Planet Hulk #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Captain America Riding Devil Dinosaur is Great Comics!
by ComicSpectrum senior Reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

When Secret Wars was first hinted at by Marvel, they used a lot of different teasers from time periods and storylines throughout Marvel’s more recent history. Whether it was a group shot of the 1992 X-Men that influenced a popular cartoon, an image of Spider-Man and Mary Jane back together or a group of Hulks fighting one another, they all referenced major storylines from the past. With Planet Hulk, I can remember the image of different Hulks in the foreground with a version of Captain America and Devil Dinosaur in the background. It had me excited for what Marvel was potentially promising and after reading the first issue of Planet Hulk, that excitement is even higher.

After the fallout from the destruction of the Marvel Universe, only Battleworld remains. Different areas are under different control and this world’s “Greenland” is under control by two warring factions of Hulks. This conflict has left the region destabilized and Doom and the powers that be need someone to head on in and eliminate the Red King. That someone is Captain America. But it’s a more gladiator version of the Captain who along with his red T-Rex has been fighting in Doom’s arena for the people’s entertainment. It’s a story that can only happen within a world like this and writer Sam Humphries embraces the opportunity completely. The book is full of action, yet at the same time it does enough to define the world of Secret Wars a bit more. We see some surprise guest stars, and even some characters that we haven’t yet seen since Secret Wars began.

On the art side, Marc Laming’s work is the perfect choice. HIs panels look and feel big. He has a way of putting the camera right up close to the action with lots of tight angles and focused perspectives. Even when the camera pulls away, his character work still looms large and the scale you get feels perfect for a story taking place on a planet full of Hulks. Laming is able to pull off the feat of making a man and his dinosaur partner seem natural. After the main story ends, writer Fred Van Lente and artists Takeshi Miyazawa tell a short eight-page tale of how the planet of Hulks came into being. Although not nearly as strong as the main event, it was still a fun short story that provides a bit more history.

Since the second issue of Secret Wars, I’ve been mostly impressed with everything that’s come out. Of all the first issues to release taking place within Battleworld, I’d have to say that this is my early favorite. It’s a comic book that’s fun, exciting and free of continuity. They give a new reader everything they’ll need to know, while hinting at the larger world it’s a part of. Marc Laming’s sells the creative concept perfectly and it’s great to see some wonderful Jack Kirby creations and concepts we don’t see too often live on within these pages.

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

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Valhalla Mad #1 (Image)

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Rating: 3/5 – This Tribute to the Lee/Kirby Thor Needs to Kick It Up a Notch
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Valhalla Mad seems to be Joe Casey’s loving tribute to Lee & Kirby’s Mighty Thor.  The main three characters come to Earth from their Asgard-analog realm of Viken to participate in ‘The Gluttonalia’, a bacchanalian fest of consumption that focuses in this issue on drink, but could conceivably move on to feasting as the story progresses.

The main 3 characters seemed to me to be analogs for characters from Marvel’s Thor mythos: The Mighty Thor = The Glorious Knox, Volstagg the Voluminous = Jhago the Irritator, Hogun the Grim= Greghorn the Battlebjorn.  Casey’s story in this first issue didn’t have enough meat on the bone for me (or perhaps I should say not enough mead in the flagon).  Knox, Jhago, and Greghorn come to New York, engage in some mild heroics, drink, interact with the locals a bit…and not much else.  Casey’s dialogue was a pitch-perfect recreation of Stan Lee’s pseudo-Shakespearean from early Thor comics. Paul Maybury’s art seems to be channeling Jack Kirby by way of Michael Fiffe.  That isn’t a bad thing, I enjoyed the style used for the main characters, but there was a lack of background detail in many panels that could have been enhanced to give the story more of a feeling of place.

Casey and Maybury lent the issue a definite feeling that it had been plucked out of an earlier time in comics with just enough of a modernization in dialogue and trappings from the residents of New York to give it a bit more appeal to current readers.  That said, I didn’t feel like I got a sufficient chunk of story in this debut issue to make me really want more.  Not a lot of forward story momentum, what we got was mostly atmosphere.  Fans of stories with a retro Lee/Kirby feel may enjoy this for those attributes alone and this may read better as a collected edition.  As a standalone #1 issue, this was OK, but not something I put down and thought “Wow!  I really need to get my hand on issue #2.”

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

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Ultimate End #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 2.5/5 – A Sad Start to an Ultimate End.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

In 2000, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe was created. Ultimate Spider-Man kicked it all off with the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. For over one-hundred issues they made that title one of the most consistently fun and fresh books on the stands that put characterization first and super-heroics second. The success of that title led to Ultimate X-Men and the even more popular Ultimates series. The Ultimate Universe became what the original Universe wanted to be, a tight and cohesive continuity that at the same time was also new and exciting. Ultimately that success waned while the original Universe thrived, and now fifteen years later it’s all coming to an end by the creative team that started it all.

Unfortunately, the end of the Ultimate Universe is off to a messy, confusing and disappointing start. Although this title is clearly marketed as part of the main Secret Wars event, except for a last page ending and a throw away line halfway through the book, you’d never know it. In fact, after reading this first issue I’m not so clear on just who or what version of the characters I saw! After a quick opening with the Punisher that felt unnecessary, we see Spider-Man swinging through the city. I take it that it’s the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man, but in the Ultimate Universe, but I’m not really sure. Then we see Nick Fury and a huge cast of characters that are from both the Ultimate Universe and well, another Marvel Universe that I don’t think can be the 616. It’s never really clear, but what is clear is that they are on Battleworld, as Nick Fury makes a mention of Doom. So why is Cyclops in his “Phoenix” costume that we saw leading up to the creation of Battlworld? Why is there a different version of Iron Man that isn’t the Superior one?

Bendis may reveal a lot of these answers in subsequent issues, but for a reader that’s been following Secret Wars so far, I’m not sure what happened or who’s who in this first issue. Artist Mark Bagley does his best with the huge cast of characters and delivers an impressive opening splash page that showcases at least forty characters, but the art is never enough to clear up the confusion. New and long-time fans of the Ultimate Universe will be left scratching their heads on just where this story fits into the bigger picture. I’m hoping that Bendis has a plan to have this all make sense by the end, but I may not stick around around to see it. This first issue has little to do with the main Secret Wars event, and if future issues read like this one, it will truly be a sad finish to a once brilliant and promising line of titles.

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

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The Mantle #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Little Different From the Average Superhero Comic.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I loved Ed Brisson’s recent ‘pre-apocalyptic tale’ called Shelter that recently finished it’s run so I was very excited to read his take on super-heroes with The Mantle.  Robbie and Jen are walking home from a rock show in the rain one evening, a little high when Robbie is ‘gifted’ with The Mantle.  A power passed from one host to another when the previous host dies that grants powers to be the protector of mankind.  We also discover that The Mantle has an arch-nemesis out to get each new host called ‘The Plague’ Cool!  Standard superhero origin.  But wait….he’s the 38th host in the past 10 years!   Not a very long life expectancy for the average host.  Will Robbie be average or above average?  That’s what we’re going to find out.

We also meet the 3 other heroes who were on a team with the previous host and they help Robbie understand some of the powers, beyond that there’s not a lot more I can add about the specifics of the story without straying into spoiler territory.  He does have an initial encounter with The Plague in this issue, so the action gets going pretty quickly.  Brisson does a good job of loading all the necessary backstory into the narrative to get the reader set on the status quo and then buckle in for the ride.  Artist Brian Level does a good job keeping the story flowing with some decent super-hero standard type art.  A good choice for a book that’s an alternate spin on the average super-hero tale.

I really liked this debut issue and am looking forward to seeing where Brisson takes us in future issues.  On the face of it we’re not treading completely new ground here.  There are added elements that you won’t find in a standard superhero book (language and drug use) but the story could have survived pretty much the same without them.  There were a could of surprising moments that will get me back for issue #2, I’m keen to see how Brisson kicks this up a notch and makes it stand out even more from the standard superhero book as he carries the story forward.

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

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Secret Wars: Battleworld #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Fun But Throwaway Stories From Secret War’s Battleworld.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

As the fantastic second issue of Secret Wars showed us a completely new and different Marvel Universe, we’re starting to see all the related tie-ins and new series come out from the “old” Marvel universe’s destruction. This past week alone we had Planet Hulk, Spider-Verse, a new and all-female Avengers book, A-Force, and more. With most Marvel events of this size, there’s usually an anthology title that shows how the current event has affected either less known heroes, or those characters that Marvel has determined need a little more of a spotlight. Battleworld is just that. It’s an anthology book where a rotating cast of creators tell a couple of stories, highlighting some characters we may not see a lot of within the main event.

The first story titled Soldier Supreme is done by the creative team of Image’s successful Nailbiter series, Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson. While Henderson nails the art with some great action and character work, the story feels a bit rushed as a version of the Fantastic Four shows up to stop the Punisher who is possessed by Dr. Strange. It was fun to see a FF team that’s extremely reminiscent of the short lived but great Art Adams Fantastic Four team, we see so little of them. They’re ultimately dispatched all to quickly which makes them feel as though they’re just a “throw-away” concept for this story.

The second story is called M.O.D.O.K. Madness written by Ed Brisson and Scott Hepburn. It’s a funny tale that doesn’t take itself seriously, and embraces the quirkiness and ego of a character that’s just one gigantic head. M.O.D.O.K. is fed up with AIM agents who just can’t match his level of power and intellect. So what does he do? He activates a universal transporter that brings in different versions of himself in order to overthrow Dr. Doom. It, of course, hilariously backfires as M.O.D.O.K. attempts to take control of mirrored versions of himself who have that same inflated sense of self-importance. It was the more enjoyable of the two stories and although short, I felt as though it was just long enough.

Anthology titles within larger events are sometimes a tough sell. They’re never really required reading, but instead try to tell one-and-done stories that will hopefully provide the reader enough entertainment to justify the cost. The strength of this first issue of Battleworld lies in the creative teams though. There’s some great talents within these pages and although the first story feels too short, it was still a fun read. Combined with the humorous take on M.O.D.O.K. in the second story, I feel as though this anthology was worth the cost and I’ll be back to see what characters pop up next.

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

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Lantern City #1 (BOOM!/Archaia)

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CREDIT: BOOM!/Archaia

Rating: 4/5 – Carlos Magno’s Art Defines a Wonderful World.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Lantern City got my attention when it was first solicited because of the interior artwork of Carlos Magno. I had remembered his great work on DC’s disappointing (aside from the art) Countdown series and his art on this premiere issue is even better. What was surprising was opening the inside cover and seeing that the world was created by a writer, a producer and actor/writer Bruce Boxleitner. Lantern City was originally intended to be a television series that was previously announced at the San Diego Comic Con in 2012. Since that announcement the series has yet to make it to the airways, but the first issue of the comic has now been released and it has me excited this series’ future and hopefully a brand new television series.

Lantern City is clearly Steam Punk. The steam punk genre has its fair share of fans and detractors, but the story within the world of Lantern City should appeal to most readers. The world feels well thought out with a sense and scale of history. Written by the co-creator Matthew Daly and longtime comic book writer Paul Jenkins, we see the world of Lantern City through the eyes of laborer and main character Sander Jorve. As we see him working in the lower levels of the thralling city, we get to know him as a kind and caring character who will do what he needs to in order to keep his family safe.

That family extends to his brother-in-law who’s speaking out against the governing body who serves as the villain of this first issue. Although unoriginal, it’s smart to sow the reader the world through the eyes of a commoner, showing us just what type of effect the government is having on the world. Walls have gone up around the city to not necessarily keep threats of the outside world out, but to keep the people in. There’s a caste system within this world that we get a brief glimpse of, but it hints at a corrupt world that’s hiding more than what we see.

What we do see is all wonderfully drawn by Magno. His art is lush and full of details. Although I really enjoyed his past work, his art here seems as though he’s inspired by the concepts and story. Each panel stands on it’s own and there are absolutely no shortcuts. Each character has their own distinct look, the world is packed of people and machinery, and the colors by Chris Blythe make the world have a realistic, but definitely steam punk feel. I’m impressed by the effort Magno is putting forward here and I think he may be an artist to watch.

The end of Lantern City will have you coming back to see what’s next, but it’s Magno’s art that really makes this book come alive. Whether or not this becomes a television show remains to be seen, but I’m glad it’s found life within the pages here. The production quality of the book is top notch with high quality pages and cover stock and although the cover art isn’t as strong as the interiors, it’s still enough to stand out and make you take a peek inside. I’m hoping this book finds an audience as I’m definitely interested in the world that’s being built both out of and inside the world of comics.

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

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Convergence Batman: Shadow of the Bat #2 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 2.5/5 – Failed to Capture what Makes these Characters Unique.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The second and concluding issues of all the Convergence tie-ins are hitting the stands. Each title was only a two issue mini-series that spun out of the main Convergence event. All the first issues of Convergence had a very formulaic set up. Introduce two heroes or teams from some time in DC’s past and by the end of the issue, set up a fight to save their city or their timeline from main villain Telos who forced the two cities to fight in the first place. I’ve liked quite a few of these tie-in as it allows the heroes of the pre-New 52 to get their time in the spotlight again, but unfortunately this issue failed to deliver on making these character’s appearances worthwhile.

Azrael and Batman are attempting to stop Wetworks from killing them aboard an old aircraft carrier that’s being used as a shelter for many of those that lost their homes when the dome trapped the city. The Wetworks team comes off as their 1990’s selves, but you always get the sense that this could have been something more especially when you have them going up against Azrael during his time in the armored Bat-suit. This story could have been a violent and over the top 90’s exploitation-like story, instead it all feels like just another tale that could have had other characters take their place without you knowing the difference. There’s a few moments where writer Larry Hama lets us know that Wetworks aren’t the most caring of heroes, but later pages negate that perception and in doing so, makes them less interesting. Not only that, but the dialogue never feels real. Again, if they embraced a story that was more of its time the dialogue may have worked, instead it’s cheesy at times and ends on a line that’s just eye-rolling.

Rick Leonardi handles the art and although the character work is fine, his backgrounds and settings feel rushed. You knew the action was taking place on an aircraft carrier, but the details of the ship were mostly left behind. There’s a particular panel that shows the survivors and Batman in what looks to be an eating area, and the pipe that runs overhead has “steam pipe” written on it in almost the same font as the word balloons. It just showed a lack of time and effort that unfortunately carried on throughout the majority of this issue.

If you picked up the first issue of this series and were waiting to see what happened, this issue will most certainly be a let down. So much more could have been done when you take a team of characters like Wetworks and Azrael and pit them against each other. It could have been a violent, dark and action packed story that is of it’s time. Instead, it reads like any other superhero book with some heavy handed dialogue. The idea behind Convergence is a good one, taking a version of heroes and villains throughout DC’s rich history and have them face off. This issue does that, but does so without embracing what made these characters so popular at the time.

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

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