CrazyforRAMU's Profile

Joined: Oct 31, 2017

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7.1
Overall Rating
8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Nov 9, 2017

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

7.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #2

Dec 3, 2017

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

6.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #3

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #4

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #5

Jan 15, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #6

Jan 27, 2018

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

9.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #7

Feb 12, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #8

Feb 26, 2018

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

7.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #9

Mar 30, 2018

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

9.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #10

Apr 7, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #11

Apr 20, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #12

May 3, 2018

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

6.0
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #17

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #18

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.5
All-New Wolverine #19

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #20

Nov 17, 2017

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

9.0
All-New Wolverine #21

Jan 5, 2018

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

9.0
All-New Wolverine #22

Jan 15, 2018

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

7.0
All-New Wolverine #23

Mar 11, 2018

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

7.0
All-New Wolverine #24

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #25

Apr 20, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #26

May 7, 2018

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

7.0
All-New Wolverine #27

Jun 9, 2018

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

7.0
All-New Wolverine #28

Jun 23, 2018

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

7.0
All-New Wolverine #29

Jul 27, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #30

Aug 12, 2018

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

8.5
All-New Wolverine #31

Sep 20, 2018

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

9.0
All-New Wolverine #32

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #33

Oct 17, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #34

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
All-New Wolverine #35

Dec 3, 2018

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

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #24

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #26

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #27

Nov 17, 2017

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

6.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #28

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #29

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #30

Jan 27, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #31

Mar 11, 2018

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

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #32

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #789

Apr 20, 2018

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

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #790

May 7, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #791

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #792

Jun 23, 2018

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

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #793

Jul 11, 2018

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

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #794

Aug 6, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #795

Aug 18, 2018

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

7.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #796

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #797

Sep 20, 2018

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

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #798

Oct 17, 2018

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

9.0
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #799

Nov 10, 2018

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

10
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #800

Dec 16, 2018

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

7.0
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
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

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.

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

6.0
Avengers (2018): Halloween Special #1  
7.0
Avengers: Back To Basics #1

Sep 20, 2018

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

5.0
Avengers: Shards of Infinity #1

Oct 17, 2018

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1

Nov 4, 2017

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #2

Dec 3, 2017

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #3

Jan 5, 2018

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #4

Jan 5, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #5

Feb 3, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #6

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #7

Mar 30, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #8

Apr 7, 2018

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #9

May 7, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #10

Jun 9, 2018

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #11

Jun 23, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #12

Jul 11, 2018

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

8.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #13

Aug 12, 2018

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

5.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #14

Sep 6, 2018

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

6.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #15

Oct 8, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #16

Oct 8, 2018

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

7.0
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #17

Nov 10, 2018

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

7.5
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #18

Dec 3, 2018

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

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

9.0
Black Bolt #1

Nov 9, 2017

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

9.0
Black Bolt #2

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Black Bolt #3

Jan 15, 2018

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

9.0
Black Bolt #4

Feb 12, 2018

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

9.0
Black Bolt #5

Mar 30, 2018

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

10
Black Bolt #6

Apr 20, 2018

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

7.0
Black Bolt #7

May 14, 2018

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

9.0
Black Bolt #8

Jun 18, 2018

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

9.0
Black Bolt #9

Jul 11, 2018

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

9.0
Black Bolt #10

Aug 18, 2018

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

9.0
Black Bolt #11

Sep 20, 2018

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

10
Black Bolt #12

Oct 17, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther & the Crew #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Black Panther & the Crew #2

Nov 17, 2017

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

8.0
Black Panther & the Crew #3

Jan 5, 2018

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

9.0
Black Panther & the Crew #4

Jan 27, 2018

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

5.0
Black Panther & the Crew #5

Feb 26, 2018

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

6.0
Black Panther & the Crew #6

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #10

Oct 31, 2017

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

5.0
Black Panther (2016) #11

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Black Panther (2016) #12

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #13

Nov 4, 2017

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

6.0
Black Panther (2016) #14

Dec 3, 2017

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #15

Jan 5, 2018

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

7.0
Black Panther (2016) #16

Feb 3, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #17

Mar 11, 2018

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

7.0
Black Panther (2016) #18

Apr 7, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #166

May 7, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #167

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #168

Jul 11, 2018

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

9.0
Black Panther (2016) #169

Aug 6, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #170

Sep 20, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #171

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther (2016) #172

Nov 10, 2018

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

7.0
Black Panther (2016) Annual #1

Sep 6, 2018

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

10
Black Panther (2018) #1

Dec 3, 2018

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

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

7.5
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #1  
6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #1

Jun 23, 2018

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

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #2

Jul 11, 2018

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

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #3

Jul 27, 2018

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

5.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #4

Aug 12, 2018

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

6.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #5

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Black Panther: Long Live The King #6

Sep 20, 2018

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

4.0
Black Panther: The Sound And The Fury #1

Aug 18, 2018

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

4.0
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #6

Oct 31, 2017

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

9.0
Black Widow (2016) #11

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Black Widow (2016) #12

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Bullseye (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Bullseye (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Bullseye (2017) #3

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Bullseye (2017) #4

Nov 9, 2017

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

4.0
Bullseye (2017) #5

Jan 5, 2018

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

6.0
Cable (2017) #1

Dec 7, 2017

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

5.0
Cable (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

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

5.0
Cable (2017) #3

Feb 3, 2018

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

6.0
Cable (2017) #4

Mar 11, 2018

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

5.0
Cable (2017) #5

Apr 7, 2018

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

6.0
Cable (2017) #150

May 3, 2018

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

6.0
Cable (2017) #151

Jun 9, 2018

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

4.0
Cable (2017) #152

Jun 23, 2018

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

5.0
Cable (2017) #153

Jul 27, 2018

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

4.0
Cable (2017) #154

Sep 6, 2018

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

9.0
Cable (2017) #155

Oct 8, 2018

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

9.0
Cable (2017) #156

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Cable (2017) #157

Dec 3, 2018

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

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.

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.

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
Captain America (2018) #3

Mar 18, 2019

Cap takes the initiative, boldly destroying the Nuke army and handing its creator, Zeke Stane, over to T'Challa and Okoye. Meanwhile, Sharon is getting dangerously close to the Power Elite. Taking the heroes out of reactive mode is the key to elevating this into a fully satisfying comic, and the art does a stellar job of selling the big-budget action. A good, satisfying story also makes the philosophy more engaging, but some of the author's points trouble me. The premise that "Flyover America" is in crisis, abandoned by its culture and government, is strong. Leaping to the conclusion that Flyover Americans would sell their souls to cartoonish super-fascists like Hydra and the Power Elite is pretty nasty. Absolving them of responsibility for that soul-selling is downright insulting. "Poor ignorant redneck sheep," it says. "Of course they'd sell out for good wages and decent healthcare, you can't blame them for their childish dumbness." I'm overstating for emphasis, and the author's surely aware of the complexities. The civilian Cap interviews has pangs of conscience. Cap's inner monologue also chews on the problem. It's the big theme this volume is evolving: America's too broken to start fixing itself just because Cap stands up and tells it to do the right thing. Isn't it? This feels like an opportune moment to point out that in dozens of issues by dozens of authors, the only time Marvel mentioned ordinary Americans resisting Hydra during Secret Empire was in David Walker's Occupy Avengers. The series and those issues are hardly flawless, but it is nice that SOMEBODY in the Bullpen thought Flyover Americans might not surrender their country to Hydra without a fight.

7.0
Captain America (2018) #4

Apr 25, 2019

7.0
Captain America (2018) Annual #1

Apr 6, 2019

A flashback story puts Cap back in his Nazi-punching glory days so he and Bucky can do retail life-saving for a trio of concentration camp escapees. It's got oodles of heart that make it a feel-good read, but the plot is mighty simple and the art looks like what it is: The bland compromise produced by an eight-man committee. One keep-me-up-at-night question: Did Ms. Howard consider telling this story from the escapees' POV? If she decided not to, why not?

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #19

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #20

Oct 31, 2017

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

9.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #21

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #22

Dec 7, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #23

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #24

Feb 3, 2018

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

7.0
Captain America: Sam Wilson #25

Mar 11, 2018

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

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #10

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #11

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #12

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #13

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #14

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #15

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #16

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #17

Dec 3, 2017

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

8.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #18

Jan 5, 2018

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

7.0
Captain America: Steve Rogers #19

Feb 3, 2018

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

6.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #125

May 7, 2018

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

2.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #126

Jun 9, 2018

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

3.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #127

Jul 7, 2018

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

5.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #128

Aug 12, 2018

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

5.0
Captain Marvel (2017) #129

Sep 10, 2018

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

6.0
Carnage (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

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

7.0
Champions #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Champions #6

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Champions #7

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Champions #8

Nov 9, 2017

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

8.0
Champions #9

Jan 5, 2018

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

7.0
Champions #10

Jan 8, 2018

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

8.0
Champions #11

Feb 12, 2018

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

8.0
Champions #12

Mar 30, 2018

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

7.0
Champions #13

May 3, 2018

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

6.0
Champions #14

Jun 9, 2018

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

7.0
Champions #15

Jul 6, 2018

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

7.0
Champions #16

Jul 27, 2018

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

8.0
Champions #17

Sep 20, 2018

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

8.0
Champions #18

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Champions #19

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Champions #20

Dec 3, 2018

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

9.0
Champions #21

Jan 1, 2019

An unnecessary but HIGHLY satisfying Champions/Alpha Flight brawl goes down until the heroes figure out the Master is powering his glacier-building operation with imprisoned nature spirits. Amka makes a satisfying debut, and the creators earn considerable credit for presenting a genuinely intelligent hero-on-hero fight. This comic is also one of the few that dares to swing at a "Carol vs. Kamala post-CW2 confrontation" pitch. It scores a solid triple; in my opinion, this is just as well-done as Kamala's creator's swing in Ms. Marvel #28.

9.0
Champions #22

Jan 21, 2019

The Champions tackle a modest infrastructure-repair mission in Tanzania while they chew through a heaping helping of status quo updates. All the changes and character work threaten to overwhelm; it's a good thing Viv's turn in the spotlight takes a last-act swerve into the supernatural. The art for this issue is a bit short of greatness when it comes to emotional faces, but the huge cast, fine details, and tour-de-force treatment of Amka's magic show that the visuals are, overall, well above average. The script's character work is magnificent so long as you agree to care about these characters. It pays off that investment powerfully; the final scene is a guaranteed goosebump-raiser if you've bought into Viv's story.

8.0
Champions #23

Feb 25, 2019

The Champions fight Man-Thing twice, with the undercard being tormented soul-searching for Viv. It's an excellent read, but the story drifts away from Viv and onto new business without pinning down a real conclusion. The intent might be to create ambiguity, but it comes across as unfocused. Still, this is hardly boring or ugly to look at. The art is beautiful and the script has a terrific pace.

10
Champions #24

Mar 27, 2019

The Champions fade into the background as Miles faces a Very Special Issue brought on by a mass shooting at his school. This comic shuns easy answers or partisan politicking and it's all the better for it. Miles and Kamala - and their creators - approach the issue with commendable honesty. Their take is nuanced enough to underline their idealism and sharpen it with an unflinching counterpoint of realism. You might not be able to save everyone - but that cannot stop you from saving anyone.

8.0
Champions #25

Apr 18, 2019

7.0
Champions #26

May 21, 2019

9.0
Champions #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Civil War II: The Oath #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

7.0
Cloak and Dagger (2018) #1

Aug 6, 2018

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

7.0
Cloak and Dagger (2018) #2

Jan 31, 2019

The Cloak & Dagger relationship is complicated by the introduction of a third player, Grey. This installment sets up a lot of interesting mysteries about this triangle, but the pace is still slow enough to frustrate. The colors take the "light-dark-gray" theme a little far. The good news is that art is otherwise still very powerful.

6.0
Cloak and Dagger (2018) #3

Apr 6, 2019

A confusing onslaught of first and second-hand tales shows what Grey can do and has done. Tyrone's strong narration is a useful anchor, but this story is harder to untangle than it really should be. The visuals are mostly great, but they also contribute to the confusion. Using the same finish and coloring for contemporary and flashback scenes is tricky, particularly when they're intercut panel-to-panel.

7.0
Cloak and Dagger (2018) #4

Apr 6, 2019

Cloak's client comes through in a big way and vectors him to Grey and Dagger. Their big confrontation does not go well; this story is a long way from over. This serving makes the ongoing mysteries of Grey - how do his powers work, what does he want, how's he still alive - compelling without falling into confusion. My confidence is restored, but I'm still going to need quite a bit of explanation in the final chapters.

8.0
Cosmic Ghost Rider #1

Jan 14, 2019

After his wonderfully silly-awesome supporting role at the end of the last Thanos series, Cosmic Ghost Rider gets resurrected for fresh shenanigans. The dialogue and art preserve the manic "never mind the details" tone of a REALLY GOOD bar story. The script's pacing is surprisingly slow, though. This issue dawdles to ensure that it gets no further than resurrection + plot point 1.

8.0
Cosmic Ghost Rider #2

Feb 11, 2019

Fulfilling his mandate to go as big and crazy as possible, Cosmic Ghost Rider seeks parenting advice by looking up Galactus. The question of whether or not baby Thanos can be nurtured into a non-villain remains very open, and it looks like Frank's gonna have to fight for the right to answer it. This issue has fine art and a gleeful sense of the absurd, but there seems to be a strong wall hemming this story in. I can't shake the feeling that the creators were strongly warned to keep this story frivolous and inconsequential. That still gives plenty of opportunities for entertaining fun, and the comic certainly doesn't disappoint on that score.

9.0
Cosmic Ghost Rider #3

Mar 18, 2019

Cable fights to kill baby Thanos, summoning increasingly-ridiculous numbers of AU heroes to get the job done. I wavered a bit about the tone (I object strongly to a narrative caption telling me "shut up, you like it"), but this book is so pure in its commitment to over-the-top-absurdity that its greatness is irresistible. The way the writer clearly told the artist to "make it crazy" and the way the artist delivered are both outstanding.

8.0
Cosmic Ghost Rider #4

Apr 18, 2019

7.0
Damnation: Johnny Blaze - Ghost Rider #1

Oct 8, 2018

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

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

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

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

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

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

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

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #20

Nov 25, 2017

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #21

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #22

Jan 5, 2018

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

6.0
Daredevil (2015) #23

Jan 15, 2018

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

5.0
Daredevil (2015) #24

Jan 27, 2018

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

6.0
Daredevil (2015) #25

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #26

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #27

Apr 20, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #28

May 7, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #595

May 21, 2018

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

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #596

Jun 23, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #597

Jul 27, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #598

Aug 18, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #599

Sep 6, 2018

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

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #600

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #601

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #602

Dec 3, 2018

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

7.0
Daredevil (2015) #603

Dec 16, 2018

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

6.0
Daredevil (2015) #604

Jan 1, 2019

Father Jordan twists this particular Daredevil vs. Hand fight in a weird Hellboy direction. Introducing his "Order of the Dragon" burns up entirely too much space, and the action in the balance of the book is hurt by weak visuals. This is leaning hard into "forgettable popcorn comic" territory, much as the creators might hate to hear it. For all the attention lavished on the Order, their merits and appeal remain way too hypothetical.

7.0
Daredevil (2015) #605

Jan 21, 2019

The Hand war and the Murdock administration tie themselves up in a pair of related climaxes. The raw storytelling fundamentals for an all-time great conclusion are here, but a multitude of flea bites pull this story down significantly. The art is small-time, making all the action - ESPECIALLY the Battle of City Hall - look cheap and insufficiently epic. The dialogue features way too much clumsiness. The pettiest but most memorable fault, for me, is that the author would have to massage all of two lines to make a solid continuity connection with the last volume of Jessica Jones, but he just can't be arsed.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #606

Feb 25, 2019

Matt rallies Inhuman help to bring down Mayor Fisk, keeps villains at bay while the NYPD is weak, and closes the book with a truly unlikely left-field twist. The script bops along at an excellent pace and the art is generally good with flashes of gorgeousness, but this doesn't quite hold up as all-time great if you slow down to look at it closely. The plot, in particular, is quite contrived. Still, there's no reason to overcompensate negatively. It might not be all-time great, but that doesn't mean it's not good.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #607

Mar 7, 2019

The creators really seal in the "Silver Age goofiness" of the saga of Mike Murdock by kicking this issue off with a fight against D-list villains including the Trapster. This comic walks a fine line. The inherent absurdity of everything about Mike makes for a solid comedy digression from the larger, more serious plot to bring down Mayor Fisk. The jokes are funny, but the logic behind Mike's resurrection is a little threadbare. Superb art helps sell the reality of the situation and makes this a satisfying read.

8.0
Daredevil (2015) #608

Mar 27, 2019

The saga of Mike Murdock winds to a close - but not an end. This issue delivers great art, sound writing, and just enough character insight to make a completely crazy decision sound reasonable. I can see Matt's choice here causing no end of problems in the future.

8.5
Daredevil (2015) #609

May 2, 2019

A random but serious accident puts Matt into hurry-up mode for taking down Mayor Fisk. The universe senses his rush and throws plenty of interesting curveballs at him, including a mysterious new antagonist. Most everything here - especially the art - contributes to a promising feel of rising action and impending greatness.

9.0
Daredevil (2015) #610

May 21, 2019

Elektra slides in for a hot sex scene and an assist in the first real battle of the war against Mayor Fisk. Unbelievably great art, a fast plot, and another stellar new antagonist are the formidable factors that go into this issue's plus column. The minus column is practically empty; the way Elektra is seemingly written out of the story at the end of the issue feels just a bit contrived.

7.0
Darkhawk (2017) #51

Jun 18, 2018

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

7.0
Dazzler: X-Song #1

Dec 18, 2018

Alison is trying to concentrate on her music, but the ugly growth of a mutant-supremacy movement on the fringe of her fanbase forces her to do a little heroing. It's a pretty well-told story and the art is outstanding, but good Lord the stakes could not be lower. Spending all this talent to bring forth baby's first "Bigotry Is Bad" moral is a let-down. It doesn't help that the script falls into a classic "aimless protagonist = aimless plot" trap, either. It's quite enjoyable, but it's also thoroughly lightweight.

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Deadpool (2015) #25

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Deadpool (2015) #26

Oct 31, 2017

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

7.0
Deadpool (2015) #27

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #28

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Deadpool (2015) #29

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Deadpool (2015) #30

Nov 17, 2017

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

9.0
Deadpool (2015) #31

Dec 7, 2017

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

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #32

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #33

Jan 27, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #34

Feb 3, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #35

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool (2015) #36

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool (2018) #1

Dec 18, 2018

Deadpool struggles to return to the merc-ing biz armed only with corny jokes and Negasonic Teenage Warhead as his shamelessly cinema-synergized sidekick. The art is grubby, but it matches the book's tone flawlessly and it's packed with tons of fun details. The plot moves slowly; each development is paused so that we can go prospecting for situational humor. Some of the diggings are more productive than others. Unfortunately, Wade's own attempts at humor are a weak spot so far, but it's still early days. And this issue certainly isn't short of funny coming from other sources. I love that the script isn't quite the random pinball game it appears at first glance. Note that after Wade despairs of low-rent jobs like killing bikers, the Monumental Event the script queues up for him is slaying a Celestial - one with a distinctly biker-ish appearance. That there's an ironic theme, son!

9.0
Deadpool (2018) #2

Jan 14, 2019

Deadpool learns of the coming of Groffon and sets out to defeat puke-themed Galactus all by his lonesome. This issue had me laughing quite a lot; I'm glad many of the jokes drew from sources beyond, "Ha ha! Puke!" The pacing (i.e. comedic timing) has improved dramatically since #1. The art is still grimy and detailed in a good way. The visuals are quite willing to play silly along with the script, though. I think the best overall description of this issue's tone is "Quality Looney Tunes, but made for an audience of lightly-stoned college students."

7.0
Deadpool (2018) #3

Feb 11, 2019

Deadpool saves the day and the first story arc unspools at the end like Return of the Kings: Nekkid Merc Edition. There's still a fair serving of quality humor and sick (good sick) art, but the portion's gotten smaller. This issue is leaning too hard too fast into running gag territory; Deadpool's ridiculous stuffed animal underpants have definitely worn out their welcome.

8.0
Deadpool (2018) #4

Mar 18, 2019

Hunting an embezzler who's fled all the way to Weirdworld throws Wade into an issue's worth of fantasy shenanigans. It's "Deadpool falls in love with Jennifer Kale," which at least has novelty going for it; Jennifer hasn't appeared on-page since Secret Wars. The story relies a little too heavily on Deadpool's narration and turns into a big ol' shaggy dog at the end, but passionate artwork committed to emphasizing the "weird" in Weirdworld keeps things enjoyable.

5.0
Deadpool (2018) #5

Apr 18, 2019

6.0
Deadpool (2018) #6

May 21, 2019

6.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #1

Jan 15, 2018

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

6.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #2

Jan 27, 2018

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

4.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #3

Mar 11, 2018

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

4.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #4

Mar 11, 2018

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

4.0
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again #5

Apr 7, 2018

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

6.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #1

May 3, 2018

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

7.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #2

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #3

Jul 6, 2018

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

7.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #4

Jul 27, 2018

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

5.0
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #5

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #2

Nov 4, 2017

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

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #3

Nov 25, 2017

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

8.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #4

Dec 7, 2017

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

6.0
Deadpool vs. The Punisher #5

Jan 5, 2018

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

6.0
Deadpool: Assassin #1

Jan 1, 2019

Cullen Bunn and Mark Bagley prove that they can produce a really boffo Deadpool story according to the expectations readers might have brought to the table 20 years ago. Which is … great, I guess? Did we have a shortage of good turn-of-the-millennium Deadpool stories or any doubt that these particular guys could make more? There are the tiniest hints that this story might develop real complexity as it goes on. Even if that happens, I don't think it'll be able to retroactively ennoble this thoroughly "meh" start.

7.0
Deadpool: Assassin #2

Jan 9, 2019

Deadpool's dumped into a stand-up fight with the Guild of Assassins in New Orleans. The rigor of a nice one-issue premise gives this comic the spine its predecessor was lacking. Brutal combat, outstanding art, and a much firmer grasp on its philosophy (Wade's a killer, but with standards) are all assets here. The continued uncertainty of flashback limbo, though, is still an anchor. The longer it takes the creators to get around to explaining how this series connects to contemporary Deadpool, the less satisfying the explanation is likely to be.

7.5
Deadpool: Assassin #3

Jan 21, 2019

Deadpool makes nice with Threnody and maybe resolves his business in New Orleans. A perfectly-tuned 4th wall break at the start addresses some of my concerns about this title's continuity problems - but why Weasel is alive is still a mystery. A nice pace, nastily inventive violence, and continued artistic excellence land this issue closer to "good comic" territory than I thought this series could ever get. The 90s throwback feel still goes in the minus column for me, though.

7.0
Deadpool: Assassin #4

Feb 4, 2019

Deadpool collects his supporting cast and tries to recruit the Hellhouse into fighting the Assassins' Guild with him. Finally, the purpose of this series becomes clear: to merge some OG 90s Deadpool threads into his current continuity. That's a mighty modest goal for so many pages, and this issue gives a perfect demonstration of the indulgent way the creators go about it. Wade does an action montage of merc jobs with Threnody. It takes 7 pages to show 12 gigs - very stylish, but also very definitely filler. For other readers, this might easily be a good comic. It fails a subjective but vital test for me, though: I have absolutely zero interest in ever re-reading this.

6.0
Deadpool: Assassin #5

Feb 28, 2019

Deadpool racks up a huge body count as he pushes his "retirement" adventure toward its end. This issue spoils my theory that the point of the series is to import 90s characters into Deadpool's current orbit - I'm no longer sure anybody except Wade is going to survive. And I'm really at a loss to identify another point. Although Deadpool claims to be a stylish and effective killer, the rest of this issue contradicts his claim. There's very little memorable about the violence, and the issue's Big Death is DIRECTLY attributable to poor planning (i.e. stupidity) on Wade's part.

6.0
Deadpool: Assassin #6

Mar 13, 2019

Deadpool's attempt to Captain-Kirk-talk Threnody out of murdering an unborn child gets interrupted by one last vampire fight. The tone of the script is impressively bleak and the art is quite strong, but there's a critical lack of logic to the plot. The resolution is ambiguous. In a better-built story it might read as intentional mystery; here it just seems like laziness or flip-flopping.

6.0
Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool (2018) #1

Mar 18, 2019

A slooooow introduction to the high concept "What if Deadpool subbed in for James Bond?" (Not a James-Bond-like generic spy; this is as close to Bond as Marvel can get without incurring a lawsuit.) It's a decent concept, but this issue is paced as though the creators were trying to explain it to an invertebrate with a head injury. What's a good word for "almost offensively inoffensive storytelling?" Bland? Yeah, that's the ticket. This is incredibly bland. Is it really gonna take a full six issues to tell this story?

7.0
Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool (2018) #2

Apr 6, 2019

Deadpool's spy-impersonatin' days are numbered and his stone-faced antagonist closes in on a mysterious, multiversal MacGuffin. This issue felt like a real step up, with a much speedier plot and a larger helping of absurd humor. I like the intellectual gags more than the slapstick stuff, though this issue deploys plenty of both. The art conveys motion well but it's still regrettably forgettable in its portrayal of the characters.

7.0
Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool (2018) #3

Apr 13, 2019

6.0
Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool (2018) #4

May 2, 2019

5.5
Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool (2018) #5

May 21, 2019

4.0
Deadpool: The Duck #3

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Deadpool: The Duck #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

2.0
Deadpool: The Duck #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Death Of The Inhumans #1

Jan 14, 2019

Well, the title's not kidding. The creators put on an authoritative but dusty-dry voice. Like an obituary, but in a tiny small-town paper where storytelling talent's in short supply. (And characterization talent left this town years back.) The visuals, like the words, are stiff and dull. They do a poor job of conveying emotion, narrative flow, and action, and that doesn't leave a lot of room for artistic positives. I detest the plot choices - not just the characters and races eliminated but also the decision to ignore so much of Royals. Vox is a mighty contender for the worst villain. His look is stupid and his description is juvenile. A Super-Inhuman? Really? I'd be less disappointed if they went full Silver Age and called him Grim Reaperon. Yeah, the Inhumans have been over-exposed in the past 5 years. Yeah, a lot of their stories in those years stank. That should earn them a healthy stretch in comicbook limbo, not this vindictive and, again, juvenile murderfest.

4.0
Death Of The Inhumans #2

Feb 11, 2019

Black Bolt strikes back against Vox and the Kree before things inevitably take a turn for the even worse. The storytelling, visual and narrative, comes close to basic satisfaction, but the plot it serves remains punishingly stupid. The Boss Kree lays out notably problematic reasoning for this series. It's a classic "1) Murder a bunch of Inhumans 2) ???? 3) Kree Empire is strong again" plan and this issue is flagrant in its refusal to fill in step 2. Add on Vox chewing through scenery like a runaway buzzsaw and you've got another thoroughly unenjoyable comic.

5.0
Death Of The Inhumans #3

Mar 18, 2019

While Black Bolt breaks himself out of prison - getting to be a habit with him - Medusa and pals waste A LOT of pages to go find an ally out on the very edge of left field. I like the ally in general, in principal; nothing in this issue suggests that I'll like how he's used in the next 2. Heaving Ronan onto this series' corpse-pile is yet another bit of short-sighted over-the-top-ery that honks me off. The art is bland and functional; this series would be a lot better - possibly even satisfying - with Ariel Olivetti's old painterly style. I do like almost-dead vengeful Black Bolt a lot, even if he is cribbing his new Death Litany attack from Arya Stark. You know what would be way more entertaining than this series? A video of Donny Cates and Charles Soule (possibly boozed up) debating which Inhumans live and which ones die. Is there any space left in the Daredevil lifeboat?

6.0
Death Of The Inhumans #4

Apr 18, 2019

4.0
Death Of The Inhumans #5

May 21, 2019

9.0
Defenders (2017) #1

Jan 5, 2018

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

9.0
Defenders (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

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

10
Defenders (2017) #3

Jan 27, 2018

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

8.0
Defenders (2017) #4

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Defenders (2017) #5

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Defenders (2017) #6

Apr 20, 2018

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

8.0
Defenders (2017) #7

Jun 9, 2018

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

7.0
Defenders (2017) #8

Jul 6, 2018

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

8.0
Defenders (2017) #9

Aug 12, 2018

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

7.0
Defenders (2017) #10

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #287

Apr 20, 2018

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

9.0
Despicable Deadpool #288

May 7, 2018

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

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #289

May 21, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #290

Jun 23, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #291

Jul 11, 2018

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

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #292

Jul 27, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #293

Aug 12, 2018

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

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #294

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #295

Sep 20, 2018

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

9.0
Despicable Deadpool #296

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #297

Oct 8, 2018

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

9.0
Despicable Deadpool #298

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Despicable Deadpool #299

Nov 10, 2018

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

7.0
Despicable Deadpool #300

Nov 25, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #16

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #20

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #21

Dec 7, 2017

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #22

Jan 5, 2018

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

7.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #23

Jan 27, 2018

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

5.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #24

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #25

Apr 7, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #26

May 3, 2018

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

9.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #381

Jun 9, 2018

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

9.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #382

Jun 18, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #383

Jul 6, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #384

Jul 27, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #385

Sep 6, 2018

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

7.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #386

Sep 20, 2018

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

7.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #387

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #388

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #389

Nov 10, 2018

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

9.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #390

Dec 3, 2018

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

6.0
Doctor Strange (2015) #1.MU

Oct 31, 2017

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

7.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #1

Dec 18, 2018

"Remember when we sent Iron Man into space for a couple of months? Let's do that for the other Awesome Facial Hair Bro." "Brilliant! Can we make it look gorgeous?" "Done." "Now, can we make the characterization novel and compelling?" "Enh, all we've got is Mark Waid's imitation of Jonathan Hickman's Aging Hero's Burden routine." "Well, it'll have to do. Say, aren't we doing 'Avenger Lost In Space' over in Black Panther right now, too?" "Shhh, nobody'll notice."

7.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #2

Jan 1, 2019

Doc escapes into the universe thanks to picking up an exotic alien "Indiana Jones of magic" partner. A chronic risk with Dr. Strange is that his plots tend toward arbitrary "it's possible because magic" resolutions. Here, we get a heavy dose of that arbitrariness even though Stephen is short of magic. Stephen's slapped together with literally the perfect partner? And she pulls magical escape MacGuffins out of thin air? Twice in an issue? This remains artistically beautiful and the issue has a nice pace; but the convenient coincidences are piled SO deep ...

8.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #3

Jan 14, 2019

Dr. Strange's magical mystery tour gives him the opportunity to snaffle the Time Stone off Kl'rt the Super Skrull. It's a very well-told tale in itself. I was dead bored during the "space magic" montage at the start, though, and conclusion promises more of the same in the future. It's disappointing after the body of the issue delivered so much Infinity Stone drama. Excellent art, although there are some heinous copy-paste beat panel moments.

7.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #4

Feb 28, 2019

Stephen loses Kanna and gains a Nidavellirian mentor in a botched rescue job. It's a fine story with tons of promise for future installments, and of course, it's just as gorgeously illustrated as past issues. There are 2 structural problems that keep me from calling it "good," though. The scenes are jumbled up into non-chronological order, I think strictly to make the story more complicated. And the dwarf abruptly swaps from being antagonistic to helpful for no good reason. He doesn't come right out and say, "Ah, the comic's named after you, I better buddy up," but he doesn't offer much in the way of reasonable in-character justification, either.

7.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #5

Apr 6, 2019

Dr. Strange's cosmic story swerves into a left-field twist ending. A few cool concepts and visuals are introduced prior to the twist, too, but the nuts-and-bolts storytelling doesn't give them the epic feeling they should have. Stephen's Clever Plan for saving the Earth is a perfect example: It's a clever idea, revealed in a pair of silent panels with very "blah" visuals. I think stronger writer/artist collaboration could have helped here; this particular script demands a lot of cinematic action and though this particular artist has great strengths, cinematic action is not one of them.

8.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #6

Apr 18, 2019

8.0
Doctor Strange (2018) #7

May 21, 2019

Stephen, Kanna, and Bats do heaps of lovable character work while their hunt for Casey ticks over to the next plot point. The relationships are enjoyable and heartwarming even if they border on simplistic; they make this issue a tasty serving of comfort food. The big art team does a surprisingly great job supporting the character focus. This script gets exactly the sort of emotive work it needs - lots of excellent faces here.

6.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #6

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #7

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #8

Dec 3, 2017

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

7.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #9

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #10

Jan 27, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #11

Mar 11, 2018

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

9.0
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #12

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #1

Sep 6, 2018

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

5.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #2

Sep 20, 2018

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

5.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #3

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Doctor Strange: Damnation #4

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Domino (2018) #1

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Domino (2018) #2

Nov 25, 2018

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

9.0
Domino (2018) #3

Jan 1, 2019

Domino's backstory starts informing her present Topaz problem. Amadeus Cho sends her on a fascinating mission to master her luck powers, and her characterization at the start of this issue - her fury at Topaz - is highly persuasive. Generally superb art also helps make this feel extra-special; while it's not without flaws, they are eminently forgivable.

8.0
Domino (2018) #4

Jan 21, 2019

Domino does goofy flirting with Shang-Chi, her supporting cast takes steps to support her, and the full Topaz Deal is revealed to be exactly what we thought it was. The comedic characterization is charming as all get-out, but the simplicity of the bad guys is ever so slightly disappointing. The art remains distinctively gorgeous, and the fake "Deadly Hands of Domino" cover is a treat.

8.0
Domino (2018) #5

Feb 25, 2019

Shang-Chi Yodas Domino through her fight with some ambiguous insights while her pals face off against Prototype and Topaz. I think this comic makes an ambitious leap from very basic bits of popcorn entertainment to very subtle symbolism, and while they both work, I'd have appreciated some concrete, logical storytelling in between. On the subtle symbolic side, surely it's not an accident that Domino accessing her luck power again is mirrored by Prototype experiencing misfortunes in his fight against Diamondback and Outlaw, right? I'm rolling on to the conclusion of the arc very satisfied but also hoping for a lot of clarification.

8.0
Domino (2018) #6

Mar 27, 2019

Domino closes her Topaz story in a way that manages to be both dark and uplifting. I think the script is at its weakest with the supporting cast; the Domino-centric parts are perfect. The art has a taste for the grotesque but it's impeccably polished. This issue had plenty of nits to pick, but the overall storytelling craft is very strong.

8.0
Domino (2018) #7

Apr 25, 2019

8.0
Domino (2018) Annual #1  
9.0
Edge of Spider-Geddon #1

Feb 28, 2019

Spider-Punk takes an issue to fight off Kang the Conglomerator before he falls in for Spider-Geddon duty. Is it essential reading? No. But it's nearly free of faults, and it has two giant positives in its favor. First, this is one of the greatest-ever match-ups between artist and subject matter: Spider-Punk's world is the ideal grist for Gerardo Sandoval's mill. And second, this comic is fully, deliciously aware of the irony of pitting Hobie against the evils of commercial commodification right before he dives into a Big Dumb Cash-Grab Event™.

8.0
Edge of Spider-Geddon #2

Mar 13, 2019

SP//dr and Peni Parker meet Addy Brock and VEN#m. Everybody tangles with an electricity-vampire kaiju named M.O.R.B.I.U.S., Peni suffers some more heartbreaking evolution of her supporting cast, and Spider-Ham yoinks her into the event before her home-universe story can nail down a satisfying conclusion. This is, simultaneously, a pretty dang good comic and a hollow imitation of the first SP//dr story. Like, I had fun reading it, but if it winds up making it harder to tempt Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt back to Peni Parker, I'd consider it a bum deal. Besides the problem of derivativeness, using two villains/conflicts makes this issue feel a little rushed and overstuffed. It's scoring high on the "forget the event and give me a dozen more issues of Peni Parker, please" scale, though, and that's not too shabby.

8.0
Edge of Spider-Geddon #3

Apr 6, 2019

Spider-Ben recounts a jumbled-up but fascinating story of his crime-fighting partnership with his nephew. This issue delivers a huge amount of story information, but it also feels like the aggressively complicated structure is a questionable choice. Each scene's plot developments are tied into dense little knots, and the untangling process is exhausting. And there are some ambiguous points that just refuse to make sense. An infuriating editor's note suggests this issue might be both prologue AND epilogue to this team's role in Spider-Geddon. The visuals have a sketchy finish but the layouts are beautifully crafted, which I like a lot.

6.0
Edge of Spider-Geddon #4

Apr 11, 2019

6.0
Edge of Venomverse #1

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Edge of Venomverse #2

Jan 27, 2018

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

9.0
Edge of Venomverse #3

Feb 3, 2018

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

5.0
Edge of Venomverse #4

Mar 11, 2018

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

6.0
Edge of Venomverse #5

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Elektra (2017) #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Elektra (2017) #2

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Elektra (2017) #3

Nov 4, 2017

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

4.0
Elektra (2017) #4

Dec 3, 2017

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

6.0
Elektra (2017) #5

Jan 5, 2018

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

7.0
Exiles (2018) #1

Nov 10, 2018

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

5.0
Exiles (2018) #2

Nov 10, 2018

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

7.0
Exiles (2018) #3

Nov 25, 2018

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

8.0
Exiles (2018) #4

Jan 1, 2019

The creators finally stop over-thinking the Exiles and throw one down according to the simplest possible formula: "Exiles must complete self-contained AU adventure A to earn plot coupon B and get back to Bigger Picture Plot C." It works splendidly thanks to some broad strokes characterization and superb storytelling. Neither the AU setup nor the revelation of the World-Eater's identity are particularly novel, but they do a fine job of moving the story along. The nods to King Kirby throughout all the visuals work very well.

7.0
Exiles (2018) #5

Jan 21, 2019

The Exiles triumph over the Time-Eater by locking it into a paradox, but not before one of their own has to make a mortal sacrifice. There's some awesome art and the paradox idea itself is clever. It couldn't be explained any worse, though; Iron Lad spits it up like the worst sort of last-act Star Trek gambit. A second instance of Blink running into an old teammate makes it clear that the creators are foreshadowing an OG Exiles reunion. Another good-in-theory idea with flawed execution; Sabretooth's cameo, like Morph's in #3, derails the main story without offering up any substantive sub-plot.

8.0
Exiles (2018) #6

Feb 25, 2019

The Exiles do some welcome bonding during their vacation, then get slammed faster than expected into their next adventure. The Ole West world they visit is pretty straightforward, but some sterling guest art (combined with a fast pace) does a great job of making it interesting. Somehow this title just works better when the creators keep their ambitions modest.

8.0
Exiles (2018) #7

Mar 13, 2019

Blink and friends win a costly victory over their foes. There's some definite roughness to the art. This issue's arch-antagonist gets drawn with a riff on 80s-era Sienkiewicz, though, and I'm a total sucker for that when it's done well. It's done VERY well here. The script has some powerful beats, but the overall pace is rushed. Given the introduction of another artist for the last three pages, I'm thinking this story got compressed when Rod Reis's schedule kept him from drawing a third issue.

5.0
Exiles (2018) #8

Mar 27, 2019

The "Trial of the Exiles" turns out to be a transparent excuse to recap origins, expand the roster, and restart the adventure. The roster additions are welcome, the recaps are redundant, and the ease with which the Exiles escape is anticlimactic. This issue seems to have fallen into a bad crack: too much of a re-introduction for regular readers, but not compelling enough for new readers. Another turn on the artist carousel doesn't do this issue any favors, either. It's funny/tragic that no two artists can agree on how to draw Wolvie.

7.5
Exiles (2018) #9

Apr 25, 2019

8.0
Extermination (2018) #1

Feb 28, 2019

The O5 X-Men are thrown into their endgame by a pair of high-profile killings. The deaths might look like "cheap heat," but the plot threads backing them are given solid details and lots of tempting questions. The good guys face antagonism on two fronts, one villainous and one semi-friendly. Ample support from the Gold and Red teams is appreciated, as are the confident, cinematic visuals.

8.5
Extermination (2018) #2

Mar 13, 2019

The X-Men get their first peek at Young Cable, plans are made to little effect, and Teenclops shoulders the burden of most of the issue's characterization. The script is - without being at all disappointing - a little too simple to achieve greatness. The art pushes the book close to that mark, though. An all-star cast, tormented faces, dramatic action; all are handled with consummate skill. It's gorgeous to look at even if the words fall short of deathless prose.

8.0
Extermination (2018) #3

Apr 11, 2019

7.0
Extermination (2018) #4

May 21, 2019

6.0
Extraordinary X-Men #18

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Extraordinary X-Men #19

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Extraordinary X-Men #20

Oct 31, 2017

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

9.0
Falcon (2017) #1

Apr 20, 2018

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

7.0
Falcon (2017) #2

May 21, 2018

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

8.0
Falcon (2017) #3

Jun 23, 2018

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

8.0
Falcon (2017) #4

Aug 12, 2018

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

8.0
Falcon (2017) #5

Sep 6, 2018

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

7.0
Falcon (2017) #6

Oct 8, 2018

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

7.0
Falcon (2017) #7

Nov 10, 2018

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

6.0
Falcon (2017) #8

Dec 3, 2018

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

7.0
Fantastic Four (2018) #1

Feb 25, 2019

The Fantastic Four fail to reunite. This felt like a good zero issue or a pair of good B-stories, but the headline action the Fantastic Four need is MIA. So far 2-in-1 remains a better FF comic than FF without even trying. I found the first strip's art surprisingly shoddy for this title and this artist. The second strip was visually stronger but featured one of the most questionable character designs ever for Dr. Doom. The Impossible Man gag strip actually sealed the deal and ensured I rated this short of "good." It's full of that reprehensible smugness that aging Marvel writers develop once they're sure that they outrank the fans: "I know [plot development X] infuriates you, but I'm not gonna do anything about, ha ha, ain't I a stinker?" Though this issue was stuffed full of reasons to dislike it, it also did a pretty great job of characterization, particularly with the Thing. Ben Grimm is the easiest character in the whole Marvel universe to make lovable, but it's still done notably well here.

8.0
Fantastic Four (2018) #2

Mar 27, 2019

We rewind to discover what led to Reed & Sue sending that awesome signal. This issue is split between exploring strange new worlds and running desperately from a mighty new foe. That big "4" in space wasn't so much a "put the kettle on, we're coming home" signal as it was an SOS. We STILL haven't reached the actual talk-and-hug reunion, but this issue delivers an admirable load of Star-Trek-ish multiverse adventure. It's fun to read and gorgeously illustrated. It might not be the sort of deathless epic that justifies a 3-year wait, but it's a good story.

6.0
Foolkiller (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

5.0
Foolkiller (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Gamora #3

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Gamora #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Gamora #5

Dec 7, 2017

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

8.0
Generation X (2017) #1

Nov 25, 2017

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

6.0
Generation X (2017) #2

Dec 7, 2017

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

6.0
Generation X (2017) #3

Jan 5, 2018

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

4.0
Generation X (2017) #4

Jan 27, 2018

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

6.0
Generation X (2017) #5

Feb 26, 2018

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

8.0
Generation X (2017) #6

Mar 30, 2018

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

7.0
Generation X (2017) #7

May 3, 2018

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

6.0
Generation X (2017) #8

May 21, 2018

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

8.0
Generation X (2017) #9

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Generation X (2017) #85

Jul 6, 2018

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

8.0
Generation X (2017) #86

Jul 27, 2018

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

8.0
Generation X (2017) #87

Sep 6, 2018

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

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

Feb 12, 2018

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

9.0
Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1

Feb 26, 2018

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

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

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Generations: Hawkeye & Hawkeye #1

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1

Mar 11, 2018

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

4.0
Generations: Iron Man & Ironheart #1

Mar 30, 2018

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

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

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Generations: Captain Marvel & Ms. Marvel #1

Apr 7, 2018

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

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

Apr 7, 2018

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

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

Apr 7, 2018

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

2.0
Ghost Rider (2016) #3

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Ghost Rider (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

2.0
Ghost Rider (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #17

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #18

Oct 31, 2017

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

2.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) #19

Oct 31, 2017

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

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

Oct 31, 2017

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

7.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #146

May 14, 2018

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

8.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #147

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #148

Jun 18, 2018

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

7.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #149

Jul 6, 2018

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

8.0
Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) #150

Jul 11, 2018

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

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout #1

Nov 9, 2017

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Dream On #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #1

Nov 9, 2017

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

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #2

Nov 17, 2017

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #3

Nov 25, 2017

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

6.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #4

Dec 3, 2017

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy #5

Dec 7, 2017

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #1

Feb 3, 2018

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

5.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #2

Mar 11, 2018

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #3

Apr 7, 2018

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

5.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #4

May 7, 2018

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

4.0
Guardians of the Galaxy: Telltale Games #5

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #1

Jan 9, 2018

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

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #2

Jan 9, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #3

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

10
Hawkeye (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #6

Nov 9, 2017

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

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #7

Jan 5, 2018

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

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #8

Jan 9, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #9

Feb 12, 2018

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

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #10

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #11

Apr 20, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #12

Jun 9, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #13

Jun 18, 2018

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

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #14

Jul 11, 2018

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

9.0
Hawkeye (2016) #15

Aug 18, 2018

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

8.0
Hawkeye (2016) #16

Sep 20, 2018

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

9.0
Hulk (2016) #2

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Hulk (2016) #3

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Hulk (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Hulk (2016) #5

Nov 4, 2017

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

6.0
Hulk (2016) #6

Dec 7, 2017

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

8.0
Hulk (2016) #7

Jan 5, 2018

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

6.0
Hulk (2016) #8

Jan 27, 2018

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

5.0
Hulk (2016) #9

Mar 11, 2018

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

6.0
Hulk (2016) #10

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Hulk (2016) #11

Apr 20, 2018

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

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine #1

Nov 10, 2018

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

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Dead Ends #1

Mar 13, 2019

Kitty Pryde, Daredevil, and Tony Stark thoroughly recap the Hunt for Wolverine miniserieses. That's not actually a bad thing; getting all the updates in six pages of dense exposition is way better than buying and reading hundreds of pages of super-decompressed dross. The tail end of the book introduces them to a thoroughly blah antagonist whose only noteworthy trait so far is staggering naivete (with terrible fashion sense as a runner-up trait). Introducing your save-the-world plan with mass murder is a big ethical lapse in any universe, and expecting your killings to scare Marvel superheroes into leaving you alone is extra foolish. Add in some art with sound bones but glitchy polish and you have a comic that falls right in between "average" and "good."

8.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda #1

Nov 25, 2018

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

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda #2

Jan 1, 2019

The Avengers team stumbles sideways into a genuine antagonist and a new partner gives them some extra Wolverine Family credit. I like the core plot developments, but this script is padded within an inch of its life. The art also falls well short of maximum effort. I think it's cute that the artist (or maybe the colorist?) thinks ballistic missile submarines have headlights.

6.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda #3

Jan 21, 2019

The heroes fight off Mr. Sinister, shut down the black market submarine, and intimidate the next plot point out of a captive. In an exceptionally vague flashback, Logan and Tony have an ominous but still-unspecific conversation about secrets. This issue is really only noteworthy in demonstrating how far down unengaged creators can drag a promising story. The laziness is most apparent in the visuals, but the script is quite a ways from maximum effort too. This issue puts Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Spider-Man into Iron Man suits. It steers that premise away from any "woah, how crazy awesome" memorability and renders it a thoroughly "meh" affair. That's quite an achievement, but not one to be proud of.

5.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda #4

Feb 25, 2019

The Pseudo-Vengers do a little more fighting. Tony is tempted to not blow up Mr. Sinister's creepy DNA database, but recalling his key flashback conversation with Logan reminds him to do the right thing. Everybody retires to the Cage-Jones apartment for comic relief with Danny Rand and Tony rams a couple arbitrary revelations in at the last minute. One's a forced plot coupon for the Hunt for Wolverine, the other's a personal tidbit for Laura that just emphasizes how superfluous she was to this title. This issue features decent art and dialogue, but the way the whole present-day plot was Taylor-made (I'm not ashamed of the pun) to Teach Tony a Lesson is contrived and disappointing.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer #1

Dec 3, 2018

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

6.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer #2

Jan 1, 2019

Deathstrike and Sabretooth catch up to the "☠☠☠☠! Zombies!" point, and Daken earns one tiny further development: "This town has commando dudes in it, too." That is NOT a lot of plot progress for the characters, and us readers get none at all. The dialogue is pretty good, but the art has weaknesses aplenty to balance out the slight value of the words. All of the Hunt For Wolverine serieses suffer from a shortage of content, but this one takes an early and impressive lead in dealing with its shortage via blatant decompression.

4.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer #3

Jan 31, 2019

Daken, Deathstrike, and Sabretooth have a surprising amount of trouble surviving Zombietown USA. The plot is fundamentally sound but the storytelling skills used to flesh it out are sorely lacking. The stiff, disjointed visuals make a hash of the action scenes. They're matched by dialogue with a lot of logical gaps; the words take the promise of the plot and render it confusing in all the wrong ways. This is profoundly unsatisfying both as a standalone comic and as a chapter in the miniseries.

5.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer #4

Feb 28, 2019

Sabretooth and Deathstrike just barely escape, leaving behind a dead Daken and drawing some strongly mistaken conclusions about the Soteira organization. This was a very subtle comic in both words and art, and that's a poor tonal fit for an "antiheroes versus zombietown" premise. I have great respect for the creators but I feel their talents were mostly wasted on this particular story.

2.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1

Dec 3, 2018

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

3.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #2

Jan 9, 2019

Kitty takes the POV, the villain squad gets a little too much panel space, and the art plunges into new depths of embarrassment. The costumes, proportions, and breasts are all ridiculous, but you know what I'm really gonna have nightmares about? Viper drinking booze out of what looks like an ashtray. The artist couldn't draw a convincing GLASS. How the editors (and this comic had FOUR) gave that a thumbs up is beyond me.

2.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #3

Feb 4, 2019

Domino has the POV and she uses it to flash back to having had a "sport#$%@" relationship with Logan back in the day. Yick. In the present, the heroes race to stop the baddies' satellite launch, Magneto gets loose, and Psylocke clobbers Sapphire Styx from inside her own head. It's all illustrated with art that would put you into a genuine "Lordy how do I say anything nice about this" quandary if the artist showed you his DeviantArt gallery. Its presence in a Marvel comic sold for money is a mystery. And now the script, with far too much wingding cursing and direct-to-video action movie "tough girl" characterization, races the art down to the bottom of the barrel. In the wider "Hunt for Wolverine," I'm dismayed that storytelling quality and plot relevance seem to be inversely proportional. This title and "Claws of a Killer" are the ones dropping constructive hints about the Soteira organization; "Weapon Lost" and "Adamantium Agenda" are the ones I can read without groaning.

5.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #4

Mar 7, 2019

The core Mystery in Madripoor story ends with futility, pointlessness, and more embarrassing art. But the good news is, a healthy chunk of #4 is devoted to Psylocke Development Theater, complete with actually competent guest art. It doesn't redeem the series or even the issue, but it does pin this closer to "average entertainment" than any of the previous numbers. This is just good enough (barely) to satisfy the inevitable, curious Psylocke fans who drop in for her status quo updates.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Weapon Lost #1

Nov 25, 2018

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

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Weapon Lost #2

Dec 18, 2018

A few false leads fill up space before the Detective Squad gets onto Logan's trail in a serious way. I like the core detective story, but I think it's padded for length and some of the padding - particularly "Cypher's internet addiction is just like a smack habit" - disagrees with me. The visual style is heavy, but it does great with dramatic moments.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Weapon Lost #3

Jan 14, 2019

Daredevil's detective squad discovers even their best lead is a red herring, but a left-field development promises one more issue of plot. This issue was yet another batch of decent ideas given not quite enough polish to make it all the way to "good comic." The script is by no means perfect, but it's a ways ahead of the art. This is the series's Big Action Payoff, and the visuals don't have nearly enough impact. The isolated positives - particularly Misty and Frank getting themselves a taste, woo-hoo! - keep this a bit above average.

7.0
Hunt For Wolverine: Weapon Lost #4

Feb 11, 2019

The detective squad pulls out an 11th-hour win, securing some useful info on Soteira and its relationship to Wolverine. Quality character work and nice revelations, but I have some problems with the way the plot is structured and presented. "Misty's magic arm-tech saves the day" is used three times, i.e. twice too often, and Daredevil narrating the whole thing in the past tense makes it feel like telling instead of showing. And sadly, Frank McGee's flying motorcycle makes one last appearance to demonstrate that the artist still doesn't know how to make it look cool/real.

6.0
I Am Groot #1

Dec 3, 2017

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

8.0
I Am Groot #2

Jan 5, 2018

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

6.0
I Am Groot #3

Feb 3, 2018

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

6.0
I Am Groot #4

Mar 11, 2018

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

6.0
I Am Groot #5

Apr 7, 2018

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

8.0
Ice Man (2018) #1

Mar 27, 2019

Iceman returns to protagonist duty. The soap opera/slice of life stuff at the start (in the vein of his last series) goes over like a lead balloon, but things get much more promising when he and Bishop fight a pocket Mutant Massacre with the Morlocks. Decent art throughout, good foreshadowing, and excellent plotting suggest this series will develop nicely if Sina Grace continues to lean on solid X-Men tropes.

5.0
Ice Man (2018) #2

Apr 25, 2019

5.0
Ice Man (2018) #3

May 21, 2019

8.0
Iceman (2017) #1

Jan 5, 2018

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

4.0
Iceman (2017) #2

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0
Iceman (2017) #3

Feb 3, 2018

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

7.0
Iceman (2017) #4

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Iceman (2017) #5

Mar 30, 2018

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

7.0
Iceman (2017) #6

Apr 20, 2018

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

7.0
Iceman (2017) #7

May 14, 2018

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

6.0
Iceman (2017) #8

Jun 18, 2018

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

4.0
Iceman (2017) #9

Jul 11, 2018

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

6.0
Iceman (2017) #10

Aug 18, 2018

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

7.0
Iceman (2017) #11

Sep 20, 2018

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

10
Immortal Hulk #1

Dec 18, 2018

A flawless one-shot demonstrates the new Hulk formula: Kill Bruce Banner, and the Hulk will rise. This Hulk is a monster in form and speech, a terrifying combination of physical and psychological danger. In words and art, this series is launching at the very apex of its game. It's like the creators know, with absolute confidence, that they're bringing us something special. And they ABSOLUTELY are. This is unmissable.

9.0
Immortal Hulk #2

Jan 14, 2019

Bruce Banner takes the POV as he stumbles across mysterious small-town deaths and inevitably works out a gamma connection. A good mystery, great characterization, and gorgeous art make this a superb read. It falls short of perfection only by stumbling into the oh-so-common problem of a good "whodunnit": The finale feels slightly anticlimactic after the mystery is solved. Still beautiful and fascinating; best of all, this issue gives TONS of great details on Banner's current status quo.

8.0
Immortal Hulk #3

Jan 31, 2019

The Hulk leaps into another gamma mystery. We learn about this one after the fact through a Rashomon-style pastiche of Jackie McGee's interviews. The differing perspectives are illustrated by subtly adjusting the tone of the script as well as by inviting in guest artists. The result is a very fun, intriguing read, but the details of the mystery are left a little too open-ended for all-time greatness.

9.0
Immortal Hulk #4

Feb 11, 2019

The Hulk's ongoing story kicks into high gear as Jackie McGee and Walter "Sasquatch" Langkowski come together as the nucleus of a supporting cast. Walt's expository flashbacks slow the plot a little, but the odds of any of the information he shares being wasted are slim. This issue's stellar cliffhanger marks the end of the title's introductory "one-shots" phase. The whole art team is burning the midnight oil, and the results are magnificent.

10
Immortal Hulk #5

Mar 18, 2019

The Hulk and Sasquatch have a slam-bang hospital-wrecking fight, which is glorious, and a shocking amount of character development happens organically along the way. The tone gets a little melodramatic (that's how literature nerds say "cheesy"), but I find it very forgivable thanks to the huge amount of fascinating information revealed about the characters and the story. This issue answers a lot of big questions and yet it flawlessly preserves the title's sense of mystery and horror - behind the big questions are yet more questions, even bigger.

9.0
Immortal Hulk #6

Apr 6, 2019

Long-term plot points slide smoothly into place, most notably the introduction of General Fortean and his Shadow Base as the creepy government antagonists du jour. Between the guest art (strong but just not the same as Mr. Bennett's) and the slightly scattershot story, it's tempting to rate this down as a filler issue. But I've read further ahead. There's NOTHING random or red-herring-y in this issue's details. The "Bruce Banner associates" being monitored by Shadow Base, for example, are wall-to-wall Chekov's guns.

10
Immortal Hulk #7

Apr 25, 2019

The Hulk - now rightfully christened "Devil" Hulk - comes within an inch of beating the current Avengers team. The Hulk's combat moves are drenched in devious wit as well as bone-cracking brawn. It's not just a perfect rendering of the new Hulk at his nastiest; it's also a fascinating take on the current Avengers lineup. As well as being a ridiculously satisfying one-off fight, it clicks seamlessly into place as part of the title's larger story. This is, quite simply, everything I could ask for in a Marvel comic right now.

10
Immortal Hulk #8

May 21, 2019

Walter and Carol launch a heroic new Hulk-hunting operation. That's just the sideshow; the star attraction here is the Hulk surviving a scary-detailed vivisection before tearing his way free of Shadow Base. It's the sort of vivid spectacle that sticks in the reader's memory for years to come. The script is in top form, delivering a brisk text and a bumper crop of subtext. The art is something special, even by the sky-high standards Joe Bennett has already established. The Hulk's escape calls for striking imagery, and it's simply impossible to imagine anything more striking than the horrific scenes we get here.

8.0
Immortal Iron Fists #2

Mar 11, 2018

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

6.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #709

May 3, 2018

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

5.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #710

Jun 9, 2018

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

4.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #711

Jul 6, 2018

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

4.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #712

Aug 12, 2018

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

5.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #713

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #714

Oct 8, 2018

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

8.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #715

Nov 10, 2018

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

6.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #716

Nov 25, 2018

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

6.0
Incredible Hulk (2017) #717

Dec 3, 2018

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

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #2

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

4.0
Infamous Iron Man #6

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #7

Nov 4, 2017

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

6.0
Infamous Iron Man #8

Dec 3, 2017

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

9.0
Infamous Iron Man #9

Jan 5, 2018

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

9.0
Infamous Iron Man #10

Feb 3, 2018

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

8.0
Infamous Iron Man #11

Mar 11, 2018

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

5.0
Infamous Iron Man #12

Apr 7, 2018

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

8.0
Infinity Countdown #1

Sep 6, 2018

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

8.0
Infinity Countdown #2

Nov 10, 2018

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

8.0
Infinity Countdown #3

Nov 25, 2018

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

7.0
Infinity Countdown #4

Dec 18, 2018

The Guardians break for a little planning and bickering while Warlock, Surfer, and Galactus fight a good fight against Ultron. I'm torn by the outcome and what it does to Big G. It's a very satisfying resolution to this story, but it burns some bridges that didn't need to be burned. This issue's art was also problematic for me; it seems to be sliding from good-weird to weird-weird.

6.0
Infinity Countdown #5

Jan 31, 2019

The Guardians splinter under the strain of the Infinity Stones and a reunion with Warlock. Meanwhile, Dr. Strange takes the lead on the Earth side of the story and sad #@%& happens to Hank Pym in Soul World. Gamora's characterization is strong and heartbreaking; so is Hank's misfortune. The overall plot is a hot mess, though. Too many of the complex storylines weaving through this issue dead-end in "why's this happening and why's it important?" questions, and this event has already burned WAY TOO MANY pages to remain so opaque. The glimmers of good character work and the slightly above-average art do not do nearly enough to offset this issue's giant potential for frustration. The armor-forging prologue scenes throughout the Countdown series are, to me, symptomatic of the event's bigger problems. A Mystery Dwarf forges Mystery Armor for a Mystery Antagonist. Here, before we've learned ANYTHING substantive about the forging, the Mystery Dwarf gets sworded to death by ANOTHER Mystery Antagonist - or maybe the same one? That's just too many mysteries for an event that's been rolling for four months.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1

Aug 18, 2018

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

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Prime #1

Sep 6, 2018

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

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Daredevil #1

Dec 3, 2018

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

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Captain Marvel #1

Dec 16, 2018

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

5.0
Infinity Countdown: Black Widow #1

Jan 1, 2019

Natasha defends the Space Stone against Jaime Braddock and relieves him of some enslaved kid-minions with a little magical assist from Merlin. The art is exactly the sort of shabby display that puts me in a nit-picking mood. I moved seamlessly from visual inconsistencies, like the flick knife that should have chopped off Natasha's fingers, to script flaws, like constantly breaking its own "line of sight teleporting only" rule. While the comic manages to avoid any truly terrible outrages, its lukewarm performance across all of the metrics I might judge it by - as a Black Widow story, as an Infinity Stone story, as a magic story - renders it thoroughly unsatisfying.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Champions #1

Jan 1, 2019

Sam Alexander catches wind of Warbringer's part in the Infinity Whatsis, so he's gotta go face him down. His Champions teammates insist on coming with. The pace of plot development is a little flabby, but the extra space is put to good use to do outstanding characterization. This may not be essential Inifinity reading, but it's a real pleasure for Champions fans. Pretty art is another strong selling point.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Champions #2

Jan 14, 2019

The Champions defeat Warbringer and survive close contact with Thanos, but not without some nasty psychological damage. I'm torn over this issue's characterization. The Riri/Viv scene is an absolute gem; the calamitous change dumped on Sam in the final scene feels a little cheap. The visuals are serviceable throughout, but they're better at portraying action than emotion - and even so, this issue's fight scenes aren't all that memorable.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1

Dec 3, 2018

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

7.0
Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #2

Jan 1, 2019

Chris makes it to space, but his meeting with the OG Raptors goes just about as bad as possible. I find myself torn in rating this. I like the creators' high-level strategic choices: devoting significant page-time to Marlene, boosting the stakes on Chris's conflict with the Raptors, engaging in cosmic world-building to tie the Raptors to the Phoenix Force, etc. The tactical execution of those ideas just doesn't hook me here, though. The visuals are the same way. I like the way GH Lim's style stands out in comparison to contemporary Marvel, but there are some rough patches.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #3

Jan 9, 2019

Some mumbo-jumbo help from Razor gets Chris back on his feet and hot on the tails of the Raptors. I really enjoyed the cosmic backstory bits, and the visuals throughout were quietly awesome. Although there was some definite artifice in powering up the Darkhawk, it was done in an entertaining fashion and it struck the right balance between magic and logic.

8.0
Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #4

Jan 21, 2019

Rich Rider drops by to play a significant guest-star role in the conclusion of Chris Powell's Big Space Adventure. The fighting is a bit too vague - both in terms of visual effects and verbally-described consequences - but it builds to a pretty satisfying wrap-up. This isn't so hot as an isolated issue, but it works really well (excepting the final surprise announcement of more Infinity Shenanigans to come) as a capstone for the series as a whole.

5.0
Infinity Wars (2018) #1

Feb 11, 2019

Dr. Strange's sad Infinity Watch is assembled. (Ugh, Bullseye. Really?) Towards the end, plot developments develop dramatically and the forward progress is blissfully welcome. Requiem's identity is revealed and that's just the first of the climax's double-barreled surprises. The script drops signals suggesting that this ridiculous plot was once supposed to be EVEN MORE labyrinthine: When did Thor meet "King Thor"? When did Iron Lad sub in for Kang? What's the Kree trouble Carol is supposedly dealing with? Life of Captain Marvel, which just started? I feel again like the kid pointing out the naked emperor when it comes to the art. From the first scene inexplicably taking place in an Old West saloon to the last scene relying on random doll heads to try (unsuccessfully) to portray an emotional Gamora, I hate these visuals. And the script for this issue is busy enough to expose a brand-new fault in the "fractal" panel layouts: While the smaller boxes are usually just arbitrary divisions of a bigger scene, SOMETIMES they're separate, all-new panels. There's no way to tell the difference, and it makes the story that much harder to follow.

6.0
Infinity Wars (2018) #2

Feb 28, 2019

Infinity Stone powers make the battle for possessing them tricky, but Gamora's the big winner. This issue seems to be an abrupt end to the Stones' Earth connections and a launching pad for all-new cosmic weirdness. That suits me just fine. I appreciate the good work that went into scripting this big fight; I wish it was supported by stronger visuals. The character portrayals are OK, but the art fails to illustrate the use of the Stones well. Us clever readers are left to puzzle it out from the words. Credit to the colorist - he does help. But with better art, we wouldn't NEED clues like "green wash = active Time Stone."

6.0
Infinity Wars (2018) #3

Mar 27, 2019

After Gamora squishes all her potential opposition into a ridiculous mashup pocket universe (i.e. a holding pattern), she focuses on the one mysterious place hidden from her nigh-omnipotent sight. This issue auditions several different partnerships that could be used to exposit the main event's plot: Gamora/Loki, Gamora/Thanos's Ghost, Loki/Flowa, Gamora/Flowa. I think it's unfortunate that the author settles on the last one; it seems less interesting than the others. While neither the script nor the art strike me as criminally bad, my reaction to both settles firmly on "blah." This is a banal slab of doughy comics product with snarky dialogue and random character mashups sprinkled through it like chocolate chips, or raisins, or both. It just manages to spark a little interest in the mashups; it's utterly unable to paint them as anything more than shameless time/money wasters. If some of them embrace their absurdity and aim for sheer awesomeness, they might turn out great. I feel similarly about the main event. Though they're faint, there ARE signs of a Master Plan threaded through this issue. I think this story, even more than most Big Dumb Events™, is gonna make a lot more sense in a collection than it does issue-to-issue.

3.0
Infinity Wars (2018) #4

Apr 25, 2019

This comic has a ton of problems, but drawing Kamala Khan's costume bodypaint tight is a special kind of Wrong.

4.5
Infinity Wars (2018) #5

May 21, 2019

Loki's new set of Stones is half 616 and half Warp World. His pickpocketing gets him the 3 616 stones taken from Gamora and the 2 WW Stones he gave to Ms. Marvel and Ant-Man, and with his WW Soul Stone, they make a no-duplicates set. (And Gamora still has 3?) Considering how much sweat went into setting that up, I'm amazed that this issue's script is so subtle about it. Perhaps it'll become crucial in #6? I'm thinking his multiversal mix of Stones might be how he broke through the Quarry where Gamora could not.

5.0
Infinity Wars (2018): Prime #1

Feb 4, 2019

Warlock and Dr. Strange fret about Soul World; Thanos joins the too-long list of villains teased and then discarded as the event's Big Bad. I'm starting to really struggle to come up with positives about this event, but there's no shortage of negatives. Add on a notably lazy serving of art by one of my least-favorites and this issue ends up being functionally competent but thoroughly unenjoyable for me.

8.0
Infinity Wars: Arachknight #1

May 7, 2019

A supernatural mugging in his childhood costs Peter Parker his aunt and uncle and his single-personality sanity. He assembles a Moon-Knight-esque gestalt, but discovering the perpetrator of the mugging 15 years later upsets his equilibrium. I really liked the wisely-constrained scope that doesn't go completely overboard on extra mash-up characters. The manga-esque art delivers good character designs and binds them into good layouts.

9.0
Infinity Wars: Iron Hammer #1

Apr 11, 2019

On a stormy Scandinavian night, Sigurd Stark wanders into conflict with Krimson Kurse and the dark elves. From there it's on to a crazy (good crazy) Nordic retelling of the MCU Iron Man origin and a smorgasbord of absurd mash-ups waiting to fight the Iron Hammer in the next issue. This series strikes gold with a heavenly tone-to-content match: Silver Ager bombast is the perfect tool for managing the absurdity of Warp World. Rock-solid art and a talented, lovingly loquacious flood of words make this a delight to Silver Age fans like me.

8.0
Infinity Wars: Iron Hammer #2

May 21, 2019

8.0
Infinity Wars: Sleepwalker #1

Apr 18, 2019

6.0
Infinity Wars: Sleepwalker #2

May 7, 2019

6.0
Infinity Wars: Soldier Supreme #1

Apr 6, 2019

The origin of Stephen Rogers, Soldier Supreme, just manages to get me engaged by the time the first act is over. Words and art are basically sound, but Stephen's mashup supporting cast rubs me exactly the wrong way. Each new introduction looks progressively sillier. Each of them carries away a bit of my interest in following this story through to its end, and that first act didn't pile up a lot of interest to begin with. The endless mashups provide lots of breadth, but depth would have held my attention much better.

8.0
Infinity Wars: Soldier Supreme #2

May 7, 2019

6.0
Infinity Wars: Weapon Hex #1  
6.0
Inhumans Prime #1

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Inhumans: Judgement Day #1

Aug 6, 2018

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

9.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #1

Mar 11, 2018

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

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #2

Mar 30, 2018

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

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #3

Apr 20, 2018

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

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #4

May 14, 2018

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

8.0
Inhumans: Once And Future Kings #5

Jun 18, 2018

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

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #4

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #5

Oct 31, 2017

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

6.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #6

Oct 31, 2017

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

8.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #7

Nov 25, 2017

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

8.0
Invincible Iron Man (2016) #8

Jan 5, 2018

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

8.0