Original Sin Annual #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Worth Reading, Explores a Side of Marvel We’ve Not Seen Before.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The last issue of Original Sin came out a month ago, yet here we are with an Annual that ties directly into that event. It’s unfortunate that this book came out so late as it’s really an enjoyable stand alone story that delivers, and delivers in some ways where the Original Sin event did not. The Original Sin Annual follows the adventures of Woodrow McCord who was the “Man on the Wall” before that job fell to Nick Fury.

Writer Jason Latour walks us through some of the bigger events in McCord’s life starting when he was just a boy growing up in the Marvel Universe of 1931, and his meeting of the man on the wall before him, an even more interesting character named Stafford. Latour does a great job of creating a legacy for the characters that have protected the Marvel Universe for years better than what was done in the pages of the main Original Sin series. As McCord narrates the events, you’ll be wishing there was a series devoted to these characters and this idea. Although the villains of the story never feel like a great enough threat, Latour still entertains with the introduction of two new characters that will hopefully have a place in the Marvel Universe post Original Sin.

Enis Cisic’s art is wonderful throughout and it’s a pleasure to see his first mainstream work. He uses a thick and sparse line that gives his characters a nice sense of scale on the page. He’s able to show his range throughout this book as he covers aliens, 1940 diners and clothing styles, and heavily sci-fi influenced settings and backgrounds. The colors by Chris Chuckry add to the science fiction feel with a muted color palette that fits the tone and time of the story so well.

Since Original Sin has ended this may not make it into the hands of a lot of readers.  If you were a fan of the Original Sin event or even if you weren’t and just want a good story that explores a side of the Marvel Universe we haven’t seen before, then don’t commit the sin of not picking this up.  This is a comic that’s definitely worth reading by Marvel fans and many may skip it.

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

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The Evil Within #1 (Titan)

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CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 2.5/5 – Superficial Treatment Where I Never Got to Care About the Characters.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I have not read a lot of real standout comics based on video game in the past. There have been a lot, I’ve just not felt many of them were truly outstanding.  DC has attempted it in under their Wildstorm banner with titles like Gears of War and Resistance. DC proper has recently found some success with their comic series based on the Injustice fighting game from 2013.  Recently IDW picked up the rights to the Skylanders franchise and they have done Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and others in the past. Dynamite is doing Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. Now Titan Comics is taking their shot at a video game tie-in series with The Evil Within.

As the game makes its way into player’s hands, this series serves as a prequel story. The Evil Within game is directed by Shinki Mikami who’s best known for his creation of Resident Evil. Mikami, wanting to put more of the “survival” aspect back into survival horror games has created a game that has you relying more on running, hiding and stealth rather than all-out action. That formula may work for a game where you’re in control, but in this first issue of The Evil Within comic, that formula makes for what felt like a boring and monotonous read to me.

The story opens with main character Dana searching for her missing friend and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere after running out of gas. In typical horror cliche fashion that middle of nowhere is surrounded by woods, but just happens to have a diner and an asylum in close proximity. As Dana is suddenly attacked by what looks to be tortured and deformed humans, she runs into Paul, who has no idea or recollection of how he got there. From there on and throughout the rest of this first issue, Dana and Paul are chased by all sorts of creatures and horrors.  The art by Alex Sanchez felt messy to me as he attempted to add grit and roughness to the art. At times his backgrounds were too simplistic while his character looks, especially with Dana and Paul change from one page to the next. Writer Ian Edginton didn’t accomplish the goal of making me care for the two main characters, and because of the endless chase scenes throughout and lack of reasons why, I wasn’t left with a strong desire to return for the next issue.

Although the designs of the “evil” characters are creative and frightening, I think their lack of personality and depth make them work better in the advertised concept art than the actual story. For fans of The Evil Within game, this series may provide more depth to the story throughout its four issues, but the lack of an engaging story where I cared about the characters made it questionable on whether it would be worth my time investment in knowing more.

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

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Daredevil #9 (Marvel)

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Rating: 5/5 – A Modern Pied Piper Tale Sends Daredevil on an Emotional Roller Coaster.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Gabe Bustamantez.

I’ve been consistently enjoying Daredevil since Mark Waid took over and reinvented it from a dark and gritty noir love letter to Frank Miller’s epic run it had been for many years, into a swashbuckling series full of heart and charm. A large part of that heart comes from Matt Murdock’s new carefree and devil-may-care attitude and outlook on life. Matt Murdock’s secret identity has been the worst kept secret in the Marvel Universe for some time and it comes as no surprise that Matt will do anything in order to protect the people closest to him. But how can he handle a group of children with the Purple Man’s powers?

Relocating to San Francisco has not made Matt and Foggy’s lives any easier. Sure they have a brand new law practice in sunny California and Matt has a new girlfriend, but now Foggy must disguise himself while out in public, and Matt is having to deal with every emotional break down and tragic lost he’s ever experience in order to write his autobiography. Now the Purple Man has returned and he’s worse than ever. The Purple Man had been a lesser know villain until Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias series did a fresh take on the character in 2003.  In one story arc, Zebediah Killgrave was turned into one of Marvel’s most psychological villains who knows no limits.

This issue Mark Waid has taken Purple Man and made him into a modern day Pied Piper. I think Mark Waid is one of greatest comic book creators of all time. He’s able to make writing comics appear easy, yet his stories are some of the most iconic. You wonder why he isn’t a bigger writer tackling other mediums like movies or novels. The answer is given to you every time you read a Mark Waid comic. He loves comic books and he loves writing comics stories, and his Daredevil run shows that he also loves and respects Daredevil and is having great fun writing the Daredevil character. This is a well crafted story about a group of kidnapped children with Purple Man’s abilities taking on the rest of the city and giving Daredevil more than he can handle. Even though this is part 2 of this story arc, you are never left to piece the story together yourself. This issue does a great job of letting the story organically catch you up. In fact, I was able to enjoy Daredevil #9 as a solo issue without having to read Daredevil #8 first. The art by Chris Samnee is some of my favorite in comics today. Samnee’s art style is cast in shadows and thick black lines, but the art still shines out bright. Every scene is created with dynamic images that burst with life. Every background character has a purpose and a look all their own. One scene takes place in a diner and all the people sitting at tables or at the counter have a feeling of reality and are actively engaged in some way that helps bring this diner alive, all part of Samnee’s rich storytelling ability.

Everything about Daredevil #9 is well put together, using two of comics best creators who make it look like creating comics is easy. This issue is a tale of abused children stolen by a monster, they fought to get away after getting the ability to finally stand up for themselves. One thing is for sure; I will continue to read and follow this series because Mark Waid and Chris Samnee really seem like they’re having a fun time with this Daredevil series and that enthusiasm for comics infects me and causes me to have a fun time reading their stories.

Reviewed by: Gabe Bustamantez
(gabe@comicspectrum.com
)
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Wytches #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image

Rating: 5/5 – A Horror Comic That is Genuinely Scary.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The first issue of Wytches by Image Comics, in just the first five pages, does its best to introduce the reader to what it sets out to be, and that’s a horror comic. In the opening scene set in the past we see a woman trapped inside of a tree, struggling to get out. We come to understand that she’s been “pledged”, which is a word and theme that carries on throughout this first issue. It seems as though she’s been sacrificed or offered up to an all powerful group of as yet unseen witches. It’s a powerful scene that draws you into the world, and right off the bat delivers on the horror. The story then flash forwards to the present day where we meet the Rooks Family and explores what their relationship with said witches might be. Writer Scott Snyder does a great job of balancing the horrific and scary moments with everyday realism and great character development while Jock does a fantastic job of accomplishing the same thing with his scratchy and kinetic art style.

Jock’s art perfectly balances both the panel layouts and pacing as he’s able to craft some truly memorable and scary scenes. The above mentioned opening works so well because Jock was able to naturally move my eyes on page exactly where they needed to go, ultimately delivering on the scares. He does this so well throughout this oversized first issue, whether it be with full page splashes, pages without panel borders or knowing just when to have the action stop or carry forward from one page to the next. Letterer Clem Robins also added to the overall mood of this first issue by delivering on some fantastic sound effects that added a lot to the story. Whether it was the sounds of struggling, off in the distance scratching sounds, terrifying screams or something more unnatural, Robins knew just where to place the letters to provide an added layer of horror.

It’s not very often that a comic book creates genuinely scary moments for me since as the reader, I control the page page turns, the pacing, and the setting in which I’m reading. Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock have done just that, they have created a book that  frightened me, but left me wanting to come back for more as it built on some solid character work and nice takes on the long held tradition of witches.  The masterful storytelling gave this book a unique and interesting twist that makes witches feel more dangerous than ever. This first issue also ended on a terrifying and suspenseful cliffhanger that absolutely left me craving the second issue.

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

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Elric: The Ruby Throne OGN (Titan)

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CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 5/5 – The Albino King’s Tale Gets a Superb New Telling.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

Can you recall the last time a single comic book page held your attention for well over ten minutes? A page where the artwork is so inspiring and beautiful you spent more time soaking it in than it takes to read your standard 22-page comic book? A page that forces you to re-evaluate what you look for in these funnybooks you’ve spent so much time and money investing in? Because if they can look this amazing, then why don’t they? Welcome to the first page of Michael Moorcock’s Elric: The Ruby Throne from Titan Comics.

Moorcock’s melancholy albino emperor/sorcerer/warrior has had his tale told in graphic format many times before, but I don’t think it has ever been told this lushly, with artwork this beautiful, and with as much detail woven into the doomed isle as is given to the people who inhabit it. If comics could win awards for best costume design, as they do with the Oscars, this book would have the nomination sewn up as far as I’m concerned. The artwork in this book is on par with what I’ve come to expect from a Titan book – it raises the bar for everyone in terms of production quality and sheer beauty.

Equally notable is that the book has Moorcock himself writing the forward, giving his blessing to writer Julien Blondel’s take on his character. For those true Elric fans out there who feel they’ve read this story before, take note: Elric’s creator Michael Moorcock, original writer of these stories says of Blondel, “[he] has given the story a few extra twists which, with my approval, have improved on my original narrative!”

All too often when a beloved character is altered to suit a new creator’s vision, chaos ensues, and there can be diminished returns. Happily, that isn’t the case here. This is the Elric adaptation I’ve been hoping to see for some time now. Longtime followers of Moorcock’s stories will find a welcome home in these pages and will be left hungry for the next installment (4 books are planned, this being the first). Newcomers to Elric are, of course, encouraged to find Moorcock’s original text, but they could do a lot worse than to have this adaption be their introduction to the decadent and bloody end of an empire, and the birth of a new era for Elric and his Kingdom.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
(al@comicspectrum.com
)
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Earth 2 World’s End #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3/5 – Too Many Characters. Confusing For Readers New to Earth 2?
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Earth 2 World’s End packs in as much story as possible in this first part of DC’s third weekly event. Following Batman Eternal and Futures End with Earth 2 World’s End, DC is now filling almost an entire month with a weekly release. For those who have not been following the main Earth 2 series, this book may be tough to get into with it’s immense cast of characters.  Although they have familiar names and looks, they feel very different from the main DC New 52 Universe versions. For those that have been following it, it’s heavy on the “what’s happened before” and only towards the final third of the book do they start to move the story forward.

Although the story is driven by Daniel Wilson, writers Marguerite Bennett and Mike Johnson also contribute to this first issue that deals with the heroes of Earth 2 and the armies and agents of Darkseid. It’s packed full of characters and because there’s so many, no one character truly stands out. Although Green Lantern narrates the first part of the book, that switches about halfway through and different characters take different turns narrating and driving the story forward. It lacks a singular focus that could have benefited a book with this many characters, especially those that may be new to readers I would assume DC hopes to capture with this series.

For as many characters are in this book, it seems as though there are also that many artists. The breakdowns are by Scott McDaniel, and then eight different artists work on the book including Ardian Syaf, Eddy Barrows and Cam Smith, to name a few. The art is strong throughout the book, but I noticed differences in quality, especially during the book’s middle section. That said, the art is the strongest part of this book and I’ll be curious to see how the different artists will handle future issues.

DC has consistently taken this type of multi-creator approach to their over-sized first issues and weekly series, and at times it pays off like this one did with the art, but because of the amount of characters and story lines presented, this one failed to hit the mark with me on story content, which is disappointing considering how strong I’ve felt the main Earth 2 series has been. This is a series that can benefit in future if they don’t try to fit every Earth 2 character into one issue.  Allowing single characters time to shine so readers can become invested in them would be a smart path to follow, in my opinion.

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

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Thanos: A God Up There Listening #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – A Story Designed for Digital That Doesn’t Work As Well on the Printed Page.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Thanos: A God Up There Listening was originally part of Marvel’s digital “Infinite” comic line and has now been released in print. Unfortunately, this probably works better in the digital version as the art seems sparse on the page and you get a sense that the panels and pages were designed for a digital experience, which is great for the digital reader but not so great for someone reading it on the printed page. In terms of story, this first issue also suffers a bit as the title suggests that it’s a story about Thanos, but this issue focuses more on his son Thane who was introduced in Marvel’s Infinity event. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the son of Thanos, it does a nice job of introducing you to him, but by the end you’ll be questioning which direction this story will be heading.

When the story opens we see Thane contemplating his origins and his life. As he reflects he’s visited by the Ebony Maw, one of Thanos’ dark disciples. Ebony Maw makes Thane question himself and his relation to Thanos and what his ultimate destiny may be. Writer Rob Willams lays a foundation for Thane to become a tragic character, but never goes far enough to ultimately make you care about him and turn him into something more. And regrettably as the story goes on, the focus seems to shift away from Thane and more to Thanos. The ending and preview would also lead you to believe that the second issue will be all about Thanos as Thane takes a step back in story and becomes much like the reader, just a witness to Thanos’ previously unknown adventures.

The art by Iban Coello is clean and it’s a great style for a tablet, but it’s weird to see a credit for “storyboard artists” in a comic, which is yet another indicator that this was originally intended for digital devices. Some of the panels and transitions feel strange, especially in the opening page where in one panel Thane is walking alone, and in the next Ebony Maw suddenly appears without any exposition. It may work reading it digitally, but here on the printed page it just felt random and confusing. Also, the art at times has a real cartoony feel, while at other times it takes a more serious approach which much like the story, doesn’t ever give a clear direction for the book.

If you’re a mega fan of Thanos and his mythology, you may want to read this story the way it was originally intended, digitally.  Even then the story seemed to lack clear direction.  On the printed page, and for casual fans of Thanos, this is something that is very easily “missable”.  For my own self, it’s a story I could have skipped and I won’t be back for more.

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

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