Guardians of the Galaxy #18 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Finally Answering Years Old Questions.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Since the Thanos Imperative came out in 2010, fans have been wondering just how Star Lord, Nova and Thanos survived the Cancerverse. At the end of that series, in order to stop the all powerful Thanos, Nova uses all the power of the Nova force while Star Lord uses the power of the Cosmic Cube to save the Guardians of the Galaxy, sacrificing themselves and trapping Thanos inside of the Cancerverse. When Star Lord came back with the relaunched Guardians team, the question of how he survived hadn’t been answered until now. As part of the Original Sin event, writer Brian Michael Bendis and Ed McGuiness set out to answer those questions in Guardians of the Galaxy number eighteen.

It’s always exciting to see McGuniess’ art, and it’s no different in this issue. Seeing his huge and bulky Thanos towering over Star Lord in his 2010 (and frankly better) costume is wonderful to look at. And of course Bendis wrote a scene that has an all out battle between Drax and Thanos which is perfectly matched for McGuiness’ style, and will remind readers of his outstanding work on the Hulk. Not surprising there’s a lot of large panels throughout this issue that showcases his art, and having Mark Farmer handle the inks is a perfect match that allows the pencils to maintain a clean and chiseled look.

When the issue opens, Gamora has tied up Star Lord in order to get him to answer the questions on just what happened with her father, and where former Nova Richard Ryder is. It’s almost a bit meta as fans have been asking this question for years and Gamora plays the role of the reader, forcing the answers that have been asked for so long. Although not everything is answered in this single issue, Bendis does a great job of setting the stage for next issue and balancing the voices of all the characters involved.

Finally learning what happened with Thanos & Nova in the Cancerverse was made as exciting as can be by Bendis and McGuiness. Readers who missed out on the 2010 series “The Thanos Imperative” where these questions originated may not care as much, but they’re still treated to some amazing McGuiness art and a quickly paced, action heavy issue. It may also lead those readers to go back and read that fun series by the writers who refreshed the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. If you’re looking for these answers, or even if you’re not, this issue of Guardians of the Galaxy will entertain.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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Uncanny Avengers # 23 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3/5 – A Jarring Change of Gears in Art Style.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Uncanny Avengers has been a great series that combines a wide range of characters from both the X-teams and the Avengers teams to give the reader a taste of both. Uncanny Avengers balances the ultra popular characters like Wolverine and Thor, with B and C-listers like Havok and Sunfire to have a unique mix of heroes. Writer Rick Remender has balanced the team’s individual exposure effectively while he’s told an epic tale that’s lasted for over fifteen issues, concluding last month. Issue twenty-three is the breather issue, focusing more on characters and less on the non-stop action, allowing Remender to put his characters back into place before the next big arc that leads into Marvel next major event, Axis.

Havok, Wasp and Rogue get the majority of the attention in this issue as Havok and Wasp have to deal with the tragedy of losing someone close to them, while Rogue has to re-learn how to use her powers after the sacrifice she made last issue. There are some touching scenes throughout, especially with the Havok and Wasp storyline, but Rogue’s change in powers and mindset feels forced for future story possibilities and something that we’ve seen before. The ending of the issue hints at what’s to come with an appearance by the Red Skull, but after the emotional stories presented for three-quarters of the book, it feels a bit out of place.

Unfortunately, the art can’t deliver on the story’s emotional feeling. Artist Sanford Greene’s style is extremely different from the artists that have come before and although he’s able to make the scenes with Havok and Wasp work, Rogue’s scenes fall flat with his loose and somewhat exaggerated style. Also, his Red Skull looks comical, rather than scary. It’s a style of art that doesn’t fit the character and again, much like writing, makes the ending feel out of place.

Ultimately, this issue fell short of the greatness the title has shown in the past for me.  As we get closer and closer to the Axis event, it makes sense to have an issue like this that makes the reader care for these characters even more. Unfortunately, it misses that opportunity, and the art inside didn’t meet this reader’s expectations when compared with the art of the previous twenty-plus issues. Hopefully this will be a small letdown in what’s been an overall fantastic series, as Remender and team attempt to right the ship with the start of the next big storyline.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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Sundowners #1 (Dark Horse)

Sun1

CREDIT: Dark Horse Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Psychosis and Super-Heroes Meet!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

The solicit promised a “dark look at the thin line between heroism and insanity” and issue #1 delivered just that. Not the kind of insanity we usually see in comics, but a slightly more clinical view as four would-be super-heroes participate in a group therapy session with psychologist David Shrejic who is also certain he’s discovered a new psychological disorder “Sundowner Syndrome” – where individuals are compelled to patrol the street after dark as vigilantes.

Through the group we’re introduced to Crowlita (a Go-Go dancer who can see strange shadowy individuals), The Concerned Citizen (a traditional vigilante who is convinced there are “Reptiloids” out there making a move against humanity), Arkanika (a super-hero wannabe who believes she must sin in order to fuel her power reserve to do good to balance it out), and Karl Volf, a 65-year-old who in the past was the vigilante Patient Wolf (or is that all just in his head?)  This is a fascinating group of characters and the 3-page vignettes each recount during group give insights into both their frame of mind as well as dropping breadcrumbs about the possibility that there may actually be something more going on.  Oh, and how will The Pigeon (introduced on the 1st 2 pages of the issue) tie back into all this?

Tim Seeley and Jim Terry are accomplished storytellers and have created a different take on super-heroes here.  It’s not cut-and-dried at this point, the wrap-up to this debut issue certainly sets a stage where something is going on.  There is room for the story to go in several directions next issue, and that makes me want to read issue #2 all the more.  I like being left with a sense of “I wonder where they’re going to go with this?” when I read something new.  If you enjoy comics that take you someplace different tucked around the edges of the super-hero genre, you should check out Sundowners #1.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
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Red Lanterns #34 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – It Really Seemed Like No One Would Survive This.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Gabe Bustamantez.

The conclusion to the 4 part “Atrocities” storyline, the issue started right in the heat of a huge battle between Guy Gardner’s team of Red Lanterns and an army of humans turned into Red Lanterns by Atrocitus in the battle to end all battles on earth. The high impact action continues through the whole issue and never stops. Each page is jam packed with Red Lanterns viciously taking each other down hard. The entire story has a “No One Survives” theme going on, all the way until the last battle between Guy and Atrocitus you feel as if anyone can end up dead.

This was the first Red Lanterns issue I’ve read since the start of the series and I decided to jump in headfirst with this issue to see where the series has gone since Charles Soule took control.  I love what I’m seeing. There were so many double crosses and changes of allegiance that this issue felt like a great TV cop drama episode. I didn’t know who could be trusted. Guy Gardner was never a character I cared about before, but his role as leader of the Red Lanterns has put him into a new light for me. He has taken control of his own team of Red Lanterns, stepped up as their leader and protector and has done everything he could to help them survive this long. There is even a major plot point that sets Guy up as a much bigger player than ever before.

This issue may not have been the best issue to start off with due to all the new characters introduced recently, like Judge, or all the big changes that have occurred during Charles Soule’s run. Did you know Supergirl was a Red Lantern? But, this issue had enough going on for it and I was given enough information to enjoy the ending and feel satisfied with the new direction that will be taking place soon. The direction this title is heading at the end of this story along with the big battles, crazy developments, and kinetic art have made me intrigued and I’m a new fan of The Red Lanterns series. I will continue to follow this series from here on and also catch up with back issues.  If you like action, check this issue out!

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

Wayward #1

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Monster Slaying Fun in the Heart of Japan.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

When I heard Wayward promoted as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a new generation” I knew I’d give it a shot. It’s not that I’m part of the new generation, nor do I think anyone was pining away for such a thing, but I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day and throwing out something like that immediately piqued my interest.  I’m sure that was the intent of promoting Wayward this way, but it also runs the risk of setting itself up to fill some pretty big shoes. Nevertheless, I tried to go into the book with no preconceived notions about content, only that with a writer like Jim Zub at the helm it should be a fun ride.

Wayward tells the story of young Rori Lane, a girl of Irish and Japanese descent that moves from Ireland to Ikebukuro, Japan to live with her mother after her parents’ divorce. Most of this inaugural issue finds the protagonist weaving her way through this new city as she explores her surroundings while the reader learns about Rori through the narration. It has a nice flow that establishes the character and setting before diving into monsters and mayhem. I found some of the dialogue a bit stiff, particularly between Rori and her mother, but I suppose one could chalk that up to teen angst and the divorce. There are hints of something special in Rori, as she effortlessly makes her way from the plane to the city, but this something doesn’t truly manifest itself until she ends up in the middle of a fight between some monsters and a bubbly and energetic stranger named Ayane. With no real explanation given yet, I would describe these powers as being able to recognize patterns and connections in any given situation or surrounding. She also manifests the physical prowess to follow through with whatever crazy pattern she sees. This allows her to escape from this first confrontation and sets up the many questions that will ultimately be addressed as this series unfolds.

The art by Steve Cummings has a subtle anime look to it, which fits quite nicely in a tale that takes place in Japan. It leaves out some of the more exaggerated features of anime, which I think is good because that could have turned off some readers who don’t appreciate the style. The red hair on Rori may be a bit stereotypical of her Irish half, but she has rockin’ hair and some wild clothes! Ayane, also with the crazy hair (bright blue for her) and funky outfit, is equally as interesting. The coloring by John Rauch was impeccable, and captures what the back-up article in this issue calls the “shiny neon veneer of modern Japan.” I especially love how he used color to make Rori stand out from the large crowds at the beginning of the book and the dull gray night at the end of the book. In both instances, it punctuated Rori’s solitary journey in this strange new world.

Do I believe that Wayward is the next Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Not really, but probably because it’s only like Buffy in the most superficial of ways. It has a female lead, there are monsters, and said female lead kicks monster butt. In reality, the story is unique enough to stand on its own merits and this debut issue did a solid job of setting up the narrative and introducing the players. In the end, I suspect this book will be as much about the lead’s personal journey of self-discovery as it will be about monster slaying.

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
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Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1 (DC)

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Wonder Woman is Getting a Second Title…and She’s in Gotham?
by Comic Spectrum reviewer David Akers.

In a world where filmmakers believe Wonder Woman can’t support her own movie, you might be surprised to discover she’s getting a second comic book series of her own. And in the vein of Adventures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Knight, this one reprints the digital first series on paper.  Also, like the other digital first series starring Batman and Superman, this features a pre-Flashpoint look at the title hero.  In this issue Barbara Gordon is still Oracle, Penguin is a bird-obsessed umbrella fan, and Wonder Woman isn’t the God of War.

The main story, written and drawn by fan-favorites Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver, is very well-written and beautiful to look at. That said, I have a big problem with the setting and a plot point. Given that Wonder Woman is finally getting a second series for the first time in over 70 years and is on the verge of getting her own movie, why did this series have to kick-off with a Batman tie-in? Other than the obvious “because when you add Batman sales go up”?  The story is set in Gotham, with Wonder Woman facing all of Batman’s major rogues, using W-shaped batarangs. I have to believe that they were trying to make the point that she’s just as strong a character as Batman, but surely there were better ways to do this than abandoning Wonder Woman’s regular cast and transplanting her to Gotham as a Batman surrogate. Even the use of Oracle was a waste, because she’s only there to get Wonder Woman onto the scene.

The second story is a mostly forgettable fight between the new 52 Wonder Woman and Circe that ends with a heavy-handed attempt at commentary about gender stereotypes. It’s written by Amanda Deibert but has really good, stylistic art by Cat Staggs.

Gail Simone tells a good, solid story, but ultimately it’s a throwaway that doesn’t matter in current DC continuity. It’s set in a universe that no longer exists, and features none of the standard themes that we associate with Wonder Woman. And maybe that was the point. It’s a good alternative for people who are not into the New 52 take on Wonder Woman.  Perhaps it is a “best of both worlds”, providing an alternate way for fans not into the New 52 Wonder Woman to read her adventures, but it does not seem to be a good way to lead fans to her ongoing series, if that was even the intent.  It’s good to see more of the best-known and most visible female character in DC’s lineup, but I question if this is the best way to celebrate her.

Reviewed by: David Akers
(david@comicspectrum.com – also found at www.davidakers.com
)
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Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: Bestiary #1 (BOOM!)

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CREDIT: BOOM! Studios

Rating: 4/5 – Solid Exploration of the Hellraiser Universe.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

When BOOM! Studios acquired the license to Hellraiser, they also got the creator of the material to come along with it. Clive Barker, who wrote the book the Hellhound Heart, and directed the first Hellraiser movie has returned to writing one of his most popular creations with Pinhead and the Cenobites in a new ongoing series from BOOM!.  In addition, BOOM! has launched an anthology title taking place in the Hellraiser Universe titled Hellraiser: Bestiary. This first issue tells three different stories, each with it’s own creative team.

Symphony in Red – Written by Ben Meares and Mark Miller, tells the tale of a frustrated, almost human in his emotions, Pinhead. As he takes out his frustrations in hell we see a side of Pinhead that we’ve rarely ever seen. The art by Conor Nolan fails a bit in it’s ability to make the cenobites look creepy and frightening, but his colors makes up for it with dark tones and heavy use of shadows giving hell itself that dark and depressing feel. It’s the weakest of the three stories, but still an entertaining read.

Desert Fathers – The art by Colin Lorimer really stands out in this eight page story about a small community that is shaken up by the appearance of the mysterious puzzle box. Lorimer does a great job of showing emotions in his characters and making the monster in the story look imposing on page. It’s heavy on the violence, and Lorimer choreographs the story so well incorporating that violence in a way that makes sense. The story in terms of overall enjoyment is better than the first, but in this issue, they definitely saved the best for last.

The Hunted, Part One – In a story that will continue on into next issue, the same writers of the first story tell the opening chapter of what happens when a small group of hunters attempt to capture Pinhead, in order to remove the pins from his head. A fantastic opening that unfortunately leaves you hanging on a cliffhanger. At just six pages it’s the strongest of the bunch, but ends too soon. I would have loved to read more of this story, but am happy that it’ll continue on into next issue. And the art by Carlos Mango who has a similar line to Matthew Clarke, makes the story stand out even more with his detailed line.

If you’re a fan of Hellraiser don’t ignore this series just because it’s an anthology, there’s quite a bit to enjoy. The Hellraiser universe has a lot of characters, settings and concepts to explore so to see them being examined in an anthology title similar to those from the E.C. or Warren days is exciting. Hellraiser has been in good hands since BOOM! started publishing it, and they’re proving that “they have such sights to show us”.

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

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