Sinestro #1 (DC)


Rating: 4/5 – Sinestro deservedly gets his own series.
by ComicSpectrum Reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Ever since Geoff Johns took over the Green Lantern books, Sinestro has played a pivotal role in the Green Lantern universe. The role he’s played has at times been so significant, that he has even overshadowed Hal Jordan in certain story lines. So it isn’t surprising that DC has decided to give Sinestro a shot at headlining his own book.  If newcomer Larfleeze beat him to it it’s high time for Sinestro to be headlining his own book with his name on the masthead. Sinestro has a talented creative team in writer Cullen Bunn and artist Dale Eaglesham to usher in this new series and to no surprise, there’s quite a lot to like in the first issue.

Getting the complaints out of the way first, the portrayal of Sinestro by Eaglesham isn’t necessarily what I was used to for the character, but is very fitting of Eaglesham’s style. Eaglesham is known for drawing his male characters a bit more stocky and muscular. When he took over the Fantastic Four over at Marvel, his Mr. Fantastic was much wider and more muscular than how he had been portrayed for years. It took a bit of getting used to, but still worked.  Sinestro, has always been that lean and lengthy villain with a larger and longer proportioned head. Eaglesham makes him look more “normal”, therefore losing some of that unique and disturbing appearance. That aside, the art on the book is fantastic. Eaglesham’s panels are packed with action and his art on Sinestro Corp members like Lyssa Drak and Arkillo are both frightening and powerful. The colors by Jason Wright also add to the overall look, as the opening pages and cover really draw you in, and it’s always refreshing when a cover depicts a scene that actually happens within the book!  (As an aside, it’s kind of sad that this is so unusual of late in mainstream comics that it has to be called out as a cool moment…)

Cullen Bunn weaves a solid tale that delivers not only for new readers, but also for long time Green Lantern fans. He sets the stage for this new series by giving Sinestro a new mission and focus, he incorporates an origin for new readers who may not be as familiar with this character, and includes fan favorite characters from the Sinestro Corps. It’s a tightly packed story that does what’s needed for a debut issue. I can see this book becoming one of my must read titles, which I can’t always say about the other Green Lantern related titles.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Singular Artist’s Vision of The Living Weapon and his Origin.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

This book was something special.  Kaare Andrews does the whole thing; as he says on the letters page:

Don’t just write it.  Don’t just draw it. DO EVERYTHING. Plot. Script. Pencil. Ink. Color. Logo. Get your hands on the whole of it.

Well, he lets Joe Caramagna do the letters bit everything else is Andrews.  As is befitting the All-New Marvel NOW, we get a new take on Danny Rand, Iron Fist.  A new take on the man.  A new take on his origin.  I’m not very sure I particularly like this take, but I cannot deny the level of craft that Andrews puts on the page.  Andrews art is stylistically similar to what we’ve seen from him before.  He has enough of a unique style that you will either really like the visuals or they won’t click with you.  Personally, the art was the highlight of this issue for me from a pure craftsmanship level.

The story was not as much in my wheelhouse as the art.  The Danny Rand we get here is dull and lifeless.  He’s been through a lot and it has worn on him.  I can see why Andrews is going this route in his character study, layering on ennui for dramatic effect, but it’s really not something that leapt off the page at me as compelling reading.  He has a hollow haunted look when he’s doing everyday tasks, when he’s with a beautiful woman, etc.  You get the picture.  I can see someone reading this book and thinking this is a masterpiece handling of the character, I’m just not that person.  I was really not in the mood for the deconstruction-”path of discovery”-rebuilding take on Iron Fist, but it’s a perfectly valid take whether I was in the mood for it or not.  We have a hero who is “broken” and this series will be about, I assume, him getting “fixed”.

Andrews has a slightly skewed take on Danny Rand’s younger self’s road to K’un Lun too.  His Dad comes off more bat-shit crazy than I remember, and his Mother a bit less valiant.  Again, a different take but not necessarily bad.  If you are reading Iron Fist for the first time, this will serve as a great “my version” of the character and his origin.  In the end, this was a very well put together comic that I just didn’t care for.  It’s well worth reading, I’ll be curious to hear from people about their feelings on Andrews take on Iron Fist.  I suspect there will be a lot of people raving that this is perfect and others decrying it as terrible.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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Quantum & Woody #9 (Valiant)

CREDIT: Valiant Entertainment

Rating: 4.5/5 – One of the Funnest and Funniest Books on the Stands.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Starting in on it’s third story arc with this issue, Quantum & Woody stands apart from the other Valiant comics due to it’s unique blend of action and irreverent humor.  Archer & Armstrong has humor too, but it doesn’t seem to be as central to the theme of the book.  While I won’t go so far as to say Quantum & Woody is nothing but jokes, the humor is a pretty integral part of the book.   Amateur heroes after a lab experiment gone awry, foster brothers Woody & Eric are making their way in a none too serious corner of the Valiant Universe.  Woody can shoot energy and Eric (aka Quantum) can generate shields.  If they don’t KLANG their metal wristbands together once every 24 hours, they’ll dissolve into their component atoms.  That’s the high concept.  On the pages of each issue the overarching plot serves to fuel witty banter as our heroes get up to lots of crazy hi-jinks.

Humor is a very subjective thing (a lot like art) so while I find this book to be uproariously funny, there are others for whom it will fall entirely flat.  For me, James Asmus riffing on pop culture, movies, relationships, etc. really hits my “humor sweet spot”.  The transitional blurbs when we transition from one scene to the next are another source of hilarity for me. For instance, in this issue we get “Goofus and Gallant Make Plans.”, which is a riff on a series of cartoons in an old children’s magazine that attempted to teach manners by showing a situation and having one kid do something inappropriate (Goofus aka Woody) and the other would do the socially acceptable thing that parents aspired to have their kids do (Gallant aka Eric aka Quantum).  VERY referential. VERY dependent on the reader making the connection. VERY funny when you do make the connection.  Another quick example is the name of the Law Office Eric visits: “MacGuffin, Archetype, & Exposition.”  I love it.

The art, by Kano on this story arc, is of the same general family of art styles that we got from Tom Fowler in the first arc and Ming Doyle in the second.  Clean and uncluttered, great job on facial expressions and body language, and masterful at injecting visual humor into the book.  Kano is a great match for Asmus’ story as well as the Quantum & Woody series in general.

Overall, this is a great series for people who don’t mind a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously and can go with the flow on certain elements that, while they work in the context of the story, are clearly injected for humorous purposes.  I would recommend grabbing the collected edition of the 1st volume of this series and giving it a try.  You’ll love it (unless you don’t)!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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Warlord of Mars #100 (Dynamite)

CREDIT: Dynamite Entertainment

Rating: 4/5 – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad in this giant anniversary issue.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

The 100th issue from the Warlord of Mars franchise to come out of Dynamite!  Let’s count them down:
35 – Warlord of Mars (34 issues + 1 Annual)
37 – Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris
12 – Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars limited series
4 – Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars mini-series
6 – Lords of Mars mini-series
5 – Warriors of Mars mini-series
99 total issues before this one!  I am not counting the 5 issue “Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom” 5 issue mini-series from 2012, but that was set 10,000 years before the time of Dejah Thoris & John Carter and features neither of these characters, which is why I chose to exclude it.
Note: I’ve gotten comment that we should EXCLUDE Lords of Mars (6 issues) and INCLUDE Fall of Barsoom (5 issues) and also add in Warlord of Mars #35 that does not come out until the week after this issue.  My math makes this the 100th comic with either John OR Dejah physically published by Dynamite.

That’s a LOT of Warlord of Mars comics!  Dynamite is doing a fairly solid job with the franchise.  With 100 issues there are probably at least 500 different covers out there, most displaying John Carter’s beautiful Martian bride, Dejah Thoris in all her cheesecake-y glory.  To be fair, putting the scant amount of clothing on her that actually is there in these comics is  more that Edgar Rice Burroughs described for her almost 100 years ago in 1917′s “A Princess of Mars”:

She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

But what about this specific issue that clocks in at 46 pages of story for $7.99?  It’s broken down into 3 stories, the 1st 2 are directly related to one another, parts 1 and 2 of “The Sword of Barsoom”, while the 3rd, entitled “Stay” features John Carter and his faithful calot Woola (a calot is a big green 6-legged Martian version of a dog, Woola is on the cover image above).

Even though I’ve not been reading the title regularly (I’ve only read about half of the 100 issues) I have read and enjoyed the original Burroughs novels and the 1st two stories were very accessible to me as an occasional reader of the comics who is nonetheless fairly familiar with the world of Barsoom (the Martian name for Mars).  I really enjoyed the story of the legendary Martian sword.  Part 1, written by Robert Place Napton with art by Lui Antonio, is set 434 years before the time of John Carter and features Dejah Thoris.  We also get to meet the calot Woola as a pup (which was very fun)!  Antonio turns in a solid job on the art with the scantily clad Dejah cavorting around in all her semi-clothed splendor on almost every page.  The eye candy is nice but I think it sometimes causes people to dismiss this book and we have a really solid story by Napton buried beneath the T&A.  Woola is the real hero of this tale, I’d give this story a 4.5/5 if I was rating it on it’s own.

Part 2 of The Sword of Mars is brought to us by writer Arvid Nelson and artist Jose Malaga and is set just a bit shy of 4 years after John Carter became Warlord of Mars.  Woola once again shines in this tale with a really nice twist at the end regarding the sword.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the facial representations of John and Dejah by Malaga, so that detracted a bit from my enjoyment, but I still give this a solid 4/5.

The third story, written by Mark Rahner, is where it really fell down for me.  The art by Jose Luis was my favorite in the entire issue; he beautifully rendered scenes with humor, drama, action, as well as great body language and nuanced facial expressions.  But the mostly silent story (only spoken words being John Carter telling Woola to ‘stay’, thus the title) was fairly difficult for me to follow except in the broadest strokes.  John Carter had something going on with a tough looking red Martian leading a group of armed men.  This might relate to events in recent issues that I’ve not read and what was going on may be very apparent to regular readers.  For me, other than being able to appreciate the art and a couple of broadly visual moments, this story was a failure for me.  This one gets a 3/5, salvaged to that score by the art.

Overall, I really enjoyed the issue.  The 1st 2 stories were self contained and I think they could be enjoyed by anyone picking up this issue off the stands.  The 3rd story had great art but was hard for me to follow and may have relied on some knowledge of recent issues that I didn’t possess, not a great idea for an issue that could be a totally solid jumping on point to next month’s “Dejah of Mars” series also written by Mark Rahner.  I’m interested in the premise set up by this story, even though I’m in the dark on the motivations behind what happened.  I like these characters and I’m very happy to see how Dynamite has been handling them for the past 3 1/2 years.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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Nightcrawler #1 (Marvel)

Nightcrawler 1
CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – BAMF! Claremont is back!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Hank Johnson.

If you ask most comic fans why they like the X-Men, almost all who have been around for a while will point to Chris Claremont’s run on the comic during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Using compelling and intricate storylines, Claremont forged a universe that spans dozens of characters and spoke to the hearts of many young Marvel fans. Claremont’s work since those days has been somewhat spotty for me. While I enjoyed the series X-Men Forever, I was clearly in the minority.  Nightcrawler recently returned to comics, after his death during the Second Coming crossover. If you are interested in reading about how he came back, you can read that story in Amazing X-Men.

This issue quickly addresses that Nightcrawler is back, and shows his transition into the new status quo of the X-Universe. However, once the book shifts from the prelude to what will be the main story, I feel that the issue loses some accessibility to people who are not hard core X-Men fans. While I love Claremont’s choice of co-leading character, not many general comic fans will know the character, though most X-Men and Nightcrawler fans will easily know who it is.  Looking at this as a number 1 issue designed to attract new readers, it falls a little short of the mark. For example, the character mentioned earlier is only referred by their first name. So even if a new reader is intrigued and wants to look up information on the character, it would be a challenging task.

While the overall writing is fantastic, there are a few awkward panels. For example, in one panel, a character states “I need to check on my mother (name), to make sure she’s safe”. Why would anyone say something like that? It really read awkwardly and distracted me from the story.  Other than the accessibility no new readers and an awkward turn of phrase, this is Claremont writing at his best. He handled Nightcrawler’s reclamation to the current status quo beautifully.  Nightcrawler’s interaction with Wolverine, Storm, and Rachel Grey was pitch and tone perfect. I really enjoyed how Claremont was able to bring back some great memories from the Excalibur series, yet keep it vague enough so new readers can get a sense of the character. I wish he had maintained that throughout the whole issue.

Todd Nauck’s selection as artist for the series was an excellent choice. Nightcrawler’s ability to teleport poses some unique challenges for artists and Nauck answered them beautifully.  Nauck drew Nightcrawler in mid teleport several times. Each of these panels was some of the best work I have seen in an X-Men book. His style is loose and fun, but captures just the right amount of detail to make truly impressive images.

Overall, I believe your level enjoyment of the story will vary depending on your level of expectations and experience in the X-Universe. If you are someone not versed in X-Men lore, I think it would be somewhat inaccessible and frustrating due to its lack of backstory. If you are an X-Men fan, I think you will really enjoy this book.  That said, Nauck’s art alone makes this book fun just to look at.

Reviewed by: Hank Johnson
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All-New X-Men #25 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Short stories showcasing a lot of great artists.
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.

From the gorgeous cover to the beautiful pages inside, this so-called anniversary issue of All-New X-Men is a sequential art lovers delight. Putting aside the simple fact that this series is already one of the best and most consistent books being put out by Marvel these days, this issue #25 (a number not many Marvel titles reach any more, before being canceled and re-launched with a new #1) is a veritable cornucopia of spectacular artwork. From Art Adams to Bruce Timm to Scottie Young to J. Scott Campbell to David Mack, this double-sized issue is what one would call a “keeper”. It was especially enjoyable to see Bruce Timm, more noted for his work at DC, taking on Jean Grey.

Written by some unknown novice named Brian Michael Bendis (of course, I kid – is this guy running Marvel yet?) this issue really has no story, per se, instead opting for one or two page what if scenarios, bookended by a rather Dickensian, David Marquez-penciled few pages of the present day Beast being visited by a mysterious visitor in the night, telling him of his possible futures. What this issue is is a showcase for the aforementioned array of artists. Marvel states (and right there on the cover even!) that this issue features “the greatest artist roster ever assembled.” Now this may be a bit of an overstatement – pure hyperbole, if you will – but the art that is in here is a lot of fun. Ranging from beautifully detailed splash pages to comic strip style “funny pages,” the art, and sometimes the laughs, more than make up for there being no real story.

All-New X-Men #25 with its impressive array of artistic talent would be a good jumping on point for new readers. The issue explains, albeit briefly, why these five teenage X-Men are stuck here in the present day Marvel Universe. Along the way we get a lot of great artistic renderings of these iconic characters – and not just of the first class crew, but of Colossus and Kitty, Magik and Emma, and Wolverine too. If you’ve managed to skip this series so far, this would be a good issue to give a try.

Reviewed by: Kevyn Knox

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Batman: Eternal #1 (DC)

Batman Eternal1

Rating: 4.5/5 – A fantastic start to Batman’s weekly series!
by ComicSpectrum Reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Batman Eternal number one kicks off the latest weekly series from DC, but this time instead of focusing on a larger segment of the DC Universe as they did with 52, Countdown, and Trinity, the focus here is squarely on Batman and his supporting cast. There are plenty of creators involved in this series, which makes sense if they want to make sure that this book doesn’t miss it’s deadlines. The creators involved are some pretty great talents that include Scott Snyder and James Tynion, who happen to write this first issue, Tim Seely, Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen and Guillem March just to name a few. Seeing these talents on Batman each week over the course of a year is a bold project, but if each issue can be written and drawn as well as this first one, then I couldn’t be more excited.

This first issue absolutely delivers. From the opening page, Batman is in a situation that we’ve never quite seen him before as Snyder and Tynion choose to show us the future, and it doesn’t look good. It’s a powerful opening page that delivers in the few captions and panels on the page. Artist Jason Fabok, who after Greg Capullo has become Batman’s go-to artist, draws a haunting page that draws the eyes in while the situation absolutely leaves you wondering just how Batman got here. From there we head into the recent past where the story’s focus revolves around Batman and James Gordon. It’s a quickly paced issue that sets up the first major story beat of this year long series.

Jason Fabok has such a great handle on the Batman character. He uses shadows and blacks brilliantly and Gotham City feels like Gotham, blimps and all. His pencils are consistent throughout this first issue and DC made the right choice to have his art kick this series off. We’ll se seeing his art grace the first three issues and hopefully we’ll see his interpretation of a few more villains before he steps away for a while.

Overall, DC delivers a great start to Batman Eternal. If you haven’t been reading Batman since the New 52 launched, this may be the series that brings you in as you don’t need to know anything prior in order to jump in and enjoy this first issue. That said, consistency will determine this series’ ultimate success, we’ll have to see if Batman: Eternal can maintain this level of quality every single week for the next year.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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