Life With Archie #36 (Archie)

LwA36
CREDIT: Archie Comics

Rating: 5/5 – A Fitting End For a Comic Book Icon.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

In 2009 Archie Comics put their flagship character into a situation that he hadn’t been in before by placing him years into the future and showing the reader what his life would be like if he was married. The plan was to take their seventy plus year old character and explore his possible futures, one where he’s married to Betty, and the other where he’s married to Veronica. It brought the character a level of press that hadn’t been seen in years, and a freshness to the aged character that was definitely needed. Last year also brought the fantastic Afterlife with Archie series that put the Archie cast of characters into a more mature and frightening tale, capitalizing on the zombie craze that shows and comics like the Walking Dead have made so popular. Now, Archie Comics looks to keep the world’s attention on Archie and his rich cast of characters by chronicling his death in this alternate future timeline.

Life With Archie number thirty-six, written by Paul Kupperberg sets the reader up with everything they need to know in case they haven’t been following the series. In a packed two-page synopsis, you’re caught up on the series’ first thirty-five issues in order to enjoy this story. The editors realize that this issue, because of all the media attention, will be the first for a lot of readers and they make sure to bring them up to speed. In terms of story, Kupperberg makes you wish that you’d have followed this series since the beginning. He tells a touching and realistic tale that highlights the traits of the characters we all know, while also letting the reader know that they’ve changed. The tale is told mostly through Archie’s voice as we see snippets of his life from a variety of different time periods. We see his first meeting of Betty and Veronica, his relationship with his teenage kids, and interactions with the large but never overwhelming supporting cast.

Although Archie’s reminiscing of different periods of his life is the primary story, we also get to see a plot involving the character Kevin Keller that will tie directly into the main story, giving the issue weight and a sense of impending tragedy since we know where the story’s going. It’s all paced perfectly over the course of this issue’s forty-plus pages and never once does the story drag or feel weighed down by the amount of characters. The dialogue kept true to Archie and it’s characters and appropriate for the the all ages audience they’re going for.

With death and change (sometimes change just for the sake of change) all around the comic book market right now, the death of Archie in this issue doesn’t seem forced, and it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s a satisfying conclusion to his journey within the pages of Life with Archie, and with just one more issue in the series, it’s refreshing to see a character have a realistic end. Archie will still be alive and well within the main series of books so those looking to continue reading the fun and more continuity-free Archie still have those titles to read and enjoy. It’s great to see Archie getting this level of attention and this issue proves that the attention is well deserved. Archie Comics as a company is doing a lot of things right lately and this series, and this important issue is a perfect example of it. Archie is such an important character not only to so many fans, but to the comic book industry as a whole. Hopefully after readers see his death here, new life will be be breathed into the other Archie titles.

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

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She-Hulk #6 (Marvel)

she-hulk-6-cover-674x1024
CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Soule has She-Hulk Back at the Top of Her Game.
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.

I liked Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, when she was an Avenger. I liked her as a member of the Fantastic Four. I quite enjoyed the fun that John Byrne had with her in his classic fourth wall breaking She-Hulk title. I liked when she was savage and I liked when she was sensational, and I liked when she was part of Fraction and Allred’s most recent FF incarnation. I guess what I am trying to say here is, that I like She-Hulk. And this All-New Marvel Now version is no different in that aspect. In fact, sometime during the first six issues, it has become one of, if not my absolute favorite Marvel title going right now.

Written by the seemingly ubiquitous Charles Soule, this new She-Hulk is as fun as ever. Bringing in so many underused, almost forgotten, characters as a supporting cast (Patsy Walker! Patsy Freakin’ Walker!!) and bringing Jen back to her roots as a lawyer, Soule has given this new title, a very retro feel – and I, for one, am loving it. The purposeful slant toward Jennifer’s lawyering side, makes for quite intriguing possibilities, indeed. And yes, even with Soule being mostly praised here, there has been some disagreement with the artistic side of the title. So let’s address that, shall we?

The first four issues of this series were drawn by Javier Pulido. A lot of people made a fuss over not liking his artwork. Reminiscent of a Mike Allred, Pulido’s art maybe hit people the wrong way. Perhaps they weren’t expecting a style such as that. Who knows why. I sure don’t, because I loved Pulido’s art in these first few issues. Classic and quirky. What’s not to like. Then along came Ronald Wimberly to illustrate issues five and six. Now even more people are getting all worked up over what many are calling a downright atrocious artistic style. Really? Ya know what, I like Wimberly’s art too. So there.  Artistic taste is subjective, right?

Just as he did last issue. Wimberly brings a strange other-worldliness to She-Hulk #6. As Charles Soule begins to dig deeper into what he wants to do with this series, Wimberly’s art digs even deeper. As a fan of intriguing, unusual comic art stylings, Wimberly’s use of forced perspective and oddly exhilarating choices of coloring and exposition and panel positioning (his splash pages are just to die for!) is just up this critic’s alley. It’s almost a shame to see Javier Pulido come back next issue. Almost.

She-Hulk #6 is the kind of comic book that I remember growing up with in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. Both funny, in a quite wry sense, edging on dark comedy at that, and with a sense of impending dread and most probable doom for our heroes, Charles Soule hands us yet another soon-to-be classic tale of the non-Avenger, non-X-Men slice of the Marvel Universe. I am digging Wimberly’s artwork most completely and I am looking forward with great glee and glorious anticipation to what will come next.

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

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Teen Titans (2014) #1 (DC)

TT1
CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A ‘New’ Teen Titans That Feels Just Like the Last One.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

After Teen Titans was cancelled, it didn’t take long for a new series to be announced. With the cancellation and relaunch you’d assume that there would be some big changes, but not so here. The original team that came out of the New 52 relaunch are still the stars of this book, the difference comes in a new creative team and their different take on the characters. Writer Will Pfeifer and artist Kenneth Rocafort come on board this first issue and do a solid job of making it accessible to new readers, but may not do enough to bring those same readers back.

A school bus loaded with kids has been hijacked by a mysterious terrorist group that may or may not have ties to S.T.A.R. labs. As the bus races through Times Square it’s up to the Teen Titans to save the kids. It’s a simple premise, but the story is designed for the new reader to get a feel for the characters and understand a little more about each of their powers. Pfeifer does a nice job balancing the five member team, allowing each their own time to shine. Wonder Girl comes off as the most enjoyable, but the team as a whole has a nice dynamic to it. The story makes room for smaller plot points along the way that look as though they’ll be explored in further issues, but none of them really stand out as story lines you must come back for. Overall, the writing of these characters feels similar to what came before, the difference comes with the art.

Artist Kenneth Rocafort has built himself quite a fan base from his work at DC during his runs on Superman and Red Hood and the Outlaws. Getting another opportunity to draw younger heroes with the Teen Titans seems like a natural fit. His work is similar to Leinel Yu with more movement, but also less refined. His style may be new to some as it doesn’t necessarily fit a house style of art, but it’s a look that’s both unique and exciting. Without an inker, you can see the pencil lines filling in the blacks and shadows, letting you become closer to his process. Although it’s nice to see his pencil work, at times the lack of an inker makes the inanimate objects look off. For example, the school bus that we see throughout the issue clashes with solid yellows next to pencil filled blacks. Although it may not be noticeable by many readers, it gives some parts of the book an almost unnatural feel.

This relaunch is definitely highlighting the creative differences rather than the character and story changes. There’s nothing really so new or different in either the makeup of the team, or in the writing of these characters. It makes you wonder if this could have been branded a bit differently, keeping the same numbering, focusing more on the new creative team in it’s marketing without having to cancel the previous series. Given more time Pfeifer and Rocafort can surely make this book a solid monthly read, but this first issue seems like it’s more of what came before so why a new #1 (other than #1 issues sell better)? It’s not bad by any means, but it’s also not feeling different from what just came before.

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

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Harbinger #25 (Valiant)

Harbinger #25
CREDIT: Valiant

Rating: 5/5 – Setting a New Standard for Anniversary Issues!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

I was of two minds going into Harbinger #25, the final issue of the first volume. On the one hand I was beyond excited. The series, and the last few issues in particular, have been near comic perfection. On the other hand, I was suspect of the “anniversary celebration” label. I’m generally not a fan of anniversary issues. To me, they tend to be extra-sized issues stuffed with filler material. Was the first volume of this beloved series going out in a big ball of fluff? I’m happy to report that the answer is a resounding no!

It’s amazing to think that writer Joshua Dysart has been crafting the Harbinger story for 25 issues (plus two zero issues and the Harbinger Wars miniseries), no guest writers for even a single issue! This final issue in the volume, before Dysart tackles the next chapter in the saga, is no different. The main story, which comprises the bulk of the issue, is the perfect bookend to the series. Some characters go off to find themselves and others come full circle. And the villain? Well, there is no doubt where he stands when it is all over. In between, Dysart manages to flesh out some secondary characters and affirm that their roles are not only important, but far from over. When all is said and done, the Valiant universe is truly, irrevocably altered.

The remaining stories in the issue, by writers Vivek Tiwary, Justin Jordan, Dan Goldman, and Lucy Knisley, all have something to add to the Harbinger legacy (even the humorous ones, if you look closely enough). They are some really great character pieces that provide insight, give some additional backstory, and flesh out moments from the past. There was not one throwaway story and nothing that felt to me like the filler I feared might be part of the issue. Included at the end was a beautiful pin-up by Barry Kitson and, as a nod to old and new fans alike, a cover gallery of all the Harbinger issues to date. Providing art is a who’s who of talent, including long time Harbinger artists Khari Evans and Clayton Henry. The send off wouldn’t have been complete without their beautiful illustrations. The real standout to me, though, was the art by Lewis LaRosa in perhaps the best backup story, “Into Memory.” His illustrations were nothing short of breathtaking. Add to that the subtle coloring by Brian Reber and I felt like I was living in those memories.

Harbinger #25 not only sets the new standard for anniversary issues, it exemplifies what the end of a volume should be. Joshua Dysart took five teens, made me fall in love with them, broke my heart, and reset the pieces for the journey to come. Thinking back to where this series began, I can hardly believe where it ended up. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #5.1 (Marvel)

OS5.1

Rating: 4/5 – Telling Angela’s Origin as a Part of the Marvel Universe.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

When news first broke that Angela would be Thor and Loki’s long lost sister, it took a lot of fans by surprise. Not only because of the ramifications of what it means for Thor and Asgard, but the way it was announced as well. Angela’s Marvel Universe relationship to Thor and Loki was announced at a panel at the C2E2 comic convention, rather than in the pages of Thor or even in an origin series dedicated to Angela herself. Although the big reveal had been spoiled in terms of the sibling relationships, the whole story was going to be told through a five part series with ties to Marvel’s big Original Sin event.

Writer Jason Aaron and Al Ewing have been given the task to make this relationship, and Angela’s past fit seamlessly into the Marvel Universe. So far with this first issue, they seem to know what they’re doing. After a small recap that shows recent Original Sin events, Thor has a vision of a sister he never knew. From there we get the history of just where Angela came from and and how the tenth realm of Asgard disappeared. The story flows smoothly and never feels forced. The origin scene is told by Thor’s own mother which made the story feel personal and grounded, adding an emotional piece to these all-powerful gods. You feel the sadness from Thor’s mother, and you feel Odin’s rage and consequences of his actions. Aaron and Ewing have humanized these gods, making them relatable. The story also delivers with Aaron and Ewing including all the major players of Asgard. Thor, Loki, Odin, the All-Mother and Asgard itself all make significant appearances and add value to the tale. Although we don’t get to see too much of Angela in this story, I’m sure future issues will rectify that as we start to see her side of the story.

Lee Garbett handles the majority of the art and does a good job of making everything seem majestic, and the characters look regal. His Thor seems as large and imposing as he should be while his takes on both the young and old Loki are spot on, making them both look their age. Garbett’s pencils can look a bit too clean at times with all the fighting and wars going on in Asgard, but overall Garbett does a great job. My only issue with the art comes at a point where Thor and Loki enter the tenth realm and for a single two-page splash Simone Bianchi takes over. Although the splash is beautiful and gives the tenth realm a wondrous and magical look, it breaks up the flow of Garbett’s pencils, taking you out of the story since Garbett comes right back on the next page. I’m not sure the difference in artist was necessary for the story, and it seemed like an odd choice to make for consistency’s sake.

This first issue does what it needs to do by setting up Angela’s origin and her world, and having it fit into the overall Marvel Universe. If you were turned off by the thought of Angela being related to Thor and including her background into that of Asgard’s, you should think again. Jason Aaron and Al Ewing have a solid and well thought out plan so far, executing it nicely within this first issue. There’s still quite a bit of story left in this series, but if this first issue is any indication of what’s to come, this will be one of the better stories to come out of the Original Sin event.

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

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Weird Love #2 (IDW)

Weird Love2
CREDIT: IDW Publishing

Rating: 3.5/5 – So Bad It’s Good!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

This is a reprint comic with groaningly bad romance comics from the 1950s lovingly selected fro reprint by Craig Yoe, a true master of 1950s reprints.  This is not going to be for everyone, and it’s certainly not an example of “Look how GREAT these were”, for that I’ll turn to 1950′s comics from EC.  What we have here is a set of comics stories that were churned out and targeted at a largely female audience in the early 1950s and as such give a great time capsule view of life and the mores of the times.

We start this issue with “Yes, I was an Escort Girl” from Charlton’s True Life Secrets #12, March 1953.  Less prurient than the title might suggest, it’s got an interesting twist and some middle of the road good girl art.  This is followed by the amazingly bad message delivered by “Too Fat For Love” from Darling Love #7, Winter 1950-1951.  I cannot imagine this story being published today but it’s a great example of the kind of thing that has led to 65 years of negative body image issues for girls.  Rounding out the issue we get a woman struggling with mental illness (from 1951), a picture biography of dreamy actor Ronald Reagan, Bosco the Bear playing matchmaker for a young couple who likes to hang around at the zoo (from 1960), a story of a boss who is FAR too distracted by his secretary in her mini skirt (from 1972) and love on a south seas island with a really weird twist ending (from 1954).

Weird Love is a time capsule of a different era.  On the positive side it’s re-presenting stories from romance comics of the past that are very hard to find and would cost a small fortune to acquire.  It’s a view into some very different times and while the stories cannot be held up against most comics we read today on a sheer quality level, they are quite fascinating to read as a window into the kind of material that was being shoveled into the heads of young girls in the past.  I like today better where females are standing right next to me browsing through Saga, American Vampire, Lazarus, Rat Queens, Stumptown, The Woods, and many other great comics that just tell great stories to us all.  But Weird Love is definitely worth picking up.  It’s bad, but in the grand tradition of bad movies that we watch to groan at, it’s so bad it’s kind of good.

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

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Quantum & Woody #12 (Valiant)

Q&W 12

Rating: 3.5/5 – An OK Ending to a Great Series.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

It seems like only yesterday that the new Quantum and Woody series was teased by Valiant and fans of the original series, like me, were squealing with delight. And while details of future stories have already been released, including a team-up with Archer and Armstrong (someone pinch me, I must be dreaming) and the return of the original duo (I said pinch me!), it is sad to see this incarnation of the series end with issue #12. Writer James Asmus, currently nominated for numerous Harvey Awards, truly reinvented these characters when so many wondered how Quantum and Woody could survive apart from their original creators, Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. There was no big send off with issue #12, no “anniversary spectacular,” but the issue was jammed packed with content so it felt bigger than it actually was.

There are essentially four, very talky scenes in this issue, which ensures that Woody finds multiple ways to irritate Quantum. It also worked in favor of the art, as there were three people tackling art duties and the art shifts at logical points in the story. There was even a meta-reference to the multiple artists in the issue, which is funny. Still, it would be nice if a book could stick to one artist on a particular issue (two at most, if it must). Bonus points if it could stick to the same artist for a story arc (this one didn’t). For their part, Wilfredo Torres, Erica Henderson, and Joseph Cooper all did a pretty good job. There wasn’t a lot of variation between the art styles (except on the Edison origin story–see below), so the change in art wasn’t too distracting.

A sizable part of the issue focused on Quantum and Woody’s arch-nemesis, Thomas Edison and Edison’s Radical Acquisitions (ERA). It seemed odd to me that the origin story of Edison and the ERA was revealed in the last issue of the series, but it was done in such a fun way that I didn’t really mind. The origin story was told in a children’s comic that Quantum finds while he is locked away with relics of an old Edison themed restaurant. I kid you not. The rest of the issue is pretty standard fare, with Quantum and Woody finally learning what we all already knew about the goat, wrapping up their confrontation, and moving on to the next stage in their superhero career. If the series were to continue in another volume, this issue left a logical starting point. One thing I did notice (that was different from the rest of the story arc) was that the issue moved away completely from the focus on Woody’s past, which to me had some really good character building. Hopefully, that is something that can be revisited in a future volume.

Overall, the last issue in the series wrapped things up decently, even if it wasn’t the most exciting or groundbreaking issue. It had the usual bickering between brothers, plenty of comedy, and more absurdity than you can shake a stick at. Most importantly, it kept the door open for future volumes of the best worst superhero team there is!

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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