CrazyforRAMU's Profile

Joined: Oct 31, 2017

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7.2
Overall Rating
7.0
2020 Force Works #1

Oct 17, 2020

It's another Matthew Rosenberg B-list team miniseries, which is entertaining in its own snarky right, but it doesn't much distinguish itself from the author's past efforts.

7.0
2020 Force Works #2

Nov 5, 2020

Force Works escapes captivity, grasps the overall situation (rogue Deathloks are fighting giant robot Ultimo), and picks up an unlikely ally. It's got the usual Matthew Rosenberg sass and a brisk pace -- but the plot developments ride the narrow line between "good absurd" and "bad absurd." Not really essential, but enjoyable.

6.0
2020 Force Works #3

Feb 17, 2021

I made the mistake of reading IM 2020 #6 before this. Suffice it to say this series and the main event do not align in the slightest. I also believe there is for each reader a fixed number of issues after which Matthew Rosenberg's patented snark-a-matic team dynamic switches from "clever and refreshing" to "trite and repetitive." I'm afraid I passed that point long ago.

6.0
2020 Iron Age #1

Nov 2, 2020

This collection has the misfortune of leading off with a Tom DeFalco strip that just extends his pointless exploration of Machine Man's old backstory. The other strips are more enjoyable, but still quite skippable. It's an event anthology -- always a dumping ground for mediocrity.

5.5
2020 Ironheart #1

Nov 9, 2020

This comic is paced like it has an infinite number of pages to waste on nonsense.

5.0
2020 Ironheart #2

Nov 9, 2020

This two-shot was at best methadone for Ironheart junkies.

4.5
2020 iWolverine #1

Dec 17, 2020

Albert carves his way through Madripoor in search of his little pal Elsie Dee. He finds her, but unfortunately, they'll have to live through a whole other issue of meaningless, poorly-illustrated gang violence. It's a dull story on its own; its connection to the event is a wisp of general thematic philosophy -- Albert and Pierce clash over the idea of owning AIs.

4.0
2020 iWolverine #2

Feb 17, 2021

This comic used the phrase "jewwied gasowine" twice, which is two more times than I ever wanted to read it.

5.0
2020 Machine Man #1

Oct 17, 2020

The premises for each strip aren't spectacular, but they could work. And the art is sound middle-of-the-road stuff. But the words! I expected clunky retro cheese from Tom DeFalco, but Christos Gage drops down to the same level, which is a disappointing surprise.

5.5
2020 Machine Man #2

Nov 2, 2020

Machine Man resists temptation and makes off with Jocasta's head (including a copy of the Obedience Virus). In the B Strip, the Wreckers and Aaron's old pals … exist. They win a pointless fight against some Bain robots and earn some highly-qualified respect from the rebel bots who helped them. This issue is par for the course for this event: Put together with sound storytelling skill, but fundamentally forgettable in a way that makes it hard to care about.

5.5
2020 Rescue #1

Oct 17, 2020

Pretty good character work, but the premise is thin and it seems like the characters know it. Also, unfortunately, it's got that sort of bottom-shelf art that just drains the reader's enthusiasm.

4.5
2020 Rescue #2

Nov 9, 2020

Everything about this comic screams, "I should be a digital original priced under $3."

8.0
A.X.E. One-Shots: Avengers #1

Mar 22, 2023

It's a solid story and it lands somewhere very close to essential reading. The storytelling (words and art) is definitely above average; it's good without being fall-all-over-myself-praising-it great. As Tony Stark character studies go, it's mostly off-the-shelf stuff. But it is DEEPLY tied to the present moment in the event and it turns Tony's judgment into, I think, a pretty important plot point.

8.0
A.X.E. One-Shots: Starfox #1

Mar 30, 2023

Eros's spotlight issue has no right to be this fun. The pretty art has a distinctive anime-esque style and it's executed with superlative skill. The script is structured in short, choppy scenes and the prose is likewise pithy. Taken together, the work delivers a surprisingly enjoyable peek into Starfox's head while also connecting some important plot points for the larger event.

9.0
A.X.E. One-Shots: X-Men #1

Mar 30, 2023

These Gillen-scripted one-shots between #5 & #6 are plot-critical -- it doesn't hurt that they're also amazing reads. (This one is particularly beautiful on the art front, too.) I admit a significant part of my enjoyment comes from watching the Progenitor/the author DEMOLISH 2 points from recent issues of Gerry Duggan's X-Men: How Cyclops sorta bluffed his way into a thumbs-up in #14, and the proposition that Jean Grey paid off her Dark Phoenix debt by shutting down that casino in #12. But the rebuttals to those points are SO elegant that I'm pretty sure the 2 authors orchestrated them in advance. Doesn't make 'em any less satisfying to me.

6.0
A.X.E. One-Shots: Iron Fist #1

Apr 7, 2023

There's nothing wrong with this script, but there's not much praiseworthy about it, either. The scene where Loki initially refuses to fight the dragon is probably the high point. As written, this issue could easily climb up past an "average" rating. All it would need is some good art. Bad news on that front…

7.5
A.X.E. One-Shots: Eternals #1

Apr 7, 2023

It's appropriate that this issue is all about faith, because to me, it's asking for some faith on the reader's part. I'll give it freely -- everything about this event suggests that the author has an all-encompassing master plan. This issue is inscrutable by itself, but I'm betting its role will become clearer in the future. The art isn't to my taste, but I can tell that's subjective. It's no favorite of mine, but it's definitely not bad.

7.5
A.X.E.: Death to the Mutants #1

Jan 24, 2023

This expands on a few points already hinted at and foreshadows some developments still to come. The added detail and texture is appreciated. But the storytelling work (particularly the art) is rougher than the event's main issues; this is not so much "Judgment Day #1.5" as it is "Appendix A."

8.5
A.X.E.: Death to the Mutants #2

Feb 12, 2023

This is another step back from the main event to rewind and go into greater depth. And I love it. It's drawn decently; it's written amazingly. It is as close to great as it can be given that it's utterly reliant on the event's other issues for context. I use the phrase "Big Dumb Event™" a lot when talking about Judgment Day, particularly the main series, but I'm not (intentionally) slandering it with that term. This issue shows that there is considerable brilliance and heart beneath the bigness and dumbness. The author's doing a shockingly great job of big-picture and small-picture writing at the same time.

9.0
A.X.E.: Death to the Mutants #3

Apr 7, 2023

Wow, this is a heartbreaker. It explains a previous mystery (what happened to the Machine) and sets up a fresh one (what's Nightcrawler up to?). It has some beautiful character beats for the Machine and for my favorite breakout character, Syne the Memotaur. The art's perfectly satisfactory as a storytelling tool, but better visuals are definitely the missing boost that would kick this from "great" to "perfect."

8.5
A.X.E.: Eve of Judgment (2022) #1

Jan 8, 2023

This is a decent (maybe?) groundwork issue for the event to come, but it's a much better Eternals #13. I love the art. It's clearly related to Esad Ribić's work, but it has a more elastic style and a brighter finish. I love the foreshadowy bits of plot and character development salted over the script. And I love the oh-so-catty narrative voice of the Machine. I don't love so much the deepest of the conversations, which stray well afield from clarity. Because "Eternals #13" suits my taste exactly, I'll call this very good. But I wouldn't call it great, mostly (but not entirely) because I know it'll be a lot less enjoyable for a reader who skipped Eternals #1-12.

7.5
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022): Omega

May 7, 2023

Well, phooey. This epilogue winds up being a good comic, but just barely. The art is fine, it does the job -- but no more. The script offers up plenty of sparkly little lines and some thoughtful new ideas. But it's such a survey issue that the high points are at risk of getting lost, even if the "background noise" is by no means bad. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but most of this issue's emotional water (Ikaris's shame in particular) comes from wells the author already tapped in the pre-event Eternals series.

8.5
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022) #1

Jan 9, 2023

I don't know how this reads for somebody who's been following only some of the lead-in titles. I read 'em all, so I can't gauge how effective the "catch you up" bits of exposition are. Primed by all that background reading, I think this is pretty close to a best-case scenario for a Big Dumb Event™. The stakes are high, the art is spectacular, the plot is already moving swiftly, and -- best of all, in my opinion -- while the event is definitely Big and Dumb, the *characters* aren't getting too dumb to make it happen. It's very good. Not quite great; there's wiggle room for minor improvements. For instance, the author wanted Uranos's trip to Arakko to look horrible without filling whole pages with carnage. I think the artist went a little too subtle in implying that horror.

9.0
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022) #2

Jan 17, 2023

I'm just about as pleased as can be with the way this is developing. Not much character work, but of course, that's normal for a Big Dumb Event™. Instead, we get the right substitute: Amazing high-stakes plot twists. The way this story develops is simultaneously rational and surprising. The art looks good, but I think the action could be clearer and the characters could be more consistent. Tony Stark's pals should just knock him unconscious as soon as they suspect a Big Dumb Event™ is starting. Seems like he paves a good-intentions road straight to hell in every one, doesn't it?

8.5
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022) #3

Jan 27, 2023

I call these Big Dumb Events™ because even in a very good one (which this is), the stupid's never very far from the surface. In this case: "I will judge you individually to decide if the world is terrible. Captain America, you're supposed to inspire the world, but the world is terrible. Therefore, you're a failure." Forget Avengers and X-Men, send a community college logic professor to demolish his circular reasoning and begging of the question.

9.0
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022) #4

Feb 24, 2023

As expected, it has all the visual grandeur necessary for the climax of a big event. But it's even more impressive on the script side. The author fuses his interests in the personal and global, delivering a dramatic portrait of the world at a turning point. Also, he uses the word "panglossian". *Well.* It's like he knows I've been calling Judgment Day a "Big Dumb Event™" and set out to rebuke me in the most elegant, efficient way possible.

8.5
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022) #5

Feb 26, 2023

It's one of the most well-crafted, most engaging events I've ever read, and STILL my eyes start to roll when the bodies start piling up. Don't get me wrong, I'm still enjoying it and I want to see how it ends. But now there's a distinct, disbelief-no-longer-suspended slice of "I wonder what sort of fancy footwork will undo this" feeling alongside my more engaged anticipation.

9.5
A.X.E.: Judgment Day (2022) #6

Apr 14, 2023

Well, I just love this. The art's gorgeous (but falling off slightly at the end), the pace and structure are great, and the prose is practically bursting with beautiful moments of heart and humor. Of course, we knew a big reset button was coming, but the creators finesse it. No horrific genocidal casualties, but plenty of status quo changes. Best of all, the author ties the event up with a "do better" moral that has universal strength. It's progressive but not pious about it; I hope that even reactionary readers can take it in the spirit it's offered. Now bring on the Omega issue!

9.5
Absolute Carnage (2019) #1

Feb 27, 2020

Venom + Carnage + body horror isn't in the same hemisphere as my wheelhouse, but the world-class storytelling talent on display here compels me to file it on the "next door to perfect" shelf. The True Comic Book Geek in me loves the way this issue puts Thunderbolt Ross on the continuity police's most wanted list. By "Immortal Hulk" rules, as a gamma mutate, he should be unkillable. But by "Absolute Carnage" rules, as a former symbiote host, he's super dead.

8.5
Absolute Carnage (2019) #2

Mar 26, 2020

Most everything looks and sounds good, but we've reached the point where plot development comes before mood. The art and writing do still try to evoke horror, but it's not hooking me too well this time around.

8.0
Absolute Carnage (2019) #3

Apr 4, 2020

I'm getting sharply diminishing returns on Carnage's cute little "blood for the blood god" speeches.

7.5
Absolute Carnage (2019) #4

Apr 29, 2020

I don't often see an event and its subordinate series conflict this much. Some tie-in authors really wanted to have their heroes overcome Carnage's control, but Donny Cates is having none of it. (Miles is Exhibit A but Scream went there, too.) On the plus side, what happens to Eddie in this issue makes outstanding use of the hint from the Ghost Rider one-shot that codices carry their hosts' superpowers with them.

7.5
Absolute Carnage (2019) #5

Jun 7, 2020

After all the wide-ranging conflict, Absolute Carnage comes down to a heinous Morton's Fork and Eddie is singularly ill-prepared to find a "real win" third option. This issue was another very strong art showing and it had some nice, tough dialogue. I was surprised by how utterly inconsequential all the tie-ins and guest-stars were in the end, though. I think this *should* have just been a big arc in Venom rather than a crossover event.

8.5
Absolute Carnage (2019): Separation Anxiety #1

Mar 10, 2020

No, I'm not gonna be able to name the Life Foundation symbiotes after reading this. But I'm gonna have nightmares about the story tonight, which is a way more impressive accomplishment for the creators.

8.0
Absolute Carnage (2019): Symbiote Spider-Man #1

Mar 26, 2020

What about That Tourist Guy that the symbiote hitched a ride on for a few pages in the original alien costume saga? His life went to poo for entirely unrelated, but richly Marvel-esque (i.e. a random, destructive encounter with the White Rabbit), reasons. It has a shaggy dog ending, but exquisite storytelling makes the story meaningful prior to that. Gorgeous art, too. Essential? No. Satisfying? Yes!

8.5
Absolute Carnage (2019): Symbiote Of Vengeance #1

Mar 31, 2020

Danny Ketch fails to save a deep-cut Ghost Rider carrying a codex from Carnage. It's got a grim outcome, but the art is outstanding and the script raises some interesting points for both Carnage and Johnny Blaze. I'd love it if other authors in the event picked up the idea that Carnage gains temporary superpowers after eating a hero's codex … but I'm not holding my breath. This is more important as a Ghost Rider comic (a pretty good one) than as a part of Absolute Carnage.

9.0
Absolute Carnage (2019): Immortal Hulk #1

Apr 20, 2020

This is a must-read issue of Immortal Hulk that happens to involve the Absolute Carnage event. It's a lot more spotlight than Bruce Banner has been getting in IH. I love that he's got a low-key diva-martyr thing going on: "This is all about me." [conclusive proof it's not about him] "Okay, this isn't all about me, but I think I should make it all about me."

6.5
Absolute Carnage (2019): Avengers #1

Apr 29, 2020

I was genuinely looking forward to seeing how this team came together, and this digressive yarn was pretty disappointing. But it's not without highlights; the artist on the Hawkeye section (Alberto Alburquerque, I believe) shot the moon to make his pages look cool.

5.5
Absolute Carnage (2019): Weapon Plus #1

Jun 1, 2020

I was constantly aware of how much the military black ops BS was arousing the author, and it had the opposite effect on me.

5.5
Absolute Carnage (2019): Captain Marvel #1

Jun 7, 2020

Captain Marvel makes some cute wisecracks while battling Carnage for the soul of her cat. I like much of the humor, but watching a hero win an utterly generic "pluck plus random zappy powers" victory isn't satisfying. Also, while individual panels of the art were great, the different inking approaches clashed hard.

5.5
Absolute Carnage vs. Deadpool #1

Mar 10, 2020

It's drawn nicely, but Deadpool is written in maximum "LOL memes" mode and his laborious comedy slows everything down. The tone doesn't really fit with any of the other Absolute Carnage titles, but it's not really memorable enough to stand out as the event's designated parody volume.

7.5
Absolute Carnage vs. Deadpool #2

Mar 31, 2020

This one worked a lot better for me than #1. I think it's because the not-so-serious tone and the plot were already dialed in and ready to go -- maybe set-up just isn't this creative team's strong suit.

4.5
Absolute Carnage vs. Deadpool #3

Apr 29, 2020

The sudden realization that this story is practically an AU -- contradicting the main event and Spidey's ASM tie-in -- strikes like an ice-cold douche. Mediocre "LOL Memes" Deadpool action doesn't do nearly enough to compensate. At least the art is nice.

5.0
Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors #1

Mar 26, 2020

Maximum Carnage is practically required reading to understand this, and that sits poorly with me. It does have a nice creepy mood, though.

4.5
Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors #2

Apr 4, 2020

A good example of "conditionally acceptable" plotting: "Let's team up again because we teamed up in the last event" would be acceptable if the story was generally enjoyable. But here ...

4.5
Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors #3

Jun 1, 2020

I'll be honest, I'm relieved this series didn't identify the shadowy organization Misty is working for these days. That makes it that much easier to leave it off any "essential Misty Knight reading" list.

6.0
Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #1

Mar 26, 2020

How Miles met Carnage, the extended cut. It doesn't expand much on Absolute Carnage #2 and the visuals are dreadfully sketchy. Miles sounds nicely consistent with his current solo, though -- the benefit of getting Saladin Ahmed to script this.

7.0
Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #2

Apr 20, 2020

The bit of Carnage driving Miles gets blindsided by the unexpectedly rebellious spirit of the flesh when it's sent on a hunt. Neat logic on the hunt plot (I love the guest stars) and some interesting character work on possessed Miles make this well worth reading. The art is trending the other way, though. The Carnages are far too interchangeable.

7.0
Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #3

Apr 29, 2020

5.5
Absolute Carnage: Scream #1

Mar 10, 2020

I know virtually nothing about Donna Diego or Patricia Robinson, but I think the more I did know, the less I'd like these feeble revivals.

4.5
Absolute Carnage: Scream #2

Mar 26, 2020

If the art were done by a single artist -- or a pair that matched up better than these two -- that might have done just enough to boost this up out of mediocrity.

5.5
Absolute Carnage: Scream #3

Apr 29, 2020

Per his standard MO, Cullen Bunn crafts a story that will be satisfying if you're already a fan of the characters and stultifying if you're not. Gerardo Sandoval's art is impressive if you accept the "awesome x-treme" premises of his style -- but that's a big "if."

6.5
Acts of Evil: Ms. Marvel Annual #1

Jan 25, 2020

There are two different Kamala Khans. This comic stars the cartoony, multimedia-friendly, Marvel Rising Kamala, and it's a pretty good adventure for her. But I much prefer the other Kamala, the nuanced, thoughtful one scripted by Wilson or Ahmed, and she's not much in evidence here. And so help me, the artists get dangerously close to drawing (and ESPECIALLY coloring) Kamala as a white girl.

4.5
Acts of Evil: Punisher Annual #1

Feb 27, 2020

6.0
Acts of Evil: Venom Annual #1

Feb 27, 2020

I liked this more than most readers, I think, but I recognize it's a pretty dumb idea to present an alternate take on Venom (visually and narratively) while he's in the middle of a definitive run. I'm a fan of Lady Hellbender, but these strips develop her poorly, hanging clichéd choices and motivations on a character that could be so much more.

8.0
Acts of Evil: Deadpool Annual #1

Mar 10, 2020

A good rendition of Deadpool squares up with Nightmare to save a boy from bad dreams. It's got solid humor, good art, and a nice edge of darkness to make it feel serious. Like the other "Acts of Evil" annuals, it's thoroughly non-essential, but this one does make for a satisfying read.

7.0
Acts of Evil: She-Hulk Annual #1

Mar 26, 2020

There's not a lot here that's distinctively "She-Hulk;" this story would work just about as well with any hero. (There's some faint attention paid to split personality themes, but they'd fit anyone with any sort of alter ego.)

8.0
Acts of Evil: Ghost-Spider Annual #1

Mar 26, 2020

Ghost-Spider falls into an automated Murderworld built to torment 616 Spidey. It's a premise studded with lots of potential ironies, and Vita Ayala swings for the fences on every one. Not every swing connects, but many do. Gwen goes on a sound philosophical journey, and her voice is overall very appealing. Some nice character rendering work in the art is also a big plus.

7.5
Acts of Evil: Moon Knight Annual #1

Mar 31, 2020

I do like my Kang in a one-and-done story rather than menacing the Avengers over the course of six months. The faster the story, the fewer the chances for me to pick at the holes in the timey-wimey plot, I think. This is a satisfying yarn. Giving a character lots of historic legacy incarnations is risky, but Moon Knight is a better candidate for the idea than most. Solid art makes the time-hopping appealing. One unfortunate weakness is the characterization, or lack thereof, on Moon Knight. He's less a man here than a mission in the shape of a man.

7.0
Acts of Evil: Wolverine Annual #1

Apr 20, 2020

It has a curious kind of magic. The laconic words and fair art pull you steadily through the story, more than average entertained. But then you get to the finale and it all evaporates like dew, with little chance of sticking in your memory.

6.0
Aero #1

Jan 25, 2020

Seems like both strips have pacing problems. Even with an above-average share of pages, this feels like less than an issue's worth of story.

5.0
Aero #2

Feb 27, 2020

The B strip suddenly has to carry the A strip and it ain't really up to the task.

4.5
Aero #3

Apr 4, 2020

Somebody oughtta tell Zhou Liefen that "withhold anything interesting from your story until the climax" is not how you build tension. But then, I've seen readers of the Chinese version suggest that Greg Pak should get a large share of the blame for the disappointing pace of this translation. Apparently, the original didn't put the contemporary story on hold for these jarring flashbacks.

5.0
Aero #4

Apr 29, 2020

5.5
Aero #5

Jun 7, 2020

In this installment, in both strips, the storytelling tightens up a bit. I still think this title's short of compelling reasons to read, but if you can find that motivation somewhere else, this comic won't disappoint.

5.5
Aero #6

Jul 2, 2020

The letters page reveals that the fans are still all agog over representation. That casts the series' storytelling foibles in a different light. These strips might be nothing special to majority readers who've seen these beats done better elsewhere, but they're hugely important to readers who rarely -- maybe never -- see protagonist superheroes who look and talk like them.

6.0
Aero #7

Jul 23, 2020

There are solid nuggets of intelligence and charm scattered through the slow-moving story. Keng's art puts a noteworthy polish on top of straightforward manga-style lines.

5.5
Aero #8

Sep 24, 2020

Ling gets some prehistoric backstory from Madame Huang and completes a nifty "air-golem" training session with her. There are compelling ideas in here and the art is good, but the words are pretty clumsy. This title's timeline remains completely ☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️, too. Making those first three issues a flash-forward and then framing everything that's come since as a flashback was a big mistake.

5.5
Aero #9

Nov 2, 2020

Aero uses her new wind-doppelganger powers to win a crystal monster fight without leaving her boyfriend's side. There's some nice heart in the relationship, both in the present and in their meet-cute flashback. But the contemporary story remains tremendously drawn out, and the plot isn't engaging enough to justify the slow pace.

5.5
Aero #10

Feb 17, 2021

Ling and Tony Stark meet, but we'll have to wait another issue to see Aero and Iron Man. Ugh. Madame Huang provides intriguing backstory tidbits that finally start to stitch together the title's mythology. It's still an annoying maze of different timelines, all unfolding too slow and too distant from each other. At least the visuals are still pretty.

4.5
Aero #11

Feb 25, 2021

"That's right, Iron Man! The secret to beating the tower monsters is a vital detail my creators never thought to show or mention until now!" Ugggh.

5.0
Aero #12

Mar 6, 2021

Out with a whimper, not a bang. The storytelling was nice in this issue and I even felt that Aero got some good characterization -- but as throughout the series, pacing and plotting are fundamentally flawed. This isn't a Western superhero comic, and chopping it into 20-page chunks didn't fix that.

8.5
Age of X-Man: Alpha #1

Aug 20, 2019

Nate Grey leads the X-Men in defending a "utopia" with sinister goings-on bubbling just beneath the surface. I like the style; the peaceful life has a 1950s Leave-it-to-Beaver vibe while the dark side points to majorly messed-up social control a la 70s sci-fi movies. I find the world-building ideas intriguing and engaging; they provide just the boost that the storytelling chops need.

5.0
Age of X-Man: Omega #1

Feb 27, 2020

This finale has the same problems as the event as a whole: It's a mystery story without any secrets, a revolution story without conflict. Ambitious and experimental, sure. Successful? Not so much.

7.0
Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #1

Sep 28, 2019

This issue introduces Apocalypse and his merry band of revolutionaries and puts them on a collision course with Omega Red. The tone of the book is an interesting mystical hodge-podge that combines beatniks, psychedelic hippies, and even a little slice of Sufism. Apocalypse stands apart from most other AoX mutants. He doesn't just get a mindwipe and a change of clothes; he appears to have been merged with Professor X. I hope that point's expanded on in future issues.

4.0
Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #2

Oct 31, 2019

This series wants to be AoX: The Invisibles in a very serious way. But it also wants to be "Jim Henson's Invisibles Babies" in some mad parallel reality where the Invisibles is appropriate for Saturday morning cartoons.

4.5
Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #3

Nov 20, 2019

The amount of teleporting in this book is too damn high.

5.0
Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #4

Dec 27, 2019

It's a bag of solid premises that deserve far better storytelling in words and art.

5.5
Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #5

Jan 25, 2020

Like the miniseries as a whole, this finale has some smart ideas sticking out of a storytelling matrix that consistently comes across as a little sub-par.

8.0
Age Of X-Man: NextGen #1

Sep 1, 2019

The standard current crop of X-students illuminates life at the Summers Institute: simplistic curricula, utopian outlook, dystopian secrets. It's the most effective vehicle yet for exploring X-Man's AU. The plot is engaging and the character work is sound, but it does rely on the reader arriving well-caught-up on X-students and the Age of X-Man event. It doesn't stand on its own two legs, but as a part of a wider tapestry, it's very good.

8.5
Age Of X-Man: NextGen #2

Sep 30, 2019

Glob reveals he's immune to all the mind-wiping that underpins the Age of X-Man, putting him in a perfect position to watch it crumble. And the rebellious students are delivering the violent attack on the system that I crave. It's excellent writing work and it looks gorgeous; Nextgen is well on its way to being my favorite part of AoX.

8.0
Age Of X-Man: NextGen #3

Oct 31, 2019

The students make and break alliances and Armor comes to the fore as the protagonist. Thoroughly engaging plot and art, and I really like the way the dialogue does good characterization while simultaneously exploring intriguing ideas about the AU.

7.5
Age Of X-Man: NextGen #4

Nov 27, 2019

Anole pushes his sect's agenda to a scary result, with his school friends just a little too far behind him and the authorities bringing up the rear. Interesting ideas, solid art, and an excellent pace. Yet somehow the prose, while clear, fails to evoke an emotional connection or a sense of urgency -- and the latter particularly seems needed.

7.0
Age Of X-Man: NextGen #5

Jan 25, 2020

While Glob retains his memory of everything that's changed in the AoX, his attempts to share his insights with his friends end in tragedy. It's an excellent story and it enjoys some surprisingly strong art, but the script could do more to fulfill the sad ending's emotional potential.

7.5
Age Of X-Man: Prisoner X #1

Sep 19, 2019

Bishop settles into the Danger Room prison and concentrates - when he's not fighting with Beast - on figuring out whether his little flashes of pre-AoX memory are rare or common. It looks like the setup has plenty of promise, and I am delighted to get past the shiny happy surface of this world. But the focus of the title shines more on the memory mysteries than exploring AoX's morals and laws in depth. It makes good sense from a storytelling standpoint, but it leaves my hunger for unraveling the bigger mysteries of the AU unsatisfied.

7.0
Age Of X-Man: Prisoner X #2

Oct 15, 2019

6.5
Age Of X-Man: Prisoner X #3

Nov 12, 2019

Proof (by negative example, unfortunately) that laying a caption-only conversation on top of an unrelated mostly-visual story is a lot harder than it looks.

7.0
Age Of X-Man: Prisoner X #4

Dec 27, 2019

5.0
Age Of X-Man: Prisoner X #5

Jan 25, 2020

Why I'm rating low: 1) We're watching Bishop deduce his way to facts we've known since the start of the event. The script does virtually nothing to alleviate the sense of "we seent it" inconsequentiality that this induces. 2) The art stumbles badly. Character treatments vary too widely between the artists, the visual flow of the story is often unclear, and the art doesn't do nearly enough with the script's opportunities for spectacle. The script writes a giant check by introducing the idea of each prisoner seeing the prison as a dungeon tailored to their fears; the art cashes that check for pennies on the dollar with a few panels of forgettable lip-service.

7.0
Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #1

Sep 9, 2019

Meggan morphs her boobs bigger when she's on-camera, tee-hee. It's a clever gag. But along with the way these X-Men can't stay out of each other's pants, it suggests somebody built this Brave New World without really thinking through the implications of its "no sex please" prime directive. I'm once again hoping that it's Nate's world-building that's shoddy, but the thought that maybe it's the creators' instead is starting to fester. Maybe the real problem is reading *four* shiny-happy #1s in a row, all of which are keeping the same damn secrets. Maybe it's reading week-by-week that's frustrating me, and it'll all come across better when I can charge straight through the completed titles. And maybe, alas, the problem is that this event just isn't as carefully crafted as I want it to be.

8.0
Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #2

Sep 30, 2019

Kurt starts shame-spiraling after getting laid. The way his guilt sways his decision-making toward the tragic lends some sorely-needed weight to the studio takeover plot. The idea of an underground romance culture is fascinating, too. The visuals are roundly satisfying with some real flashes of brilliance. The reading experience here was a lot more engaging than I expected; it was a surprise of the best sort.

6.5
Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #3

Oct 31, 2019

I know we're in the middle of a Big Dumb Event™ with loads of editorial oversight and big-picture planning and whatnot, but I STILL wish this series could actually go "Oh, snap, the Cuckoos are WAY more interesting than Kurt in this AU situation, let's follow them now."

7.0
Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #4

Dec 5, 2019

6.0
Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #5

Jan 25, 2020

This mini and Nextgen stand apart from the other AoX series in that they work better as "prequels" that end before the AU starts unraveling. Of the two, I much prefer the school story. This series added "Cuckoos secretly in on the conspiracy" to its basic "movie star Kurt" premise, but it never got enough tension going between them. This last issue is particularly bad about the two ideas nervously eyeing each other like shy kids at a middle-school dance, doing a whole lot of not much until Kurt makes a Mk. 1 heroic sacrifice to provide a little closure.

7.5
Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #1

Aug 20, 2019

The forest fire premise isn't all that interesting by itself, but it illustrates a hefty flaw in the AU. This world is so perfect that these 8 X-Men are the only first responders on the whole continent? I'll assume that the flaws are in Nate's world-building rather than the authors'.

5.5
Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #2

Sep 28, 2019

7.0
Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #3

Oct 31, 2019

5.5
Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #4

Nov 27, 2019

7.0
Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #5

Dec 27, 2019

This issue looks far better than it deserves; Marco Failla really went the extra mile on the art. Nate loading up his narration with a bunch of storytelling metaphors felt terribly lazy.

4.5
Age Of X-Man: X-Tremists #1

Sep 9, 2019

Argh! I was really hoping the X-Tremists would be the sinister Gestapo-type team, as was so strongly suggested by the other titles and even by their costume designs. But no, it's another pack of shiny happy goofball mutants. I could swallow the team being portrayed as naive and childish if it were done *well*, but in my opinion, it very much is not.

7.0
Age Of X-Man: X-Tremists #2

Oct 9, 2019

Department X's fluffy status quo is disturbed when Blob confesses a crush and Moneta veers way too close to evil territory. Some of the prose and characterization simply blows me away, but the scattershot plot development disagrees with me. I'm not in love with the story but I do love the way it's being told. Strategically, I think I'm going to end up strongly against the idea of inventing a brand new mutant (Moneta) to take all the morally-dodgy stances in this title. How much more gripping it would be if it were Jubilee or Psylocke going off the deep end!

7.5
Age Of X-Man: X-Tremists #3

Nov 12, 2019

Psylocke does a fascinating job of stringing her Blob relationship along, allowing Department X to lumber forward in a semblance of "business as usual." At least until Moneta's black-and-white worldview forces some severe changes. I'm a fan of the art and I really enjoy the psychological, exploratory way the script handles Betsy and Fred. But the pacing and the plotting are pretty jumbled. Rather than achieving a uniform "good," I think this script is a half-and-half mix of "great" and "blah". Challenging to rate and definitely a book you think twice about before recommending to a friend.

6.5
Age Of X-Man: X-Tremists #4

Dec 27, 2019

9.0
Age Of X-Man: X-Tremists #5

Jan 25, 2020

I'm going with a ridiculously high rating because Leah Williams' rendition of Jubilee gave me those all-over hot-cold shivers that say I'm reading something profound. Let that woman write a Jubilee solo immediately! Beyond (or rather through) the characterization, this issue also delivers the EXACT mix of nausea, shame, outrage, and fury that SHOULD follow the breakdown of the AoX masquerade. This mini wasn't where I was expecting to find the big payoff, but I'm grateful I got it.

7.0
Agents of Atlas (2019) #1

Feb 27, 2020

Amadeus fills up all the non-plot space fretting about the burden of leadership and crushing on Luna Snow, ugh. In the B strip, the old Agents roster runs through a pulpier, more satisfying dragon fight. The big picture plot is intriguing, but the backup creators really beat the lead team's brains out when it comes to vibrant art and endearing ensemble characterization.

6.0
Agents of Atlas (2019) #2

Mar 26, 2020

I love Nico Leon, but I don't think he fits with this creative team. His art needs color depth that Federico Blee doesn't provide, and I suspect the scripting actively plays against his (Leon's) strengths. Also, Mike Nguyen's price point for the Pan Pass is absurd. $1,000 a day is over a third of a million dollars a year. For a sci-fi metro card. It's exactly like when evil Axis-transreversed Tony Stark tried selling Extremis to the public at a similarly ruinous price. Characters treating these gimmicks as egalitarian when they're priced exclusively for the one percent instantly brings a heavy hammer down on my suspension of disbelief.

6.0
Agents of Atlas (2019) #3

Jun 1, 2020

I KNOW it's harder than it looks to craft characters with this minimalist art style, but the results turn me off.

7.5
Agents of Atlas (2019) #4

Jun 3, 2020

I appreciated the greater sharing of the spotlight around the team and the intelligent evolution of the logical problems inherent in the Pan premise. Also, the art is REALLY working for me this time around.

8.0
Agents of Atlas (2019) #5

Jul 13, 2020

It took ages of pages and a mountain of words to get here, but dang, here is awfully nice. I've become a convert to the art, too, which again shows off complete mastery of minimalism.

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.

4.0
All-Out Avengers (2022) #1

Feb 12, 2023

Great, what I didn't like about Jason Aaron's Avengers was that it was too quiet and it made too much sense. /s

6.0
All-Out Avengers (2022) #2

Apr 7, 2023

This issue goes down a lot smoother than the last one for me. There are several reasons for that. Mainly it's a relief that the author isn't dragging any more pet characters out of comics limbo. Stronger hints about an overarching plot help, too. And the art is even close to tolerable (subjectively speaking). The fewer Greg Land faces I see, the less irritated I get, and there were plenty of masks in play here.

6.0
All-Out Avengers (2022) #3

May 25, 2023

It's nice that, 3 issues in, the protagonists are finally starting to get a feel for the bigger story. Unfortunately, the single-issue adventures remain dull and unengaging. A lot of that is down to the sterile art -- but the author certainly isn't helping by lining up 2 "we have to team up with a villain" stories in a row. (That choice will probably turn out to have some bigger meaning, but still.)

5.5
All-Out Avengers (2022) #4

Sep 2, 2023

I get that the "in media res" start is half the premise here, but this issue really shows its limitations. The other half of the premise is non-stop action at a breakneck pace, and that's really hampered when the script is larded down with pointless exposition detailing a status quo that has zero import outside the issue itself.

5.0
All-Out Avengers (2022) #5

Jan 13, 2024

While the "Spidey vs. Avengers" set-piece is pretty nicely scripted, on balance, I don't appreciate going through 5 issues of Greg Land to reach an "I told you that story to set up this other story" payoff. Subjectively, the twist is unengaging, unbelievable, and doesn't have a prayer of justifying what's come before.

7.5
Alpha Flight: True North #1

Mar 26, 2020

This one-shot has a nicely consistent theme; each strip is, in its own way, about heritage and family.

7.0
Amazing Fantasy (2021) #1

Dec 23, 2021

WW2 Cap, Silver Age Spidey, and teen Red Room Black Widow all get yoinked into a generic (but engaging!) fantasyland. The story has promise and succeeds in sinking some "what happens next?" hooks in me. The art is good, but I confess I like the origin segments (particularly Black Widow's) even more than the unified "fantasyland" style. And I'm a little worried by the focus; Cap gets twice as many pages as the other heroes and he is, in my opinion, the least interesting of them. Plus his initial scenes feature some atrocious writing.

4.5
Amazing Fantasy (2021) #2

Jan 4, 2022

Pete earns a smooch by manfully lassoing a dragon, Steve starts teaching the lost art of manliness to a tribe that's shamefully purged its men, and Natasha, after kicking a little ass, settles into a love triangle between a pretty-boy king and a rugged centaur. Good art. Clunky prose, clumsy plotting. Painful characterization, world-building, and gender roles -- this replicates some of the worst aspects of the early 20th-century pulp fantasy it's emulating, without irony or self-awareness. Devil's Advocate: It is just possible that the creator intends to subvert the cliches that so riled me. But this comic doesn't do much to raise my hopes on that score.

5.0
Amazing Fantasy (2021) #3

Feb 3, 2022

I feel like the kid pointing out the nakedness of the emperor. This story is blah characters being flung into conflict for unexplained reasons, illustrated in a sketchy "not bad but nothing special" style. What am I missing? I'm sure there's some cryptic big-picture plot that will eventually explain everything, and doubtless some big dumb villain the heroes will have to team up against. But I'm starving for hints of it. Kaare Andrews is stingier with plot clarifications than Tini Howard, and I didn't think that was possible.

5.5
Amazing Fantasy (2021) #4

Mar 5, 2022

I found the journey to this point a torturous slog, but now the destination is in sight. And dammit, I think the destination looks pretty good. I refuse to overlook the many continuing lapses in storytelling, particularly in the writing, but teaming the heroes up against a recognizable villain to foil makes a world of difference.

5.0
Amazing Fantasy (2021) #5

Apr 26, 2022

I found it a decent ending and the shape of the whole story is at least potentially workable. Subjectively, though, this just wasn't executed well enough -- in this last chapter or at any other point -- to make me call it great, good, or even average. The art has some nice cartoony dynamism, but it doesn't handle visual storytelling well. The script isn't such a hot storytelling tool either, delivering a lot of clunky and/or cliched lines. No matter how much melodrama goes down, a "reset button" ending isn't all that satisfying. It does show some nice respect for the title's history to make it all about Peter Parker in the end, though.

8.0
Amazing Fantasy (2022) #1000

Jan 31, 2023

Gaiman is in full "saccharine but heartwarming" mode as only he can do it, and Hickman proves he can do a solid, funny self-parody. Those were the standouts for me. It's much better than the average anthology, but there are still some clunkers in there. Marvel really pried open its wallet for the art budget, though; this is (almost entirely) gorgeous.

5.0
Amazing Mary Jane (2019) #1

Jun 1, 2020

This comic spends so much time winking at the camera that "plot" becomes an afterthought. I'm coming to believe that that's Leah Williams' signature shtick, and I don't care for it. You can't do a meaningful deconstruction of a story if you're too preoccupied to tell a story in the first place.

5.5
Amazing Mary Jane (2019) #2

Jun 7, 2020

I still think this series is caught between trying to do a sincere melodrama and trying to satirize one at the same time. It doesn't help that the "Hollywood backlot intrigue" genre is way, WAY harder than it looks. And I think the key criticism raised in the Weird Science review deserves more attention: After MJ complained last issue about her movie character being a mere satellite to the male protagonist, she spends this entire issue orbiting Mysterio. While it might be possible to earn some irony points off the juxtaposition, I don't think this script actually does anything along those lines.

6.5
Amazing Mary Jane (2019) #3

Jul 2, 2020

This issue is a solid "silly movie set shenanigans" montage, and it mercifully restores agency to MJ and gets her a little further out of Mysterio's orbit. But nothing in this or the prior issues gives me much confidence in the second half's ability to deliver a cohesive, satisfying conclusion.

6.5
Amazing Mary Jane (2019) #4

Jul 23, 2020

This comic's art is nicely refined, but it's a bit too much of a throwback to the "pose every woman in every panel in a cheesecake-y way; it's not like we've got female readers" days.

5.5
Amazing Mary Jane (2019) #5

Oct 17, 2020

Mary Jane defeats the Savage Six in hand-to-hand combat, practically by herself, which is fundamentally unbelievable. The writing's decent and the art is pretty good, but they can't overcome the overreach of the core concept. I'm all for girl power, but not when it's demonstrated in such simplistic terms that it's essentially "she has two X chromosomes therefore she wins." Also, separate from any gender issues, the dialogue gets TERRIBLY didactic when it lays out exactly how the characters have developed. And that cover. Yikes.

5.0
Amazing Mary Jane (2019) #6

Nov 2, 2020

Mary Jane's publicity work for the movie is complicated by the arrival of the real Cage McKnight -- and an assassin who appears to be targeting her. There's a decent slate of artists on board (though the stylistic differences are distracting) and there's a solid plot-skeleton in the script. The pace is disjointed, though, and the dialogue tends to take wrong turns.

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.

10
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #801

Jan 1, 2019

This noble meditation follows a civilian saved by Spidey in his very first days. He cultivates a thorough understanding of Spidey's Deal and passes it on to his niece many years later. Gorgeous art with insane storytelling skill is combined with a flawless feelgood script; this is a simple and moving Spidey ode for the ages.

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.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #1

Jan 21, 2019

Peter is dragged down to a low yet promising point by dramatic changes to his status quo. He gets a welcome relationship upgrade and the B-Story puts an ominous nemesis on the horizon. I think these creators will do excellent work cranking out ordinary Spidey issues on the regular, but their talents wear a little thin in a giant-sized extravaganza. The comedy pulls the "silly punchline undercutting serious drama" gag once or twice too often. The script includes too many flashbacks, interfering with the flow of the main story and making this book seem more disjointed than it is. The art is generally formidable, with a few exceptions. There's something hard to define but definitely off-putting about this artist's rendition of MJ's face.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #2

Feb 4, 2019

This issue eventually gets around to pushing the "Curt Connors wants Peter as a student" plot through a couple of promising developments, including an excellent last-page surprise. The first scenes are still going a little heavy on the "I am Spider-Man! Look at me Spider-Man-ing all over the place!" characterization. MJ name-checking "fresh start" was pretty cringe-y, too. The art is growing more impressive, using smart conservation of detail to make things look clear and bold without getting simplistic or flat.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #3

Feb 25, 2019

Peter Parker tells the story of how he stopped being Spider-Man. That statement gets more and more terrifying the more we learn about it. In the art and especially the writing, this issue has a marvelous and rare problem: It's done SO well that it gives a deceptive feeling of simplicity. In the same way that highly-trained athletes don't seem to sweat, the creators worked so hard to make this issue smooth and rational that it's easy to overlook their efforts.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #4

Mar 7, 2019

The creators double - nay, triple - down on stressing how very very bad it is to have Peter and Spidey split in two. While I don't need my Spidey comics to be wall-to-wall gravitas, I do like them to be more substantive than this. This issue mashes so hard on the comedy button that its last-act attempt to turn to drama doesn't work nearly as well as it should. It's well done from a storytelling point of view - words and art - but it feels terribly inconsequential.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #5

Mar 27, 2019

Pete successfully reintegrates with Spidey and easily overcomes the Tri-Sentinel threat. This script is skilled at doing funny silly wacky Spidey, but it fumbles when it pivots to dramatic Spidey. Also, four different villains all foreshadowing in the same issue is absurd, and not "good absurd." The art's brilliant; I'm even warming up to Mr. Ottley's take on MJ. The inconsistent tone of the script strands this issue just short of "good comic" for me.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #6

Apr 11, 2019

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #7

Apr 25, 2019

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #8

May 7, 2019

Spidey gets his first peek at a dangerous resurgence of the Thieves' Guild. This issue takes its sweet time setting up the game board; the good news is, this particular game looks ideal for Spider-Man. Sound art and dialogue keep the reading experience fun and the promise of the story to come is huge.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #9

May 30, 2019

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #10

Jun 13, 2019

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #11

Jul 1, 2019

A few feints towards a silly Spidey Christmas are spoiled by Jameson playing the insufferable Grinch. Spidey's not at all wrong when he says J-Cubed makes everything about himself, and that looks to be the way subsequent issues are going to develop. This is a fun read, with notably gorgeous visuals. Although the ratio of straight plot development to comic relief digressions is skewed toward the latter - and the divide between the two is extreme - the overall level of quality and enjoyability is uniformly high.

5.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #12

Jul 1, 2019

That one page where Kingpin prioritizes delivering a salad bar/veganism joke over explaining his schemes could be Exhibit A in the case of People Who Hate Nick Spencer's Spider-Man vs. Nick Spencer. Exhibit B would be "Nobody'll notice if I straight-up steal the premise from Chip Zdarsky's Spectacular Spider-Man Annual, right? It's been six whole months!"

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #13

Aug 1, 2019

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #14

Feb 3, 2020

I cannot get properly engaged with the story when the art is beating me over the head on every page, screaming, "this is CHRIS BACHALO'S Spider-Man! Accept no substitutes!" Except this issue's serving of art IS a substitute; this is exactly the wrong way for a fill-in artist to distinguish himself.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #15

Sep 1, 2019

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #16

Sep 9, 2019

A Kraven-centric episode reveals most of his plans, though nuances and some relationships between the moving parts are still deliciously ambiguous. He's gonna unleash wannabe hunters on animal-themed supervillains, and it's all but stated at this point that the fun's gonna happen right in Fun City. This issue builds anticipation for a memorable story quite well.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #16.HU

Sep 19, 2019

A solid rewind story shows exactly how Felicia got to where she is at the end of ASM #16. It looks pretty good and the script is mighty compelling. Blending retrospective "meet character x" details with a highly-relevant take on the story at hand is one of Nick Spencer's best skills. This approach can slow down plot development, but that's no problem in a "fill in the gaps" issue like this.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #17

Sep 28, 2019

Kraven Jr. catches Spidey, completing the menagerie and launching the grand hunt. This issue lumbers forward like an unstoppable tank, paying off past foreshadowing and delivering some solid moments. The pace might be problematic if the pieces didn't fit together so well. Also, another "only hypothetically bad" issue: Spidey's started A LOT of desperate stories in "oooh I'm too sick to be web-swinging" mode. It COULD come off as a cliche -- but it's done well here.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #18

Oct 9, 2019

It's a good Spidey-comic, but the shadow of a potentially-better Spidey-comic seems to loom over every page. The focus actively avoids the principal characters to filigree around the edges of the premise instead. Is that becoming a chronic problem for this volume?

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #18.HU

Oct 15, 2019

The poor benighted Gibbon is ground between the gears of the Hunted event, and this aside story takes a moment to mourn his downfall. It's a story told with superlative skill. The script excels at soliciting sympathy, and a gritty, painful story like this is a perfect fit for Ken Lashley's art. It certainly yanked my heartstrings hard. But I do recall that this sort of petit Walter Mitty tragedy is what the Gibbon has ALWAYS been about. Stan Lee and John Romita invented him specifically to be a lovable loser. Here, he bows out, more lovable and sympathetic than ever before.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #19

Oct 31, 2019

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #19.HU

Oct 31, 2019

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #20

Nov 12, 2019

Spidey spends the whole issue on the sidelines while the Lizard and Black Cat actually get into the scrum. Did Mr. Spencer lose track of which issues were supposed to carry the main story and which ones were supposed to be the ".HU" side-stories? Or is this just the inevitable evolution of the kid-glove approach he's taken to Spider-Man throughout this volume? "Spider-Man: a beloved action figure around whom interesting things happen"? No thank you!

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #20.HU

Nov 12, 2019

This is another issue that makes me think the cart and horse have gotten severely mixed up in this event, with the main issues digressing into side-stories and the supplementary issues carrying too much plot-critical stuff.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #21

Nov 27, 2019

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #22

Dec 27, 2019

I love the subtle nod to Kraven's adventures with Squirrel Girl.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #23

Dec 27, 2019

Meet the new Kraven, same as the old Kraven. This epilogue is crafted OK, but I can't escape the feeling of inconsequentiality. All this volume ever really does is drag Spidey through stories that leave him slightly exhausted but otherwise unchanged. And I know the Mighty Marvel Marketing Department still wants to pretend that Ryan Ottley is this volume's lead artist, but he's had so little to do with the Hunted arc that these visuals come across as third-party commentary rather than a final chapter from a unified creative team.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #24

Jan 25, 2020

The creators spin up a whole issue of tension to make it seem super-duper impressive when they reveal Centipede Guy's name. I'm stuck on the obvious problem: "What should we call this guy?" doesn't crack my Top 5 List Of Biggest Centipede Guy Mysteries. And while this issue has fine storytelling chops, I'm thinking the creators' intent was not to perversely amplify my desire to keep calling Centipede Guy Centipede Guy. But that's what they did.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #25

Jan 25, 2020

I think in an ideal world, where editors assigned writing duties based on skill and enthusiasm while ignoring marketing considerations, contemporary Nick Spencer would be writing an MJ solo -- a really good one. I enjoyed that slice of the story far more than any of the others, with the algorithmic C-strip getting my silver medal. The other stuff in the A-strip was pretty messy and digressive; it feels like ASM has way more irons in the fire than it needs. The sheer size and cost of the issue would be a big negative if I were buying floppies; reading it via MU insulates me from the outrageous pricing.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #26

Feb 27, 2020

I hope Tom Taylor gets royalties when Nick Spencer gloms his Friendly Neighborhood character work and uses it as background color to fill out another issue of "the Amazing Supporting Cast Of Spider-Man." I'm elated that Electro's reaction to the Syndicate is a hard pass once she meets the loser-ladies involved. That roster takes a promising idea and turns it into the Dunder-Mifflin of Evil. I hope they get clobbered not by Spidey or other heroes, but by Monica Rappaccini, Viper, Alexa Lukin, Madame Masque, Sin, the fairly gender-balanced Serpent Society, or, oh, maybe THE INVENTED-IN-THIS-VOLUME leader of the Thieves' Guild, Odessa Drake -- really any of the dozen boss b*tch Marvel supervillainesses the Beetle forgot about while making her whiny glass ceiling pitch. (I do understand -- and appreciate -- that the source of the stupid here is the characters rather than the author.)

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #27

Mar 10, 2020

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #28

Mar 26, 2020

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #29

Mar 31, 2020

Pete misses MJ's departure for Hollywood due to a classic bout of Spider-business. There are some heartstring-plucking hooks to the outcome of both the Spider-stuff and the relationship content, and there's a superb Aunt May conversation, too. The issue gets a powerful script and very fitting guest art -- the storytelling is nigh faultless. It's a familiar story, though; an old dance enacted by new dancers.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #30

Apr 20, 2020

Solid storytelling, plenty of good ideas, and some engaging foreshadowing.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #31

Apr 29, 2020

Spidey guts up and defeats Carnage-Norman. Like the previous issue, the fight is tied to an earlier conversation with Kindred and Norman, with this one's focus swinging hard to the villains at the end. It's a pretty solid execution of good ideas, though the fight visuals could be stronger and Spidey's story is left dangling.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #32

Jun 1, 2020

Artist Patrick Gleason makes a pretty debut, but the story developments just perpetuate the problem of Peter Parker being the least-interesting part of his own comic.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #33

Jun 1, 2020

I'm pretty sure Mr. Spencer is soon going to stitch Miguel's story together with Pete's classmate's new future-predicting technology. And the Silver Sable plotline is, in theory, awesome. It would have been a killer as a miniseries, but instead it's here, dragging at least two issues of ASM dangerously close to trainwreck territory. The Latverian/Symkarian stuff should be left where it belongs (and where I suspect Mr. Spencer swiped it), in the Dr. Doom series.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #34

Jun 7, 2020

Pete picks up the Clairvoyant, stumbles into the middle of Doom's assassination, and finally links up with Miguel to catch a heap of 2099 crisis exposition from him. I think the fast pace is suited to the simplicity of the plot points, so it rolls out nice and smooth if you don't think about anything too hard. I found the art solid, but not the GOAT performance some readers assume the instant they see Mr. Gleason's name. It meets (high) expectations for top-shelf art but doesn't distinguish itself further in my eyes.

5.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #35

Jun 22, 2020

I almost wrote "Aside from being a jarring fill-in, there's nothing wrong with Oscar Bazaldua's art." But that's not true, is it? Weak settings, bad anatomy (be on the lookout for Giraffe-Neck Spidey), and an unfortunate lesson learned at the Greg Land School of "with different costumes and hairstyles, you can get through a whole career knowing how to draw just one woman." The lackadaisical script really lives down to the art, producing a thoroughly mediocre comic. Mediocre comics are okay, they're not disasters -- but as others have noted, there is something a bit disastrous about Marvel filling its most famous title with such feeble storytelling. Conceptual nitpick: It undercuts the magicalness of the mutants achieving serial resurrection if the same ability (in the form of "uploading your consciousness to the cloud," ugh, be more buzzwordy) is available to z-list chumps like Hitman. Also, writing/editing nitpick: Somebody call the Department of Redunancy Department on "assassination attempt on his life."

4.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #36

Jul 13, 2020

I'm sooooo glad they nose-dived ASM through this garbage arc instead of giving 2099 a proper event miniseries. This worked out MUCH better for the readers and the story. *Sarcasm meter explodes*

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #37

Jul 23, 2020

Spidey starts using the Clairvoyant to get a head start on his hero-ing (no way THAT'LL backfire), Jonah accepts a mysterious proposition, and Kindred does his thousandth bit of ominous foreshadowing. So business as usual for this series, really. It looks nice and it sounds good, it's got charm and humor. But I'm thrice bitten and very shy -- one solid issue with a few promising plot developments aren't enough to shake off the feeling that this volume is trapped in amber.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #38

Aug 9, 2020

Spider-Man, Jonah, and the Foreigner run through three distinct but nicely-connected stories. It's got a great structure and scratchy but appealing art. The characters are handled pretty well, too (with the one exception noted below). But how many times is this volume gonna ring the "stop helping me, Jonah" bell? I would have sworn it's impossible to write Jonah as TOO cranky -- but I think this issue manages the trick in the 1st scene.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #39

Sep 24, 2020

Spidey and Jonah hash out their latest tea on a podcast, and the Foreigner/Chance story makes a sharp left turn to link up with Spidey's plotline. It's written and drawn well, but I'm running out of enthusiasm for the "Ho ho ho, Jameson's help is worse than Jameson's antagonism" premise. It doesn't help that this issue's addition is over-recappy; it left me feeling shorted on content.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #40

Oct 17, 2020

Spider-Man allows Chance to get away with his web-shooter, since there doesn't seem to be any risk to civilians. Nora reaches out to Peter Parker to join her Spidey-centric media company. Words and art are enjoyable on a page-to-page basis, but the overall plot lacks sense. What's the secret twist behind Chance's supervillain casino? I feel like this issue was supposed to reveal it but failed to do so.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #41

Oct 21, 2020

No matter how much flashing back he does -- and he can do a *lot* -- Nick Spencer's Spidey just never digs his way out of the backlog of plot development the author dumps on him.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #42

Nov 5, 2020

Gog's turn in the spotlight. This issue fleshes out both his origins and his connection to the Lifeline tablet. As a standalone sci-fi story about a giant monster that's actually a loyal, dog-ish pet trying to get home to his boy, it's pretty dang good. On a larger scale, though, this volume of ASM is already terribly digressive and this issue-long side-story doesn't do anything good to the long-term pace.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #43

Nov 9, 2020

Against all odds, Boomerang is instrumental in saving New York from Gog. This finale manages to hang onto the sweetness generated in the last issue and stick the landing in a way that both progresses the plot and tugs at the heartstrings. This is the level of quality ASM should always be aiming for.

5.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #44

Dec 17, 2020

This is Amazing Spider-Man. The company literally does not have a bigger-ticket ongoing series. And *this* they do to the art?

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #45

Dec 17, 2020

Like the rest of the volume, this issue is pretty recap-heavy. But it's done in a nearly-all-positive way here, enhancing the reading experience and increasing accessibility.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #46

Jan 4, 2021

A complex flash-forward structure reveals a battle between the Sin-Eater and the Lethal Legion while also showing reactions after the fact. The Sin-Eater is getting popular and Spidey is struggling to find valid objections to his MO. It's very dark and very compelling; this issue scores big in cultivating "what happens next?" anticipation. I had a bit of a problem with the art, though: The story flow got very rough in the fight scenes, with the action on some pages only becoming clear with the benefit of hindsight.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #47

Feb 17, 2021

Sin-Eater builds an army and Spidey gets beat down when he tries to stop him. The language didn't impress me, but the themes, character work, and plotting are all outstanding. As others have noted, the ideas about power dynamics between the common people and the authorities/superheroes couldn't be more relevant. I wouldn't quite call the art great, but it's striving and succeeding to be more than merely average.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #48

Feb 22, 2021

As the Sin-Eater stalks Norman Osborn, Spidey rallies his JV spiders for moral guidance. After grappling mightily -- movingly -- with the issue, Spidey charges in to save his biggest nemesis. I find the script and the art to be good, not great. On the content side, though, we DO get greatness; this issue has a gripping plot and enthralling character work. Spidey misses a key argument on his side, though: Even if Sin-Eater "cleanses" Norman and it sticks for a while -- how many times has Osborn been cured, rehabilitated, or memory-wiped? He always comes back to evil.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #49

Mar 3, 2021

I like the creepy way Osborn's Spider-feelings straddle the fence between paternal and homoerotic. I'm less of a fan of him creeping on Gwen-65 -- I like it in principle, but Creepy Norman already gets more than enough spotlight in this issue. On the art side, due respect to Humberto Ramos and Mark Bagley as "dudes what have drawn a lot of Spider-Man," but they don't live up to Ryan Ottley's performance.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #50

Mar 3, 2021

This is a really good Spider-Man story. But it's not great, and I have a clear idea of why. After 1000+ pages of build-up, the Kindred premise resolves into familiar characters airing familiar grievances. It's classic Spidey. Greatest hits Spidey. It's comfort food Spidey: Full of safe, well-known ingredients we love -- and free of anything daring, risky, or inventive. This is as good as you can make Spider-Man if you're too scared to tinker with the franchise's tried-and-true recipes.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #50.LR

Mar 6, 2021

Penitent Norman Osborn chews through some scenery and is desperate to help his son. Meanwhile, an expanded scene of Spidey battling the Order of the Web puts him in contact with Kindred. This isn't quite essential, but it's far from disappointing. Decent art and a nice smooth scene structure -- and just enough extra plot tidbits to make reading it feel rewarding.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #51

Mar 7, 2021

In grand Dr. Strange style, the Sorcerer Supreme is only half-helpful when Spidey comes a-calling. Peter's left to assemble his own strategy for tackling Kindred -- as it should be. This issue has capable storytelling all around, and it opens up an interesting can of possibility worms. This arc could turn out great -- or it might fizzle. It's certainly holding my attention for the time being!

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #51.LR

Mar 9, 2021

This companion arc is shooting 2 for 3 on plotlines I'm interested in. I like the idea of Norman and MJ teaming up, I LOVE Strange and Black Cat teaming up, but Sin-Eater sticking around? Ugh. And his new target? Double ugh. I don't think it's a good idea to revisit a questionable mystical nemesis from Spidey's past while you're trying to set up a new one.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #52

Mar 12, 2021

This issue hits hard and fast, like a great drum solo. But the setting is so surreal and the villain so mystical that I doubt the reality and finality of the Serious Developments we see here -- even setting aside the usual "Spidey has to win in the end" certainty. Now, with such a cynical take, you might expect me to dismiss the Spidey/Kindred combat as inconsequential. But the artist's fight scenes are just too dang good for that. Even if I think it doesn't matter in the long term, I feel Peter's pain in the present.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #52.LR

Mar 12, 2021

Dr. Strange rallies the de-possessed Order of the Web, Norman Osborn struggles to gain MJ's trust, and the Sin-Eater edges his Morlun-hunt forward. It's got good dialogue and scruffy but vibrant art. I feel like only the safer plotlines (Dr. Strange and Sin-Eater) come across as authentic, though. Osborn's connection with Mary Jane fizzles, partly because WHY WOULD SHE EVER TRUST HIM, but partly because the authors don't give him the right words.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #53

Mar 14, 2021

I know, I know. It's a bigly huge-normous moment in Spider-history. But I contend it's not a good comic. Why? First, relying on supplementary material or in-depth prior knowledge is asking too much of the reader -- and I maintain this issue is incomprehensible (or at least inconsequential) unless you have ASM #545 in front of you or burned into your brain. Second, all due respect to Mark Bagley, but he's not at his best here and his panels aren't in the same ballpark as Mr. Quesada's originals -- which you're all too likely to go review after reading the later issue. It's a pale imitation, visually, and Mr. Spencer leans his script so far into #545 that half of this issue is meaningless without the relevant background.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #53.LR

Mar 15, 2021

Sin-Eater has his moment with Morlun and Dr. Strange shepherds the Order through Peter's dreamscape. Once again, the reader who doesn't know her OMD details is ☠️☠️☠️☠️ out of luck. If you ARE familiar, the dreamscape conflict is pretty cool. The oversized art team doesn't do the visuals any favors, though.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #54

Mar 23, 2021

Harry kills Pete a bunch more and makes an unconvincing case for "THIS guilt trip about endangering your loved ones is really really different." It's a solid idea, but the pace is repetitive, the prose doesn't give it the distinction it needs, and while Mark Bagley is still a titan of comics art, he is not doing his best work here.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #54.LR

Apr 3, 2021

Kindred's big plan comes together, and even though the Order of the Web wins a fight, things look rough for the good guys. An accelerating plot, solid dialogue, and good art all combine to make this run toward the climax a lot more satisfying than the set-up issues -- at least for me.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #55

Apr 12, 2021

With the cast assembled, Harry finally lays out his full grievances against Spider-Man. But he gets blindsided by MJ and Norman launching a play against him that might or might not be a put-on. I admire how neatly the plot threads come together here, reinforcing strong storytelling with interesting content. It's right next door to greatness and I can't wait to see how it wraps up.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #56

Apr 18, 2021

The "resolution" of the Kindred story, such as it is, unfolds in non-linear scenes arranged with skill. The prose and the art are above average, but it's the ideas that really fascinate. My repeated complaint about Nick Spencer's Spider-Man has been that it's too static and too safe (also too supporting-cast-focused, which remains a problem). The outcome of this big arc has addressed my complaint well, revitalizing Norman Osborn with a daring and compelling new status quo.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #57

Apr 23, 2021

Nobody's particularly happy to have stopped Kindred; it's obvious to all involved that the story isn't over. Lots of fear, lots of anger, particularly locked up inside Peter's head. He's nursing a full-blown case of PTSD that can and should be milked for plenty of angst in subsequent issues. I think both the words and the art in this issue are strong but not perfect. I wouldn't change a thing about the way the characters and the plot develop here, though. Outstanding.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #58

May 9, 2021

A broken Spider-Man is still struggling with the fallout of Last Remains. But there's no time to heal; Mr. Negative is gunning for Martin Li and Aunt May is in the line of fire. The superheroics are good, as is the continuing tragedy of the Osborn family. It's a nice, fast read, but it has plenty of strong development for its characters. The art could be a lot better, though. These visuals aren't flawed (not badly), but they're also not quite fit for a flagship title.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #59

May 23, 2021

Mr. Negative's sins come home to roost, and he's immediately swept away by Mayor Fisk to set up the next arc. Tablet of Life and yadda yadda, ho! I'm not too interested in that, but I enjoyed the continued Last Remains fallout for Pete and Norman. Aunt May does some solid Aunt-May-ing here, too. While there's nothing wrong per se with this issue's art, I'd still like to see ASM get a little more visual oomph.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #60

Jun 11, 2021

MJ takes the reins, putting Peter through a tormented but cathartic bit of soul-searching. Ratcheting the scale down as small as possible pays off here, with excellent emotional work coming out of the intense script. The art is also on point in this issue; Mark Bagley serves up a reminder that he's a GOOD fast Spider-artist. This script needs a lot of nuanced, emotional faces and Mr. Bagley absolutely delivers.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #61

Jul 18, 2021

In a conscious move to get a little more fun, Spidey's kitted out with a "social influencer" suit, a ridiculous idea that's sure to go wrong in hilarious ways. The concept is handled with just enough awareness to win my approval, and I can't wait to see what disaster springs from this development. Mayor Fisk's latest move takes the fun-n-games a step too far, though. That's this volume in a nutshell: Anything that's worth doing is worth overdoing.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #62

Jul 25, 2021

Spidey and Boomerang save Gog from Fisk's machinations, and Randy and the Beetle experience a contrived but superbly-executed sitcom revelation in their relationship. This is a small serving of plot development, but the presentation is top tier all the way. And the characterization is good, too.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #63

Aug 7, 2021

Beetle and Randy dance through their prescribed romantic comedy of errors while Spidey's Lifeline table story chugs along. It's finely crafted -- I particularly admire the speedy, complex-but-clear scene structure -- but it's very safe. The "Romeo and Juliet" parallels are so obvious that hanging a lampshade on them feels redundant, if not smug. The art: I like a lot of the characters, particularly the Beetle. A script this fast and complicated really needs better blocking and visual storytelling, though. Bigger picture problem: This issue's contemporary and flashback focus on the Randy & Janice reveals that they have no real sexual or interpersonal chemistry. The sole purpose of their relationship is to generate plot twists and motivate other characters.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #64

Aug 28, 2021

Spidey struggles to stay relevant as three plotlines develop with minimal involvement from him. Robbie and Tombstone team up to save their kids, Fred goes after the last Lifeline fragment on his own, and Mordo (at Fisk's direction) starts to wake up Kindred. These stories are progressing in interesting ways, but they're conveyed with underwhelming words and art here. It seems to be a waste to use Nick Spencer on anything Spidey-related other than "Superior Foes." He's practically turned ASM into that, which is a real Catch-22. Hooray, more Superior Foes! But boo, we want real ASM!

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #65

Sep 21, 2021

Spidey and Robbie team up with the Syndicate and Tombstone to save the day in this fight spectacular. As usual for a Nick Spencer script, the prose doesn't wow me. But I respect the thematic work. The way the "father's responsibility" theme links Robbie, Tombstone, and Osborn is great. Spidey works a "redemption" theme as he pivots from teaming up with villains to rescuing Boomerang. It's not as strong as the fatherhood theme, but it's certainly not bad. This was written as a good, potentially great comic. And it's dragged down to mere acceptability by two shabby art performances. The lines in the opening and closing scenes are so fragile that they'd work better without color. And the fight sandwiched in the middle is a hopeless mess, a frantic scribble-storm with a severe lack of detail and clarity. For the Nth time, the demands of publishing on a more-than-monthly schedule rob Marvel's flagship title of the quality it deserves.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #66

Oct 2, 2021

It's business as usual for this title, with Spidey sitting like a stump as a range of different plotlines lumber slowly past him. The writing's decent and events are presented with a nice serving of Mark Bagley art, so it's not a particularly unpleasant read. And I should look on the bright side of this volume's recap-heavy style: It does make single issues a lot more self-contained than is normal for today.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #67

Oct 25, 2021

A plethora of baddies advance ominous plans. Chameleon puts hooks into Teresa Parker, Chance puts hooks in the Clairvoyant kid, and meanwhile Pete's busy being gobsmacked by impossible developments in the story of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds. It's par for the course for this volume: An intricate, technically accomplished script that fails to impress me supported by art that does the same. (These visuals are polished but generic, with some regrettably goofy faces.) I'm so sick of the way the protagonists, Peter especially, are always reacting instead of acting.

5.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #68

Oct 26, 2021

This comic is its own Cliffs Notes: Plot beats conveyed with clarity, but missing the character connections and storytelling texture that make a story engaging. I can't forgive Pete sitting through 7 straight pages of backstory; that's some Roy-Thomas-level expository BS.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #69

Nov 7, 2021

Jamie betrays Spidey, Chance & Foreigner's goons betray them to the Finisher, and the Finisher goes completely off the deep end trying to intimidate Teresa/confuse the readers. I don't like the art collaboration, even though the individual parts are good. I absolutely loathe the Teresa scenes, not because of her, but because the Finisher's foreshadowing is total crap. But for seven blissful pages, Spidey is actually clobbering badguys and making funny quips. … that should not feel like such a rare treat in AS-#$%#&@#-M.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #70

Nov 23, 2021

Spidey is yet again in the spectator seat as the author puts the finishing touches on the vast roster of villains queuing up for Sinister War. On the one hand, this feels like a great re-railment after a couple of blah story arcs, and the staging for the upcoming event looks good. On the other hand, I'm underwhelmed by the art and of course, there's the perennial "Passive Pete" problem.

5.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #71

Dec 23, 2021

Mysterio passes MJ to Kindred after doing some (presumably) important continuity callbacks. The other key supporting cast members reflect on Harry Osborn's death in (presumably) significant ways. Even if I accept that Spidey's part of this event will be happening in the miniseries, I think this issue is pretty thin tea -- it's just last-minute stage-setting work. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the art quality on this title remains flagrantly unacceptable for a flagship comic.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #72

Jan 4, 2022

Norman Osborn is tormented with the one sin he can't escape, and Kindred has a few more surprises left on deck. The prose is strictly functional (and Kindred does tend to go on and on), but the structure is admirably complex. The art's still disappointing, but not outrageously so. And as a whole, this issue manages to do the nigh-impossible: Get me engaged in Kindred's wheels-within-wheels plots and pique my interest for the final revelations.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #73

Jan 11, 2022

Kindred pulls another identity out of his/their/its hat. Peter remains a passive football yet again, but presumably he'll have to do SOMETHING soon to resolve all this. Annoyingly, just as in the last Kindred climax, Nick Spencer abandons his usual "self-contained story" MO to dive deep into continuity, and my sketchy Spider-scholarship leaves me much more confused than I want to be. Still, I can tell some momentous and welcome retconning is happening here. But while mucking out horse stables is an important and useful job, its utility doesn't make it inherently fun to watch. On the visual side, the artist carousel is turning out slightly more tolerable results than before. It's still not nearly as good as sticking with a single artist, though.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #74

Feb 3, 2022

"Thank goodness that's over" is not the ideal reader reaction you want after an issue or an arc or a run, but that's how I feel. This arc wasn't a total trainwreck, but it had serious problems. Some were too integral to cut out, like the transition from "Harry as singular Kindred" to "Sarah and Gabriel as 2 Kindreds." But some problems could have been trimmed or deleted, like Dr. Strange's superfluous presence. (Mr. Spencer was quick enough to cut away the marriage proposal angle, grumble grumble.) The issue at hand: A hell of a lot of fighting, rendered extra-pointless by a particularly traumatic trip around the artist carousel. The backup strips were decent, although the final one lives or dies based on how much of a Ben Reilly scholar you are. Silver linings: At least Mr. Spencer did some good retconning by burying Sins Past. He even buried his retcon tools, killing Kindred along with the twins. I'd like to think no future writer will be stupid enough to bring them back. But on a long enough timeline …

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #75

Feb 16, 2022

The return of Ben Reilly kicks off with some simple plot and character beats that are developed with formidable storytelling skill. I appreciate the creators leaving it up to us to connect some of the dots, though they do pull them pretty close together for us. The art is highly polished and it plays an important role in shaping the story. That initial nightmare is a really great way to start; it's some strong "show-don't-tell" character work. I'm cautiously optimistic.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #76

Mar 3, 2022

Pete faces Serious Medical Drama™ and Ben is appropriately broken up about it before going to clobber the U-Foes. Featuring plenty of solid MJ and Aunt May attention, too. The storytelling here is terrific, in words and especially in the art. But without busting on the craft, I do have to say that the plot isn't the most novel thing in the world. A little bit of melodramatic familiarity isn't enough to make this less than a good comic, though.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #77

Mar 5, 2022

In a vacuum, I love this comic, perhaps more than the last 2 issues. But as part of an ongoing story, it represents a pretty sharp swerve. The pace brakes abruptly, though we do get deeper character interactions in exchange. The art is gorgeous, but stylistically *very* different from what came before. But I'm buoyed up by our strongest hints yet that we're seeing Nextwave Beyond rather than 616 Beyond -- or at least some delightful melange of the two.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #78

Mar 21, 2022

So, I think I get it now: We've got 3 stories in parallel. Ben runs a gauntlet of classic Spidey foes, Pete struggles through the coma, and (hopefully) Colleen and Misty investigate Beyond. They're all in balance here. Where the previous issue swung character-heavy, this one swings the other way, advancing all the plots nicely. The art remains excellent. While it hasn't reached for greatness, this story is consistently good so far -- and that makes a welcome change from the last months of the Spencer run.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #78.BEY

Mar 23, 2022

My rating reflects my completely unfair, completely subjective love for Jed MacKay's Daughters of the Dragon MDO, which was even wackier than this. Plus, the art's cool in a super-exaggerated way. Plus plus, ZOMG the Nextwave connection. All that being said, there's quite a whiplash jumping from #78 to this. Colleen Wing, in particular, sounds like a completely different person. I like both versions but admit they don't belong side-by-side. I think this should have been a separately-titled one-shot rather than a fractional issue of ASM.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #79

Apr 9, 2022

I didn't see any big storytelling problems here, but the plot development (or rather the lack thereof) worries me. Feels like Ben breaks no new ground in this issue, just spinning his wheels. Peter's the same. Kraven was the highlight of the issue, and yet I'm not that engaged with his scheme. I'm expecting this gauntlet of classic Spidey villains not to have much of a lasting impact on Ben or the bigger plot -- if the next issue proves me wrong it'll help restore my faith.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #80

Apr 14, 2022

This issue hooked me hard. While the dialogue gets a little wordy in some places, in others it's simply great -- this is a terrific voice for Ben. The visuals are generally strong, rising to tour-de-force levels with the hallucinations at the start. And of course, the "after credits" scene is pure spider-nerd catnip. I like the way this arc is coming together -- and the way this particular creative team pulls the strings.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #80.BEY

Apr 26, 2022

I could, in theory, like/love a story about May and Ock teaming up for a screwball side-quest. And I could, in theory, stand to read romantic/sexual tension between those two. But not like this. I didn't like Otto's voice; I genuinely *hated* May's. Plodding through their dialogue ruined my enjoyment and gave me the maybe-unfair (but maybe not) impression that the pace was too slow. On the plus side, I like this art style. I like the significant plot developments. Objectively, this is probably an above-average comic. But "average" is as far as I can go subjectively; I was just straight up not having a good time.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #81

Apr 28, 2022

The main point here is to team up Ben and Miles in a very old-school way, complete with a bit of Misunderstanding Brawl. I liked it. The team-up was a nice bit of popcorn-chompin' action, boosted by great art. This is the first time I've really liked the way Miles' current costume is drawn. The dialogue was great stuff, too; the voices were natural and very fun. However … The big-picture plot is moving pretty slow. And the character beats are consistent with what's come before. Maybe too consistent. Ben is half-rebellious, Janine is fretting, Marcus is exasperated, Maxine is Ms. Frosty Boss. Lather rinse repeat. I wouldn't say the slow strategic pace and repetition are making this bad, or even average. But they are anchors holding this story (and this issue) closer to good than great.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #82

May 7, 2022

The Beyond arc continues its troubling trend of bouncing from digression to digression; it seems like this giant team of creators would rather do anything other than advance the main story. That being said, this is a formidable one-shot that (in my case) easily managed to wipe out any disappointment about the main plot being on hold. The art shift was startling at first, but I soon realized this style is nigh-perfect for the creepy story being told. The villain is only strong enough to carry a single issue, but he's fantastically and memorably written. Plus, I'm always a big fan of MJ saving the day, particularly when it's done this organically.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #84

May 16, 2022

The Beyond arc has inherited some of the weaknesses of Nick Spencer's run, specifically the uneven big-picture pace and the tendency for the heroes to be too passive. But ya know what? I'm OK with Pete and Ben being useless if the banner of heroic plot development is gonna be picked up by Doc Ock. Particularly a Doc Ock that's going back to his classic roots: classic look, classic brains, classic smugness. I had a blast reading this. A formidable performance by one of my favorite artists certainly helps. But the script's humor was working for me, too. I hope Doug the hapless intern can survive this arc and earn himself a small recurring role.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #85

May 21, 2022

It's all fun and games and comic relief as Otto fights and chews scenery, but when the chips are down and it's time to develop the plot, this issue doesn't quite work for me. I know it's a long arc and the changes here will be unpacked in later issues, but I think this issue needed *something* to anchor the conflict and make it seem meaningful in the short term. The humor works for me, mostly -- though it overstays its welcome once Spidey and Ock come to blows. (And the Nextwave weirdness didn't feel right.) The art is also mostly good. There's definitely some behind-the-scenes trouble with all those inkers, and the finish is uneven. The bones are solid, though. This issue is far from bad, but it's also clearly not the best comic it could be.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #86

Jun 3, 2022

The visual shift threw me for a major loop, but as the story unfolded I realized this style is *perfect* for this chapter. The prose is solid and clear, handling major plot developments in a transparent way that keeps my attention focused on their ramifications for the characters. The script has a tight structure, though, cutting quickly between short, powerful scenes. Beyond is damn sure taking a turn for the sinister!

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #87

Jun 15, 2022

You might know me as "that one user that falls all over himself praising Jed MacKay's Black Cat." Indeed, it's one of my favorite Marvel runs in recent years. And yet, even though this issue is written by Mr. MacKay and it's got a lot of Felicia Hardy fun in it, I recognize her training montage with Peter Parker goes on a little too long and doesn't have much impact. Actual plot development is limited to a few tiny crumbs -- though I appreciate how chilling some of those crumbs are. And the art is very easy on on the eyes in this issue, which is another plus. Still, I rate this as good rather than great -- I *enjoy* being pandered to, but I try to remain aware of it when it's happening.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #88

Jun 29, 2022

I really enjoyed this issue despite seeing some definite points for improvement. The art is great for the talky scenes but not so much for the fighting, for example. And the dialogue is serviceable at best. I loved the full revelation of Beyond's nastiness. And I appreciate the way the script used a combination of step-by-step dot connecting and more subtle "nod and a wink" connections to get all the plot development done. Comedy Nitpick: Really, Marvel? You're gonna do characters named "Goblin Queen" AND "Queen Goblin"?

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #88.BEY

Jul 1, 2022

This biographical update on Hobie Brown is sure to be highly satisfying to fans of the character. For those unfamiliar with or unenthusiastic about Hobie, though, this will likely seem indulgent and pointless. The storytelling is adequate throughout, but it seems like the creators never even considered the idea of accommodating non-fans. Or of making a stronger link to the event than, "This is why this set of characters might show up." (And fans of OG slingers Dusk and Ricochet are likely to be pissed off at their cameo-level parts in the issue.) I believe comics should always be trying to win new fans, not just service existing ones.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #89

Jul 2, 2022

This issue has great character beats and interactions. The script is well-paced and well-structured. The jokes and power lines in the dialogue are good, but the connective tissue is a bit clumsy. (Were I to be an editor, my first law of comics dialogue would be, "People. Talk. In. Contractions!") The art's just terrific. It's not just Bagley drawing ASM, it's Bagley drawing ASM *really well*. Kudos to the inkers and colorist, too; great finishing is an important part of the presentation. Queen Goblin has about 1 more issue in her, I think/hope. Therapist gimmick, standard Goblin sadism, Shur-Fine Penance Stare, yadda yadda. I'm surprised they haven't already confirmed her obvious identity. (I'm really glad that the Goblin Gaze only staggered Black Cat instead of breaking her.)

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #90

Jul 13, 2022

It's a fun, satisfying read. The plot continues to develop in interesting if not surprising ways. The art remains great, and the big inking crew on this issue does a pretty consistent job. What could kick the whole thing from good to great would be stronger prose. There's no serious problems with the words and some of the quipping in the front is good, but the character beats at the back would hit a lot harder with better dialogue.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #91

Jul 21, 2022

I hate to downrate creators I admire, but this issue just doesn't meet the arc's established "good not great" standard for art and writing. It's an average comic at best. The script does quipping and snarky banter well -- but this is the wrong part of the story for that. Ben's breakdown calls for tension, and the comedy and the slow pace produce the opposite effect. (I'm also thoroughly underwhelmed by the "Door Z" reveal.) The art is wildly dissonant. Sara Pichelli at the start and Fran Galán at the end are drawing completely different comics. (Watch Maxine; they can't even keep her outfit straight.) And there's a transitional zone in the middle, drawn by I don't know which artist, that doesn't match either end.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #92

Aug 3, 2022

A nice step up from the previous issue. It's very well-written, with fun dialogue and a compelling look inside Ben's head. And it's drawn half-well. Imma say it: Fran Galán was a bad choice for this arc. I actually like his style, but he's not (yet) good enough at detail and visual storytelling to match up with the other Beyond artists. You just hurt him further when you give him less than an issue; it's guaranteed his pages will be next to better-drawn ones.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #92.BEY

Aug 4, 2022

I'm rating it a good comic even though I'm fully aware it's pandering to me with surgical precision. Like, Doug was designed in a damn lab to be a breakout character and I love him and I hate how obviously I've been manipulated into loving him. The humor is excellent in my highly subjective view. And I was pleasantly surprised by how well the huge art team worked. It wasn't a seamless collaboration, but a set of distinct styles which complemented each other. The B strip does a good job of making me almost want a new volume of Nextwave written by Jed MacKay. "Almost want" in the sense of "probably nobody should do that, but if not nobody, him." (Also Monica's "be unlikable" soliloquy is a masterpiece of progressive soapboxing. It's fully intersectional, not sticking to any one demographic box, instead focusing on what really matters: Recognizing and resisting injustice and the abuse of power.)

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #93

Sep 29, 2022

Beyond featured lots of roads not taken, as well as some stumbles on the safe path it chose. But at some point, the writing team clearly said, "We need to finish this with Ben Reilly vs. Peter Parker. How do we make that happen?" I really like the answer they come up with here. The prose is nothing special, but the script's structure and pace are great. The art is clean and simple, but also really powerful -- an excellent vehicle for taking the story along a sudden dark turn. I'm rating Beyond as a whole as "good, not great", including this finale. But this is as close to greatness as the arc gets.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) Annual #1

Apr 6, 2019

A nifty untold story that slides into the time after the alien costume but before Peter found out it was alive: The symbiote sleep-walks him through some brutal crime-fighting and picks up a few important lessons from a bold bystander. The premise is sound and the writing is - barring an unpleasant reliance on the word "meat" - enjoyable. The layouts are amazing but the finish on the art is too sketchy for me. The comic is good as it is but it could be more than good if it had more visual polish. Well, maybe. Would it be even stronger without the last two pages? The main body's very focused on learning the value of mercy; the end pivots into betrayal of trust. That rounds out the historic plot, but it weakens the overall theme, doesn't it?

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) Annual #2

Nov 23, 2021

Ripley "Star" Ryan unleashes the power of the Reality Stone in an incredibly petty rampage through Queens. Spidey drives her off, but she is utterly unmoved by a standard-issue Spidey appeal to reform. It's a shaggy dog story that's long on humor and short on meaning. The tone of the words and art walks an incredibly tight rope; this will be fantastic for a few readers, skippable for many more, and intolerable to some. The B strip provides a tiny dose of forward momentum for the event, at least.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018): Full Circle #1

Jun 1, 2020

In my opinion, Chip Zdarsky's segment launches the story over a shark. The whole thing wound up good but not great for me -- I think a more satisfying ending wouldn't need a "behind the scenes" explanation afterward. Art nerd trivia: This form of follow-the-leader collaboration is what the OG surrealists called an "exquisite corpse."

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018): Sins Rising Prelude #1

Dec 17, 2020

Feels like this switches, halfway through, from "you don't need to have read the original Sin-Eater stories" to "you DO need to have read them."

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018): The Sins of Norman Osborn #1

Feb 25, 2021

AKA "ASM 48.5" AKA "Oops, Nick Spencer dawdled and now he needs 30 extra pages to set up legacy #850 properly."

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2018): King's Ransom #1

Sep 25, 2021

I could rate it lower, but I had a sort of almost-positive schadenfreude reaction to its relentless mediocrity.

4.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2018): Chameleon Conspiracy #1

Nov 22, 2021

When I see 2 writers, 4 artists, and 3 colorists credited for a non-anthology comic, I assume that I'm on the way to a trainwreck … and this issue lived down to my expectations. There are worse things to do at the end of an author's run than leave behind dangling plot threads. Like, say, tying them into a clumsy ol' granny knot. And this arc didn't even accomplish its stupid goal; the loose threads come out of the knot still loose.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #1

Nov 22, 2022

There are a few too many mysteries in Pete's new status quo here, and that could be frustrating. The pace and the dialogue are pretty good, though, and the Tombstone plotline looks promising. On the visual side, though JRJR tends to run hot or cold, he looks to be pretty hot right now. This is a pretty book. I hope he can keep up with the ridiculous publication pace.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #2

Dec 22, 2022

The script is pretty smooth with all its short, punchy scenes. I really like the humor and the build-up of running gags. The art's decent but no more than that. There are several points where the story needed some more artistic oomph to clarify and energize it. Missed opportunities. Most of all, it's just damned thin on content. It's got the frills (the comedy especially) that could take a good story to greatness; instead, they're straining to lift a one-plot-development issue above average.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #3

Dec 28, 2022

This issue has some great content. Nice development across multiple plotlines and, of course, a killer dive into Tombstone's past and psychology. The script is nicely structured and the dialogue (especially Tombstone's) is good. The art gets the job done, but it could do a hell of a lot more to emphasize the emotions at play here. JRJR is a Big Name but I don't think he's going on anybody's GOAT list for drawing expressive faces.

8.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #4

Dec 30, 2022

In general, it's a good-not-great issue. There's a little room for improvement in the prose -- and more of it in the art. But oh, the trick that's played on Spidey and us readers! The whole issue is built for it and in my opinion, it works almost perfectly. I have big questions about where the story goes next (and I see that the twist can be nit-picked to death under close scrutiny), but for now, I'm eminently satisfied with the goosebumps and shock this issue smacked me with at the end.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #5

Jan 2, 2023

This arc certainly peaked with the big twist in #4. This issue is a softer, slower cool-down. And it's OK. Writing and art are strong, but both have been done better earlier in the volume, short as it is. Spidey's clapback against Tombstone was cool. Petty, but cool. I take issue with the final scene. Yeah, it's great to see Pete and May reconcile. Except: a) Pete's done nothing at all to earn that reconciliation, and b) we still don't have the slightest clue what he did to disappoint her in the first place. In my opinion, so far this volume is a pretty good Spider-Man comic and a pretty poor Peter Parker comic.

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #6

Jan 2, 2023

Wow, this issue ruffled a lot of feathers, huh? I think we can all agree nobody wanted to see Jimmy Kimmel, even for 4 pages. The other backup strips were good, though; Pete's library books were hilarious. As to the main event, well, it *does* oblige you to buy a ticket for the "Silver Age nostalgia express" if you want to enjoy it. This is exactly the way Marvel did annuals and the first round of #100s in the 60s. I bought the ticket and had a blast; this is hilarious. But it's best taken as a standalone. I see the low raters' point: It's not a particularly good fit with present Marvel continuity or even with the last 5 issues. Jeff Plaza hits the nail on the head down in the red dots when he says all the characters are in "factory reset mode." I agree, but it's just not a big problem for me. This is hardly the first or last time a Marvel writer chucks continuity under the bus for the sake of comedy. Although maybe it's telling that in the lettercol interviews, when asked to identify the "epitome of Spider-Man," most of the creators (and Kevin Feige) give the correct answer, i.e. "If This Be My Destiny." But those with other, wronger answers include this volume's writer and most of its primary artists. Not a good sign, right?

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #7

Jan 17, 2023

This issue puts some intriguing new twists into Pete's story. I can't shake the feeling that my enthusiasm is contributing more to the intrigue than the creators are, though. I'm about half-satisfied with the idea of Kamala Khan showing up as a supporting character. I don't think she's written or drawn particularly well so far, but Big M's been short on panel time lately, so I'll take what I can get.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #8

Jan 27, 2023

Nothing wrong with what the creators are doing here, but nothing spectacular, either. And their storytelling goals with this issue are pretty modest -- old-fashioned, too.

6.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #9

Feb 24, 2023

Brisk, stylish, entertaining? Sure. Inventive? Revelatory? Even particularly clear? No, not really.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #10

Mar 22, 2023

Between the guest artist and the one-off nature of the story, I was thrown for a loop. This is a lot more subtle than usual for this volume, which is one reason I initially underrated it. And I'm still not going too high. It's a good heartstring-tugger, but "Peter Parker is empathic and responsible" is one of Marvel's lowest-hanging heartstrings. I like that it's not entirely a one-off; there's an important clue about the Awful Mystery Event that happened before #1. I really hope the Norman development on the final page is strictly Judgment-Day-related, though. I'm also liking "Kamala Khan is an Oscorp intern" less and less.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #11

Apr 7, 2023

There are plenty of interesting plot developments, mysteries, and foreshadowing here. That makes it a fun little read despite the ongoing "passive Peter" problem, but that's been dogging ASM since before this volume started. The art's solid and clear if not spectacular. While this wouldn't be the first comic of the week that I'd rave about and recommend, it's definitely good. "Kamala Khan, Oscorp intern" continues to get a resounding thumbs down from me, though.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #12

Apr 14, 2023

For some reason, this is the issue where I really nail down my feelings toward John Romita Jr: I love pretty much everything about his style except the way he draws ordinary people in non-costume clothes. Which is a pretty big speed bump, but not a brick wall. The script is solid and it pitches out a decent curveball, but neither the prose nor the ideas are truly memorable. Put it all together, and you've got a top-shelf comic -- barely. It feels like something the Spider-editor would show new creators: "ASM needs to be at least this good, and hopefully better."

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #13

May 7, 2023

Ahh, the ol' last-page villain reveal. Often cheap, often lame, definitely a cliche. And yet it won't die. Because it can still hit REALLY hard when it's done well -- as it is here. While I might not be thrilled with this volume's usual standard of tactical writing, the big-picture plotting is pretty dang formidable. An action-heavy, costume-heavy finale suits the artist's talents, producing some nice visuals and ending this short arc on an uptick.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #14

May 25, 2023

Dark Web is shaping up into quite the tragedy. Although I don't "like" a lot of what's going on -- how many other characters are going to get burned by Ben Reilly's endless, juvenile angst? -- I'll admit the build-up is crafted well. The four-act structure makes a nice excuse for the range of different art styles. Plot and character developments strike a nice balance. What we see here is clearly prelude, but also clearly meaningful.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #15

Aug 12, 2023

The bad guys push their various agendas forward and Spidey, as is too often the case these days, is stuck in passive/reactive mode. Both the writing and the art are solid but emphatically not spectacular. This is a relatively small bite of plot development and the creators expend more effort than they need to chewing it up. I remain underwhelmed/disappointed with the way this title uses Kamala Khan.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #16

Sep 2, 2023

It's a very well-illustrated fight. The dialogue is satisfactory. The plot, while simple, flows smoothly. There are some decent jokes sprinkled in. I really don't have a dog in the "is Ben Reilly characterized well or not" fight; his heyday was before my time. I'd argue that whether this characterization is an evolution or a regression, the one thing it definitely isn't is deep. "Quondam hero breaks cartoonishly bad and goes through Big Dumb Crossover Event subsisting entirely on a diet of scenery," that's what I see here.

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #17

Nov 10, 2023

Though it might not be what the event needed, this issue's absurd humor really hit the spot for me. The plot doesn't advance very much, but the non-stop misnomers are enjoyable. The characters' reactions to them (and Madelyne's disappointment with Chasm) are even better. The art remains solid and this was an all-around fun read. Ben Reilly's plan may be a problem in a big-picture sense, though. He was already pretty short on menace, and coming off like a schmuck here might undercut him completely.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #18

Jan 13, 2024

The pace is good, the art is nice, and though I wasn't laughing myself, I think the humor is done well. But the overall tone seesaws wildly, from the absurdity of Rek-Rap to the would-be pathos of Ben Reilly. This wants to be serious and silly at the same time. That's not impossible, but this isn't a good example of it. I find it both ironic and annoying that Madelyne Pryor's role in this event is completely contrived, yet her story is the best-handled.

7.5
Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #19

Mar 7, 2024

This is a pretty solid start to an interlude arc. The creators are obviously talented--not working their fingers to the bone, but their experience shines through. As usual, Joe Kelly digs a touch too deep into premises that would be more palatable without the scrutiny. And though the Dodsons don't do so great with smaller panels or scene-setting, their skill in the splashier moments is undeniable. Not all-time great, but definitely good. And welcome at this point in the series.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Daily Bugle #1

Sep 24, 2020

It's an average comic, but it could have been a good comic with a little assertive editing to force Mat Johnson to tie the plot threads together properly. Also: "Hey, Web-Head, you know how you can hear it when people don't pronounce your hyphen? I feel the same way when people stick an inappropriate 'Y' in my code name." Respect the "Boi" in Koi Boi, Spiderman!

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Daily Bugle #2

Oct 17, 2020

While Uatu Jackson fills Spidey in about the knockoff webbing, the Bugle reporters connect important dots that point toward the Kingpin as the main antagonist. It's a decent plot, but being rendered in short, choppy scenes does it no favors. The art is also struggling: Mack Chater seems to have an anti-talent when it comes to drawing distinctive protagonists.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Going Big #1

Mar 26, 2020

It's a Spidey anthology packed with anthology-grade work. Nostalgia for one or more of the "grandmaster" creators involved is the only reason to pick this up, and if you peep over the top of your rose-colored glasses, I think you'll agree that these fellers are doing sound-but-unspectacular storytelling at best. On Ralph Macchio's 21st-century work: I grouse and I downrate, but there is something pretty cool about a Bullpen veteran putting out new, simple comics suitable for the very youngest Marvelites.

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.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #20

Jan 1, 2019

Haywire spider-sense leads Annie into conflict with an evil doppelganger. Her dad's one step behind her in puzzling out the mystery. A few sparkles of promise - particularly in characterization, particularly in Logan - are counterbalanced by a by-the-numbers plot and some art that's frankly not ready for prime-time.

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #21

Jan 21, 2019

The Spider-family is united in unraveling Annie's mystery of the knockoff Spiders. Formidable character work and a solid plot are big pluses. The art straddles the plus-minus column. The emoting faces in the front are outstanding; the action in the final act is ROUGH. This is really close to being a good comic, but the visuals aren't quite up to par. Getting better, though!

5.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #22

Feb 25, 2019

The Spider-Family defeats their evil doppelgangers, rescues Damsel Normie, and draws a bead on the big villain. The script combines quietly decent characterization with a formulaic plot; its overall quality level can't get much past average at best. Nothing special though it be, the script is still leagues ahead of the art, which is deep in the depths of DILLIGAF territory. The basic panel layouts are decent, but posing, polishing, and details are all woefully free of effort. Every part of this comic at least whispers "this could be done better," but most of the art is positively shouting it.

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #23

Apr 6, 2019

The Parkers rush off to the X-Mansion to have a big showdown with Sinister's mutate army. Everything comes out OK, but the story is overloaded with parallel plot threads. They all have merit, but they're not organized or prioritized well. It's also a problem that all three Parkers are fighting for narrator duty. Peter wins, but his daughter is a close second. MJ's contribution really just muddies the waters. The art remains disappointing, but in a consistent, low-key, "meets expectations after pushing them too far down" way.

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.

7.0
America Chavez: Made in the USA #1

Jun 17, 2021

America's powers are on the fritz, and a Mystery Antagonist is taking a run at her heretofore-unseen adoptive family in Washington Heights. The art is great and the writing is satisfactory so far. This script has captured my attention, but future issues will need to work a little harder to get me truly engaged.

8.0
America Chavez: Made in the USA #2

Aug 7, 2021

In the present, America's mystery antagonist easily sucks her into a trap that promises plenty of fascinating revelations in future issues. In the past, we see America's development into a superhero and the estrangement from her adoptive family that comes with it. The story threads are nicely balanced against each other, and a consistently engaging insight into America's character is the glue that binds it all into a satisfying read. Some rock-solid art with a high degree of polish helps, too.

8.0
America Chavez: Made in the USA #3

Sep 21, 2021

America's abductor claims to be a long-lost younger sister, and she gets down to the business of trying to sell the hero a less-fantastical (yet still subtly magical) version of her origin. The sisters' conflict is relieved with flashbacks to their moms' experiences, lending the weight of narrative authority to the sister's claims. It's drawn beautifully and the ideas are intriguing; I'm way more engaged than I thought I'd be with "mundane-ing down" America Chavez's backstory. The dialogue winds up being mighty expository to get all those ideas out, though.

8.0
America Chavez: Made in the USA #4

Nov 23, 2021

America comes to accept her revised origin story, but that doesn't mean she'll join her sister or let her continue her exploitative experiments. It's a simple, maybe melodramatic story, but it's told with consummate skill. The way the plot developments are linked into the characters is excellent, and the art is stunning stuff. And a strong stand against "the ends justify the means" philosophy is always a safe bet for a hero.

7.5
America Chavez: Made in the USA #5

Dec 31, 2021

America resolves her conflict with her sister in a way that's short-term satisfying and long-term messy. This story was told well right up to the finish, particularly in its beautiful visuals. I'm not thrilled with the number of curveballs and complications there are in America's backstory and status quo now, though. Whatever creators take her out next, they've got a lot of cleanup to do. But the character was treated well enough here to make me eager to see what comes next.

5.0
Annihilation - Scourge: Alpha #1

Jun 7, 2020

The "Blastaar & Annihilus play battlefield Odd Couple" prologue went on far too long for me.

7.0
Annihilation - Scourge: Fantastic Four #1

Jun 22, 2020

7.5
Annihilation - Scourge: Nova #1

Jun 22, 2020

Nova's little chunk of Scourge is marked by some outstanding teeth-clenched teamwork with Annihilus, some important plot developments, and the disturbing implication that Richard Rider is a full-blown alcoholic now. I like the first, am neutral to the second, and dislike the third, which seems par for the course for this event. It's a mix of soft "hoorahs" and moderate eyeball-rollers, balancing out toward unfortunate average-ness. Some solid art and the best of the Nova/Annihilus banter tipped the scale toward enjoyability for me here, though.

8.0
Annihilation - Scourge: Beta Ray Bill #1

Jul 2, 2020

As everybody else has noted, Beta Ray Bill and Lockjaw make a cracking good team. And I like the subtle way the Scourge story is evolving in the background here and in the Silver Surfer issue, with N-Zone folks starting to break into the Positive Zone in both. It does make me wonder about the fight mechanics, though: Bill fought his Revenger in the ordinary universe -- shouldn't that make him unkillable?

9.0
Annihilation - Scourge: Silver Surfer #1

Jul 2, 2020

This issue's art is jaw-dropping, and it's a real lesson in the power the visual side of the creative team can wield. If Scourge had kicked off with even half as much artistic horsepower as this issue, I probably would have been a fan from day one.

4.0
Annihilation - Scourge: Omega #1

Jul 13, 2020

"It's mostly a buncha space gibberish, now that I think about it." Between Scourge and 2099, hopefully, Marvel has learned that "no miniseries only tie-ins" is not the recipe for a successful event.

8.0
Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) #1

Dec 18, 2018

Scott Lang cages a lift home from Nadia Van Dyne, and as is his wont, he messes it up. The result is both of them stranded in the Microverse. They find an intriguing (albeit slightly generic sci-fi) mystery down there. Unfortunately, Nadia slots too neatly into orbit around Scott as he slides into the Real Protagonist role. The art also has its limitations. Individual panels are very beautiful, but conveying action - both physical motion and plot progression - is problematic. It's still a fun read and well above average, though.

8.0
Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) #2

Jan 1, 2019

Blind Nadia accidentally kaiju-s a microbe civilization while Scott is failing to fix her eyes. The story works surprisingly well splitting its attention between Nadia and the mad scientist microbe working to stop her. And extended flashbacks to Nadia's origin are made plot-relevant in a clever way. Mark Waid finds yet another excuse to make Nadia cry. It's a REALLY GOOD excuse, but I'm tired of the tears. The microbe-scientist portion of the story features wonderfully daring art. It takes a lot of visual imagination to make horrifying multi-mouth amoebas into compelling characters, but it's done successfully here.

7.0
Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) #3

Jan 14, 2019

Dalen the paramecium scientist is folded into the hero crew. Their escape from Dalen's fellow Saargs is excellent, but then the story nose-dives into some unsatisfying "Microverse physics = magic #%$* without warning" twists. They're not terrible, but they pile up so quickly that the art struggles to keep up. There's still plenty to love here: The tiny Microverse ant-equivalents that Scott befriends are adorable.

7.0
Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) #4

Feb 11, 2019

Scott and Nadia technobabble their way to what looks like but of course is not their home. They realize the too-good-to-be-trueness just in time and keep on adventuring. The visuals here hit a very high standard, but the overall effect is undercut by a pair of splash pages that are blatant conservation of artistic effort. This was really close to good, but I'm still too prickled by the ongoing treatment of Nadia as a second-class protagonist due to her age and sex. Of course she's got a REASON not to be on point - the fakeout Earth offers up the father figure she desperately wants - but that's exactly how marginalization works: How compelling the reasons are is less important than the fact that the reasons are always there. Somehow, even though he's an amorphous blob of teeth, Burr reads as male and therefore gets to contribute ahead of Nadia. And Scott leaping to paternal nicknames for Nadia ("sweetheart" and "honey") is kinda gross.

7.0
Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) #5

Mar 18, 2019

Scott and Nadia wrap up their quantum adventure. Once again, Nadia's job is to spit up technobabble and wait for Scott to recombine bits of it into a street-smart "outside the box" solution. Grr. And, of course, Nadia has to cry one last time, double grr. I also wasn't a fan of the "Subatomica weirdness" getting illustrated as "general Marvel meta-gags" instead of the blend of Scott-and-Nadia-specific memories that Nadia suggests it should be. I don't think either of them have spent nearly enough time around the X-Men to justify all the mutant jokes, for example. Plus side, the meta-gags are funny in themselves - they blip through Swimsuit Special World for a panel - and the overall visual standards are sky high. The final pages are tops for heartwarming, too.

5.0
Ant-Man & The Wasp: Living Legends #1

Dec 18, 2018

Scott Lang slides into Hank Pym's shoes to sequelize a Silver Age story about parallel-dimension rebels. It's a tale told with serviceable art and a tiny, encouraging sliver of modern characterization. For the most part, though, it dives a bit too gleefully into aping the simplistic storytelling of Stan Lee in cruise-control mode 55 years ago.

7.5
Ant-Man (2020) #1

Sep 24, 2020

Scott Lang is heavy on the loser these days, living in an ant hill and disappointing his daughter. A humble job rescuing bees leads into bigger adventures. Some solid humor and a compelling plot are the highlights. I'm lukewarm on the art; I like it a lot better when folks are helmeted.

8.0
Ant-Man (2020) #2

Oct 17, 2020

Scott survives his first brush with the bug overlord, MacroThrax, relying to an embarrassing degree on support from Swarm. It's a nice, straightforward superhero vs. supervillain setup. The cutaway scene to Cassie is kind of wedged in, but I'm confident that she has a more relevant role to play in future issues. On the art front, I'm caught in a contradictory position: I can recognize that outstanding visual storytelling is going on, but I'm just not impressed with this style of character rendering.

8.0
Ant-Man (2020) #3

Oct 21, 2020

Cassie deconstructing the Ant-Man-Black-Cat-Spider-Man dynamic was both necessary and heartwarming. It was a little expository, but the benefits heavily outweighed the drawbacks.

8.5
Ant-Man (2020) #4

Dec 19, 2020

Cassie leads the charge to pursue Macrothrax and retrieve the Pym Particles he stole, but (naturally in a penultimate issue) the heroes fail to save the day just yet. It's a brisk adventure story and it shows the destruction of Scott's anthill with surprising poignancy. Not as comedic as previous issues, but it proves that when your character work is on point, it's no problem to carry your audience from comedy to drama.

8.5
Ant-Man (2020) #5

Feb 17, 2021

The climactic battle features a nice balance between Cassie and Scott; this is definitely a family win. The plot's simple, but the character work is impeccable. When it comes to the splashy action-packed finale, Dylan Burnett's cartoony art fits the story perfectly.

9.0
Ant-Man (2022) #1

Jan 12, 2023

Take my rating and review with a big grain of bias-salt. I'm a huge Silver Age dork; Al Ewing and Tom Reilly may as well have cooked this up in their narrative meth lab for the express purpose of getting me addicted. How big an SA dork am I? Big enough to know that "Namor put the Fantastic Four in a movie" isn't a random joke; it's the actual factual plot of FF #9. Big enough to tell that Mr. Reilly isn't imitating 1960s art in general, he's specifically imitating Don Heck, who drew most of the referenced Ant-Man strips. I love the flashback story in execution as well as premise. It strikes a perfect balance. This is *exactly* how absurd and stupid and low-stakes Ant-Man's adventures (and adversaries) were in the early 60s. The art and writing could often be a good 30% shabbier than this issue's storytelling, though; this is like an idealized and remastered edition of Tales to Astonish. And the frame story is some top-notch Al Ewing timey-wimey craziness, easily weird and captivating enough to hammer home the hook and make sure I'm following this series all the way through.

8.5
Ant-Man (2022) #2

Jan 31, 2023

It's another fun, beautifully-illustrated chapter pulling another Ant-Man into the still-mysterious big-picture plot. Like #1, this one features plenty of storytelling nods to the bygone era of the original: endless wisecracking, Bendis-ian pop culture comedy, lots of tiny panels, and beat panels galore! And like #1, these talented creators deliver an homage that's also an excellent story in its own right. I'm continuing to love this series.

8.5
Ant-Man (2022) #3

Mar 22, 2023

I love this to pieces, but not so much as to overlook the fact that the rest of the issue isn't as good as the Black Ant fight scene, my favorite part. There's an awful lot of exposition to chew through before that. The art's fantastic, but I think perhaps the previous issues were even more visually impressive. I'll rate it as next door to great.

9.0
Ant-Man (2022) #4

Mar 30, 2023

Limited series so often end on a disappointing note. That makes it an extra-pleasant surprise when this one sticks the landing as hard as a Soviet gymnast. The plot wraps up in a neat, pre-planned bow, and the core conflict of the issue is plenty of fun. Most impressive to me is the way the creators manage to preserve each Ant-Man's distinctive voice and look (most obvious with Silver Age Hank). Mixing them all together like this is a very delicate job, and these creators do it perfectly.

7.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #1

Mar 18, 2019

Angela assembles a team of Thor-connected misfits and sets them on a path to their own little Ragnarok struggle. This roster has a lot of promise, which makes it disappointing to see the script prioritize a slightly "meh" plot ahead of character work. The art shows a lot of refined talent but also a lot of shortcuts. This feels like a cruise-control effort ennobled by a terrific premise - a pretty enjoyable read, but it looks like it's going to miss a lot of opportunities.

6.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #2

Apr 18, 2019

7.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #3

May 21, 2019

8.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #4

Jul 1, 2019

A brief incarceration with the Nova Corps gives the Asgardians a chance for quality characterization before the action resumes with a vengeance. This issue strikes a terrific balance between character and plot development, finally delivering the "cool characters doing cool stuff" payoff this title was made for.

7.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #5

Aug 1, 2019

6.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #6

Aug 20, 2019

4.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #7

Sep 28, 2019

9.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #8

Oct 31, 2019

The team tears into the War of the Realms and it's more glorious and gorgeous than I ever would have expected. Past issues cranked my expectations to the bottom of the barrel and had me second-guessing my rating, but #8 really is that good. Snappy dialogue, killer action, gorgeous art, sound character work, and tight stitching pulling it into the event. What drawbacks there are are incredibly minor, like Heimdall's intro being a little too long. Go in expecting a simple, full-bore fight issue and you absolutely will not be disappointed.

7.0
Asgardians of the Galaxy #9

Dec 5, 2019

The artist change-up combined with Cullen Bunn's subtle approach to characterization makes it hard to maintain consistent interest in this title. Like, is this REALLY the same story as #8? My head says yes but my heart has its doubts.

7.5
Asgardians of the Galaxy #10

Dec 27, 2019

Argh, this finale was dramatic enough to deserve more in the way of poetry and spectacle. It's hamstrung by storytelling that's merely decent.

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!

6.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #12

Dec 18, 2018

The finale of this whole long arc wants to have its cake and eat it, too. The Shadow King is defeated and Xavier is back - and the storytelling talents used to handle both developments manage to squash any enthusiasm you might have for either. A broad mindwipe for most of the X-Men involved really seals in the shaggy dog-ness of the story. The art is a fairly strong invocation of a style I don't much like, and as other reviewers have noted, its heavy use of splash panels seems to be compensating for a scarcity of plot.

5.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #13

Jan 14, 2019

Havok is in maximum "adorable screwup a la Fraction's Hawkeye" mode as he slooooowly begins building a team of outcast X-Men. That will, no doubt, unlock a bunch of Matthew Rosenberg's fun/familiar team snark in future issues. Speaking of refined but thoroughly generic work: This arc is also saddled with some of Greg Land's not-best art. What a surprise, the baddies are cyborgs armed with elaborate tracings of modern firearms! Honestly, my biggest question here is, What does Greg Land DO to writers to get so many scripts bent towards his very narrow fields of artistic expertise?

5.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #14

Feb 11, 2019

Havok assembles a ragtag misfit team while also winning a pair of simple fights. He's got a babysitter (Warpath) and two broken toys (zombie Banshee and jilted drunk Colossus). He also gets a pair of better-judgment-defying mutants who both reach the strange conclusion that "Alex Summers bringing a fight to my doorstep means I better team up with him": Beast and Dazzler. I could give this a "thoroughly average" 6.0 rating, but Greg Land is still terrible (An animatronic Mojo robot? It's too hard to trace, so we don't get to see it.) and this sort of snarky Teeth-Clenched Teamwork is Matthew Rosenberg's Signature Shtick. This is a cruise-control effort for the creators all around.

5.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #15

Mar 18, 2019

Havok's X-Team has a momentary fall-apart, we spend a little too much time with the antagonists, and Alex and Jimmy have a pretty good touchy-feely conversation. The plot is pointed in a promising direction, but this issue's pace is off and the art takes a turn for the worse. Above and beyond my entrenched distaste for this artist's character-drawing style, I would contend that this issue has significant weaknesses in its page and panel layouts.

5.5
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #16

May 2, 2019

6.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #17

Jun 13, 2019

7.0
Astonishing X-Men (2017) Annual #1

Feb 28, 2019

"X who is not Xavier" manipulates the original X-Men through a complicated meeting that turns from a feel-good reunion into a murderous covert op. The complex moral ambiguities in his actions are the big draw here, and they hoist this comic up above average. The art isn't pulling in the opposite direction, but it's not lifting things any higher, either. When I see art with a scratchy, "I was on a deadline" finish like this, I also want to see some audacity to make up for it. Sadly, this issue's barely-achieved artistic ambitions didn't aim higher than "get through 30 pages of X-Men action without confusing or nauseating readers" - and it may not have even achieved that if you dislike its very simian take on Beast.

7.0
Atlantis Attacks #1

Aug 9, 2020

Amadeus Cho and Namor have a pretty good fight. But that's five pages and the whole rest of the issue is expository recaps covering the twisty status quo of Pan and the Agents. It looks pretty good and some basic action is woven all the way through to conceal the exposition, but this is still an awfully small baby step. The Agents as a team still suffer from a dreadful case of "and the rest," too.

7.5
Atlantis Attacks #2

Oct 17, 2020

It's a pretty good comic. I'm of two minds about the strong link to the Aero series. It's cool to see that stuff paying off. But if this comic inspires you to actually go read Aero, I think that would be a net loss.

6.5
Atlantis Attacks #3

Nov 2, 2020

Brawn vs. Namor gets called off in the second round thanks to the arrival of the Sirenas. And then everybody spends the rest of the issue arguing about who's the more aggrieved party and what the heroes should be doing. It's a complicated situation and the heroes muddy the waters further by coming down on different sides: Some will protect Pan, some will attack Atlantis with the Sirenas. Maybe I went in with the wrong attitude, but "shouty hero debate-fight" wasn't what I was looking for.

6.5
Atlantis Attacks #4

Mar 9, 2021

Too many moving parts. There's just not enough space for any one character or idea to get the attention he/she/it deserves. Poor Amadeus is forked between Mike Nguyen's "unregulated techno-capitalism will save the world" idea and Jimmy Woo's "cold war of the dragons" story. Meanwhile, he's got Namor and the Sirenas demanding war and (literally) more than a dozen supporting heroes who are looking for a traditional punchy-zappy solution. Amadeus, Jimmy, and Nguyen need to go hash out their ideas in a TED Talk and let everybody else clobber each other.

7.5
Atlantis Attacks #5

Mar 17, 2021

The script comes out of the tall grass to deliver a good finale. Amadeus learns and grows, the Pan conflict ends satisfyingly, and wonder of wonders, Namor goes for non-violent conflict resolution. Nice art and added narrative focus help this series pull up a bit for the last chapter. The cast is still way too big, though: Part of why this issue works is that it doesn't even pretend to be anything other than the Amadeus Show.

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 (2018) #3

Jan 1, 2019

Cap makes a valiant try at monkeywrenching Loki's schemes. The rest of the team does little of consequence - I don't even think they'd pass a majority vote on whether they ARE Avengers right now. I suspect Jason Aaron was handed more tools than he needed to tell his Cave-Vengers/Celestial infection tale. "Let's have them stand around and bicker in maybe-entertaining ways" is exactly what you do with heroes that are superfluous to your story. Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange display encouraging glimmers of grown-up rationality by saying "Whoah, She-Hulk is messed up" and "Ghost Rider is OBVIOUSLY important here, maybe let's not walk away from him," respectively. Tony Stark, on the other hand, is way stupider and jerk-ier than he needs to be, and it's not a problem that a throwaway bit of self-aware dialogue can solve. Strong but overblown art, a glacial pace, and a team that gets WEAKER when it Assembles don't seem to be good ingredients for a memorable Avengers series.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #4

Jan 14, 2019

Small Avengers teams make small gains in the struggle to understand the Dark Celestial threat. Odin and Loki tell contradictory myths about the DCs' origins, which is good characterization but confusing storytelling. Once again, I like a lot of the individual scenes, but the core story around which they orbit doesn't engage me the way I want it to. The visuals stick mostly to the title's high standards, but there are a few troubling weak spots and not a lot of stand-out points to offset them.

8.0
Avengers (2018) #5

Jan 31, 2019

The Avengers FINALLY tie all the threads together and get suitably strapped for a fight with a bunch of rabid Celestials. After far too long scrabbling with fiddly details, this issue takes the story right over the top and promises high-quality insanity for the next installment. There's still a host of flaws and cheese that keeps me from calling this "great," but this series has, at last, made it to "good."

5.0
Avengers (2018) #6

Mar 7, 2019

The Avengers spend half the issue kaiju-fighting. Then they sweep all the extant plot coupons into a blender to create a "hippie-ish and kumbaya" "power of friendship" victory. Individual panels of the art are very nice, but many aren't, and the layouts are often nonsensical. The writer recognizes the fundamental disappointment of the story as written and desperately tries to polish the turd with hundreds of words of counter-productive "no, really, this is epic, we swear" language. After reading this, I'm not sure whether the arc is over or not, but I don't really care. That CANNOT be the feeling the creators were aiming for. This issue assassinates the characters of many, possibly most, of its cast members. I'm wearing my Carol Corps hat when I point out Captain Marvel is involved in two bits of criminally bad characterization. Tony, her AA sponsor and dyed-in-the-wool platonic friend, makes a cheap pass at her. And just before that, she threatened in a "funny" way to punch him back into a coma. Shameful.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #7

Mar 18, 2019

It's the ancient origin of Cave Ghost Rider. The story's told with good art and some impressive world-building. It's talented, but unsatisfying. The big hole for me is motivational: This story gives Cave Ghost Rider something to fight against but nothing to fight FOR. We run out of pages before Odin and Lady Phoenix could maybe provide that missing motivation. The revelation that Lady Phoenix happens to be a skilled telepath also sits a little uncomfortably in my brain. That ol' Phoenix Force sure do have a type. I really loved the ice-snake, though.

8.0
Avengers (2018) #8

Apr 6, 2019

It's time for that grand old classic of Avengers storytelling, the status quo update episode. Swank new digs and the current roster are shown off with undeniable talent, visually and narratively. An awful lot of the plot points, though, are old enough to qualify for retirement benefits. This goes particularly for the villains. Loki's smug pride in Assembling the Avengers irritates in all the wrong ways. And Namor going to war with the surface world? What DECADE is it?

8.0
Avengers (2018) #9

Apr 25, 2019

9.0
Avengers (2018) #10

May 30, 2019

It's a bonus-sized milestone issue done right as the Avengers tussle with the Defenders of the Deep and the Winter Guard. Oodles of foreshadowing, too - a whole other US super-team waiting to take the Avengers down, some strong War of the Realms foreshadowing, and vampire trouble on the horizon. The cracks are filled in with some fun characterization that rings (somewhat) more true than previous issues. While I was initially worried about the large art roster, the work is divided up wisely and the different styles work with the script to give widely-separated story threads distinctive tones. This issue does such a great job introducing new plot points that I wonder why I had such a hard time connecting with the first arc.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #11

Jul 1, 2019

8.0
Avengers (2018) #12

Jul 26, 2019

The creators gleefully devote an issue to detailing out the Avengers' new support team and base. This sort of thing is a blast when it's done well and in moderation; hopefully, the arrival of Blade and Morbius will kick us into full-tilt vampire action in #13. The splashy visuals are perfect for this kind of story: essentially just a cavalcade of ideas (compelling ones!) dressed to the nines in swank illustrations.

9.0
Avengers (2018) #13

Aug 6, 2019

Meet Fan Fei, first Iron Fist and exile of K'un-Lun. She wanders the savage Earth, opposes the scheming of Mephisto (and his Gorgilla lackeys), and eventually chooses the CaveVengers over the Thunderer's offer to end her exile. It's a fine standalone Iron Fist story (complete with ridicu-awesome kung fu move names), an excellent follow-up to #7's prehistoric world-building, and a surprisingly great artistic performance by Andrea Sorrentino. He adds nuanced character rendering to his usual layout excellence, and warm, soft color work brings out the details while also emphasizing the difference between this world and the higher-intensity one of the contemporary Avengers.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #14

Aug 20, 2019

7.5
Avengers (2018) #15

Sep 9, 2019

I am madly in love with the idea that Thor can't be arsed to learn his way around Avengers Mountain. In contrast, you just KNOW Cap studied the layout for hours. I bet he made flashcards.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #16

Sep 19, 2019

This volume's ratio of "Avengers get flat-footed by mysterious antagonists" to "Avengers get it together and kick some ass" is way off-balance.

6.5
Avengers (2018) #17

Sep 30, 2019

9.0
Avengers (2018) #18

Nov 12, 2019

The story of America's Squadron Supreme routing frost giants in Washington DC is a ready-made triumph. The Justice League parallels are cranked to 11 for meta-humor, and the script goes shockingly dark to explore how Phil Coulson tampers with these heroes and to show the master he serves now. Ed McGuinness's art is perfect for this bombastic, big-shouldered edition of the Squadron.

8.5
Avengers (2018) #19

Dec 5, 2019

Gorilla-Man's day in the spotlight covers a lot of ground: Espionage and betrayal in addition to helping save Avengers Mountain from Malekith. The art is gorgeous through and through and Ken's voice is charming. But I'm worried about the long-term ramifications. I think this issue filled up my quota for Gorilla-Man antics; I'd rather not see future pages spent on a damnation/redemption arc for him.

8.0
Avengers (2018) #20

Jan 25, 2020

There's inevitably some thorny subtext when a male storyteller uses a female character to tackle #metoo matters. And I see how a committed anti-fan could dismiss this issue as virtue signalling. Me? I see enough of a split between how Jason Aaron and Jen Walters approach the matter to make it realistic. Jen *says* villains don't sexually harass her anymore, but Ulik *does*. She comes across as fallible, with that allegorical courtroom conflict extending far past the first scene. She's growing and evolving, and that's pretty rare and remarkable for any character in a big, shared universe like Marvel's.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #21

Jan 25, 2020

Ouch, that art.

8.0
Avengers (2018) #22

Feb 27, 2020

Blade doesn't know where Johnny Blaze is? I guess he forgot watching him sacrifice himself in Damnation -- and that he (Blade) was one of the Midnight Sons who came out of that event explicitly tasked with rescuing Johnny from Hell.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #23

Mar 26, 2020

Constantly ☠☠☠☠☠☠☠ up the spelling of "Hellstrom" is the epitome of an avoidable error. Nice editing, editors.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #24

Apr 20, 2020

Setting aside the question of whether you think Cosmic Ghost Rider is the bee's knees or a try-hard Deadpool-squared type, structurally, his whole tussle with the Avengers is just a misunderstanding brawl. It even doubles down by refusing its first shot at a resolution -- they can't team up until a whole issue's worth of pages are filled.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #25

Jun 1, 2020

8.0
Avengers (2018) #26

Jun 7, 2020

The Cave-Venger Starbrand's origin story is beautiful and sad and queer. The prose and the art invest the "gay Eden" premise with enough gravitas to make it rewarding, but it doesn't quite overcome its gimmick-itude to get to all-time greatness. It's a fun diversion, though, and it proves there's some mileage left in the Cave-Venger sub-plot.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #27

Jun 12, 2020

The Avengers blast into space and into this volume's wheelhouse, a tone I would describe in my saltier moments as "gleeful stupidity."

7.0
Avengers (2018) #28

Jul 13, 2020

It's goofy fun, edging into "good comic" territory -- just -- thanks to the sense of bigger picture plotting that the Surfer picked up on.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #29

Aug 3, 2020

The Avengers shout their way through non-stop Herald fights before heading to the Starbrand. It's got Grand Plot ideas and Cool Fight ideas and they're visualized with distinction (though character rendering, as usual, comes out way ahead of creating a sense of motion). As others have noted, the dialogue is pretty bland. I think that, more than anything else, is responsible for the slightly-guilty "This is stupid. Fun but stupid" reaction we're all experiencing.

6.5
Avengers (2018) #30

Sep 24, 2020

When Jason Aaron gets political … well, it ain't exactly Al Ewing's Immortal Hulk. Poor pregnant Starbrand!

6.0
Avengers (2018) #31

Oct 17, 2020

Jason Aaron's Avengers are so divorced from other Marvel titles that they're practically in an alternate universe. And this is another comic that absolutely did not need to take a spin on the artist carousel.

8.0
Avengers (2018) #32

Oct 21, 2020

If the big-picture plot is this grand and exciting, why do the actual adventure arcs turn out so blah?

8.0
Avengers (2018) #33

Nov 9, 2020

I'll admit I enjoyed this. But I feel proper ashamed about it on account of the Thor fight, which was high-grade BS.

6.5
Avengers (2018) #34

Dec 17, 2020

This arc feels like the Platonic archetype of the "apocalypse everybody forgets about after a week" story.

6.5
Avengers (2018) #35

Feb 17, 2021

Khonshu is a terrified, jealous godling, fighting an unending war against multi-Mephisto. Meanwhile, the Avengers score some minor wins and Moon Knight's feeling of being on the wrong side grows. It has good art and some interesting plot ideas, but as ever, "cliched at best" characterization is the Achilles heel that spoils the reading experience.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #36

Mar 1, 2021

Holy non-chronological scene structure, Batman! WAY too complicated for a title that's presented itself as a dumb popcorn comic so far. Also, I've had an epiphany: Jason Aaron has NEVER treated Mjolnir right. Not in this volume, not in his (otherwise formidable) Thor work. The man just don't respect the hammer.

5.5
Avengers (2018) #37

Mar 3, 2021

As a random grab-bag of nifty splash panel ideas, this script is pretty good. As something to read and enjoy, though, it's kinda trash.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #38

Mar 9, 2021

The Avengers stare at future threats, flinty-eyed but passive. Meanwhile, Mephisto is out getting ☠☠☠☠ done. I prefer this volume's "mythos-building" issues to the story arcs between them, but in this one it's painfully clear that the antagonists do a lot more than the heroes. Nice art and dialogue, at least!

6.0
Avengers (2018) #39

Mar 23, 2021

It's the story of Cave-Venger Phoenix. Her origin is cool; her running into one-to-one caveman equivalents of Xavier and the X-Men, not so much. Decent words, good art, and a story that feels more like a contractual obligation than a tale the author wanted to tell. Blah.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #40

Apr 12, 2021

Today in the Aaronvengers AU: It's Contest of Champions, Firechicken Edition! Check your brain at the door, put up your feet, accept your complimentary bag o' popcorn, and root for your favorites! It's a shame to waste Javier Garrón (who is NOT just phoning it in here, this looks gorgeous) on this carnival sideshow. Also, attention Marvel: I am full up on Steve Rogers saying "I can do this all day" in comics, thanks. I could go 12 months, at least, without reading that again. It's not cute, it's not clever, it's not subtle. It's not ripe for deconstruction or irony or repurposing. Just (literally!) give it a rest for a little while.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #41

Apr 30, 2021

Okay, nevermind that "ooh, is Echo going to survive?" nonsense. You tell me RIGHT NOW that Howard the Duck is OK, or ...

6.5
Avengers (2018) #42

May 15, 2021

The Phoenix tournament rolls on, with a few too many characters delivering cute but shallow monologues about their firechicken feelings. Artist Luca Maresca deserves plenty of credit for delivering polished art that is stylistically similar to Javier Garrón's work in the previous issue. Also, Mr. Maresca does a stellar job carrying the story through the fight scenes while the script is staring into its navel. I'm not at all pleased with the opacity of the tournament mechanics. Some eliminated contenders show up A-OK in Avengers Mountain. Does that mean all of the losers are safe? (Yes I am still gravely concerned about Howard the Duck.) My rating was headed up toward green territory -- then the final page pulled that Empire Strikes Back BS. Noooooope, I don't like that.

5.5
Avengers (2018) #43

Jun 17, 2021

There's a place for "Black Panther has a Vibranium grill" and it's in Black Panther Vs. Deadpool, not Avengers.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #44

Aug 7, 2021

New Phoenix's identity is obvious within a page of her narration kicking in. From there to the end, all I was asking was, "Are you gonna do something the Avengers and/or the readers will find meaningful, or are you just gonna spit this updated character into the Bullpen for some other writer to maybe someday develop?" And each page increased my certainty that the answer was the latter. This series is tying up so many good characters, so much good art, so many … passable? … words. And it's accomplishing *so little* with them! *Insert GIF of MCU Thanos saying, "All that for a drop of blood."*

7.0
Avengers (2018) #45

Aug 28, 2021

After King in Black, the Avengers have a busy "day off" during which the Vampire Nation and Echo Phoenix plots get nudged forward. I found two genuinely great developments here: Plotwise, I liked T'Challa and Blade's solution to their Dracula problem; on the character front, I loved Robbie stepping up when Maya needs a friend. And the art was pretty good. But as usual for this title, there was also a cavalcade of weaknesses to tip the scale away from greatness. Very few of the jokes worked for me, there was *way* too much Robbie narration, and the promising "time works differently in Avengers Mountain" idea came in dead on arrival.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #46

Nov 23, 2021

Framed by flash-forwards that reveal the Red Widow's sinister plans, this issue shows how the Winter Guard snatched She-Hulk out of Avengers Mountain. It's a nice clean heist story. The pace is brisk, the art is outstanding. It succeeds through its simplicity. And yet, not for the first time in the volume, the key to making a good comic turns out to be keeping the Avengers out of the driver's seat.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #47

Dec 30, 2021

The Avengers' attempt to rescue She-Hulk from the Winter Guard goes a little sideways. Jen is free, now in "Winter Hulk" mode -- but was she fully or partially brainwashed? It's a pretty talented execution of a pretty "blah" premise. (Although the script is also pretty "blah" on characterization.) The art is stronger than the writing; this is a very pretty issue. But that Winter Hulk design, yikes. She looks like gender-swapped, palette-reversed Santa Claus.

6.5
Avengers (2018) #48

Jan 6, 2022

The Winter Hulk drags Gorilla Man along with her as she goes about her brainwashed assassin business, and he tries desperately, unsuccessfully, to break through to Jen Walters. There's some fancy (if indulgent) prose used to showcase Gorilla Man's depression, and the art still conforms to a high standard (though I suspect Javier Garrón is running low on enthusiasm). The story barely has a nodding acquaintance with the Avengers at this point. This issue is one depressed ape away from being a trainwreck, and no matter how nicely it's done, a nuanced character study of Gorilla Man is not what I was looking for.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #49

Mar 3, 2022

All the schemes within schemes are finally revealed and She-Hulk can (begin to) save the day. The art's pretty good and I actually respect the plot developments. I'm underwhelmed with their delivery, though; the endless expository narration feels like a crutch. Or like I'm having the story explained to me by a third party rather than reading it myself.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #50

Apr 14, 2022

Well, this is a dang hot mess. But a fun one, like a no-kids barbecue with a little too much beer. Even though I should know better, given this title's track record with big-picture plotting, I enjoyed this. I accepted early on that this was gonna be a slide show rather than a cohesive story, and so I just appreciated each of the plot hooks cast out willy-nilly. On the art front, everything is well done, with many formidable panels. But the sheer breadth of the artist roster robs this of the visual integrity it would need to be a truly great art performance. (Nitpick: The voice that Jason Aaron uses for Ka-Zar absolutely drives me up the wall.)

6.0
Avengers (2018) #51

May 7, 2022

Unlike the previous issue, this one is the bad kind of messy. Overblown character melodrama, tons of scenery-chewing by the villains, badly-organized (but nicely-drawn) combat, and nary a meaningful or interesting development to be found. And then there's the Deathloks' dialogue, *good lord*. I counted at least ten eyeball-rolling phrases, from "megaverse" on down to "legion of super Satans." A perfect litany of stupid.

7.0
Avengers (2018) #52

Jun 3, 2022

This issue's action set-piece is just as well-drawn and a bit tighter-plotted than the last one. The character work is a wash for me. I love this treatment of Cap and his attempt to teach the Starbrand. But on the flip side, I don't think she learns enough and I pretty much hate her; she's unbearably (literally) xenophobic almost all the time. What tips the scales is that the Deathloks' prophesying sounds a lot less stupid this time around, so I'm rating #52 higher than #51.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #53

Jul 1, 2022

The plot developments just get dumber and dumber, but dang if they don't explode across the panels in cinematic popcorn-chompin' glory. Li'l Thanos sounds incredibly creepy, too. Once again this title manages to meet my incredibly low expectations. (And once again, the Deathlok is my least favorite part of the story.)

6.5
Avengers (2018) #54

Aug 4, 2022

This arc trails off to a rather inconclusive end. The game's not over; it's just halftime and the bad guys are ahead on points. Storytelling is relentlessly adequate all around. The script is nicely structured, but few lines stand out as really memorable. The art is highly polished, but its style also looks dated (not in a "classic retro" way, either). I'm still interested in the big-picture plot, sort of, but the way this issue pulls back at the end reminds me of how many moving parts there are and how truly dumb some of them are. I'll throw in the caveat that I think this arc would read much better in one TPB sitting than it did spread across 4 months.

6.5
Avengers (2018) #55

Oct 29, 2022

This issue features solid writing and very good art, but those storytelling skills don't get a lot of content to work with. The Serpent Society is utterly forgettable here, and I really dislike how Mephisto pops into the 2nd act solely to remind readers that he exists (that DPS of his variants is gorgeous, though!). What this boils down to is a "roster shuffle" issue. This is a grand old Avengers tradition; that doesn't bump my opinion of it any higher than "average at best."

8.5
Avengers (2018) #56

Dec 22, 2022

I was never one of those Grognards with an existential objection to Jane Fos-Thor. I loved her from the beginning to the end and at every point along the way (with a few exceptions, like that time she got sidetracked playing with Shi'ar gods, yeesh). So this lovely little check-in with the Goddess of Thunder is a delight. I think it's a lot more than just pandering for the character's stans, too; the premise is great. This experience really throws a monkey wrench into the psyche of Valkyrie-Jane. The prose could be a little more polished but I think the art is perfect. The cartoony touches suit a too-good-to-be-true fantasy; after the fantasy's over, Mr. Garrón does an incredible job bringing Jane's inner turmoil up into her face. The long game of Mr. Aaron's Avengers remains a disorganized, joyless mess. But sometimes, when he drills down to fiddle with individual game-pieces (i.e. characters), he strikes sparks of joy that can elevate individual issues tremendously.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #57

Jan 2, 2023

As of the last issue of Avengers Forever, I was enjoying these weird little character vignettes. But this is the straw that broke my camel's back. Forward plot motion, forward plot motion, my kingdom for some forward plot motion! What's ironic is that I'd love this issue in a different context. The art is good, the war gear is well-researched, and the two-fisted Nazi-demon-fightin' action is fun. (I groused a bit about soldiers shipwrecked in the Irish Sea washing up on a tropical island, though.) I'm just done with this speculative crap in the Avengers is all. If Jason Aaron wants to keep writing up every random AU brainstorm he has, fine. Give him an "Avengers What If?" title and let him write it 'til his heart explodes. But give the Avengers-Avengers to somebody who can hit more than 2 plot points a year.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #58

Jan 9, 2023

7.5
Avengers (2018) #59

Jan 17, 2023

Looks like I bucked the trend by breaking and rallying earlier than most readers. The last 2 issues beat me down, but by the time I picked this one up, my tolerance for "fun stupid" one-off adventures had grown back. I wound up enjoying it quite a bit. And objectively, maybe these Ole West Avengers bring a little more potential to the table than the Ghost Ronin did. I think the author and the artist put a little more sweat into telling their story, anyway.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #60

Feb 26, 2023

a) Shouldn't this be a Thunderbolts issue? Or, even better, an AXE: Hawkeye one-shot? b) Do you think Mark Russel digested even as much as 50 words describing the premise of the event? That snark aside, what we've got here is a cute, fluffy little morality play. It's got some good jokes and some sound (not deep) thinking about right and wrong. It exists in *such* a bubble, though (and it *is* still drawn by Greg Land), that it really doesn't have a prayer of being taken as seriously as it hopes to be.

6.0
Avengers (2018) #61

Apr 12, 2023

To quote Peter Stack, "My tears stuck in their little ducts, refusing to be jerked."

6.5
Avengers (2018) #62

May 7, 2023

It's a cromulent build-up for the climactic finale, but the sheer length and twistiness of the road that's brought us here has me exhausted even before we start. And though there's a basic logic to all the Cave-Venger philosophy and character work here, there's not a lot of depth. Plus I'm quite infuriated by the "Agamotto's backstory? Who knows LOL" routine.

7.5
Avengers (2018) #63

Aug 10, 2023

The Great Big Fight is a messy, montage-y affair, and the way plot and character details are scattered about like seeds in the wind could be disastrous. But this issue has 2 hooks hoisting the reading experience high (by this title's standards). First, the art is a real tour-de-force of dynamic action and intricate detail. And second, there's the solid narration provided by the Cave Rider as he takes the point of view. The Rider's characterization isn't particularly novel or deep, but it does seem sincere. (I dunno. I've given this title my fair share of red-dot ratings, but issue by issue, I seem to be out of phase with the consensus view.)

6.5
Avengers (2018) #64

Oct 14, 2023

The script has some decent lines and plot beats. The art remains formidable (although some panels get a bit cramped and busy). The storytelling is pretty messy, though, in terms of both script structure and visual narrative. There are so many moving parts here. And what's come before has failed to make me care enough to overlook the vague parts, dropped balls, and too-distant callbacks.

5.5
Avengers (2018) #65

Jan 18, 2024

Avenger Prime's story gets told with decent talent, particularly in the art. But neither the premise nor the execution are good enough to outweigh the bigger problems, like this flashback throwing the whole story into a holding pattern or the fact that every significant development in the "Avengers Assemble" arc has been painfully predictable.

8.0
Avengers (2018) Annual #1

Jan 4, 2022

Captain America and Iron Man catch the creation of a brand new Infinity Person when the Soul Stone lands in an endearing young robot. And the B-strip finally brings Fury and Star to where they needed to be a month ago for Black Cat #8 (way to schedule, Marvel!). I like Multitude, the new Stone-holder, and I like this introduction to him. The script is wordy, but a lot of the words are great. The art is clean and sharp and very well-defined. This issue couldn't possibly redeem some of the previous stinkers in Infinite Destinies -- but it's fun and smart enough to justify itself.

6.0
Avengers (2018): Halloween Special #1  
4.0
Avengers Assemble (2022): Alpha #1

Jul 9, 2023

It's either a decent story poorly told, or a poor story decently told. Either way you slice it, it's a weak start to the climax of a years-long saga.

4.5
Avengers Beyond (2023) #1  
7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #1

May 7, 2022

What if variant Avengers got stuck in a Dethklok video? Impeccably drawn, with prose carved straight from a giant block of cheese. Hope is *literally* a curse word? Oy. Guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #2

Jun 15, 2022

This comic aims for grimdark in the same over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek way as anything in the WH40K mythos. The torture porn does have a point, be it heavy-handed and simplistic: This pain is forging Robbie into something new. The art's impressive, particularly as a collaboration. If the title page didn't tell me, I'd probably never guess this was a team effort. It's another guilty pleasure, like the last issue, but with a refreshingly different flavor of stupid. I guess I'll just have to see how long the variety holds up.

7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #3

Jul 13, 2022

It comes across as it should, as a noisy, splashy action extravaganza. Rock-solid art (both in character designs and in execution of the action scenes) helps sell it; there's even some good dialogue. But it remains (for me at least) a fundamentally stupid story. I single out this Tony Stark variant as particularly annoying -- too many alcoholism jokes and too much goofiness cribbed from MCU Scott Lang.

7.0
Avengers Forever (2021) #4

Aug 19, 2022

The art has a high degree of polish, but it's applied to weak bones. There's some embarrassing anatomy lurking in multiple panels. The words feel like "cruise control epic," a somewhat pro-forma performance. The saving grace is that this issue does plot development in spades, genuinely shaking up the status quo and giving Jason Aaron's often-digressive Avengers saga the backside boot it needs.

7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #5

Nov 22, 2022

Well, this is a hell of a wind-up; it's a pity the resulting pitch is a somewhat-disappointing slow lob. Doom Supreme is revealed to have an awesome modus operandi -- but for motivation, all he gets is a vaguely-foreshadowed retread of the usual "only I can save the world, and I can't be bothered to tell you why" stuff Doom's been doing for decades. Even if it finishes with a bit of a letdown, it's still a fun interlude -- well-drawn and featuring plenty of meaty scenery-chewing monologuing -- in the sprawling, ridiculously uneven landscape of Aaron's Avengers.

7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #6

Dec 28, 2022

Jason Aaron seems to be fixated on character vignettes and origin stories right now. This example -- a variant T'Challa cribbing story ideas from a host of different superheroes -- is shallow but fun. The premise will support an origin issue and maybe a few spotlight scenes further on, but not more than that. The art features solid (if not groundbreaking) bones and a semi-cartoony finish that I really like. The language is melodramatic and corny, but it doesn't get tiresome. Mashing up Black Panther, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Adam Warlock, and Superman (!) shouldn't work at all, but here, it does, albeit in a fluffy "don't think about this too hard" way.

6.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #7

Jan 6, 2023

It's a simple, solid execution of a *very* simple pitch. The art is strong and the script is tight and speedy. There are some good jokes. It's aggressively not deep, but it's fun in a popcorn-y kind of way. I nearly rated it into the basement of "good comics" territory. Then The Question hit me: Is there anything LESS "Captain America" than kidnapping someone and forcing them to be a soldier without their knowledge or consent? The twist ending practically slaps me in the face with that question. There's ways to address it that would satisfy me; I might even be thrilled with an inventive, thoughtful examination -- and it need not be a long one. But I know it's never gonna get a moment's thought from this author. And that's how a comic slips under the "fun stupid" bar and turns "insulting stupid" for me.

7.0
Avengers Forever (2021) #8

Jan 27, 2023

It looks beautiful in a gritty but highly-refined way. The script is simple, but not bad-simple. I give the author credit for pushing a couple ideas beyond the basic "Thor, but like Iron Fist" elevator pitch. Not a *ton* of credit, because he didn't go *that* far beyond, but this is more than minimum effort.

7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #9

Feb 26, 2023

It's #7 all over again, but with Captain Marvel instead of Captain America. I rate this one higher despite it being a retread because the formula's been tweaked to fit Carol. (And the art is great.) And most importantly, this time around, the good-guy variants aren't ACTIVELY IMPRISONING THE PROTAGONIST. (Looks like I'm never not gonna be raw about that.)

7.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #10

Apr 26, 2023

On the script front, a little long-awaited clarity about the big picture plot combines with a solid (sappy, but solid) character development story for Ant-Tony to deliver a healthy serving of content here. On the art front, while it's clear that Jim Towe is the backup artist called in when Aaron Kuder needs a break, the visuals are at least clear and functional. I'm getting a little interested now that the Masters of Evil story is finally heading toward meaningful conflict. MAN, what a slog to get here, though! Has Jason Aaron always had these infuriating pacing issues? Did I not notice them in his Thor run because I read that in big chunks instead of monthly issues?

5.5
Avengers Forever (2021) #11

May 25, 2023

Another comic runs afoul of the Eight Deadly Words.

6.0
Avengers Forever (2021) #12

Aug 30, 2023

The character work and humor are decent for a big climactic fight comic, but no more than decent. When it comes to plot, the artists might as well be working from 2 sentences. The fact that they spin some gold out of that straw is the only thing keeping this issue in "average" territory for me.

5.0
Avengers Forever (2021) #13

Dec 26, 2023

Good twist > bad twist > no twist > untwist. And this issue delivers not one but two terrible untwists.

7.0
Avengers of the Wastelands #1

Sep 24, 2020

Dwight the new Ant-Man brings Dr. Doom troubles to the doorstep of Bruce Banner Jr. and Dani Cage. I think it's a perfectly cromulent story and a rational continuation of the OML/DML setting. But there's just not enough intrinsic excitement in the storytelling to compel a reader's interest; this is a real "take it or leave it" comic whose subjective quality depends mainly on how much enthusiasm you bring in with you. I liked a lot of the character art!

6.5
Avengers of the Wastelands #2

Oct 17, 2020

Fake Cap's origin story (he's a rebellious Doom lackey) is the highlight of this first installment of the heroes' weird west road trip. The plot's logical and the pace is good, but nothing here really hooked me.

6.5
Avengers of the Wastelands #3

Oct 21, 2020

It's a competently-told story that nobody particularly wants or needs to read. It's a pity; there are some strong points. I particularly like Jonas Scharf's art style; it's a good match for a post-apocalyptic setting.

5.0
Avengers of the Wastelands #4

Dec 19, 2020

For me, this comic falls victim to the eight deadly words: "I don't care what happens to these people." The storytelling's decent but I just cannot work up an interest in what happens next.

5.0
Avengers of the Wastelands #5

Feb 20, 2021

I suppose it's possible to take a cliche premise like "villain with a chronic illness wants to die in glorious battle rather than bed" and turn it into a good story. This series did not do it.

6.5
Avengers: 1,000,000 B.C. #1

Jan 24, 2023

It's drawn very nicely and written pretty well (although the pace drags a bit). It fits with eminent logic into all the foreshadowing the author's done about this secret origin. And it just doesn't light the slightest spark of excitement in me.

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.

4.0
Avengers: Edge of Infinity #1  
6.0
Avengers: Loki Unleashed! (2019) #1  
6.0
Avengers: Mech Strike (2021) #1

May 15, 2021

A "greatest hits" Avengers team just barely manages to clobber a biomechanical kaiju. Tony preps them for the next round with big Vibranium robot-suits. I respect the creative work that went into this, particularly the scrupulous art. But it's *such* a loser of a premise. "Mecha fighting kaiju" feels fundamentally un-Marvel. The mech designs are mighty clunky, and the kaiju antagonists aren't that exciting, either. The fact that each Avenger gets an action figure accessory to go along with their robot feels very toyetic, very 80s. And those are not, unfortunately, good feelings.

5.5
Avengers: Mech Strike (2021) #2

Jun 17, 2021

It's not bad per se, it's just dishwater dull.

5.0
Avengers: Mech Strike (2021) #3

Aug 7, 2021

As Kang plunges Earth into cross-time chaos, the Avengers battle and regroup and find themselves in the dubious care of a dubious ally. I feel bad for Carlos Magno. This is obviously a passion project for him. He pours scads of effort into his mecha-battle scenes. Jed MacKay adjusts the script accordingly, moving slow and leaving plenty of space for visual spectacle. But the finished results just. Aren't. Interesting. At all.

6.0
Avengers: Mech Strike (2021) #4

Nov 22, 2021

The Avengers' Hail Mary against Kang doesn't go well, costing them their unseemly ally Thanos. Look, Carlos Magno just wants to draw giant robots fighting monsters. And Jed MacKay just wants to write Avengers sassing each other. They do these things well enough to make up for the book's deficiencies -- barely -- and hold overall quality at average.

4.0
Avengers: Mech Strike (2021) #5

Dec 23, 2021

Black Panther uses cosmic Eternity power to pull off the most cliched of all time travel victories while his teammates have a filler-fight with their deadly-dull monster doppelgangers. I expected very little from this finale but *wow* was this still a huge disappointment. I wonder if there was a little creator friction at work here. Dialogue at the start and finish suggests the Avengers need to destroy Kang's tech while he's distracted. But in the middle, all they actually get to do is beat on those bland, ugly monster-vengers. Almost like *somebody* insisted on drawing that stupid fight. And this comic does a perfect job of rendering Black Panther's final assertion -- that the day was saved by Avengers bravery, not cosmic power -- entirely false. Ugh.

9.0
Avengers: No Road Home #1

Sep 2, 2019

Voyager returns to assemble a new Avengers team when a sinister force snuffs out every sun in the universe. Hercules is the central hero, but there's admirable attention paid to all his new teammates. The Big Problem comes together in a compelling way, the antagonist is full of promise, and the art is gorgeous stuff. This is very much a sequel to No Surrender - but at the start, it steers well clear of mistakes that held that story back.

7.0
Avengers: No Road Home #2

Sep 9, 2019

8.0
Avengers: No Road Home #3

Sep 9, 2019

Two teams of Avengers find two of Nyx's MacGuffin crystals (and Rocket straight-up calls one a MacGuffin, which is indicative of the overall tone). It's pretty clear this script was split between two different writers, but each part plays well to a different strength: Canny character work on Rocket's team, twisty plotting on Herc's team.

8.5
Avengers: No Road Home #4

Sep 19, 2019

Nyx easily lifts her first MacGuffin from the Avengers, but her son encounters trouble in Nightmare's Realm. And those contemporary developments are the b-story, woven with considerable scripting artistry into Nyx's own telling of her origin. It reaches for the mythic and gets a danged good grasp on it. An artist changeup helps the effort, bringing a fresh take to the characters that balances nicely between novelty and consistency.

8.5
Avengers: No Road Home #5

Sep 28, 2019

The Avengers manage to throw some middle-act roadblocks down in front of Nyx, but circumstances still look mighty desperate. The script is less mythic than the last issue, but it makes up for it with some excellent twists. The art is still splendid on the characters, but it misses some potential in the action. The Spectrum-Witch combo magic deal, specifically, risks seeming overblown because the situation making it necessary -- Nyx holding the Avengers in a darkness bubble -- is too easy to miss.

9.5
Avengers: No Road Home #6

Sep 30, 2019

Wanda has an all-out Conan adventure as the Cimmerian joins her quest for Nyx's shard. It is certainly different but also certainly great; Conan couldn't ask for a better reintroduction to the Marvel universe. Tons of fun in itself and strongly linked to series' larger story, this might be No Road Home's high-water mark. This issue delivers big on characterization as well as action; it sketches a fine portrait of Conan and carves out a fascinating place in his world for Wanda. Exceptional art, too.

8.0
Avengers: No Road Home #7

Oct 9, 2019

Monica's canny leadership reunites the team, but they fail to stop Nyx from claiming one of her MacGuffin crystals. The POV characterization on Monica is incredibly great. A real treat for fans of the character, and a generally good read for anybody who's invested in the series.

6.5
Avengers: No Road Home #8

Oct 15, 2019

Hercules triumphs over despair - which is really kind of his Whole Deal - and Hulk pays for his hubris as the whole shebang climbs toward a climax.

6.5
Avengers: No Road Home #9

Oct 31, 2019

9.0
Avengers: No Road Home #10

Oct 31, 2019

Vision defeats Nyx by comprehending the full potential of the Mystery House, revealed here as the House of Ideas. 80 years of Marvel team up to clobber her. A deus ex machina? A feel-good "power of friendship" victory? Sure. But it is crafted with SUPERB skill, and there's no reason to shy away from it unless you're in one of those adolescent moods where optimism makes you break out in hives. The epilogue with all the status quo updates is more hit-and-miss, but some of the hooks for future stories are mighty sharp.

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.

7.0
Avengers: Tech-On #1

Dec 31, 2021

Red Skull uses Infinity MacGuffins to de-power all the world's superheroes. The solution is (eventually) sentai-style Stark power armor for everybody. The cynical reaction is to say that the artist is 200-300% more invested in this than the author. But a more charitable take is that this simplistic script makes a perfectly adequate vehicle for delivering some gorgeous visuals. Personal anecdote digression: Whenever a comics writer unironically puts "I think not!" in their dialogue, I remember an ancient Dave Barry column about his son playing Masters of the Universe. Every fight ended with the boy declaring, "I think not!" in his deepest 6-year-old He-Man voice and then using the He-Man figure to knock the Skeletor figure across the room.

6.0
Avengers: Tech-On #2

Jan 11, 2022

Red Skull keeps the Avengers hopping by dropping a giant Venom on Yokohama. Tony has to reveal the new armor's powerful but risky turbo mode ("Do Hatsu") to defeat it. This is a perfectly adequate execution of a very silly premise. I have no problem with silly premises, but every time I started to really enjoy myself here, there was some storytelling fumble -- a lazily-written line, a badly-blocked panel -- to smack my wrist and say, "no no, just adequate." (Blocking issues aside, the character/armor/mech art remains fantastic.)

5.5
Avengers: Tech-On #3

Feb 16, 2022

Mecha-Loki menaces the Avengers, Tony Stark pulls out an unlikely counter, the day is saved, Red Skull lines up the next threat. This is developing into a real "lather rinse repeat" comic, and the novelty of exquisitely-designed mecha is starting to wear thin.

6.0
Avengers: Tech-On #4

Mar 21, 2022

It's another WYSIWYG episode of this series, where lazy plotting is balanced out by intricate art to produce a perfectly average result.

5.5
Avengers: Tech-On #5

May 7, 2022

As the plot bends toward a climax, the real limitation of this series' "good enough" storytelling becomes clear. There's no tension and no investment in what happens -- at least, these comics haven't gotten *me* invested. Even the artwork is slightly disappointing this time around. There's still lots of talent and hard work on display, but the action scenes aren't as clear and powerful as they could be.

4.5
Avengers: Tech-On #6

Jun 29, 2022

While the art continues to impress -- some -- with its intricate character designs, the script sinks to the bottom of the barrel, rolling out a by-the-numbers plot with incredibly cliched dialogue. The kids playing with the toys will come up with more inventive plots and characterization than this.

8.0
Avengers: War Across Time (2023) #1

Nov 10, 2023

This super-retro story surely isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it is mine. I'm not an Alan Davis fan, but I found his work impeccable here. It has tons of detail and polish, and he definitely made an effort to employ Kirby/Heck principles in blocking and posing. Paul Levitz's script takes a curious approach to honoring Stan Lee's style. It's not as verbose (thank goodness) and the plotting is more rational. But it still features some of the less-lovable features of 1964, e.g., Jan is a flirtatious airhead (but also a fearless fighter) and the final scene is an abrupt mess full of plotholes. Silver Age super-dorkery: I thought Levitz and Davis screwed up the 1964 Mjolnir rules. And they did; if Thor becomes Donald Blake, then Mjolnir should become Blake's walking stick. It doesn't here. But Lee and Heck made the same mistake in Avengers #11, so let's call it an homage.

7.5
Avengers: War Across Time (2023) #2

Mar 7, 2024

This is a loving, finely-crafted example of an awful thing that happened a lot in the Silver Age: the left-field, tall-grass plot derailment. It's still entertaining thanks to the great storytelling and the brisk pace. What I would have preferred, though, was a satirical/deconstructive edge. Yeah, superheroes used to randomly lose interest and bail out of stories in the 60s. How about giving us an insightful/funny look at *why* instead of merely replicating the phenomenon in the comics equivalent of HD? Saltier/sillier take on what just happened: "Dammit, Jack, we were supposed to be fighting Kang this month." "Yeah, but I really felt like drawing some more Norse stuff."

7.0
Ben Reilly: Spider-Man (2022) #1

Jun 3, 2022

I get that this is a treat for readers who grew up with Ben Reilly as "their" Spider-Man, and I see that includes a lot of the users here. But that's not me. I appreciate that this issue gives me a thorough rundown on the Clone Saga mess and how it's affecting Ben at this moment. That background does slow the pace, though. I'm usually all for clarity in comics but this issue shows you can have too much of a good thing. I also like thematic links -- places where the author shows you how different story elements are related. There's a lot of that going on here, but not done with any subtlety. The graveyard scene, for example, feels like Mr. DeMatteis is screaming "Ben! And! Carrion! Have! Very! Similar! Feelings! Right! Now!" while punctuating each word with a face-punch. Aside from the pace, the prose is pretty good. As is the art. The tone is relentlessly broody and hardboiled, though -- a (subjectively) unwelcome throwback to one of 90s comics' subtler problems. It's got loads of dark style, but not a lot of thoughtful substance, which is a poor recipe for "mature" storytelling.

7.5
Ben Reilly: Spider-Man (2022) #2

Jul 13, 2022

I'm neither disappointed nor impressed by the plot and character developments. They make sense, they work, they're not thrilling to me. What *is* impressive is the way the content is presented. The art's really strong. The prose is decent; the structure of the script is formidable. All those layered scenes could be a hideous mess -- but they aren't.

7.5
Ben Reilly: Spider-Man (2022) #3

Aug 19, 2022

This issue holds up the title's consistent visual excellence; it's always fun to look at. On the writing side, though, this is a flip-flop of the last issue for me. #2 was structurally impressive but the content didn't hook me. Here, a much more problematic structure (wonky pace, excessive narration) succeeds in capturing my interest. Submerging the point of view deep inside Ben Reilly's head pays off. The slow development of the plot matters to me more because the author's showing me why it matters to the protagonist. Also, this issue's lettercol -- along with its story -- helps me understand Ben Reilly's appeal. For certain readers in the 90s, Ben was a much more relatable protagonist than Peter Parker. I begin to see how he could capture someone's "favorite spider" slot.

8.0
Ben Reilly: Spider-Man (2022) #4

Nov 22, 2022

I don't think this is a particularly impressive issue in terms of content. Ben's epiphany is pretty feeble, so is Spidercide's motivation, and the fake-out conclusion is underwhelming even when it's revealed to be a fake-out. But I *am* calling this a good comic, because I'm really impressed with the storytelling tricks used to build a mountain out of that molehill of content. The script is very dense, layering inner monologue on top of dialogue and action, but it never loses the thread. It's remarkably clear. The art's formidable, too, keeping the story active and urgent when Ben's navel-gazing might otherwise slow it down.

8.0
Ben Reilly: Spider-Man (2022) #5

Dec 28, 2022

The creators tie a tidy, well-illustrated bow on this little story. There's solid character growth all over the place, good fight scenes, and consistent themes tying the characters together. That consistency still tends to make the character work feel a little repetitive, but that's a very minor fault. I like seeing creators reach for daring goals. But this series reminds me that it's also fun to see experienced folks work with utter confidence inside their wheelhouse.

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.

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #19

Dec 18, 2018

Misty's misguided plan to grab some serious mystical power gets foiled by Ben. Technically by her dad, and then HE has to be foiled by Ben, but it's all the same in the end. This issue offers up some quality ideas undercut by shoddy execution, and the whole thing seems rushed. Kaine and the casino stuck in the Darkforce Dimension were wasted, and Mysterio's "I'll get you all" monologuing feels even more cliched than it was supposed to. I still have an irrational love for the art, and I wish it got more to work with in the DD.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #20

Jan 1, 2019

Ben and Kaine are back to their independent stories: Seeking out super-science help for Abbie and tangling with a leftover Mindless One, respectively. Each story gets an encouraging dollop of forward progress. Unfortunately, a pair of negatives drag the issue right back down to "average at best": It's severely decompressed (especially Ben's story), and the art's fallen off the wagon hard when it comes to computer-generated settings - ugly ones. At least the characters still look good.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #21

Jan 14, 2019

Ben defeats Sauron and his scientist target survives just long enough to bend the story toward the Diogenes Initiative. Surprise surprise, that's where Kaine's story is bending, too. Nice plot developments there. This issue is utterly bereft of interesting character work or noteworthy action, though. The balance of the book is relentlessly average.

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #22

Feb 11, 2019

Ben and Kaine get Touched By An Angel™. There's really no other way to describe it. The art is on an upswing and the dialogue is solid, but the subject matter is so exceptionally bizarre (not necessarily in a good way) that the issue becomes a puzzlement.

8.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #23

Mar 18, 2019

It's moment-of-truth time as Ben races to Abbie's deathbed with a supernatural cure. Expectations are doubly defied by a cracking one-two pair of twists. The first one had me nodding; the second socked me in the gut with its self-aware brilliance. Visual and narrative storytelling averages a touch below "good," but the twists knock this issue firmly over the line.

5.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #24

Apr 11, 2019

2.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #25

Apr 25, 2019

8.0
Beta Ray Bill (2021) #1

Aug 4, 2021

A cavalcade of rough times and shabby treatment from his Asgardian pals breaks Beta Ray Bill free for a standard-issue soul-searching quest with his oldest friend, the too-long-overlooked AI battleship Scuttlebutt. The art is scruffy and passionate; the prose is pretty formulaic. But a 10-ton weight of empathy lands as the premise comes together in the last act. Mr. Johnson obviously cares about his protagonist and he's entirely successful at making that care contagious.

8.5
Beta Ray Bill (2021) #2

Sep 7, 2021

A check-in with Odin points Bill in a new direction, and he's now capably stocked with sidekicks -- Skurge and Pip the Troll. It's a straightforward quest plot and I have some qualms about the characterization (The characters seem to prioritize "make Bill pretty again" too highly). But the art is still fantastic in a scruffy back-alley way, and there's still a powerful empathic connection to the protagonist. Maybe not the most momentous read, but tons of fun.

8.0
Beta Ray Bill (2021) #3

Oct 15, 2021

Bill and friends kill a lot of fire-goblins on their way through the first layer of Muspelheim. At the same time, Bill tries to get his head around the change in Skuttlebutt. I think the creators delivered 100% on the goblin-clobberin' action but weren't quite as successful with the character work. The characters struggle to express their feelings but I get a sense that the creators are struggling, too. Still a very good read, though, and I think there's ample meaning lurking beneath the minor writing difficulties.

8.0
Beta Ray Bill (2021) #4

Nov 22, 2021

Skuttlebutt helps Bill free the ship from a memory-sucking monster that torments him with his own past. He defeats it, but his faithful AI companion fails to convince him of his inner beauty. It's sort of a one-note chapter in terms of plot and characterization. It's a strong, true note, though, and the art goes above and beyond to convey the impact of the specific memories Bill confronts.

8.5
Beta Ray Bill (2021) #5

Dec 23, 2021

Bill defeats Surtur with timely assists from his friends. It's a pretty straightforward wham-bam finale, illustrated with great skill and passion. It's an electric guitar solo of a climax. The final scenes sketch in a few hints of melancholy around Bill's victory, hinting at second thoughts and unintended consequences. Being ambiguous about feelings isn't inherently bad, but I personally would have liked to finish with some more concrete character insights. Still, it's a hard-rocking end to a fun series. The creator's intentions have been clear and consistent throughout, and I think he was pretty dang successful in expressing them.

9.5
Beyond (2022): Mary Jane & Black Cat #1

Jun 15, 2022

A tie-in prompt from the Beyond arc turns into a perfect excuse for a bonus issue of Jed MacKay's Black Cat. It delivers all the feisty appeal of that series, plus it becomes a stellar spotlight on Mary Jane. I rate it as less than perfect because the plot, while a serviceable vehicle for a fun story and amazing characterization, isn't great on its own. (Not BAD, just not great.) It's not consequential or transformative for the protagonists. And at a few minor points, the storytelling (both in words and art) takes shortcuts, like the creators know the plot isn't the point. I rate it as damn near perfect because the character work (and the humor) are world class. It's these features that make the slight shortcomings of the plot eminently forgivable. This adventure doesn't change Felicia or MJ in any significant way. But it is a powerful lens focusing on them and how they interact, drilling into the characters with exceptional depth, insight, and heart.

4.5
Bishop: War College (2023) #1

Mar 7, 2024

Criminy, what comic were *y'all* reading?

7.0
Bizarre Adventures #1  
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.

8.5
Black Cat (2019) #1

Dec 27, 2019

Black Cat gets back to her core business: Heisting like crazy with bags of elan. She's got a posse, an antagonist, and a mentor laying groundwork toward a heck of an "One Last Heist" caper. The C strip provides a tantalizing hint of the mentor/mentee relationship. While I admit the art could be sharpened up all around, it struck me as well above average. It's certainly tied tight to the script and stocked with meaningful details. This whole package has a subtle, sneaky depth to it -- a puzzlebox of a comic with tons of potential.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) #2

Jan 25, 2020

At the Fox's direction, Felicia pulls a heist on the Sanctum Sanctorum. Much goes wrong, but hiring Xander the Merciless for a magical consult was the standout mistake of the evening. Plot and pace are solid, the art is serviceable, and Felicia's voice is an absolute delight. She's an antihero you'd totally want to have drinks with -- though any valuables and currency on your person would doubtless go walkabout by the end of the night. Cross-media touchstone: Jed MacKay is the 21st-century comics version of Howard Hawks.

8.5
Black Cat (2019) #3

Feb 27, 2020

Felicia and her faithful lackeys survive their Sanctum Sanctorum burglary-gone-wrong thanks to the Cat's trademark good-bad luck and an adorable little assist from Bats the Ghost Dog. The artist tries some risky cartooning (but some of it I love!), and the resolution feels a little contrived. But these creators are "Mr. Spock's Vulcan mind-meld"-level good at engaging my interest and empathy, and this comic is way, way too fun for storytelling nitpicks to spoil it for me.

8.0
Black Cat (2019) #4

Mar 31, 2020

There's plenty of humor and charm on display, but the bones of the plot strike me as pretty conventional. It's a standard-issue heist story, albeit one fleshed out with great skill. And the protagonist remains engaging as ever.

8.5
Black Cat (2019) #5

Apr 20, 2020

This remains a superb blend of thrill-ride and character study.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) #6

Jun 1, 2020

Felicia decompresses by dining, stealing, and boinking with Batroc. It's an unlikely match-up, but both thieves charm each other as well as the readers. And meanwhile, the Thieves' Guild kidnaps the Black Fox to keep the overarching plot moving. The art is a solid match to the title's established style, and I still find the prose delicious.

7.0
Black Cat (2019) #7

Jun 22, 2020

The Black Cat rescues her mentor after he's delivered an all-revealing diatribe on Odessa Drake and the source of her antagonism to Felicia. It's good character work, but it's delivered in a highly expository way that forces the reader to realize this character sketch of Odessa was the entire point of the kidnapping twist. Combine the artifice with some underwhelming art and you have an issue that's above average for comics as a whole but well below this volume's established standard.

8.5
Black Cat (2019) #8

Jul 23, 2020

It's great to see somebody pick up Kaare Andrews' "Iron Fist has a tween ward" ball and run with it. And speaking of moving balls, this issue feels like a series of tight running plays gradually building up yardage. Not as spectacular as a passing game, but more productive than four bad plays leading to a punt.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) #9

Sep 24, 2020

Felicia and the crew beat the heat by heading to Madripoor for another painting heist. This one belongs to Mr. Patch, so, of course, a Wolverine team-up is inevitable. The story's a winner, the protagonist's voice remains magnificent, and Kris Anka's guest art is the cherry on the top. A great comic all around.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) #10

Oct 17, 2020

A bounty from Kilgore forces Felicia and Logan to spend the whole comic on the run, but it's all part of the Black Cat's plan. Exciting scrapes, beautiful art, and stellar character interactions make this a joy from end to end.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) #11

Nov 9, 2020

The next chunk of tech required for Felicia's bigger scheme can only come out of Stark Unlimited; cue the breathless bamboozlement of Iron Man. Jed MacKay is still in perfect form and artist C.F. Villa makes a welcome addition to the show with his scruffy but impeccably-designed characters and panels. I continue to just love this comic to pieces; it's reliably the most enjoyable read of the week for me.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) #12

Dec 19, 2020

Felicia completes her Stark heist with oodles of style, putting one over on both Iron Man and Odessa Drake. It's an absolute thrill ride, tons of fun, it looks and sounds beautiful. What a crying shame to lose this title to the plague -- but it'll be back with the same creative team for KiB.

9.0
Black Cat (2019) Annual #1

Jun 3, 2020

If only Joey Vazquez could have drawn the whole thing! The art shifts and the inherent limitation of the "plot up an excuse for a fake marriage" premise are the only drawbacks. Otherwise, it's a perfect heist yarn. Felicia and her henchies remain terrific.

9.0
Black Cat (2020) #1

Mar 26, 2021

The Black Cat is back, getting her latest heist spoiled by Knull's arrival and swearing revenge on the cosmic death-god. Everything I loved about the last volume makes the jump to this one; it's still well-drawn, brilliantly written, and dangerously clever. The tie-in to the event is practically perfect. This reads fine on its own, but Felicia's overall role looks significant. A kudo for strategic writing: I love a dual-motivated character. And here Felicia is putting Knull in her sights not just out of wounded pride but also because it's what Captain America told her to do. That is wonderful.

9.0
Black Cat (2020) #2

Apr 30, 2021

Felicia rescues Dr. Strange, as promised. But when he's not ready to step up for void-god-fighting duty, Felicia tries taking his place. This will end well! It's a simple, speedy heist story, integrated nicely into the cosmic apocalypse setting of the event. The plot comes together a bit too easily. But the elegant pluck Felicia and her crew show in the face of truly ridiculous odds make it a blast to follow them on this suicide mission.

9.0
Black Cat (2020) #3

Jun 11, 2021

Felicia is offered Unlimited Powah and though that sure would make it easy to wrap up King in Black, she saves her soul by rejecting the temptation. It's a pretty standard Faustian bargain-scenario, livened up by razor-sharp writing and outstanding art. It's a rare bit of retrospection into Felicia's past, and it's every bit as enjoyable as the rest of Jed MacKay's take on the Black Cat.

9.0
Black Cat (2020) #4

Aug 4, 2021

A guest-star turn for the Queen Cat serves the twin purposes of introducing her and re-familiarizing us with Black Cat's pre-KiB story. The written characterization does a great job portraying QC; whether or not you're familiar with her backstory, you're likely to enjoy this update. Nina Vakueva's lively art is the cherry on top of the sundae, bringing a novel yet appealing look to this "breather" chapter in the title.

8.5
Black Cat (2020) #5

Aug 18, 2021

The Cat launches her great heist: the burgling of the Thieves' Guild's extradimensional vault. Except, as the Fox frustratingly reveals, that was never the plan at all. Although I eagerly devoured the twisty plot developments, they came with a little twinge of disappointment. The Fox's motivations and his plan turn out to be mundane and melodramatic. He also has to do a lot of exposition to explain them, but that's excused by two factors. First, it's all character-based information, and second, it's just as novel and important to Felicia as it is to us readers.

8.5
Black Cat (2020) #6

Sep 25, 2021

The fallout from the heist-gone-wrong is fully unpacked, and Felicia finds herself in a world of trouble. Friends become enemies and enemies become allies and the race is on to save Manhattan, with Felicia trying to shoulder as much of the burden as possible. The dialogue is priceless; I love it to pieces. The plot slows down toward the end, though, and I'm not really enjoying the art. I almost always dislike "celebrity stunt casting" in comics, and the most notable thing about this example is that it's difficult to swipe celebrity likenesses while also delivering so little detail.

8.0
Black Cat (2020) #7

Oct 25, 2021

Felicia chucks the Fox under the bus to save Manhattan. It's pretty simplistic from a plot standpoint, but the title's high standards are upheld by a boatload of stylish storytelling and utter commitment to fully illustrating Felicia's feelings. Not my favorite issue, but I felt it was a fitting end to the story. PS I love Bi Felicia.

8.0
Black Cat (2020) #8

Dec 23, 2021

Felicia launches the Infinity Score proper by yoinking a Stone-holder-person away from Nick Fury Junior. It's a fun heist story told with considerable skill, and it makes a good read. I wouldn't call it great, though, because my first sentence up there encapsulates the plot completely (I refrain from spoiling the identity of the Stone-person, but the comic does reveal it).

9.5
Black Cat (2020) #9

Jan 2, 2022

The Black Cat goes full saleswoman to recruit Star. Then she and her boys capture Overtime, and she starts the sales pitch again. There's brilliant parallelism in the way this issue begins and ends. In between, oodles of style and humor in Felicia's voice, excellent art, and great action. What puts this within spitting distance of perfect for me is that Felicia is DEFINITELY lying a HELL OF A LOT. It's obvious to us, and yet Felicia's con is perfectly convincing to Star. This is so smart it hurts, but it's not so wrapped up in its smartness that it's afraid to be ridiculously fun and funny.

8.0
Black Cat (2020) #10

Feb 3, 2022

Felicia acrobats her way from conversation to conversation, with plenty of shooty-shooty conflict in the middle. It looks good and it's still got this volume's distinctively awesome voice, but it does feel a bit like a rushed effort to get all the loose ends lined up properly for the big finish to come.

8.0
Black Cat (2020) Annual #1

Nov 22, 2021

The White Fox dragoons Felicia into running a one-shot spy caper during a layover in Korea. It's a nice little diversion with a lot of murdery action. This is definitely good, but also definitely non-essential; it doesn't seem to have any bearing on either the Black Cat's ongoing story or the Infinite Destinies event. But it's a fun little bonus for stans of MacKay's Black Cat, of whom I am one.

8.0
Black Cat (2020): Infinity Score #1

Apr 26, 2022

So this story is clearly the injured carcass left behind after a bigger, important-er Infinity Event™ was carved away. That gives the plot an unfortunate air of randomness but the signature style of the Black Cat solo volumes remains. I love that style, so I call this a good comic, even though it could objectively be better. I'm not saying the Mom angle was a last-minute pinch-hit. Although it was only first foreshadowed in the Black Cat series with #10, the "Infinite Fury" B-strips in Infinite Destinies had a (subtle) motherhood theme from the get-go. I just think there was a more cosmic angle to this story when it was first conceived.

7.5
Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1

Jul 18, 2021

The Avengers summon Dane Whitman to help defeat a magic monster invasion. That serves as a platform for laying out Dane's considerable psychological issues before the story segues to plot progression. There's a mysterious antagonist gunning for the Ebony Blade and Dane's got a new would-be sidekick in the form of a history student. This debut issue has enough meaty content to get me interested, but I'm not yet sure there are sufficient storytelling skills to stick the landing here. The art is solid and a touch more gory than usual for Marvel, which is great. The script doesn't disappoint, but it doesn't much impress me, either. As others have noted, the Avengers' pity and contempt for the Black Knight is overplayed.

6.5
Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #2

Aug 28, 2021

I don't know whether this not-so-fresh take on Arthurian mythology is objectively a little dull or subjectively super-dull -- either way, I was not loving this read. It doesn't help that the otherwise-promising characters are all forced to speak in one undifferentiated, super-snarky voice. That's an affliction I like to call "Matthew-Rosenberg-itis," and I hope the cast gets over it soon.

7.0
Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #3

Oct 2, 2021

All right, ya filthy animals. I don't like the mythology and I don't like how exposition-y the dialogue is. But I admit the art is good, the prose is fair, and there's tons of development to go around: plot, character, mythology. I might not love it but it IS a good comic.

7.5
Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #4

Nov 22, 2021

Message coming through on the telegraph: THE GIRL'S GONNA BE THE NEXT BLACK KNIGHT STOP ALSO ELSA WILL RETURN AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR STOP TRY AND ACT SURPRISED STOP

8.0
Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #5

Dec 23, 2021

The Black Knight defeats Mordred thanks to some excellent plot twists and psychological insights. An interesting new status quo is set up at the end. I complained at the last issue that the twists were telegraphed, but I found this finale quite satisfying. The fact that I failed to call the biggest twist of all might have something to do with it. This is a complicated script and the art does an impressive job keeping up. Most scenes are split between two different settings, and in most cases it successfully expands the scope of the story.

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.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #2

Jan 9, 2019

The lion's share of the issue is devoted to T'Challa playing Luke Skywalker in an extended spaceship dogfight. That's backed up by our introduction to Emperor N'Jadaka and some more fascinating hints about the bigger shape of this story. While the art is powerful throughout, I feel like we got the short end of the stick in a "detail vs. speed" tradeoff in the dogfight scene. The Askaris' Masai fighters look embarrassingly generic. Also, giving it an ironic twist did NOT save the repetition of the great "every breath is a mercy" line from feeling forced and cheap.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #3

Mar 7, 2019

Another year passes, the Empire strikes back at the Maroons, and the first scene sheds welcome light on the setting. It's definitely a "distant future" story; now the key question is: How does this T'Challa relate to the one we know? This is a nice, even presentation that lightly taps a lot of good bases: world-building, characterization, action, and pretty art. Nothing stands out far enough to haul it into all-time greatness, but the balance is good.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #4

Apr 11, 2019

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #5

May 21, 2019

9.0
Black Panther (2018) #6

Jun 13, 2019

Emperor N'Jadaka takes the stage for a villain spotlight issue that faithfully serves the twin masters of world-building and plot development. The issue also paints an elegant portrait (in words and gorgeous guest art) of N'Jadaka and Bast. It's a decisive, revelatory break from this title's status quo and an absolute blast to read.

9.0
Black Panther (2018) #7

Jul 1, 2019

This kickoff gives us intriguing portrayals of the protagonists, the antagonists, and the key MacGuffin (the Archive) for which they will contend. It also includes a nice slice of action in the form of a deep-space kidnapping. Kev Walker's debut is very welcome, and the clean, character-driven art is the big rocket taking this title back to its space-operatic heights. The script helps, too; one of Ta-Nehisi Coates's greatest talents is crafting these "set up the chessboard" issues in a way that fascinates you and makes you eager to see the game played out.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #8

Aug 1, 2019

An action vignette shows T'Challa disobeying orders when the opportunity to liberate a shipload of the Empire's latest slaves presents itself. Undeniably short but also undeniably powerful thanks to the intensity and focus of both words and art.

7.5
Black Panther (2018) #9

Sep 9, 2019

7.0
Black Panther (2018) #10

Oct 9, 2019

8.5
Black Panther (2018) #11

Nov 12, 2019

The new girl is revealed as Bast in Princess Zenzi's body, and she drops a mighty load of new direction on the Maroons and us readers. There's a touch of action, good art throughout, and the first of the answers we've been waiting for oh-so-desperately. The curtain is starting to pull back in a wholly-satisfying way.

9.0
Black Panther (2018) #12

Dec 27, 2019

The appearance of Sologon here, just a week after she went MIA in Shuri, makes me wonder about how closely coordinated the two Wakandan series are. Probably it's just a happy accident, but if it isn't, wow!

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #13

Jan 25, 2020

With his memories restored, T'Challa focuses obsessively on contacting Earth. M'Baku calls him on the carpet for ignoring his revolutionary comrades, and they come to blows. Quality storytelling is lavished on a small but satisfying chunk of plot; while the pace remains slow, this new arc seems headed in a promising direction.

7.5
Black Panther (2018) #14

Feb 27, 2020

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #15

Mar 26, 2020

Who's my favorite Marvel editor? It'll be the one who dares to say to the almighty Coates, "You are great at philosophy and grand strategy, at setup and payoff. But if your comics are going to reach their full potential, we need to send you to 'climactic fight bootcamp' and teach you how to script a satisfying on-page resolution." Comedy Count: This issue includes FIVE drinks drunk purely so that characters have something to do with their hands while expositing at each other.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #16

Apr 20, 2020

It's a good comic, but it's not the great comic it wants to be.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #17

Jun 1, 2020

Things come to a head as T'Challa confronts whatever remnant of N'Jadaka lives on in his symbiote. There're fascinating ideas in play, but as usual, this title shies away from locking them down with authoritative interpretation. The ambiguity leans more into "intriguing" than "frustrating" this time around -- for me anyway. I think the author is doing better than usual to confine the uncertainty to the *meaning* of events and not let it creep into basic *understanding* of what's going on. This issue enjoys nice art and some interesting formal play with the layouts. The status quo is variable rectangular panels, but heavy conversation pushes it towards rigid 6 or 9-box grids. Action, on the other hand, pushes the panels away from rectangles entirely. Cool stuff!

8.5
Black Panther (2018) #18

Jun 12, 2020

If all this issue did was back-fill a gap in T'Challa's story and recap, it would be no more than average. But it's doing that AND sinking a wicked philosophical hook into the reader: A slaving society, it reminds us, is inherently dishonest, ESPECIALLY about its slaving nature. And the author doesn't just suggest but demands we carry that insight past Marvel and into the real world.

7.0
Black Panther (2018) #19

Jul 13, 2020

I dearly love this art. And I love Shuri taking an important stand. I love the way this issue lays bare one of the title's core themes: That the roles of a good king and a good hero do not fit well together. But. The non-chronological structure of the past three issues is a trainwreck. While starting a new arc, this issue lamely, lately delivers the missing beats that could have given #17 a sense of closure. And this tangled structure retroactively robs #18 -- clearly an inter-arc breather issue -- of any sensible place in the story. Mr. Coates had two ideas for seguing between arcs and tried to use them both. They've tripped each other.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #20

Aug 9, 2020

T'Challa is challenged for the Djalia by all the past Panthers. In the real world, the Maroons fight a desperate battle and Shuri smacks down BAST in a damned impressive rhetorical display. Great art, great plot developments -- if only all the prose matched the glory of that Shuri/Bast scene.

6.0
Black Panther (2018) #21

Oct 17, 2020

Welp, this issue moves me firmly into the "Black Panther has spent too long doing Star Wars/Star Trek cosplay" camp.

9.0
Black Panther (2018) #22

Nov 5, 2020

N'Jadaka faces bad news on two fronts. Zenzi and Bast make common cause against him and T'Challa successfully convinces his ancestors to magic back the memories of the empire's slaves. Some excellent art in two distinct styles and the smooth evolution of big plot developments give this issue great power. Admittedly, the overall arc has been far too slow, but this is, in itself, an excellent issue.

8.0
Black Panther (2018) #23

Jun 11, 2021

T'Challa rallies a whole lot of heroes for the final battle. N'Jadaka is falling apart ahead of it. And Ramonda makes an unlikely pitch for reinforcements. This last calm before the storm comes with some nice art and some very good speeches. But there are key questions of plot mechanics that go unanswered, and that annoys me.

7.5
Black Panther (2018) #24

Jul 25, 2021

The big battle begins and Prodigy gets a spotlight turn as the heroes' lead strategist. The art is great, but the visual storytelling is less than perfect. And it would need to be perfect to compensate for the feeble, cutesy "combat codeword" thing the script is doing for the majority of the issue. There's satisfying but not surprising action throughout and not much character work at all. The result is a good action comic that is by no means a must-read.

7.0
Black Panther (2018) #25

Oct 15, 2021

The good guys win, Bast is helpful in an infuriating way, and T'Challa ends up as a space-emperor. This finale has some solid storytelling touches, particularly in the art, but I'd contend nobody is going to remember any of the particulars in a year's time. I like the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda as much now as when I first heard of it, though. It's an inherently appealing premise/setting. Now I hope Marvel does the right thing with it: Stick it on a high shelf until somebody has a really slapping cosmic story to tell with it. (And of course, I'm implying that Mr. Coates's interminable origin saga didn't really fit that bill.)

8.0
Black Panther (2021) #1

Apr 9, 2022

I liked this. The story feels a little messy and slow at this point -- how does the Avengers biz fit in? But all the parts are intriguing (and well-scripted), and they can definitely jigsaw together in the future. It feels right for T'Challa to have reservations about democracy, given his history and heritage. I could wish for some more nuanced politics, but they might not fit into what is, at heart, a spy-movie-type story. On the art front, I was a little disappointed. This looks good, but Juann Cabal can do a lot better than good. (I'm also not a fan of the comics swiping sets from the MCU.) Tangent: Dr. Strange is doing a lot of guest-starring this week for a dead dude, isn't he?

8.0
Black Panther (2021) #2

May 7, 2022

The story goes all in on investigation & espionage in this issue. The narrower focus is great, and there's some nicely-illustrated action. There's still space for a little character work, hitting on T'Challa's justified paranoia. On the other hand, there's little progress on unraveling the mystery assassins; the good guys don't learn much that the readers don't already know.

7.5
Black Panther (2021) #3

Jun 15, 2022

This issue is a dang high-wire act. It's sparse and slow and even repetitive. The art has a few sparks of greatness, but it's mainly just OK. The two artists' styles don't complement each other very well. And then there's that twist in the final scene. T'Challa and the author being clever enough -- *just* clever enough -- to redeem themselves. So I'm still reading and still calling it good. The backup strips are decent. The B strip is cute. The C strip gets me interested in New Guy Tosin and his people. I really wish it didn't spoil where the main story is headed, though.

8.0
Black Panther (2021) #4

Jul 13, 2022

The story comes back to Wakanda just in time for startling developments. This remains the T'Challa show all the way, but there are solid niches carved into the plot for the supporting cast. (I thought Storm did particularly well with just 3 pages.) I'm enjoying the storytelling more. Juann Cabal is throwing in some of his inventive layout tricks while keeping the level of visual polish sky-high. And I'm getting used to John Ridley's unusual way of building and pacing a script; a consequential episode like this shows its full potential for cinematic impact.

9.0
Black Panther (2021) #5

Oct 29, 2022

This arc has been a slow burn, but what a mighty blaze it pays off with here! The script is perfectly paced; thrilling. All of the dialogue is at least solid, and there are some real stand-out lines. On the visual side, the two artists collaborate on a very consistent style. Blocking is excellent and I love the facial expressions. I think there was room for a little more detail overall, though.

8.5
Black Panther (2021) #6

Dec 28, 2022

This issue continues speeding along at the breakneck pace established in #5 until it downshifts for that amazing Storm scene toward the end. The structure works. I love the dialogue and the humor; the speech feels totally natural. (Maybe too American and not Wakandan enough; I may have a subjective bias from watching Wakanda Forever recently.) The art is short of detail, but does incredible work without it. The hard shadows and dynamic posing are terrific in the action scenes, and the artist's faces are expressive enough to carry the conversational moments, too.

7.5
Black Panther (2021) #7

Jan 6, 2023

I think it's a good book, but I may be over-charitable in rating it 7.5/10. The art's dynamic, but not very detailed or clear. The writing is clear, but it's also stretched across so many plot developments that it gets choppy and expository (there are still killer lines in there, though!) That's my take on the storytelling. As to the content, the story itself? I'm torn. I love seeing T'Challa grapple with humbling changes. I like the fast-burning civil war plot (unoriginal though it be). I like the *idea* of this vibranium hippie Tosin, sort of. How he enters the story, though … holier-than-thou attitude, *two* save-the-day moments, other characters shilling for his awesomeness … it's little too "Mary Sue," isn't it?

8.0
Black Panther (2021) #8

Jan 17, 2023

The big conflict resolves fast and sharp, with lots of dynamic action art and terse action-movie dialogue. This arc ends in a just-satisfying way and, when it comes to the plot, I'm happy to see it go. The character side, though! T'Challa buys victory for Wakanda at the cost of devastating personal loss. It feels like it's been an age since I've seen a Marvel story end so *bleak*, and this issue really hammers home how far T'Challa's fallen.

6.0
Black Panther (2021) #9

Feb 12, 2023

7.0
Black Panther (2021) #10

Apr 7, 2023

The art looks even better than the previous issue (more dynamic in the action panels), and the Colonialist story wraps up with merciful quickness. It did offer a few little glimmers of insight into T'Challa's character and challenges, but on balance it was a "not ready for prime time" premise. If you can't catch a thing like that in early drafts, shutting it down as rapidly as possible is probably the next best way to deal with it.

7.5
Black Panther (2021) #11

Apr 26, 2023

This issue grew on me the closer I looked at it. It's fast and plot-heavy, which is not entirely good -- it needed a lot of exposition, and I think the "Shuri pep-talks T'Challa" scenes didn't get enough space. The art's good. T'Challa is terrifyingly close to making another terrible "I must solve this all alone or possibly with my sister's help" decision, which is great dramatic irony given that the whole point of this volume is that he can be too devious for his own good. (When Shuri lampshades how she's played an over-large role lately, though, I find it more annoying than charming. I'd rather storytellers FIX their problems instead of winking at me about them.)

8.5
Black Panther (2021) #12

Aug 30, 2023

Despite some pacing problems, this script really works for me. T'Challa's been in free-fall for a long time; it's satisfying to see him hit rock bottom and start to bounce back toward heroism. There's a lot of prose here, but some of it really sparkles. The art is solid, featuring some particularly soulful faces. Plus, who wouldn't love the Emancipated/Awesome Death Brigade?

6.0
Black Panther (2021) #13

Nov 10, 2023

Whoops, the story's gonna take another lap before getting to the climax. And *what* a lap it is. It's drawn very well. And the prose is decent (with important exceptions). But the plotting choices are dreadful. Splitting the plot into 3 threads is ambitious, but leaving 2 of them hanging spoils the effect. And the thread that is developed! T'Challa gets clobbered (*again*) by a tone-deaf rendition of Captain America. And the surprise ally in the final scene? Unless I missed a *big* rapprochement in prior comics, that makes no sense at all.

6.5
Black Panther (2021) #14

Mar 7, 2024

There is nothing mortally wrong with the way it's written, and quite a bit right with the way it's drawn. But it's just relentlessly average--it would have to be far better to recapture my enthusiasm after the misadventures of previous issues.

7.5
Black Panther (2021): Unconquered #1

May 7, 2023

When a one-shot fires off sequel hooks, judging its quality comes down to one question: Do I want to read more of this? Here, the answer is a full-throated "yes!" The script is a serviceable storytelling tool, but it embellishes the basic action with interesting theme-work and then ties that into some promising character insights. The art does impressive storytelling in its own right, proving more than capable of taking over from the words. It has a clean polish to it, and if it's not super-detailed, it's also notably dynamic in the action scenes. Bottom line: I'm definitely ready for more -- with the caveat that this author needs (and deserves!) the continued support of an artist that can keep up with his cinematic storytelling style.

6.5
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1

Apr 4, 2020

There are some appealing ideas in here, but not so appealing that they overcome the "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" presentation. I'm a fan of MST3K, and what this comic reminds me of is the "Concepts" song from the latest Netflix season.

8.5
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #2

Apr 29, 2020

I like Mr. Zub's writing a lot more when he's drilling down on a few characters and a constrained fight rather than completing a "kitchen sink" survey as in the previous issue. The art's pretty appealing, too. I wonder if the next step Mr. Zub needs to take is trying his hand at a solo title. He's always been a team guy and he always seems to end up driving his teams off into the tall grass.

7.5
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #3

Jun 3, 2020

Though I dearly love Bobbi Morse -- in general and as portrayed here -- I don't think this team needs more members.

7.0
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #4

Jul 2, 2020

6.0
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #5

Jul 18, 2020

The efforts to resurrect Black Panther vs Deadpool (OK, fine) and Livewires (good lord, why?) trip each other up instead of synergizing. Jim Zub's conscious effort to emulate Adam Warren's verbosity leaks beyond the Livewires' dialog; the whole script is over-written. The art is strictly middle-shelf stuff. Scott Eaton's insistence on referencing Brian Stelfreeze's iconic Black Panther cover EVERY time he draws the character attracts the eye in a negative way.

7.0
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #6

Sep 24, 2020

It's a fun story, though it's a rather embarrassing showing for the Agents, isn't it? I'm pretty sure Deadpool coulda/woulda solved this whole thing whether or not they were there.

7.0
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #7

Oct 17, 2020

Six Agents are flat-footed by a dragon attack on Avengers Mountain. They fight bravely, with Fat Cobra doing the heavy lifting and Broo eventually uncovering the dragons' motivation. It has some great visuals, particularly in the fight scenes, and the script rolls along at a fast, jolly pace. By refusing to reach for anything beyond a popcorn comic, this issue becomes a pretty fun example of the form.

7.0
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #8

Dec 17, 2020

Foom explains all: He split the hostile parts of his personality off into separate dragons, but they're uncontrollable. Broo provides basic moral guidance to convince Foom to recombine and quit fighting. It's a decent plot with some strong art, but the resolution borders on simplistic and the ending is pretty rushed.

7.5
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #1

May 7, 2019

8.0
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #2

Jun 13, 2019

Wade re-enters Wakanda for the contractually-obligated misunderstanding brawl before he and T'Challa can team up. The script strikes an excellent balance between Deadpool's absurdity and the Panther's pomposity; the combination works where neither could stand on its own. The art is still sketchy, but it's also still packed with vibrant details that disprove any assertion that it lacks effort.

7.0
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #3

Jul 1, 2019

8.0
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #4

Aug 20, 2019

Deadpool gleefully randoms his way to a one-in-a-million win over the Black Panther, but T'Challa's got vengeance on his mind. After wandering a bit, the POV comes home to roost on Wade's shoulder in this issue. I enjoyed the overall absurdity of the plot, and Deadpool is definitely characterized right to excuse/explain it.

7.0
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #5

Sep 9, 2019

7.0
Black Panther: Legends (2021) #1

Mar 3, 2022

If you ignore the giant flashing "BUY ME IN BULK FOR YOUR 7TH-GRADE ENGLISH CURRICULUM" sign, it's a decent all-ages story with a nice blend of multiple continuities. But if you DO consider it as a "teaching tool" book, it's … also pretty nice, with some solid thought- and discussion-provoking links to South African history. The art could be better, though. It is pretty, but it could/should do better visual storytelling. (Why is T'Challa wearing a caucasian-colored band-aid? Because that's a local South African band-aid.)

6.5
Black Panther: Legends (2021) #2

Mar 23, 2022

It's another perfectly cromulent young reader comic, and it has its own "classroom discussion" hook in referencing Ethiopia's Oromo conflict. It treats the characters with respect and it tells a decent story. But it's far from the first Marvel book I'd pick to show off the medium's full potential, even to a younger audience.

7.0
Black Panther: Legends (2021) #3

Jun 29, 2022

There's nothing particularly surprising in this slightly-tweaked tale of earning Pantherhood through ritual combat. The script's solidly structured and it makes plenty of room for dynamic combat art. The way the characters clash and connect is predictable, but those relationships serve well to drive the plot. This is a solid (not spectacular) comic for readers just getting started with the medium.

6.0
Black Panther: Legends (2021) #4

Nov 22, 2022

I've liked this whole series, but dang, this last issue is *messy*. The structure and the prose are okay, but I'm really not sure about the plot. As to the art -- *ambivalent horizontal hand-wave*. The two artists don't fit well together, and one is a lot stronger than the other. The plot hews surprisingly close to the Black Panther's 1966 debut. So close, in fact, that I'm not sure the story makes sense if you haven't read those Silver Age issues. This comic forgets to explain that all the red animals are energy constructs created by Klaw, for example. And in all the mess, Hunter's story doesn't get a good sense of closure. The creators try, but they don't get the job done.

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.

7.0
Black Widow (2019) #1

Aug 1, 2019

I think this is the Black Widow fanfiction Wolverine wrote after grossly overestimating their level of kindred-spirit-ness.

5.5
Black Widow (2019) #2

Sep 9, 2019

4.5
Black Widow (2019) #3

Oct 9, 2019

Madame Masque's disgust at being caught by something as plebeian as fishing tackle was nice.

6.0
Black Widow (2019) #4

Nov 12, 2019

The betrayal twist goes past predictable and into inevitable. The turncoat received far too much story attention for this to turn out any other way; he's the differently-drawn bit of the background in Scooby-Doo that is obviously going to be a "secret" door.

7.0
Black Widow (2019) #5

Nov 27, 2019

This final chapter ties a pretty nice bow on the series. Things got mighty muddled in the middle, though; I think this tale should be filed under "for Widow completionists only."

9.5
Black Widow (2020) #1

Feb 20, 2021

After an easy heist, Natasha gets ambushed in her apartment. Months later, she's living a new life as a San Francisco architect. Mystery abounds! Also abounding: glamorous visual style (in costumes and action) and sharp, lean dialogue. It's a brief but achingly engaging re-introduction to Marvel's greatest super-spy, a fast read that leaves me clamoring for more. My one fear was that Kelly Thompson wouldn't dial up the maturity on Natasha's dialogue. I shouldn't have worried; the Widow gets a unique and uniquely appropriate voice. And good god, the art! This book is delicious from every angle.

9.5
Black Widow (2020) #2

Mar 3, 2021

I think "exquisite" covers every aspect of the storytelling and content here. (And I am firmly in favor of Jeff the Landshark cameos, anywhere and everywhere.)

10
Black Widow (2020) #3

Mar 9, 2021

The "whys" of Natasha's new life are (mostly) explained and she has to bust out the spycraft again to avert a tragedy. For once, a comic unveils its mysteries and I'm not disappointed in the slightest. It has brilliant writing, incredible art, cinematic action, and powerful character work. I know this isn't quite perfect, but I love it so much that I'll say it's as close as mortal hands can bring a comic.

9.0
Black Widow (2020) #4

Mar 17, 2021

Natasha wakes up instead of Natalie. Which is a good thing, as a second wave of goons are incoming. Nat protects her family with her hero-pals' help, then goes through the crushing process of explaining to James why they have to split forever. It's hard to think of any title that's compelled me to fall in love quite so fast and so hard as this one. The flashback features premium top-shelf female spy comic art. Nothing wrong with it. It's trash next to Casagrande, that's all. I hope they don't do that again.

9.5
Black Widow (2020) #5

May 29, 2021

Nat and her friends clobber the bad guys and steer, in elegant super-spy fashion, to what looks like a happy ending. It's been an emotional wringer for the protagonist, though, and full respect is paid to what she's lost even in winning. It's melodramatic stuff, but conveyed with art and prose that are racing each other toward perfection.

9.0
Black Widow (2020) #6

Sep 7, 2021

The Black Widow blasts into an action-heavy start to her latest arc, clobbering a horde of super-powered goons in pursuit of her mysterious new antagonist, Apogee. To relieve the action, this issue also establishes longer-term mysteries and introduces a compelling new supporting character: A young pickpocket who tries to lift Natasha's wallet. The pickpocket is elegantly stitched into the action story by the end of the issue; that delivers one nice payoff while leaving a lot of mysteries on the table. The art is solid and continues to echo the groundbreaking work of Elena Casagrande; the script is even better than the visuals, landing right next door to perfect.

9.5
Black Widow (2020) #7

Oct 15, 2021

Mild friction over recruitment policy and management style don't stop the Black and White Widows from learning more about Apogee. The writing's delicious. The pace is slightly slow, but for the best possible reason: To make space for even more delicious artwork. Elena Casagrande's a treasure and this issue shows why in practically every panel.

10
Black Widow (2020) #8

Nov 22, 2021

The Apogee hunt heats up. Anya goes from spy mode to spider mode to stop the creation of more super-goons. Nat, with Lucy's help on intelligence gathering, makes a timely rescue of Yelena (though things go sour at the end). The ample action is perfectly balanced with some terrific introspective moments for Nat and Lucy. The art is gorgeous, featuring outstanding collaboration between the two pencilers. This is a practically perfect slice of action-drama, with great roles for all four characters.

8.5
Black Widow (2020) #9

Dec 23, 2021

Yelena lives and serum genius Craig is easily swayed to the side of the angels. The Widows and the Spider attack Apogee, kicking off a showdown. Both the plot and the art are a little thin. I'd characterize the visuals as "strong rough draft" rather than "polished and perfected." (At least the collaboration remains smooth; it may be rough, but it's consistent.) And there's plenty of exquisite character work, both comedic and insightful, to push this issue closer to great than merely good. Close … but not quite.

9.0
Black Widow (2020) #10

Jan 4, 2022

Natasha defeats Apogee and de-powers his followers with the help of her full supporting cast + a special guest star. It's an eminently satisfying resolution and the visuals are back up to their GOAT best. This was a solid arc, although I was never too impressed with Apogee as the main antagonist. I'm not eager for him to come back anytime soon -- in fact I'm a tiny bit disappointed that this issue just had to foreshadow his return.

8.5
Black Widow (2020) #11

Jan 21, 2022

After a bit of a slow start, things ramp up nicely when the Widows get fresh tips off the Twins, new antagonists with an interesting powerset -- after, of course, an obligatory brawl. Solid writing and solid art. Rafael De Latorre once again does sterling work maintaining the aesthetic established by Elena Casagrande. While there wasn't a whole lot of new character work (Yelena still doesn't like Natasha keeping secrets, film at 11), Nat slides a mother of a sequel hook into the slower part. This is a pretty average issue for this run, and the fact that it's damn near great demonstrates how strong the whole story is.

9.0
Black Widow (2020) #12

Mar 5, 2022

Mysteries, fights, new antagonists, and some outrageous couture. The plot's a trifle thin and -- my biggest recurring critique for this volume -- the antagonists don't hook my attention. But there's a ton of positives to weigh against that little pound of negatives. There's good character work on Bucky, an astonishing character moment for Natasha, witty banter galore, and of course, an eye-meltingly ambitious action DPS that's the cherry on top of an all-around gorgeous comic. It's not perfect, but it's closer than the overwhelming majority of comics.

9.0
Black Widow (2020) #13

May 16, 2022

Sometimes when talented creators really narrow down their focus, magic happens. This is one great fight conveyed in great detail. The art shift is perfect. This issue has a style of its own, but the dynamic action panels are strongly reminiscent of Elena Casagrande. And the art handles its own storytelling well while the prose is almost entirely devoted to Natasha's train of thought. That train of thought is great, too. The words are elegant in their brevity, saying exactly what needs to be said and no more. This issue leaves a lot of logical questions about the Living Blade unanswered. This was surely intentional. The creators focused on explaining why the fearless Black Widow fears him, and they absolutely nailed it.

9.0
Black Widow (2020) #14

Jul 13, 2022

All the balls are up in the air as the good guys' mission trembles on the knife-edge of success or failure. And the cost is already terribly high thanks to a great last-page bombshell. The art is superb, although this team has done (slightly) better in the past. The script leans toward developing plot rather than character, but the voices still sound right and the relentless buildup of multiple cliffhangers makes this a thrilling, fast read.

8.5
Black Widow (2020) #15

Oct 29, 2022

It's a satisfying end for the arc, but a tiny bit of a letdown as the end of the series. And though I'm sure it was planned all along, this does make a mockery of the previous issue's cliffhanger. The script features few words, but they're chosen with exquisite care. The structure is tight and the pace is good. The art is impressive without any reservations, and all the more impressive as a collaborative effort. I'm glad we get to see one last Casagrande action DPS before it's all over.

4.0
Black Widow: Widow's Sting (2020) #1

Mar 7, 2021

If you wanna read a cheap James Bond knock-off featuring prose that's two generations out of date, here ya go. Marvel, why would you bother publishing this when you've just launched a new Black Widow solo title that's nearly as accessible and 1000% better?

7.5
Blade: Vampire Nation (2022) #1

May 9, 2023

Solid, diligent storytelling (in the art and particularly the words) turns an inherently-goofy vampire story into a pretty taut political thriller. A solid one-shot. When they spun Blade out of the Avengers for this, it sure seemed like there was potential for an ongoing. And this comic does put out some sequel hooks. I'd like to think somebody at Marvel took a look at a map and realized it wouldn't be cool to tell goofy vampire stories in the middle of an active war zone.

5.0
Bloodline: Daughter of Blade (2023) #1

Jan 18, 2024

Maybe someday somebody will write a terrific Bloodline story, and rose-colored hindsight will brighten up this modest early effort.

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.

7.0
Cable (2017) #158

Jan 1, 2019

Cable flashes back to the time Metus ruined his first Danger Room run with the X-Force team. This does a decent job recreating the feel of that title without subjecting us to full-bore Liefeld visuals. I was hoping for a little more forward progress in learning about Metus, though. Decent character insights for Cable and solid art all around hold this above average.

9.0
Cable (2017) #159

Jan 31, 2019

Cable explains and solves his Metus problem at last. Though this story wandered a little in previous chapters, this resolution is thoroughly satisfying from a plot and character standpoint. The art makes a formidable partner for the script, falling into lockstep in a powerful way - the words and pictures combine into a singular storytelling voice. I really like Hope's role here at the end; she has both a practical and metaphorical job to do. As a whole, this is definitely one of the best Cable stories ever told.

8.5
Cable (2020) #1

Oct 21, 2020

A nice splashy start that kicks off two promising plotlines. But the characterization is a lot less impressive and the art, though talented, doesn't seem like a good fit with the writing. Based on the model of Marauders I fully expect this to be another of DoX's "good but not as great as it could be" titles.

6.5
Cable (2020) #2

Dec 17, 2020

The script is a typical Gerry Duggan joint: Solid prose, but the total amount of plot development comes up short. The art disappoints me -- the bones are impeccable but the finish is awfully rough.

8.5
Cable (2020) #3

Feb 17, 2021

We're back on irreverent track as Kid Cable makes a tentative alliance with the Space Knights and finds himself needing a favor from Deadpool. It's still a bit short on plot development, but improvements in art, humor, and characterization make this (subjectively) a much more likable issue than #2.

8.0
Cable (2020) #4

Feb 20, 2021

Kid Cable and Esme solve their Spaceknight problem with a deus ex machina delivered from beyond the grave by Old Man Cable. That's pretty dumb, but this whole series is dumb and I guess I've embraced the dumbness. The prose wasn't memorable, but I liked the pace and the characterization. On the art: There are two distinct Phil Noto styles. I might be in the minority, but I prefer this one -- with hard outlines and strong colors -- to the softer, more pastel alternative.

8.0
Cable (2020) #5

Mar 3, 2021

Call me perverse, but the invasion of sci-fi horror-locusts was just as interesting to me as the sword-a-palooza main event. And I'll eat a Cerebro helmet if the Vescora don't turn out to be Chekhov's Guns later on. But, setting aside my enthusiasm … "It's been over 10 years, nobody'll notice if we rip off the 'what do you hear/nothing but the rain' catchphrase from Battlestar Galactica, right?" I notice, and I don't like it -- mainly because the X of Swords version isn't nearly as well-crafted as the BG original

8.0
Cable (2020) #6

Mar 14, 2021

Another bit of Saturnyne's caprice suddenly ties the score, after Cable's spirit is broken in defeat. The art is good. The language is terse, but solid. This is fast-paced -- both within the issue and in terms of the overall event -- and the finale that's suddenly on deck has a fine feeling of inevitability. I knew this fight was coming, but the event has been so wild that I have no idea exactly how it'll end.

6.5
Cable (2020) #7

Apr 30, 2021

It's not actually *bad*, but you're never not conscious of how much better it could be. Decompression is probably the biggest, clearest problem.

7.0
Cable (2020) #8

May 29, 2021

Kid Cable leans heavily (to a frankly problematic degree) on Domino's luck to move his Stryfe-hunt forward and keep himself alive in the process. It's a simple plot but it moves briskly. The art's a touch more polished than in the last issue, which I appreciate. I also appreciate the comedic effort invested in the script, though it didn't get big laughs out of me personally. Humor's mighty subjective.

7.0
Cable (2020) #9

Jul 25, 2021

Kid Cable trawls through his and Stryfe's continuity links in an unsuccessful bid to turn up some leads. It's good fun, but undeniably decompressed and basic. And it comes awful close to admitting Kid Cable is a mistake and we should just get back to Grunkle Cable. The art's a treat. I hope before he bows out, Kid Cable gets to have a fairly involved spat with Quentin Quire over who should date which Cuckoo(s).

7.5
Cable (2020) #10

Sep 7, 2021

Kid Cable starts talking to his elders about his Stryfe problem; neither Emma nor Scott is enthusiastic about his "Back to the Future" solution. The Scott conversation is livened up by happening during a bar-fight with some Arakkii mutants. The combination is done well -- but it's also done obviously, a bit of artifice to keep the issue from being entirely talk. I love the art; this is my favorite of Phil Noto's styles. This is a good issue, but it's still a decompressed one with a shortage of plot development.

8.0
Cable (2020) #11

Nov 22, 2021

Grunkle Cable is resurrected so that he and his younger self can run a fast, funny "putting the band back together" montage before confronting Stryfe. So this is essentially the middle act of the Blues Brothers, starring the extended Summers family. The art remains tight, and I think the script makes a fair trade in ditching introspection for humor and fast plot development. Definitely a good comic, but it lacks the depth to be truly great.

7.5
Cable (2020) #12

Dec 23, 2021

The two Cables go their separate ways after killing a Stryfe with their family's help. It's a mess of satisfying little bits of plot and character development, with pretty good art tying it all together. There's perhaps one too many future story hooks. Deadpool is pretty blah here and this version of Stryfe was annoying. But the Esme relationship ended up compelling and the overall concept of Cable v. Stryfe as an unending war across time is cool. We're back to Grunkle Cable as our primary Cable, but as Kid Cable points out, "You know when to find me."

8.5
Cable (2020): Reloaded #1

Jan 4, 2022

Turns out, Rocket wasn't joking about shooting Dormammu with a really big gun. Here's how Grunkle Cable went and fetched it for him, with help from old and new pals. Pay attention, future comics creators: THIS is how you deconstruct and reconstruct an old, problematic style and turn it into something brilliant. This is the tough-guy sci-fi mercenary comic that every 90s issue of X-Force WANTED to be. There are limitations to "tough-guy sci-fi mercenary comic;" the style is inherently stupid and silly. That's why I'm rating this "very good," not "great." In this incarnation, there aren't any storytelling problems to drag the comic down, and I can take the stupidity and silliness shameless and pure.

5.0
Cable/Deadpool Annual #1

Feb 28, 2019

Deadpool gets bamboozled into a time-traveling "creepy male stalker" story and Cable drops in once the mess starts damaging the timestream. This is a moron's idea of a smart time-travel script. (I don't mean too much offense to David F. Walker; I think this is a good writer being lazy rather than real incompetence.) 7th-grade jokes, labored Dr. Who references, a Terminator 2 frame, and Baby's First Summary of "Understanding Comics" thrown in for no good reason. A carousel of artists delivers pointless visual variety; nine different takes on "meh" visuals are exponentially "meh" when combined. Nick Bradshaw's "Pirates vs. mechano-Krakens" scene does look nice, though.

7.5
Captain America & The Invaders: The Bahamas Triangle #1

Jan 25, 2020

Cameos in the first scene: The photographer is Jonah Jameson or an ancestor thereof. The man passing Cap's shield back to him is Jack Kirby.

9.0
Captain America & the Winter Soldier (2022) #1

May 9, 2023

Well, I love it. It's an awe-inspiring wad of backstory and worldbuilding, but tempered with a significant bit of forward plot motion. Plus, it's got gobs of style in its script structure and art. Absolutely required reading for Sentinel of Liberty.

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 (2017) #703

Dec 18, 2018

Jack is either completely helpless or a cunning schemer as the Red Skull breaks open the secret of Kree infiltration on Earth. Alan Davis illustrating the flashback to the Cap's Kooky Quartet era of the Avengers is a high point, and in the future setting, the story just managed to engage my curiosity. I'm thinking/hoping there's a huge twist coming and I can't wait to see it.

5.0
Captain America (2017) #704

Jan 1, 2019

Jack helps the Red Skull throw the Kree off Earth, then turns on him to pull a "Cappily ever after" ending out of thin air. This story lacks heart. That makes the decision to use a "clap your hands if you believe" climax problematic, and it also undercuts the Cap-tastic platitudes at the end. I'm not a fan of the protagonist turning from Joe Underdog into Jack ☠☠☠☠ Bauer for one scene; if the author thought his plot absolutely required a vicious interrogation, he shoulda thought harder. Stacked against these serious drawbacks, what do we have in the plus column? The art is generally solid, swole-headed Skull excepted. And the palette is biased heavily toward red, white, and blue. I guess that's … clever?

8.5
Captain America (2018) #1

Jan 14, 2019

Steve grapples with post-SE reality. This is a world where he's a liability to fighting Nuke-knockoff terrorists. And Selene is starting something nasty by cannibalizing Hydra in Russia. This is a mighty ambitious and philosophical start. It's clearly chapter one in a bigger story, which explains (but doesn't excuse) the nebulous "no closure" feeling. The art is powerful stuff and I recognize the quality, even though I dislike some of the stylistic habits (particularly the "no pupils in action scenes" rule) on display. It's easy to see the promise of all-time greatness, but the pile of small but stubborn weaknesses tells me this issue, by itself, doesn't quite get there.

7.0
Captain America (2018) #2

Feb 11, 2019

Cap fights another pack of Nuke terrorists, Sharon booty calls him (go Sharon!), and the surprise twist ending is Black Panther. Throughout it, Cap's narration makes the point, "Funny how so many of my baddies share my 'I wanna be a strong guy' backstory, huh?" It sounds purdier coming out of Cap, but my version's faster. This issue does more rock-solid character work, but the repetition (not so much the additional Nuke fighting but following it up AGAIN with an inconclusive Cap/Ross spat) and the visuals are holding it back for me. Even though I KNOW it takes talent and effort to do art like this, the finished product leaves me cold.

9.0