Hank Johnson, Agent of Hydra #1 (Marvel)

Hank Johnson - Agent of Hydra 001-000
CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 5/5 – A Laugh Out Loud Comic.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

So what do you do when you’re married with kids and your job is working for Hydra…well if you’re Hank Johnson you just try to do your best. Hank Johnson, Agent of Hydra is a one-shot that puts humor first by showing the everyday “slice of life” about a guy who’s part of one of the most evil organizations in the world. Written by David Mandel, a producer and director for Curb your Enthusiasm and a writer for Seinfeld, Hank Johnson made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions which is rare for most comics. Before reading this it would be hard for me to believe that this issue would be one of my favorite Secret Wars titles, but it is!

The issue opens with Nick Fury sneaking into a Hydra Base that Hank and his partner are guarding. As Nick Fury attempts to sneak past the guards he kicks Hank in the head and shoots his partner, killing him. We then flash forward to the next day and see Hank with an ice pack on his face sitting at the kitchen table while his three kids are fighting, and his wife is yelling for him to make their lunches for school. It’s a great moment that, like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, shows the mundane of everyday life and finds the humor in it. Throughout the issue we see Hank’s attempt to balance his hectic world that includes school meetings, Hydra meetings with the obligatory “Hail Hydra” salutations, and a Halloween outing that provided by far the funniest moment in the issue. It’s quick paced with jokes and humor that come just as fast.

Artist Michael Walsh does a great job with the art by grounding everything with realism. Hank isn’t muscular, nor are most of the characters in the book. They look real, with a bit of cartoon style thrown in. The scenes with Hydra are drawn with the same realism as the scenes at home and it all looks perfect together. Whether or not you’re following Secret Wars, you need to read this book. It’s accessible to any Marvel reader with limited knowledge of Marvel History. My only regret with this issue is that it’s a one-shot and it may be a while, if ever, before we see Hank again. That means I’ll just have to read this issue all over again!

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

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Walking Dead Artist’s Proof Edition #1 (Image)

walking-dead-01-artists-proof-edition

Rating: 3.5/5 – It’s BIG, I’ll Give It That…
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

The actual story and art content of The Walking Dead #1 is an absolute 5/5 for me.  The issue has been reprinted numerous times in comic sized form and in a variety of collected editions.  What we have here is something different, and what I’m really reviewing is the package the story is presented in, not the underlying wonderful 5/5 debut issue itself.

This review is primarily my personal opinion on how they pulled off the large size format compared to the other offerings in this format on the market.  It’s OK.  If you really want to see a HUGE 11″x17″ version of Walking Dead #1, then this is absolutely going to excite you.  You can really make out the individual bit’s of beard-stubble on Rick Grimes’ face at this size.  The problem I had was that this was all I was getting.  A big version reprint of something I already had several copies of.   I read it again and the story still holds up after what is at least my 10th read through of the issue.  It’s a great start to a series and I love Tony Moore’s art.

What I like about the Artist’s Edition and Artifact Edition format pioneered by IDW is that they bring something extra to the table.  In those we get to see reproductions of the original art, which most people theoretically have never seen before.  There is the added aspect of getting the behind the scenes view on the manufacture of a comic.  A proof is usually something produced exactly as it is to be published that is checked over to make sure it’s correct for publication.  As such, this Proof Edition by it’s very nature doesn’t add any additional aspect over and above the published work, other than the size.

I’d have liked to see them add some extras into this to make it worth the price tag, such as a commentary by Robert Kirkman about the various scenes in the issue (these have to be around somewhere) or some process talk from Tony Moore about his thought process in designing the core elements of this significant series.  For $19.99 all I’m getting is a big version of the $2.99 regular sized comic. It’s a great story, but for me personally, $19.99 is a bit steep for this single issue that adds nothing additional (other than an intro by editor Sean Mackiewicz) and the covers to issues 2-6.  This is a complete “Your Mileage May Vary” item.  Someone else may think it’s the greatest thing ever, whereas I’m comparing it to the BOOM! Pen & Ink editions that cost $14.99, includes TWO issues, not one and also includes commentary by the creative team at the bottom of each page.  I’ll freely admit I like to see the “behind the scenes” aspect as opposed to just getting a big reprint of something that’s pretty much as published before.

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

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Justice League #43 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – The Best This Run of Justice League Has Ever Been!
By ComicSpectrum senior Reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

When Bob talked about July’s Diamond Sales, one of the surprises that stood out to me was Justice League not making the Top 10 in books sold. Justice League, especially with Jason Fabok on the art has been nothing short of exceptional. While Marvel’s Secret War books like Age of Apocalypse and Guardians of Knowhere were good (ranked 9 and 10), Justice League’s Darkseid War storyline is the best the book has been in both story and art and that’s saying something since I’ve really enjoyed this book since issue number one. In part three of The Darkseid War, Kalibak steps into the picture, Superman and Lex’s relationship takes an odd turn, and Batman has become a god.

This issue is packed with story and you definitely get your money’s worth. Writer Geoff Johns does a wonderful job of throwing so much story into this issue without it ever feeling overwhelming. Not only do we get the Justice League, but we also get the New Gods, Darkseid’s daughter Grail, and more. Of course there’s John’s great character moments, especially during a scene where Superman and Lex are trying to survive on Apokolips, and another that adds some humor to the book between Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. These scenes capture so much of the character in one or two panels and Johns is a master at it.

As strong as the story is, the art by Jason Fabok steals the show. Kalibak’s introduction is both violent and powerful and I can’t wait to see him battle the rest of the League. Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor are both drawn as menacing as they should be, and every single panel in the book is packed with details. Fabok gives the nod to Kirby’s work as well like Kaliban’s sash decorated with a circle and line pattern, Boom Tubes throughout, and of course the Kirby dots. It’s tough to find anything to critique in this issue when it comes to the art as Fabok is proving why he was given the job to draw DC’s premiere team.

It really is surprising that this book isn’t cracking the Top 10 in sales, but I expect that to change the longer Fabok stays on this book. This continues to be one of my favorite monthly titles due to the strong balance of great storytelling and beautiful art. This story continues to get better with each issue, and the conclusion of this one points to even bigger things ahead! If you’ve stepped away from Justice League, now is the time to come on back.

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

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Secret Wars: Secret Love #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Love Conquers All. Even on Battleworld.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Romance comics are a thing of the past, especially when it comes to the big two publishers. What used to be a thriving genre back in the 1950s and 60s is now all but forgotten. As part of the Secret Wars event, Marvel has decided to revisit the world of romance comics with a one-shot titled Secret Wars: Secret Love. It’s an anthology book that tells five short stories, each with a different creative team telling stories about different couples and romances set within the Secret Wars Marvel Universe.

The first story titled Guilty Pleasure stars Daredevil and Karen Page. Creator Michel Fiffe handles the art and writing that covers a fight between Daredevil and Typhoid Mary seen from Karen’s perspective. Karen becomes jealous of Typhoid Mary when she recounts overhearing Matt mention her name while he was sleeping. As she follows Matt out because her curiosity gets the best of her, she comes to realize through some creative storytelling that she never had anything to worry about.  Michel’s choice to use Karen as the narrator was the right one as you get to see just what makes her and Matt’s relationship so special, and we see just a few of the reasons why Karen loves Matt so much. We never get to see stories like this since Karen’s tragic demise in the main Marvel Universe so reading this story was a treat! My only complaint is with the coloring. At times Fiffe uses too much white, so much so that it looks like the pages had some printing errors. Other than that it’s the most enjoyable tale of the bunch, followed closely by Misty and Danny Forever.

Misty and Danny Forever is written by Jeremy Whitley, with art by Gurihiru. It stars as the title suggests, Danny Rand and Misty Knight. Misty and Danny are having troubles in their relationship and while Misty talks about those issues with Colleen Wing, Danny talks through his issues with friends Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It’s not until Danny and Misty decide to go to dinner when they start to confront their issues. After an awkward beginning, the dinner suddenly takes a turn for the worse from an unexpected danger, but has the fortunate effect of kicking their romance back into gear. The last page is the best part of the story, and shows how great and unique romance comics can be.

There are also stories involving Ms. Marvel and Ghost Rider which is showcased on the classic Roy Lichtenstein inspired cover, as well as a story starring Squirrel Girl and Thor, and finally a short five page tale by Katie Cook titled “Happy Ant-iversary”.

After reading this book, I missed the lack of romance comics that used to be prevalent on the stands years and years ago, and that can usually be had on the cheap in back issue bins at local conventions. As the big two publishers prevent their characters from ever finding, but more importantly keeping true love, this was a refreshing title that illustrates how love can truly conquer all.

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

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Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 (Image)

Phonogram1

Rating: 4.5/5 – “Take On Me” Taken to a Whole New Level…
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are back with a 3rd go-round of their Phonogram series where Music is Magic and there’s something to be had for music fanatics and casual fans as well.  I fall into the casual fan category and there’s a lot to like about this series, I can only imagine what this must be like for those who love music as much as the creators.  For me, I’m just glad there’s a glossary in the back that give me pointers to a few of the references I might have missed on my first read-through.

There quite a few characters we’ve seen before as well as references to others.  People coming into this without having read the previous 2 volumes may be a bit lost, but I don’t think they will be totally lost.  I think there’s enough here to give a satisfying read even to people whose first exposure to Phonogram is this issue.  For instance, this commentary on music videos:

The record is entirely irrelevant.  The video overpowers and overwrites it.  It is magnificent.  It is sublime.  Yet simultaneously, it is a corruption.  It is an annihilation.  Power and transcendence with a cost…  The power of specificity with the cost of specificity.

I can relate to this.  I have had music videos ruin songs for me.  I have had music videos greatly enhance songs for me.  Case in point: a-ha’s “Take On Me”, which is specifically addressed in this issue in a very cool way. If you’ve never seen the video, follow the link and spend 4 minutes watching it, I think you’ll be glad you did.  If you have seen it, watch it again.  I just did and I still love it.  Whenever I hear the song the visuals of this video play in my head, which is the exact point  Gillen is trying to make.

I really enjoyed the previous 2 volumes of Phonogram, but it’s been over 5 years since I read the last issue of “The Singles Club” in early 2010, so there are finer details of the series that I just don’t recall that puts me almost, but not quite, in the same boat as people coming in fresh.  I missed some of the nuances involved in back-references to previous issues.  This is a case where it would be nice to have the TPBs that could be easily pulled off the shelf and re-read as opposed to 13 separate single issues that would need to be pulled out of (in my case) 13 different long boxes.  BUT, the beauty of this issue was that I thoroughly enjoyed it even without that full command of all the references and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.  Give this a try if you’re a fan of the creators, of music, or both.

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

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Secret Wars: Battleworld #4 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – A Focus on Silver Surfer by Fantastic Creators.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Secret Wars: Battleworld, along with Secret Wars Journal are Marvel’s anthology titles that explore Battleworld with characters that don’t necessarily have their own Secret Wars series, or domains that could use a bit more exploration. In Secret Wars: Battleworld number four, the focus for both stories is on the Silver Surfer and although I haven’t enjoyed most of what this series has had to offer despite some fantastic artists being represented, this issue was a blast due in large part to the creative talents involved including James Stokoe, Peter David and Daniel Valadez.

In the first story James Stokoe writes, draws and letters a Silver Surfer vs. Galactus story set in the domain of Egyptia. Stokoe is one of my favorite creators working today so of course I loved this story, but despite my bias, seeing the Silver Surfer and Juggernaut team up to capture Fin Fang Foom in order to quench Galactus’ hunger should be something that appeals to most Marvel fans. Fin Fang Foom is drawn more like a big lizard and less like Godzilla which works for the Egyptian influenced setting. The opening page has Silver Surfer flying away from Fin Fang Foom’s gaping mouth with a piece of meat strapped around his waist in order to bait the creature! Brilliant! Stokoe’s art is detailed throughout and similar to all of my complaints with Stokoe, I wish there was more.

In the second story, Silver Surfer needs to break into the Maestro’s trophy room in order to steal something back that the Maestro has taken. Peter David once again returns to the character he introduced so many years ago, while Daniel Valadez draws a Maestro that is both imposing, but still not nearly as powerful as a character who holds the power cosmic. Valazdez’s style is similar to a Matthew Clark which is great, although the backgrounds are sparse a story that spans just ten pages.

Overall this was may favorite issue of this series so far and I’d encourage any readers, especially Silver Surfer fans to pick up. Even with the great art on the inside, the cover by Francesco Francavilla with a Silver Surfer bearing down on the Maestro is worth it all on its own. We haven’t seen too much of Silver Surfer in Secret Wars and it looks as though there’s no plans to use him in the main series so seeing him here may be your only chance. Don’t miss it.

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

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Boy 1 #1 (IDW)

Boy1-1

CREDIT: IDW

Rating: 3/5 – Near Future Adventures in Genetics.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

There seem to be a lot of sci-fi comics popping up lately in a wide variety of sci-fi sub-genres.  This one is set at an indeterminate time that seems to not be too far in the future.  Our main character, Jadas, works in an Epigenetics lab at Genomyne Bioworks, which sent me to the internet to do some reading.  Epigenetics deals with variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence.  So, I learned something almost right out of the gate.

H.S. Tak is building a world not that different from the one outside the window and trying to keep it plausible while adding in enough extras to make the story interesting.  He succeeds for the most part.  The art by Amancay Nahuelpan is solid, but has a journeyman feel to it.  It seems like Nahuelpan has a really solid base and will grow as the years go by, but there is definitely room to grow.

Boy 1 deals with the conflicting forces of profit and working for the benefit of mankind.   Make people better, cure disease, and all the great things that go along with it, but ultimately the companies funding the research care about the bottom line.  The almighty dollar rules.  Nothing new there, an age old conflict, but always an interesting launchpad for a story.  Of course we get to the sinister underbelly of it pretty quickly, with Jadas stumbling upon a sinister mystery unveiled and feeling compelled to investigate.  Will he find the answers easily?  Of course not, otherwise we wouldn’t have a story.  A decent setup here and unique enough to get me to come back for #2 to see what happens next.

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

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