with Diablo that brings a surprising amount of heart. This is an outstanding way to polish off an origin story, and the train of thought that pulls Morris from "ain't my problem" to "I've gotta save the day" is a local that hits every one of the right stops. Khary Randolph's art is in fine form, seamlessly jigsawing Diablo's classic design into his distinctive style. The only downside here is how well this capstone could have wrapped up Mosaic's origin story earlier. This title started losing focus around issue #5; who knows how far it could have gone if the creators had used this bow to wrap up the origin earlier and then taken their hero into bigger and better adventures.

9.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #15

Oct 31, 2017

The unfortunately-named Doc.X troll demonstrates just how badly he can mess with Kamala. Now it's true that "mind-controlling computer villain" is nothing new in the Marvel universe, but this is Kamala's first swing at that particular pitch. The author is concentrating on how it applies to modern folks with their incredibly fragile online lives, and we're cultivating some nice social commentary here along with a cool villain to be smacked down in the near future.

10
Ms. Marvel (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

The Doc.X virus sets its sights not on Kamala but on the people around her; it's Zoe's turn to step up and be a hero. This storyline is a slap in the face to folks who consider the problems of high school kids inherently fatuous or melodramatic; flawless characterization makes it easy for even a crusty old geezer like me to understand their concerns and empathize with their challenges.

9.5
Ms. Marvel (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

Kamala beats the Doc.X virus by counter-infecting it with positive vibes. While it's a trite, cheesy victory, it's harnessed to a gut punch of glorious compassion at the start that rendered me completely non-objective. It's a total melt-your-heart Fall-In-Love Moment, and it serves as a reminder of just how powerfully a comic can speak to you. Regardless of what comes after, the first four pages of this comic are unqualified, undeniable awesomeness. I would give them 10/10 on their own; I would give them 8/10 harnessed to the worst comic in the world. An optimistic, slightly naive "beat the sentient computer virus with the power of love" story is no real burden for this brilliant opening to bear.

9.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #18

Nov 17, 2017

Bruno's adventures involve vibranium theft, a Black Panther cameo, and an awesome power of friendship moment. True, this issue features an almost-complete lack of Kamala, but it's still damned brilliant. Bruno is feeling very sorry for himself for very sensible reasons - his injuries are serious, permanent, and likely to get worse over time. But his roommate Kwezi refuses to let him brood and the boys' caper ends up prodding Bruno toward re-engagement with the world. A filler issue? Yes, indubitably. But unless you absolutely rebel at reading about Bruno without Kamala, this comic is sure to delight. Guest artist Francesco Gaston does an excellent job of bringing to life a vibrant and distinctive Wakanda that meshes well with other contemporary books without feeling like a swipe or a retread.

9.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #19

Jan 5, 2018

It's Eid time and all is not well in Jersey City: Hydra's back with a sinister new agenda. G. Willow Wilson dives into another Marvel event with another unique take. While this storyline doesn't ship under a Secret Empire banner, it addresses a lot of the same issues and pits Kamala against similar enemies. And with her family at risk, it looks like the stakes are only going to get higher. New artist Marco Failla does a great job with both the prosaic minutiae of Eid at the Khan house and Ms. Marvel's new, more elasticated fighting style.

10
Ms. Marvel (2015) #20

Jan 27, 2018

As though Ms. Marvel weren't challenged enough by Hydra Chuck taking over her city, by the end of the issue she realizes her brother's already fallen into the baddies' clutches. After the first five pages, this is a rock-solid Ms. Marvel comic. There's brilliant art and tons of Ian Herring's magnificent, weighty colors and a good fight scene and a fast-moving plot. The issue opens with Aamir giving a tour-de-force soliloquy on extremism and Muslim-Americans. You may not agree with him. You may want to argue vehemently against him - but you can't argue against G. Willow Wilson for provoking thought in an incredibly polished and insightful way. This is not apropos-of-nothing soapboxing; Aamir's words are intimately tied to his own situation and, in a subtle way, to the still-unknown identity of Discord, Jersey City's newest villain. Taking time out of your busy baddie-punching schedule to ask important questions about society: What could be more Marvel than that?

8.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #21

Mar 11, 2018

Kamala unmasks Discord while powered prisoners take refuge in her local mosque. This issue serves quite well at moving the larger plot forward. There's some great action and great art. The character dynamics are a lot trickier, and G. Willow Wilson's script still shows some rough spots where past events and characterization have been hammered on to make them fit the arc's political themes. Though the attempt to explore tensions between civil rights and public safety is ambitious, it's not entirely successful. There's still quite a fascinating story going on behind the politics, so this is definitely a better-than-average book. It would need a bit more script polishing to be truly great.

9.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #22

Mar 30, 2018

Basic Becky gets her comeuppance, but it's a bittersweet win for Kamala. While she does plenty to save the day, I love that this script also has space for a lot of other people to contribute to the victory: A superpowered buddy whose return is very welcome, the citizens of Jersey City led by Tyesha and Nakia, and the proper authorities in the form of the mayor and the cops. Kamala's mood lends the conclusion a sad air, but it's eminently justified and it points to more dramatic developments in the future. Marco Failla's art is ambitious and almost entirely successful, and Ian Herring is as always the double-secret MVP keeping Ms. Marvel consistent with his richly nuanced colors.

8.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #23

Apr 20, 2018

Red Dagger relocates to New Jersey just in time to get thrown into a runaway train adventure with Ms. Marvel. The fact that she calls it "my whole life in one garbage metaphor" *mostly* makes up for its contrivance. It's just an excuse to do character work, but the character work is great, as are Diego Olortegui's visuals. Still, the discovery toward the end that this little train situation is going to push on into another issue was slightly disheartening. The opportunity to learn more about the rather delicate state of Kamala's head will more than make up for another serving of NJT-based drama, though.

8.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #24

May 21, 2018

The mechanics of stopping the runaway train remain a bit blah, but the character examinations they set the stage for are exquisite. Kamala learns tons about herself here, and the Jersey love warms the hearts of ex-Garden-Staters like me. Diego Olortegui's art is pretty magnificent, particularly his faces; he also invests a lot of creative energy in making a silk purse out of the sow's ear of the train situation. It's still fairly dumb if you overthink it, but it *looks* fantastic.

9.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #25

Jul 6, 2018

Kamala is missing! The Coles Academic Crew worries about her and fills in for Ms. Marvel and *just* fails to connect the dots. Superb characterization by G. Willow Wilson, hilarious background gags in Nico Leon's art, and a looming return engagement with the Inventor, Ms. Marvel's first nemesis. Busy times in Jersey City! The weakest bit of the issue is probably the abrupt introduction of Bruno-substitute Naftali, Kamala's "kosher lunch buddy." There's nothing wrong with him as a character and he moves the plot along in an important way; the suddenness of his introduction is still slightly suspicious.

8.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #26

Jul 27, 2018

Zoe Zimmer is our full-time protagonist as she takes the lead on investigating the Inventor's return. Naftali's still working the "MIA Kamala" case, but Zoe's efforts prove that Ms. Marvel's supporting cast is capable of carrying an independent story on its own. I really love this script; unfortunately, Nico Leon is having an off month with the art. He pivots too wildly from careful detail to emoji-style sketchiness. When he's working hard he's still creating great visuals, though; the overall effect here is certainly not disappointing.

8.0
Ms. Marvel (2015) #27

Sep 6, 2018

The rest of the Marvelettes rescue Zoe, but they recognize their inability to tackle the Inventor. That leads to an awesome call for backup at the end. I like the byplay between Red Dagger and the Marvelettes, I love "maybe that costume IS magic," and I respect the all-ages Social Darwinism 101 debate that develops from the Inventor's monologuing. The art is fast but fun. There's a rare misstep in the coloring; the washed-out pastel look dominating the book is unappealing. Naftali's missing person investigation eating the first three pages is rather unwelcome too.

7.5
Ms. Marvel (2015) #28

Oct 8, 2018