Ms. Marvel #3 (Marvel)

Ms. Marvel 3

Rating: 4/5 – Don’t miss this gem of a series!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Hank Johnson.

The new Ms. Marvel series is about Kamala Khan, a New Jersey girl affected by the Terrigen Mists during the Infinity event. As a result of the mists she has the ability to polymorph her body to appear to be anyone she chooses. It appears she has the ability to adapt their powers as well.  G. Willow Wilson does an exceptional job of telling a story that is unique in today’s marketplace. While there are your standard super heroics and a main character trying to find her place in the world, the Islamic faith also serves as a driving force in the book. Having read most of Wilson’s previous work including her Vertigo series Air and her fill in work at DC comics, this is book is by far my favorite work of hers to date.

Wilson educates the reader on several facets of Muslim culture throughout the story, effectively showing how that there are several facets to Islam, just like there are in any major religion. What makes her approach different is that the story always comes first. It is clear that her intent is to educate, but that intent takes a back seat to moving the story forward.  I was very impressed how Wilson handled a particular religious experience during one scene in this issue. Instead of a long expository explanation, Wilson used a few panels, some concise dialogue, and Kamala’s reactions to make the point. While religion plays a role in Kamala’s life, so do many other things, fitting in at school, dating, etc. Kamala is a super hero who happens to be Muslim, instead of a Muslim super hero. Wilson perfectly balances out all facets of Kamala’s life throughout the issue.

The pacing of the story was a bit slower than I personally would have liked, but by the last page I found myself cheering for Kamala and then crushed by her current predicament. Wilson has really made Kamala into a strong vibrant character, the challenge will ultimately be in telling a story with her once she has gained confidence and control of her powers.

I have been a big fan of Adrian Alphona’s art since his work on Runaways, his work here is some of the best I have ever seen on the printed page. His panel to panel story telling was done with a master’s touch. Although the majority of this issue focused on people talking, Alphona made each scene riveting and interesting. Ian Herring’s colors complimented the artwork beautifully to make this book one of the best on the shelves.

For me, this comic is miles above most others on the stands right now and I think that it has the potential to stand the test of time and read as well years from now as it does right now “in the moment”. I am going to not only continue to buy the issues, but double dip and get the trade as well. Even though issue #3 is not a great jumping on point, it is the best issue in the series so far. If you enjoy great characters, amazing art, and the willingness to experience something that is different from other super-hero books on the stands, Ms. Marvel is the book for you.

Reviewed by: Hank Johnson
(hank@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Ultimate FF #1 (Marvel)

Ultimate_FF_Vol_1_1
CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – This Ain’t Your Grandmomma’s Fantastic Four!
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.

There have been many heated debates over Marvel’s alternate reality Ultimate Universe. It is often a grittier, more jaded worldview, or at least was before the status quo Marvel Universe of good ole Earth-616, started becoming grittier and more jaded itself. Many like the twisting around of their beloved Marvel characters. Others, not so much. I for one, like the fresh takes on the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and The Avengers. Granted, it is hit and miss, but I believe the hits have outweighed the misses. When this Ultimate Universe began back in 2001, one of the stalwart bands of do-gooders was, of course, the same band of do-gooders who kinda started it all back in 1961 – The Fantastic Four. But baby, this wouldn’t be your grandmomma’s FF.

The Ultimate Universe has basically given writers carte blanche to reinvent Marvel’s most iconic characters in their own (sometimes) twisted minds. We saw this happen in Ultimate X-Men. We saw this happen in The Ultimates, essentially this world’s Avengers, and we saw this happen with The Fantastic Four. Broken and battered, many of the major players in the Ultimate Universe have been either killed or re-born, so to speak, as villains or at least heroes with extremely flexible morals. The latter happened to Fantastic Four leader, Reed Richards. Essentially becoming that universe’s Dr. Doom, in deed, if not in body.  This cataclysmic event has helped to completely change those we once knew as The Fantastic Four. But again, just like how they were never your grandmomma’s Fantastic Four, this new team isn’t even the Ultimate Fantastic Four we once knew.

Reborn (again) under the banner of the FF, or the Future Foundation, this new team, starting here in Ultimate FF #1, is seriously a whole new thing indeed. In this world, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been dismantled (imagine that), and a new organization, christened the Future Foundation, has risen to take its place. Led by Susan Storm, and including fellow geniuses Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and Sam Wilson (aka Falcon,  who in this universe is a tech know-it-all), along with ex-Ghost Rider Danny Ketch, now past dead, and embodied inside Machine Man. We also get ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, and in the final panel reveal…well, you are just going to have to read it for that one.

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov (Echoes for Top Cow/Image and I, Vampire for DC are among his more impressive works) with art by Mario Guevara and Tom Grummett, and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, this first issue of Ultimate FF leapfrogs us, with its lack of boring old set-up, smack dab into the middle of the story. This is a style I have always preferred. On the other hand, not much really happens here, so there is no guess as to what this series has in store for us. We probably won’t know more until the series progresses more, but it seems to be off to a good start. The art has a very distinctive style and may not be up to many reader’s tastes (and yes, this is merely conjecture on my part) but I must admit to liking the somewhat haphazard feel of the art. Here’s hoping issue #2 keeps us going in the correct direction – whichever way that may be…

Reviewed by: Kevyn Knox
(kevynknox@gmail.com
)  www.allthingskevyn.com

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Transformers: Windblade #1 (IDW)

Transformer Windblade1
CREDIT: IDW Publishing

Rating: 4/5 – The Dawn of a New Storyline in the Transformers Universe.
by ComicSpectrum Reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’ve tried a few times to get into the Transformers Universe and each time I do, it becomes a bit of a challenge with the amount of characters both new and old.  But it’s always a series I want to read, so I’m always interested when IDW has a jumping on point within the Transformers books, and that’s what “Dawn of the Autobots” and this first issue of Transformers: Windblade is. IDW has recently wrapped up their latest Transformers event so I thought I’d give this issue a try, and I’m so glad I did.

The first page of Windblade is a recap page that is pretty light in content so I was a bit worried that the same challenges I’ve had before would happen again, but to writer Mairghread Scott’s credit, I never felt lost. Although I didn’t know understand some of the ideas referenced, or know some of the characters involved, I was able to enjoy the story on its own as Scott tells the tale with Windblade front and center. It’s a great way to help new readers navigate this world as Windblade herself is a new character (she’s the first official fan created Transformer after Hasbro ran a fan-contest). Windblade is able to speak to the city size transformers known as Metrotitans, and in this issue she’s attempting to speak with Metroplex who’s been injured and is having all sorts of issues. There are also big changes in terms of long time Transformers and I’m now interested to see just how they got to the places that they did.

Artist Sarah Stone does a great job on this first issue. Her lines are thin and energetic and she leaves a lot of lines out, giving her work a clean and uncluttered look. Stone’s pencils feel as though you can still see her process since she chooses to leave some of the finer details out. What really makes her art stand out though is the colors. Stone chooses a bright color palette that makes the panels feel energetic, and makes you feel at times that you’re looking at a cartoon. She mixes up the colors during some of the action sequences that give those scenes some added weight. Windblade can at times look a bit too human, but it’s a small complaint compared to the overall work. Transformers: Windblade is a successful attempt at beginning a new storyline and bringing new readers in. I’m now even more excited to try the other two series in the main Transformers line to see if they’ll share in this issue’s same success.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (Dynamite)

Solar1
CREDIT: Dynamite Entertainment

Rating: 4/5 – Another Solid Gold Key Reboot!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Dynamite has been doing a great job on retooling the old Gold Key comics for modern audiences.  First we got Turok, then Magnus, and now Solar.  They’re building a very solid corner of the Dynamite publishing line with these books.  Solar is another character that I’m far more familiar with from his turn with Valiant in the 1990s than in his original Gold Key incarnation.  These are definitely not the Valiant characters.  I’ve read a couple of the original Gold Key comics which were fairly simplistic 60s stories and I can see the common roots that have been updated both here and very differently by Valiant.

It’s hard for me to not draw the comparisons to Valiant’s take on the character, since it was a favorite of mine.  While this is not a riff on the Valiant take, it’s still a very solid reworking of the core Gold Key concept by writer Frank Barbiere and artist Joe Bennett.  Here Phil Seleski (aka Solar: Man of the Atom) is a scientist working at Atom Valley Industries, which is run by his father Colin Seleski.  In a nice visualization of Solar’s power set, we see various chemical equations as he works his atomic transmutations.  Barbiere is the letterer in addition to writing the book, I assume so that he can have control over getting all those equations down on the page just the way he wants to see them.

There’s a LOT of information coming at us in this issue.  We get an action scene with Solar stopping a bank robbery, the introduction of quite a few of the major players (and a lot of names I recognize, but this is not an essential factor for enjoying the story), and an extremely interesting setup for future issues that could be a major divergence from the character we got from Gold Key, in a good way.  Throughout, Bennett keeps us on track with a very clean and dynamic art style that moves the story along at a good clip in both actions scenes and character development.  If Dynamite can keep creators and stories of this caliber on all their Gold Key books they’ll have me as a customer for the duration.  This relaunch is well worth checking out.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Sinestro #1 (DC)

Sinestro1
CREDIT: DC Comics

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
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1 (Marvel)

IF-LW1
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
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Quantum & Woody #9 (Valiant)

QW9
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
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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