Cyclops #6 (Marvel)

Cyclops #6

Rating: 4/5 – Extremely New Reader Friendly, Cyclops in Space With the Starjammers.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

I’ll lay my cards on the table and admit I’ve never been a big X-Men fan, nor have I found Cyclops to be a particularly compelling character. I’ve always thought the X-Men universe is too convoluted and Cyclops has always rubbed me the wrong way. So, it’s surprising to me when I say that I’ve been a big fan of the latest Cyclops solo series. Part of it has to do with young, time-displaced Cyclops (from Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men series), who comes to us as a clean slate. Also, this is essentially a Marvel cosmic title rather than an X-Men book. But mostly, the reason for my fandom has been writer Greg Rucka and his great character-driven story. With Cyclops #6, however, we get a new creative team. Will new writer John Layman continue to tell the compelling story of father and son that has this series at the top of my read pile whenever it comes out? I gave this issue a try and I’m on board.

This issue begins a new adventure as Cyclops and his father, Corsair, rejoin their team of cosmic pirates, the Starjammers. Layman does a great job of reintroducing the cast and getting the reader all caught up on what’s been happening. No matter how far along I am in a series, I appreciate when a writer takes a moment to reintroduce the characters and the premise, if not for new readers, then for my memory. He does it within the narrative, which is a nice touch and doesn’t waste any precious time and space. Most of what follows uses Cyclops as a vehicle for getting to know the Starjammers better, while simultaneously highlighting that Cyclops is young and inexperienced in every way possible (some of it is cliché, but it did bring a smile to my face as I thought of my own adolescence). Because of this, I get the feeling that the Starjammers, who have been mostly absent from the series thus far, will play a larger role in the coming adventures. I’m okay with that as long as the main focus remains on the father/son relationship that has hitherto been so masterfully crafted. There is some of that this issue as well, so I don’t think I have anything to worry about. Mostly, this issue is just a good swashbuckling adventure that holds true to the spirit of the series, which bodes well for the shift in creative team. The shift in art is almost imperceptible, as Javier Garron continues in the vein of previous artist Russell Dauterman. The art is lively, fun, bright, and fits the material perfectly.

Cyclops #6 is a new beginning for another fun romp through space as promised to Cyclops when he took his father’s hand and joined his crew of bandits, The Starjammers. This issue gets very “piratey,” which is a lot of fun, especially when adapted to space adventures. I  hope that John Layman continues to write strong character-driven stories, but letting the story be plot-driven every so often isn’t a bad thing. This issue is extremely new reader friendly, while moving the story off to new adventures. I’m hopeful this series will continue to be as fun, adventurous, and touching as it has been. So far, it’s off to a great start.

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

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Arkham Manor #1 (DC Comics)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Solid Read Whether You Love the Premise or Not.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

If you haven’t been following Batman Eternal, then you’re missing some important pieces to just how the premise of Arkham Manor came about. Reading this without any prior knowledge could feel as though it’s an Elseworlds book, but it is in fact “in continuity”. The Wayne Manor is no longer the home of Bruce Wayne and Alfred. It is now the new Arkham Asylum, the home of Batman’s and Gotham’s most dangerous and insane criminals. Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Shawn Crystal explore this new chapter in Batman’s life in this first issue of Arkham Manor.

Whether or not you like the premise of Wayne Manor becoming the new Arkham, there is still an entertaining and fascinating story here. This new series opens with the Mayor of Gotham deciding that the Wayne Mansion would be the best location to house Arkham’s inmates, and rather quickly becomes a murder mystery as two of those inmates have been murdered from within. We get to see a nice exploration of Bruce’s thoughts on why this idea would make sense, and since he’s Batman, how he’ll use this change of environment to his advantage. Although we get to see Bruce’s thoughts on the change, it would have been great to see more of the physical changes that affect Wayne Manor. Except for a small scene wonderfully drawn by Shawn Crystal, we don’t get to see much on just how Wayne Manor went through the transformation.

Crystal’s art is strong throughout this first issue using a stylized line that is heavy on  blacks and use of tiny Ben-Day dots. It gives his art a lot of depth and movement, while his panel layouts and storytelling flow wonderfully. In the scene mentioned above, Crystal wonderfully shows how the “W” crest above the door of Wayne Manor is chipped away, leaving only a simple “A” for Arkham. We get some hints throughout this issue of changes like this, but not enough to make me feel the impact. It would have been great to see the transformation of the library for example, but hopefully that’s material for future issues. The transformation of Wayne Manor is handled over the course of a couple pages, but it would have been great to have seen Crystal given more time to show the how.

Overall this first issue does what it needs to do to hook a new reader, it just does so rather quickly, and if you haven’t been reading Batman Eternal then these changes in Batman’s life and location will seem even more abrupt. This first issue sets up a murder mystery that will have Batman working in a familiar, but drastically different locale and just how this will affect him and those he’s closest too. The ending cliffhanger will be reminiscent of story lines that we’ve seen before in titles like Shadow of the Bat, but it’s still a solid setup that has a premise much like the one that this series has been built on for future stories.

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

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Catwoman #35 (DC)

Catwoman 35

Rating: 4/5 – There’s a New Crime Boss in Town, and She Has Claws.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Gabe Bustamantez.

This September marked 3 years since the reboot of the DC Universe and the introduction of The New 52. DC’s October issues has been serving as a chance to re-brand a portion of the DC line of comics with new creative teams and a new start. This month we received a fresh and hip new Batgirl, the introduction of Gotham Academy and Arkham Manor, and there are some interesting developments happening in the new Deathstroke book which has lead me to believe we may be seeing a new New 52. I’m not hinting at another continuity reboot, but a new chance for readers to jump into these DC titles and enjoy a fresh start as some titles get shaken up with new creative teams and directions.

Catwoman #35 is the latest example of the current trend of shifting creative teams to bring a completely different and unfamiliar take on long established characters. Due to recent events in Batman Eternal the character of Catwoman that we knew has been flipped on her head and has started down a new path at breakneck speed. Selina has discovered she is the heir to the Calabrese crime family and she is using her new found power to help Gotham City get back on it’s feet. This issue marks the debut of writer Genevieve Valentine, who has taken Selina and pushed her into the spotlight of this series. Not a whole lot of Catwoman action in this issue, instead we get Selina the savvy business woman dealing with organizing deals between other mob families instead of the face slashing and whips. We’re also give a whole new cast of supporting characters that appear to have their own hidden agendas that may or may not be of Selina’s best interests.

The art chores coming from Gerry Brown really do a great job of creating this new look and feel for this series. Selina is no longer drawn as the overly sexualized cat burglar in a skin tight suit, instead she is maneuvering crime families for her big plans wearing business suits and attending City Council galas wearing gowns. But, the strong attitude of Catwoman is still there. The art caused me some confusion in terms of characters. Many times  Brown’s dark and scratchy art work made the supporting characters look too similar and caused me to have to jump back and forth between pages to get my bearings back on who was who. Along with limited backgrounds left many pages and panels looking like they were happening on a studio back lot, but overall I liked the art despite these shortcomings.

Right now is the best time in years to check out Catwoman. Everything from her new image to her new station within Gotham City is providing the perfect chance to follow what feels like a title with a purpose and a story that’s not “just the same” as so many others. Even though this issue is a fresh start with a revamped Catwoman it still comes with a learning curve. It’s almost a prerequisite to read the recent issues of Batman Eternal to fully understand when and how these changes started, unless you’re prepared to just jump in and take the new status quo at face value. You’re not given enough backstory on Selina’s quick rise to power in this issue and that confusion made me want to hunt down those issue to see how it all happened.  That said, there is more than enough here to make me want to stay with the title and see where this story is going and what kind of trouble Selina will get herself into.

Reviewed by: Gabe Bustamantez
(gabe@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Unity #0 (Valiant)

Unity #0

CREDIT: Valiant Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Read as a ‘One & Done’ or as Background to the Series.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

In the wake of Valiant’s Armor Hunters event, which publicly introduced the world to its first “superhero team,” writer Matt Kindt takes a step back from the main narrative with Unity #0 to explore the old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Through the eyes of the Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, Kindt transports the reader almost a century into the past to provide some history and perspective on team Unity. It would seem that this is not the first time world events have conspired to bring together a team of powerful individuals, nor is the current team roster the first to bear the name Unity.

In the shadows of World War I, the era’s superpowers were secretly backing their own team of unique individuals poised to tackle those threats deemed too important to leave to conventional methods. As with the current Unity lineup, Gilad was an integral part of this original team, known as Unit Y, and thus provides the narration. Kindt puts a lot of heart into the Eternal Warrior’s commentary, which not only guides us through the story, but also imparts some of Gilad’s wisdom about conflict and the human condition. It’s these nuggets of insight that really shine in a story that I thought was otherwise conventional. I never really felt like I got to know any of the characters in this brief look into the past, though I was certainly left wanting to know more. Nevertheless, Kindt did manage to tie everything together in a way that not only gives the team and the Valiant universe some history, but also paves the way for things to come. He even brilliantly linked this team to a World War II team that was previously introduced in the series, though never explicitly named. When seen as a cog in a much larger story that Kindt is crafting, another adage comes to mind, that being that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Cary Nord provides the art for this issue and I always feel like his style is tailor made for epic stories of the past. In that respect, it works beautifully with this story and lends it the extra gravitas that it needs. Complimenting Nord’s art perfectly are the colors by Jose Villarrubia, whose palette seemed to change depending on the character featured in the frame. He made the Eternal Warrior feel ancient, the supernatural warrior sufficiently mystical, and so on. He even managed to evoke an early twentieth century feel throughout the issue. These two talents absolutely need to collaborate again in the future.

Valiant continues to exemplify what zero issues are all about. Unity #0 tells a story that provides some history to the main series, but can easily stand alone as a one and done issue. With this issue, Matt Kindt skillfully sets the groundwork for the tale he’s been spinning for just under a dozen issues, while simultaneously hinting at the future of the things to come. There was definitely enough teased that I look forward to whatever else he has planned.

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

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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)

Daredevil9

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

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

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