Future Quest #1 (DC)

FQ1

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – The Hanna-Barbera Action Universe Hits Comics!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Future Quest brings the Hanna-Barbera action heroes to comics in a fairly straight translation of their comic book personas, as a counterpoint to Scooby Apocalypse (that Shawn reviewed yesterday) where they did a complete reboot/reworking of the classic characters.  This issue primarily focuses on Jonny Quest (with Hadji, Doctor Quest, Race Bannon & Bandit thrown in) and Birdman as well as a soupçon of Space Ghost. We’re also teased with Herculoids, the Impossibles, the Galaxy Trio, Frankenstein Jr., and Shazzan!

I watched most of these cartoons when I was growing up so must admit that I was giddy with excitement while reading this issue.  I thought writer Jeff Parker really captured the feel of Jonny Quest and his supporting cast, who get most of the air time in this issue.  Evan “Doc” Shaner captured a really classic feel to the art that looks like it stepped right off an Alex Toth character model sheet.  I didn’t really watch Birdman, but seeing Steve Rude (who excels at this kind of retro art) step in for pages 20-27 was also a visual treat.  The splash page of Birdman taking wing was as exciting as it gets, to my eyes.

There are a lot of characters to cover and focusing on a core set this issue was a smart move on Jeff Parker’s part.  Not too overwhelming and though I cannot take an unbiased view, being already familiar with the characters, it felt like something a new fan could step into and follow along with having no previous exposure to them.  A new fan would not get the visceral thrill from the panel where Jonny & Hadji get glimpses of the Herculoids, Shazzan, and others through the portals that open in the sky, but that’s an Easter Egg for existing fans and should not be a detriment to new readers.

If you’re looking for a straight action take on a classic universe of heroes you may or may not be familiar with, Future Quest #1 is the perfect comic to jump in with.  New fans and old will hopefully be in for a treat as this series unfolds.  I’m really looking forward to seeing where they go with this.  Based on the strength of this issue, I’d personally be on board for a straight-up Jonny Quest comic by Parker/Shaner.  I’m hoping that I’ll be loving the rest of the heroes as much when they get their turns in the spotlight in upcoming issues.

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

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Scooby Apocalypse #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC

Rating: 3.5/5 – An Updated Take on a Classic Group of Characters.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Scooby Apocalypse has generated a lot of mixed emotions from both fans and from myself since it was first announced and the cover image was released. The cover seen above definitely takes an updated approach to the characters with Shaggy having the hipster beard, Daphne and Velma using futuristic technology, and Scooby wearing some type of device that generates bubble-like emojis. While I definitely didn’t like the cover as I just don’t think Jim Lee’s style woks for these characters, I was in the wait and see camp as I’ve always loved the cartoon and have seen what the right creators can do with a classic property like the Archie and/or Jughead books that have been given a modern twist.

After reading this first issue of Scooby Apocalypse, I again came away with mixed emotions. Let’s start with the good: Howard Porter’s art is really strong and I would say that it’s cleaner and less scratchy than his most recent work on Justice League 3000, possibly due to Keith Giffen providing the breakdowns. Although I may not love some of updates to the character designs and their older ages (mid to late twenties?), Porter makes the most of them and gives each of them a distinct appearance and although Scooby has that weird “google glass” contraption over his right eye, I enjoyed his interpretation of him. The colors are bright and pop off the page, but the lack of blacks and shadows made this feel much more like a sci-fi story than a horror story.

Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis have taken Jim Lee’s updated concept of the characters and crafted a story that I didn’t think was great, but it wasn’t bad either.  I know that’s not the best description, but I walked away after reading this with little emotion either way. This isn’t the cartoon. It’s much smarter and it’s nice to have a more sophisticated read, but at the same time it felt as though that the writers felt the need to over explain everything. For example, when watching the cartoon when I was a kid or even watching them now, I never questioned why or how Scooby talked. It wasn’t important to my enjoyment of the show. In this issue we get an origin of Scooby and his abilities to talk, and it just seemed unnecessary. Not only that, but there’s plenty of science throughout that slows the story down and while the end result of that science produces an ending I was genuinely excited about, the journey to get there felt like a chore at times.

I would still recommend this to Scooby-Doo fans, I think it’s an interesting take on the characters, but you’re enjoyment of this interpretation of them may vary. Although we got an origin for Scooby, he still had his lovable personality. Although I didn’t love some of the design updates to the characters, Porter’s art is really fantastic. Although I didn’t love the heavy dose of sci-fi themes in the story, the ending gave me hope for a more traditional take on the characters. So…I’ll be back for a second issue and hope that it makes more of a connection with me.

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

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X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever #4 (Marvel)

WXME

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Not Really the Worst X-Man Ever.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

I was looking for something a little different to read, so I grabbed X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever. I follow most of the X-Men titles, so I figured I would go for this title. It came across to me like it was a joke of a comic, just something extra to read on the side. The dialogue seems very playful, but the story feels a little down and out. For some reason the main character the story revolves around goes through some of the worst situations you can think of when becoming an X-Man.  Each issue brings in something different into the ordinary life of a mutant teenager with a not so special ability. We follow the main character, Bailey Hoskins, who appears to have the light shining on him as the worst X-Man ever. Bailey goes from typical ignored teenage boy in school, to typical ignored mutant teenager at the Xavier institute. Bailey has one mutant power and that is to blow up on command, but that’s it, and afterwards he dies. He gets one big boom and he’s done, no more Bailey. The X-Men try and figure out how to get Bailey involved, and it never ends well for the institute or Bailey.

In issue #4, writer Max Bemis has Bailey brought in front of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and offered a deal to change sides. At the end of the issue I’m left wondering how a major player of the X-Men appears to have been killed. We’re told who did the killing, but nothing else is really given away. This entire comic series is like this, something bad or good happens, but no real explanation as to why. If there is an explanation it’s rather mediocre, left with some dialogue that feels like it was just thrown together to make sense of everything.

One of Bailey’s only friends is Miranda, who has the ability to alter reality. Though Miranda is so powerful, she is put on the bench with Bailey because her abilities are considered a liability. The rest of the comic is the typical emotional roller-coaster Bailey has to deal with while being an X-Man. While reading this comic I have to say that Bailey is losing the spotlight of being considered the worst X-Man ever. Bailey may have a pretty bad mutant power, but as a person he’s actually a good kid. He’s always trying to help even when he’s told to stay out of the way or could possibly be killed, he’s good with people and he’s dedicated to the Xavier cause but keeps getting the short end of the stick through this entire series. I was convinced by the second issue that this comic is more of a light hearted joke than anything else. The series appears to take place on the 90’s X-Men team, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact time, but Gambit is in his 90’s costume and part of the team, so it has to be the 90’s right? Magneto doesn’t appear to be similar to his 90’s character, and Mystique is completely out of the 90’s timeline, so it’s probably another alternate universe. With the mass confusion of trying to piece together the time this takes place, I found myself disliking some of the X-Men characters I typically have enjoyed. Bailey’s perspective of the X-Men is that of the ignorant popular kids in high school, even Wolverine comes across like an  arrogant overworked middle school teacher.

If you’re looking for your typical X-Men comic, this isn’t it. If you want to read something with new and old X-Men characters, then it’s a decent read. The final issue is coming, and I’ve been reading this series since it first came out because for some weird reason I want to see what happens to Bailey. I feel bad for this kid in his world I can’t help but want to see what happens to him in the end. Regardless of what happens when the next issue is released, Bailey is not the worst X-Man ever, and it’s probably good that this comic is so short lived.

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

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Spidey #6 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel


Rating: 3.5/5 – Predictable Super Heroics with Fun High School Dramatics.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

This week the rumors have heated up about Michael Keaton being cast as the Vulture in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie. While fans await confirmation of that rumor, the Vulture is the villain of the sixth issue of Spidey. Bob originally reviewed the first issue back in December, calling it a fun visitation back to Peter Parker’s earliest days as Spider-Man. That theme continues here as writer Robbie Thompson and artist Andre Lima Araujo pit Spider-Man against the Vulture…and Iron Man which is also timely after Spidey’s appearance in the Civil War movie.

As Spider-Man agonizes how he’s going to ask Gwen Stacy to the Winter Formal dance, his spidey sense triggers which leads to him confronting the Vulture as he’s stealing plans from an unmarked Stark building. As the Vulture gets away, Spidey is left looking guilty when Iron Man enters the room. Of course that leads to a Spider-Man/Iron Man throw-down before working together and dealing with the Vulture. As far as team-ups go this is as basic and by the numbers a plot as it gets so you can probably imagine how the story plays out, but it’s still enjoyable mostly for the Peter and Gwen drama that plays out alongside the predictable super heroics.

Araujo’s art is unique and enjoyable, but the departure of Nick Bradshaw has diminished my overall enjoyment of this title. Araujo’s pencils have a distinct style to them, but one that I’m not sure is fitting for a story like this. His character’s heads are just a bit too big for their bodies and although I love the way his art looks in the high school settings of this book, his Iron Man, Vulture and even Spider-Man at times looked slightly off to me.

While I enjoyed reading Spidey #6, I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep this series on my pull list. If you haven’t read a lot of Spider-Man books from the past I’d still recommend this, but for me, the simple fun stories without Bradshaw’s pencils backing them up don’t make me feel compelled enough to return.

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

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DC Universe Rebirth #1 (DC)

Rebirth1

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Say, You Need to Read This if You EVER Liked DC Comics
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I’ll be up front that I am a lapsed DC reader.  I gave up on the “New 52” a few years ago and while I was not looking forward to Rebirth (DC had not given me reason to have high expectations lately) I absolutely wanted to check this out and see if they could win me back.  It turns out that yes, they can.

DC insists that Rebirth is NOT a reboot.  Well, the word reboot perhaps does not have a set definition in comics, but this really felt like a reboot to me, in the best sense of the word.  Without spoiling anything, this issue brought back many elements of the pre-Flashpoint DCU (or at least teased bringing them back) and did so in a way that weaves the New52, Flashpoint, and the pre-Flashpoint DCU into the foundation of a cohesive whole.  This is something writer and DC CCO Geoff Johns excels at.  In fact, calling this Rebirth, which harkens back to Johns’ Green Lantern Rebirth is apropos. Like in GL Rebirth, Johns has taken the things that worked about the past and combined them with the intervening stories that were not as creatively satisfying to me in a way that is respectful  to both and melds them into something that works for me.

The bottom of page #1 says “This tale takes place after Justice League #50 and Superman #52, so read those first”.  I don’t think you need to.  This issue stands on its own.  I flipped through both those issues in the comic shop and the events of those are both covered satisfactorily in this 80-page behemoth of an issue (with a fabulous $2.99 price tag).  I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in either of those other comics, and given that Justice League #50 had a $5.99 price tag with less story than was given here, I’m extremely happy to have just skipped that overpriced issue.

Rebirth is broken into 4 chapters and an epilogue.  Chapter 1: Lost is illustrated by Gary Frank & Ethan Van Sciver, 2 of my favorite DC artists.  This got this off to a rocking start and was a visual feast.  Chapter 2: Legacy was drawn by Gary Frank, Chapter 3: Love is by Ivan Reis, and Chapter 4: Life is by Phil Jimenez & Gary Frank.   The issue ends in an Epilogue that could be controversial for some.  I can see people being apprehensive or even angry about what seems to be happening.  But I loved it.

DC Universe Rebirth was, for me, the perfect DC comic.  Geoff Johns pulled out all the stops with a beautifully told story that weaves legacy DC into the fabric of the newer universe with just the right combination of explanation and a mystery that needs to be solved.  It was a pleasure to see Johns make these characters come to life for me and leap off the page into my imagination.  That’s something that has not happened to me in the pages of a DC comic in years.  I now have hope for what is to come over the next few months from DC, but the execution of the monthly (and bi-weekly) comics really need to follow in the footsteps of  this issue continuing the story threads that have been established here.  It all needs to hang together and this kick-off has set the bar tremendously high in both storytelling and art.  Thanks to a great bundle deal from DCBS, I’ll be trying all the Rebirth one-shots and #1 issues, so I’ll be seeing if DC is able to “stick the landing” after this phenomenal setup.

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

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Civil War II #0 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – An Expensive and Unnecessary Zero Issue.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The first Civil War for Marvel happened ten years ago! It was a seven issue mini series that split the superhero teams against each other with Captain America and Iron Man leading the opposing sides. Just a couple weeks ago Marvel and Disney released Captain America: Civil War that was heavily influenced by the comic and just yesterday passed the $1 billion mark in global ticket sales. Now ten years from the original series Marvel is going back to war with Civil War II, and so far after reading this first issue it feels different from the first, and unfortunately this zero issue despite having some great art, misses the mark for me in the writing and especially it’s value.

This zero issue definitely reads like a prelude. Writer Brian Michael Bendis breaks the issue up into four major parts, each starring a different hero. The first starring She-Hulk as she’s defending the longtime Daredevil villain the Jester. Bendis then jumps to a scene starring War Machine/James Rhodes discussing future plans with the president and finishes up with scenes starring Captain Marvel and an all new Inhuman character. She Hulk’s scene was by far the most interesting for me and it was great to see characters like Doc Samson get time in the spotlight, but this issue reads like set up, which is exactly what it was. The flow of the story felt disconnected and if I was basing my decision to read this series after picking up this zero issue, there’s not a whole lot of excitement here that would bring me back for me.

The art by Olivier Coipel is gorgeous, but again because of the script and lack of almost any action, most of the characters are in standing/stiff poses. It’s absolutely the norm for a Bendis book to have a bunch of characters talking for most of the issue, but when you have an artist like Olivier Coipel and a prelude issue that should be meant to draw a reader into the event, I’d expect a little more. Not only that, but the cost of this book is really unfortunate for what Marvel delivers.

Civil War #0 delivers twenty-three pages for $4.99. There’s nothing more that I’m used to seeing in previous books that cost the extra $1.  No card-stock cover, no thirty-plus pages of story, no extras or reprints of the original Civil War series…and for those reasons alone I could not recommend this zero issue. If anything, read the “Free Comic Book Day” issue of Civil War II to provide a better and obviously more valued reading experience. Also, when comparing this issue against the “Free Comic Book Day” issue, this zero issue provides context but doesn’t seem as required to enjoy what’s ahead. Civil War II number zero isn’t a bad comic, it’s just not nearly worth the price of admission and has actually diminished my excitement for what’s to come in this event as opposed to building it up.

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

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Æther & Empire #1 (Blue Juice)

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CREDIT: Blue Juice Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Really Fun Sci-Fantasy for Alternate History Fans.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Æther & Empire is the 3rd title from Blue Juice Comics (after Anne Bonnie and The Accelerators), and I would not be surprised if you’ve never heard of it, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re into alternate history sci-fantasy.  Blue Juice is a small Publisher and this title didn’t even make it onto their home page , but maybe they’ll remedy that after they read this review. Luckily there is a  page dedicated to this title and you can to download a 5-page PDF preview of the 1st issue.  Go grab the PDF and have a look, I’ll be here when you get back…

I thought it was cool, but I like flying ships and technology inserted into the Victorian setting while still keeping the outward trappings of Victorian society.  I hesitate to call this steampunk because there are not the elaborate costumes and gadgetry that I normally (and perhaps incorrectly) associate with that genre.  Instead we have what appears to be “standard Victorian” with a few extras thrown in.  Like the fact that an expedition was sent to Mars and it’s in trouble!  Writer Mike Horan captured my imagination with this debut issue, but I’d have liked to see something a bit more definitive about the space-faring aspect that will come in later issues.  Artist Bong Ty Dazo does an admirable job on the ships, costumes, and action this issue.  I’m not familiar with Dazo’s work, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it in future.

Æther & Empire is another title that will help measure your local shop’s “Indie Friendly Factor”.  I’m going toss out a guess that less than half the comic shops in the US ordered this series for the rack, but it should be available for reorder if you ask your shop to place an order for you.   Like high-adventure and sci-fi mixed up with fantasy?  This is definitely worth checking out.  Grab the preview PDF and decide for yourself.  I’m going to be back for issue #2 and I’ve started pre-ordering now that I’m aware of it.  This is exactly the kind of comic I love to support and I’d love to see it reach a wider audience!

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

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