All-New Ghost Rider #6 (Marvel)

allNew GR6
CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5- A New Artist, a New Story Arc and New Developments Begin to Take Shape.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Gabe Bustamantez.

Lots of ‘New’ happening in this issue of All-New Ghost Rider. This issue picks up after the events of the last storyline, where Ghost Rider had to break up an all-out war between local gang bangers and a drug cartel that was happening in the middle of small East LA neighborhood. Now Ghost Rider has become a hero to the neighborhood children, who can’t seem to decide whether their new idol’s name is “The Skeleton Driver” or “The Robot Racer.”

Writer Felipe Smith has Robbie Reyes continuing his illegal street racing and abuse of his powers as Ghost Rider to earn some quick cash, which is a key point of conflict for this issue. Seeing Robbie raising his little brother Gabe and doing what he feels is necessary really develops them as deep and meaningful characters that were easy for me to relate to. It also helps to paint and give structure to the harsh reality they have to live in.

With this issue Damion Scott takes over pencil duties with an urban art style and fills in the big art shoes left behind by departing artist Tradd Moore, who left the series after only 5 issues to return to his creator-owned title Luther Strode. Damion’s unique artwork provides a great East LA look and feel to the pages and sets up a dirty, stained and abused environment. The buildings throughout Robbie’s neighborhood are covered in graffiti, alleyways are cluttered with trash, bums are sleeping in discarded TV boxes, and the houses look like actually homes in East LA. Damion’s panel layouts during the issue did a great job of guiding my eye along the pages and leading me to where I needed to be looking next, which is hard to do during fast action scenes.

This issue is a great jumping on point for anyone who may have missed the previous 5 issues, but wants to get in on the series. Felipe Smith and Damion Scott have created a story that should familiarize new readers with this world while still keeping the attention of regular readers. Smith & Scott were able to progress the over-all story of Robbie and Gabe’s relationship while introducing some new story elements that new and regular readers can grab on to and make them want to dig in for the rest of the ride. I’m letting them drive me along for more issues of this series.

Reviewed by: Gabe Bustamantez
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Guardians of the Galaxy #17 (Marvel)

Guardians of the Galaxy #17
CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3/5 – Wraps up the Latest Adventure a Bit Too Neatly.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG) #17 wraps up the “Guardians Disassembled” story arc, the title being a play on writer Brian Michael Bendis’s well-known “Avengers Disassembled” saga. In the latter, the Avengers were torn apart by a series of events and ultimately disbanded. It was a story with huge ramifications that is considered the first in a series of significant Marvel events. However, any similarities to the Avengers saga end solely at the title. This GotG story started out promising, but I doubt it will have any huge implications moving forward.

Throughout the story arc, which sees each Guardian at the hands of a different galactic empire, there are hints of interesting characterization and plenty of action. I would have preferred each issue tackle a single character rather than the rapid back and forth between events in each issue. With such a large cast, it would have slowed things down and allowed the reader to feel connected in a way we were not allowed to by quickly moving away from each story after one or two pages. It is this same rapid succession of storylines that made this issue fall flat for me. Each Guardian is rescued or released in mere moments so that their individual experiences seem minimized and the overall story trivialized.  The only carrot left dangling is a missing team member whose story will be addressed sometime after the “Original Sin” tie-in.

The art was handled by Nick Bradshaw and Michael Oeming. Bradshaw did a nice job penciling every issue of the story arc, so I’m not sure why duties were split with this issue. I love Oeming’s unique style, but it clashed too much with Bradshaw’s style and arbitrarily took over in the middle of an action scene. This added nothing and interrupted the flow of the story for me.

Unlike “Avengers Disassembled,” the conclusion to this Guardians of the Galaxy story finds the team right back together again. It wrapped up too neatly at the end, but I believe that Bendis set up the narrative in a way that he could explore the consequences of each character’s experience in future issues.  I hope he takes advantage of this because I know there is more to these characters than bar fights and explosions.

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
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Batman #34 (DC)

Batman34
CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Guest Creators Bring Batman Back Into the Present After Zero Year.
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.

Now that the long-running Zero Year story arc is finally over, we are handed a one-and-done issue with Batman #34 – and a story by a whole new creative team at that. Well, almost entirely new. The writing duties for this issue are taken up by Deadpool’s Gerry Duggan, though regular Bat-writer Scott Snyder does plot the thing, while Greg Capullo’s artistic spot is being temporarily filled by Matteo Scallera, whose work on Bedlam and Black Science are quite remarkable, indeed. But then one can hardly blame Snyder and Capullo for wanting to take a break after devoting the past year to the retelling of the Dark Knight’s first year on the job. After such a brilliant tale, one of my favorite story arcs from DC’s New 52, they deserve a break.

Meanwhile, this issue, about a serial killer who doesn’t want the limelight that is so often sought out by Gotham’s more egocentric rogue’s gallery, is meant as a mere filler story, just making time before the Future’s End tie-in, in September, and the start of a brand new story line coming in October. But even so, Batman #34 comes off much stronger than one would often expect from a filler issue. Granted, Duggan is no Snyder, and his Batman seems a bit more conventional than Snyder’s does, but he still manages to get the so-called job done here. And that job is to bring the Zero Year Caped Crusader back into the present day fold of Batman Eternal and the rest of the current Bat-titles. Making mention of Jim Gordon’s trials and tribulations and Selina Kyle’s new position as underworld queenpin, Duggan sets up the title for the Endgame storyline coming from Snyder and Capullo in October.

What really keeps this issue from being typical filler is Matteo Scalera’s wonderfully visceral artwork. Bringing the sharp ramshackle style we have come to know and love in Rick Remender’s Black Science over at Image Comics. Scalera’s Batman, and his Gotham City, is a thing to behold, indeed.  In fact, as much as I love Capullo’s Batman, I would be more than okay with Scalera sticking around a bit longer. But Capullo’s art and Scott Snyder’s words will be back after next month’s Future’s End sideline, for a brand new adventure. But in the meantime, Batman #34 is a solid bridge to the future of the title.

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

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Spider-Man 2099 #2 (Marvel)

SM2099-2
CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Peter David Back on the Character He Defined 20+ Years Ago.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

In 1992, Marvel Comics launched an all new line of comics that looked at the Marvel Universe in the year 2099. That line originally had four titles that included Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, Ravage 2099 and Spider-Man 2099, which most agreed was the best of the four titles. Originally written by Peter David, Spider-Man 2099 ran for over forty issues telling the story of a possible future where Miguel O’Hara dons a Spider-Man costume that’s much different than the original, and does battle with the huge and all powerful mega-corporations of the time, including the one he worked for, Alchemax. Flash forward twenty years to writer Dan Slott who brings the 2099 Spider-Man back in his Superior Spider-Man run, tying the present day Marvel Universe to the 2099 Universe in today’s continuity. Although Slott brought the character back, the original writer Peter David gets another shot at writing the character he defined in an “all-new” series, and so far it’s like he hasn’t missed a beat.

This second issue is light on action and heavy on dialogue and characterization which allows new readers of the book to get to know Miguel O’Hara, (now going by Michael O’Mara to avoid any future problems with the same person working at Alchemax for over seventy years) and start to become a fan of the character, rather than just the costume. In this issue we see lengthy interactions between him and Alchemax president Liz Allan who may know a bit too much of just who Michael O’Mara is, and another funny yet touching scene between him and a possible future love interest that looks to add an emotional layer to the series. Peter David’s writing on this series has been great so far, balancing both the action and drama seamlessly, and although this issue is heavy on the drama, it moves Michael’s story forward setting up an even more complicated relationship between Michael and Alchemax.

In terms of art, Will Sliney who’s work was seen on Marvel’s Fearless Defenders has a very clean line and can portray the lithe and flexible nature of a character like Spider-Man. Even in an issue like this one where action is at a minimum, he’s able to clearly tell the story with emotion and feeling. It’s great to see him on a book like this as he can clearly capture Spider-Man’s energy and movement, while the supporting cast of characters out of costume look just as good and unique. As time goes by it will be fun to see this artist grow and hopefully he’ll stay on this book for the long term, helping to cement a consistent look and feel for the title.

Spider-Man 2099 is starting off strong and only two issues in, Peter David and Will Sliney are making this book an underrated gem. It’s combining strong writing with exciting art on a character that hasn’t been in the spotlight for over twenty years. It’s exciting to see how the two timelines are intersecting with one another, and you get the sense that this will only get stronger with subsequent issues. Although it helps to have read the previous 2099 series, it’s not necessary as David is filling the supporting cast with fresh characters that allow you to get to know Michael O’Mara along with them. If Spider-Man 2099 continues to be as strong as these first couple of issues, it has a chance to be the best Spider-Man book on the racks.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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Good Dog (Fantagraphics)

GoodDog
CREDIT: Fantagraphics

Rating: 5/5 – See the World Through the Eyes of a Dog
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

Graham Chaffee’s Good Dog is the unfortunate kind of book high-school English teachers will give to their students (assuming they worked at a progressive-minded school that would allow that comics are literature). These well-meaning teachers will then force-feed the symbolism, metaphors, and recurring themes to their students until the hapless pupils are no longer aware they should have just been enjoying the book for what it is – an honest look at the world through the eyes of a canine. Don’t get me wrong, the symbols, metaphors, and themes are certainly there if you want to look for them, but you don’t need to have all that specialized training to take away a valuable lesson or three from this book.

Ivan wonders what it means to be a “Good Dog”. A stray his entire life, he wonders about his purpose in life. He’d do it, if only he knew what he was supposed to be doing. His friend Kirby, a bulldog who lives a pleasant enough life in the fenced-in yard his “boss” provides for him, doesn’t seem to have any answers. While Ivan wonders if it would be okay to have a boss of his own, he’s not sure it’s the life he truly wants. When he meets and joins a pack of strays, he discovers a new definition of freedom, but also must adapt to pecking orders, giving in to the wishes of the majority, and ultimately, committing crimes. These, too, don’t seem like the actions of a “Good Dog”.

There’s more to this tale, but I’m not telling it. You owe it to yourself to seek this book out and make sure it never winds up gathering dust on your bookshelf. It won’t on mine. Sure, the overlying themes will hit you over the head if you let them – we’re all Ivan, trying to figure out what our place is in this world. Do we tie ourselves down to a secure and safe life, or run the risk of burning ourselves out in a moment of brilliance? Is there a middle ground? Where can the myth called “happiness” be found, if it exists at all? Chaffee’s art style – beautifully crafted high contrast black and white – is the kind I truly love. To color this book would be to ruin it. The power of each panel cannot be understated. You could spend hours feasting on this book if you’re willing to let yourself. Be willing!

Some books are permanent fixtures in our lives. They grab us and don’t let go. When other books in my collection get dusted off and donated to libraries or sold to a used bookstore, books like Good Dog have earned their place in my heart and in my lap as it is re-read again and again. This is a book I’ll return to like an old friend, finding things I might have missed the last time or skipping straight to parts I just can’t wait to savor again. And like a good dog, I’ll be happy for every moment spent with it.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
(al@comicspectrum.com
)
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Amazing Spider-Man #5 (Marvel)

Amazing Spider-Man #5
CREDIT:Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Light on the Original Sin, But Fun Overall.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

A lot of people get irked when their favorite comic title gets dragged into a publisher’s big event with a crossover issue. It probably has to do with the event dictating what happens in the book almost invariably to the detriment of the character’s own story. I’m not necessarily a fan of crossovers myself, except that when it’s done right, it can be really good! However, with this second crossover issue of Amazing Spider-Man into the Original Sin event, I’m left scratching my head. Is this supposed to be an Original Sin tie-in or not? I’m getting mixed messages!

Certainly the big “Original Sin” words emblazoned on the cover indicates this issue is supposed to be part of the latest Marvel event. So does the inclusion of Silk, revealed to Spider-Man last issue to have been bitten by the same spider that gave him powers. That really is the big “sin” that this crossover should be exploring. Yet, it seems to have taken an abrupt backseat this issue to the Black Cat/Electro narrative that kicked off with the Amazing Spider-Man re-launch. While some may triumph that their Spider-Man story was not subjugated by the event, it does defeat the point of this being a crossover issue. I believe the introduction of Silk and a look at the circumstances surrounding Spider-Man’s origin were interesting and I was looking forward to exploring that more. However, one of the fun things about Slott’s Spider-Man has always been the juggling of multiple storylines, so I have no doubt we will get to that. Meanwhile, the Black Cat/Electro story continues to be fun as Spider-Man combats the lingering effects of Doc Ock taking over his body. Dealing with these troubles can carry this series for a good long while and I suspect Slott will cash in on that. The issue ends with a cliffhanger that would have had more impact if done 30 years ago, but these days is well played out. For the most part I like the art by Humberto Ramos, of which opinions seem to be as polarizing as those on crossovers. During some of the pencil-heavy panels it is hard to make out exactly what is going on, but that’s a minor criticism.

Overall, this Original Sin tie-in didn’t move forward with the “sin” that was revealed last issue. I have no doubt Slott will return to this particular narrative, but it seems odd to neglect it in an issue bearing the crossover branding all over the cover. That being said, I believe there is a lot of potential as Marvel adds a “never known before” additional twist to the origin of Spider-Man and I’ll definitely be sticking around to find out what happens.

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
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Hexed #1 (BOOM!)

Hexed-001-COVER-A-0c511
CREDIT: BOOM! Studios

Rating: 4.5/5 – Hexed is Back and It’s a Hell of a Good Time!
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.

An intriguing take on the horror genre, Hexed is the story of Luci Jennifer Inacio Das Neves, aka Lucifer. Part Buffy Summers, part Lara Croft, the lovely Lucifer (don’t call her Luci) is an expert thief who specializes in stealing supernatural objects. She also acts as a savior for those caught in bad supernatural predicaments. Oh, and she is cursed by an evil witch as well, but let’s not hold that against the poor girl.

Lucifer is the creation of writer Michael Alan Nelson and first showed up in the series Fall of Cthulhu back in 2008 before starring in the first Hexed mini-series in late 2008-2009 with art by Emma Rios. Hexed was Rios’ first work in comics from there she jumped to Marvel and would go on to become one of the hottest artists in comics today with her beyond beautiful art on Pretty Deadly over at Image. Now Nelson is back with a brand new Hexed series. This time around, Dan Mora is taking up the artistic reign, though Emma Rios is provided a cover.

This new first issue throws us right into the netherworldly fray, jumping from one of those aforementioned supernatural predicaments to another, as Lucifer fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. We are given a non-stop adventure tale that jumps from dimension to dimension to alternate planes of existence, and perhaps even Hell itself. A fun story for anyone who digs horror comics, but also for those who do not, for Hexed #1 transcends mere horror or supernatural or what have you, and delves into honest-to-goodness old school adventure comic book goodness.

Michael Alan Nelson’s writing is dead on here, giving his leading lady a cocksure attitude and the charm of your classic rogue-ish anti-hero, as well as setting up some very intriguing foreshadowing elements. Mora’s art, with some really fun supernatural-esqe moments, does work well here, and he could catch on with the comic book world, the same way that Rios did after the first Hexed. Right now, I am just looking forward to what we are to be given in issue #2.

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

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