Scarlet Witch #9 (Marvel)

SW9

Rating: 5/5 – A Defining Moment Between Siblings Wanda & Pietro.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I reviewed issue #1 of Scarlet Witch last December and it got a 5/5 then too, with a great story by James Robinson & beautiful art by Vanessa del Rey.  Since then we have had a different artist in almost every issue.  In many cases I am opposed to what I’ve referred to as “revolving door art teams”, but in this case, the artist-per-issue is by creative design and not at the whim of management to churn out issues at a faster pace.  The stories have been mostly self contained, and where they ran for 2 parts, the same artist did both parts.  We have had, after Vanessa del Rey, a tantalizing smorgasbord of artists who have each brought something to the table with their interpretation of the Scarlet Witch: Marco Rudy, Steve Dillon/Chris Visions (for the 2-parter), Javier Pulido, Marguerite Sauvage, Annie Wu, Tula Lotay, and now in #9, Joelle Jones.

Jones does a spectacular job on art, the style and grace she brings to the page is really breathtaking.  We open with Wanda doing yoga on the terrace of her Manhattan apartment and she is soon joined by her brother Pietro, aka Quicksilver.  Pietro is there to recruit her to Tony Stark’s side of the Civil War II conflict, and he does not get what he wants…blind obedience from his younger sister (younger by 13 minutes, Wanda is quick to point out).  As wonderful as the art is, where this book really shines is the back-and-forth dialogue between Wanda and Pietro.  Robinson is a seasoned comics pro and outdoes himself here.  The twins touch upon many moments in their history, from their muddled parentage to Wanda’s marriage to the Vision, to the House of M storyline (if anyone out there remembers the classic “No more Mutants” line…).   Robinson also presents a really nice back-and-forth on the merits of predictive justice, which is the basis of the conflict at the heart  of the Civil War II event.

If you’ve ever liked the characters Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, this is a must read issue.  The debate between the siblings in this issue does a great job of illustrating the relationship between the two, both how it started out and how it evolved over time.  Have you thought that Quicksilver is a jackass?  Well, he is, and it’s perfectly illustrated here without coming across as heavy handed thanks to Robinson’s deft scripting.  We end the issue with a moment that is sure to have repercussions down the line in any books that feature either of these characters, so grab a copy while you can.  This isn’t a “big” book.  No explosions or buildings falling over (though there is a bit of a physical altercation that is over pretty quickly).  If you only like books with lots of super-hero action, this isn’t the one for you.  If you like character development?  Belly up to the bar and get a helping of Scarlet Witch #9.  This has been at the top of the stack for me since issue #1 and I think it will stay there for the remainder of the run with James Robinson.  It’s one of my favorite Marvel books right now, and I’m so glad Marvel is putting out ‘change of pace’ books like this.

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

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The Fallen #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – A Funeral for Yet Another “Dead” Marvel Hero.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

It was recently announced that, like the first Civil War event, the concluding chapters of Civil War II have also been delayed. Also, like Secret Wars from last year there will now be an additional issue added to the series, which will add to the total dollars spent to read the event. In my review of the zero issue of Civil War as well as my review of The Accused one-shot, I mentioned that the pricing structure for these books is on the high side.  The Fallen is no exception. You get thirty pages, but you’ll pay five bucks for it. So is it worth it? Definitely not, in my opinion.

The Hulk was killed by Clint Barton, A.K.A. Hawkeye, who has since been acquitted.  Now the Stark-side heroes are attending Bruce Banner’s funeral. Familiar Hulk scribe Greg Pak writes this one-shot where heroes like Tony Stark, Ben Grimm and the characters from Planet Hulk pay their respects, while a group of protestors look on and shout their displeasure for a character who has caused so much damage and destruction. There are a couple of touching moments, but for a long time reader who has seen the funerals of Steve Rogers, Superman, and more, those moments read and play out like so many issues I’ve seen before.  Since I know that it’s only a matter of time before Bruce Banner returns, the skeptic in me couldn’t align with the sad feelings these characters display.

After the funeral we see how Bruce Banner’s will affects those closest to him, but part of me wondered why some of the gifts weren’t given prior to his death. For example, Banner gifts to his friends from Planet Hulk reverse engineering plans for a ship that’s capable of getting them off earth to find a new home. Why didn’t he just give it to them during, or immediately after finishing them? For me, it was also a little close to the story of Professor X’s “will reading” storyline from just last year and it made me wonder if we’ll also be reading about James Rhode’s (War Machine) funeral soon too?

The whole funeral and will reading scene didn’t connect with me and it’d be more than fair to say it’s because I’ve read so many issues similar to this one.  For the price, I was expecting something more and/or something different. Also, while the cover by Leinil Yu does a fantastic job of conveying Hulk’s “death”, the internal pencils by Mark Bagley seem like an odd choice for a story like this, since they cannot help but feel clean and upbeat. I enjoy Bagley’s art and style, but it clashes so much with the cover and it failed to capture that same dark tone I saw when first picking this issue up. If you want to attend the Hulk’s funeral, then this may be a solid read for you. For me, it just missed the mark on so many levels and has me questioning my continued investment into these Civil War II tie-ins.

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

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Deathstroke: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)

Deathstroke

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – The Perfect Mix of Backstory and Forward Story Momentum.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this comic and I really shouldn’t have been.  Christopher Priest has been writing comics since 1980 and has done highly acclaimed runs like Quantum & Woody & the 1998 run of Black Panther.  I’ve not really been a big Deathstroke fan since the days when Marv Wolfman was writing the character, but now I hope I can add another writer to my singular list of writers who put a Deathstroke I enjoy onto the page.

Priest mixes backstory to set the stage for people unfamiliar with the character, as well as reminding lapsed readers about who the major players are, along with action scenes and forward story momentum.  The story shifts back and forth between multiple time periods.  These kinds of shifts in time can be disorienting and take me out of the story trying to figure things out when handled by journeyman writers.  Handling this story structure is not a problem for Priest as he deftly switches back and forth keeping my attention and comprehension on point at every turn.  We see the kind of man Slade Wilson is in his interactions with his two sons  and in how he performs his job as a mercenary. Carlo Pagulayan & Jason Paz do a nice job on art.  Getting Deathstroke’s mask off certainly helps sort some of the timeframes out as we move from “Slade with both eyes intact” to “blond hair & an eye-patch” to “white hair and an eye-patch”.

We’ve got Pagulayan on art until issue #2, and then it switches over to Joe Bennett with #3.  I think their styles are similar enough that it should not be a jarring visual shift, but the rotating art teams that change mid story arc continue to be my biggest gripe about most of the DC bi-weekly series.

Priest’s Deathstroke is definitely not a good guy, but he has a sense of honor and does what needs to be done.  There is a conflict because his sense of honor drives him to do what he feels needs to be done, though through the lens of what is nominally considered ‘civilized society’ his actions are often what would be considered to be bad.  This makes the character interesting to me.  There are layers of complexity that Priest has built into the character and the story that make it more than a simple “Deathstroke is a bad-ass mercenary who is out doing what he does best” tale.  If this kind of layered storytelling continues, I’ll be sticking around for the long haul.

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

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Mycroft Holmes #1 (Titan)

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Rating: 4.5/5 – A Fun Adventure with Sherlock’s Roguish Brother.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Playing Basketball & writing comics…  Two things Kareen Abdul-Jabbar is pretty darn good at.  Everyone knows about the basketball thing.  Doing comics is new and I was pleasantly surprised by Abdul-Jabbar’s foray into comics, co-writing with Raymond Obstfeld.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, though.  Doing a little digging (thanks, Internet!) I discovered that Abdul-Jabbar is a columnist for Time magazine and in addition to having co-written Mycroft Holmes as a prose novel with Anna Waterhouse has also co-written (with Obstfeld) What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors, and (with Anthony Walton) Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII’s Forgotten Heroes.  He has also co-written a few autobiographical books and several other books, as well as solo authoring a children’s book series.  It seems writing is a passion for the man and he’s pretty good at it.  So, it’s nice to see him turning his talents to the world of comics and I’m glad I checked this series out, bringing the character from his book to visual life in this comic.

For people unfamiliar with Holmesian mythology, Mycroft is Sherlock’s older brother.  The version of the character here is quite a bit more dashing and action-oriented than the sedentary problem-solver described as “a much larger and stouter man” (than Sherlock) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  But this story is set while the Holmes brothers are younger men, so perhaps Mycroft lets himself go as he gets older… Abdul-Jabbar and Obstfeld establish their version of the character as a “rogue you love to hate” with scenes set in school where Mycroft is agitating classmates and teachers alike, as well as an interaction with a rain-soaked Sherlock where he shows that he definitely has some less than admirable personality characteristics.  Even though he comes off as a jerk, it is still fascinating to watch as he moves through the story.  The art, by Joshua Cassara, is a good match for the Victorian England setting and does a good job of setting the stage and keeping the story moving.  He’s new to me, but an artist I’ll be keeping an eye out for.

It will be easy for some people to dismiss this book as “just something written by that basketball guy” or thinking this is merely meant to capitalize on Abdul-Jabbar’s name and fame.  These are both wrong assumptions, because Abdul-Jabbar and Obstfeld have some definite writing chops on display here.  Coupled with some great art by Joshua Cassara and a story that balances character-building, conflict setup, action, and humor and you have a comic that should not be missed.  I’m certainly glad I gave it a try and it has earned a place on my pull list.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the story!

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

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The Accused #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 – Hawkeye’s Trial and Daredevil’s Case Against Him.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I have yet to read the fourth issue of Civil War II, but that’s ok when reading The Accused as the story spins out of the main events from issue number three. It’s tough to talk about this issue without spoilers from Civil War II number three but since the fourth issue is out, I’m going to move forward so from this point on beware…spoilers ahead. Writer Marc Guggenheim and artists Ramon Bachs and Garry Brown have taken the war out of the battlefield and into the courtroom as Daredevil is assigned to prosecute Hawkeye for his “murder” of the Hulk.

This is a done-in-one issue so you get a complete story, and for the most part it’s pretty entertaining despite it feeling as though it could have been a little longer. Guggenheim does a nice job of telling the third issue story within the story of Hawkeye’s prosecution, so you get a nice recap of the events and a window into Hawkeye’s perspective on his killing of his friend. There’s also another layer of the story where we see Daredevil the hero trying to ensure that Hawkeye gets a fair trial during his time in the costume at night, even though Matt Murdock is trying to prove him guilty during the day.

While I so appreciate a done-in-one issue that can tell a complete story, this one feels as though it could have been fleshed out a bit more. While I enjoyed seeing Hawkeye’s internal thoughts, it would have been great to see him cope with his actions a bit more, and while I enjoy Daredevil’s role as a prosecutor these days, seeing him go after Hawkeye, fair trial or not, felt strange especially during the closing arguments. The art style wasn’t to my liking but it told the story well enough. There were a lot of hard lines and I thought faces looked stiff and statue-like because of it. Add in some dark colors, and those lines and shadows became all that more hardened.

Since the events of issue three, this issue actually felt as though it’s required reading. Because of that and the entertaining story, I’d recommend this tie-in to the overall Civil War II event. Plenty of tie-ins, especially with Marvel events, fail to meet that “required reading” check box, but this one does. It answers the question of Hawkeye’s trial and offers insight into the minds of the killer and prosecutor despite them both being heroes and friends. If you’re reading Civil War II, then make sure to read this.

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

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All Star Batman #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Batman’s CannonBall Run!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

After an extremely brief break, Scott Snyder is back to writing Batman. The writer of DC’s most popular book of the past five years returns to Batman, but in an all new title. All Star Batman pairs Scott Snyder with long time comic book artist John Romita Jr. in a story that’s different than most of the recent Batman stories, but heavily influenced by both Snyder’s traveling across America and movies like Midnight Run or even, to a degree, Cannonball Run. Snyder’s dark take on the character in his previous Batman series is still here, but there’s also a hint of adventure and violent fun as well. Batman is attempting to get Two Face from “Point A” to “Point B” while a whole slew of villains and everyday people try to stop him.

The premise of this first issue and this first storyline is simple, Batman is trying to save Harvey Dent by getting him to an as of yet unrevealed safe house that’s five-hundred miles away. Meanwhile, Two Face’s split personality isn’t making it easy. While the Harvey Dent side wants to be saved, the scarred side has put a bounty on Batman’s head. The reward offered up is huge amounts of cash that Two Face has stolen from Gotham’s largest crime families. As the story opens, the first two villains we see attacking Batman are Killer Moth and Firefly, but the potential in this type of story promises that there will be so many more.

I love the premise of this story, and I love seeing Batman outside of Gotham City or a major city for a change. He’s in the country without all the tools normally at his disposal and plenty of obstacles in his way. Romita’s art is really strong in this first issue and although there are a couple of panels that get too messy, for the most part I don’t think his pencils have looked better in quite some time. His rendition of Batman is fantastic and it’s cool to see Romita Jr. draw him without a cape for a large part of this first issue. Dean White’s colors though are stunning and he beautifully captures all the shades of color in the sky and the backgrounds. His colors, as much as Romita’s pencils if not more so are the star of this first issue and may be the reason why I enjoyed Romita’s art so much!

There’s also a back up story starring the new “Robin” Duke Thomas who was introduced in We Are Robin. Although I loved the art by Declan Shalvey, the story didn’t grab me as of yet, but you can tell that this is just a set up for what’s to come. All Star Batman looks as though it will be DC’s flagship title and you can see that not only by the creators involved, but also by the quality of the package. This is an oversized issue with a cardstock cover and carries a $4.99 price point so be aware, but I feel it’s worth the price after reading this first issue. If you like Snyder & Romita as much as I do, I believe you will too!

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

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Animosity #1 (AfterShock)

Animosity1

Rating: 3.5/5 – An Intriguing Concept, Where Will Bennett Go With It?
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I liked the idea of this debut issue, but if there was ever a comic that cried out for having an “extra length debut” it is this one.  The comic was 19 pages of story/art with one text page briefly explaining the premise.  But I had already read 6 of these 19 pages as “preview pages” in Captain Kid #1 just the other day, so I really only got 13 new pages here.  That made this feel really short.  Too short.  Great image on the cover with Jesse and her dog Sandor.  But we don’t make it to the point in the story with this compelling cover image in this issue.

The high concept is that one day all animals, fish, insects become sentient.  They gain the power of higher level thought and also the ability to speak (apparently they also spontaneously generate the vocal cords necessary to accomplish this).  And they’re pissed off.  For too long have humans mistreated them and they’re out for revenge.  So we’ve got a “on the road to a post-apocalyptic world” tale starting on Day 1 of the apocalypse that could spell the end of humankind.  But that’s about it.  This issue is almost purely the very beginning stages of the set-up for our story with a couple of scenes that blatantly defy what is physically possible in order to demonstrate the love Sandor has for his human, Jesse.  Leave it up to the dogs to have our back… man’s best friend and all.

Marguerite Bennett has come up with a cool concept.  The proof, for me will be in the development of this concept, which I’m unable to judge based on the small amount of story revealed in this issue.  The story could go in lots of directions from this setup, both innovative and rehashed.  Issue #1 grabbed me enough to get me to come back for a second helping.  Issues #2 & 3 will need to give me a reason to stick around for the long haul.

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

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