Luke Cage #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – A Mystery Involving the Doctor Who Created Cage!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Luke Cage is definitely more popular now than he’s ever been at before. He just wrapped up a mini-series from the creator of Samurai Jack, he’s starring in a series with long-time partner Iron Fist, is part of the new Defenders, has his own Netflix show, and now is getting another solo series simply titled, Luke Cage. This new series is written by David F. Walker who’s been writing the Power Man and Iron Fist series which I’ve really enjoyed, and drawn by Nelson Blake II whose work I’m not so familiar with. As far as first issues go, it was pretty entertaining.

Dr. Noah Burstein, the doctor behind the creation of Luke Cage has passed away. After attending his funeral, Cage encounters a woman who had worked with Dr. Burstein who informs him that the Doctor’s apparent suicide may not be all that it seems. This leads Luke onto a path to find out more details behind the Doctor’s death which doesn’t come easy. Walker does a really nice job of introducing us to all the important characters of the story, and putting Luke Cage into some real danger. On the art side, Blake’s Cage looks good, as do the rest of the characters, though the art at times does come off looking a bit stiff, and the backgrounds are really sparse which gives all the settings a generic look.

Luke Cage number one is a solid first issue that does all it needs to do to set the tone for the series. The ending of the story may leave some newer Luke Cage fans a bit confused, but to me it got me excited for what’s ahead and I quite enjoyed it.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of what this team has to offer. If you’re looking for more Luke Cage, I think this is a worthy addition to all the other places he’s been appearing lately.

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

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Deadpool: Bad Blood (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – Liefeld is Back, and Deadpool Has Got Him!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Marvel is continuing their line of original graphic novels, this time with Deadpool and one of his original creators, Rob Liefeld, handling the art. Deadpool: Bad Blood is surprisingly Deadpool’s first original graphic novel despite the character being as popular as he is and maintaining multiple ongoing and mini-series at any one time. While Deadpool getting his own OGN isn’t all that surprising, seeing Rob Liefeld come back to the character and draw each and every page is. Liefeld also wrote the story that was scripted by writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. While I enjoyed some of the art despite all the obvious mistakes which I’ll get to in a second, it was the story that made me wish Liefeld had let Bowers and Sims have more creative control.

Say what you will about Liefled’s style, but I enjoy his energetic pencils and the unique look of his work is so identifiable. Liefeld’s New Mutants and X-Force books were coming out when I was a teenager so it hit a sweet spot for me at the time. Now twenty-plus years later, his style hasn’t changed all that much and if you weren’t a fan then, this book isn’t going to convert you. When Deadpool is on the page, the book is fun to look at. There’s even some pages during a flashback scene with X-Force that definitely hit that nostalgic note for me. Seeing Liefeld draw Shatterstar and Cable brought back those fond memories and I really enjoyed those scenes. Unfortunately, Deadpool’s new “arch enemy” Thumper, promoted as Deadpool’s ‘Sabretooth’, has a design that doesn’t capture that same nostalgic magic, and a back story that’s just uninteresting.

Liefeld’s story mostly centers around Deadpool’s ongoing confrontations with Thumper and his origin story that throws in all of the 1990s X-Men tropes like Department H, X-Force, and Garrison Kane. The story never really picks up in its excitement and Thumper’s origin failed to make me want to read more about this character and because the story failed to capture my interest, I found myself picking apart the art for all the mistakes, rather than enjoying what was presented.  On the very first page, the art misses. Deadpool is jumping over the night skyline with the moon behind, framing his profile. The colors though have the moon shining on his back, as well as his front. It looks weird and sets the tone for all the mistakes to come. Multiple panels with Deadpool having swords on his back in one panel, then on the very next panel they’re gone. There’s a splash page with an inset panel showing Cable about to shoot a door with a massive gun, and in the splash itself, the gun is fired while being pointed up and to the left in a cover-like pose. Cable’s guns change length from one page and panel to the next, and while I expect Liefeld to have minimal background work, minimal is taken to a new level with a majority of pages having solid colors or just white backgrounds.

If the story was fun and entertaining then I may not have noticed all the errors and artistic shortcuts as much, but because the story failed to deliver for me I found myself looking more for these errors then I did just enjoying the art for what it is. Liefeld has never been a student of anatomy, but I still loved his work. Here, while there were certainly scenes and pages that captured that nostalgic feel for me, there were too many glaring mistakes in the art. I’d be more OK and accepting if this was a $3.99 book, but this OGN is $25, and for that price it made me feel bad about my purchase. Even if you love Liefeld’s work and Deadpool, I’d still stay away from this unless you’re getting it heavily discounted. For sure there are scenes and pages that will make you smile, but the uninteresting story and minimalist nature of the art may make you regret this comparatively expensive purchase as much as I did.

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

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Regression #1 (Image)

CREDIT: Image

Rating: 4.5/5 – Another Great Horror Comic from Image!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I love horror comics. I’m a huge fan of the Warren magazines from the 1960s and 1970s and adore the DC and Marvel horror books from the same era. If you take a look at our back issue review section, you’ll see I love to explore these older gems. Unfortunately, Warren isn’t around any more and the big two aren’t releasing a whole lot of horror comics these days. Fortunately, Image has taken up the torch and continues to produce plenty of horror books that I really enjoy; Wytches, Nailbiter, and Outcast to name just a few.  Now Cullen Bunn and Danny Luckert have released the first issue of their new series called Regression, and it carries on the tradition of great horror books.

Main character Adrian continues to have visions of all sorts of horrific things. The first vision is the most gruesome of the book as artist Danny Luckert draws the torso of a woman being cut open while hundreds of bugs spew out. That’s just the first page! Luckert’s art is really strong throughout this book with his sharp and somewhat minimal line. He’ll go into detail when he needs to and shows off with some single and double page spreads including a double page that foreshadows what we’ll most likely see more of in this series. The colors by Marie Enger are a really bold choice. The cover for example uses a mostly pink shade for the entire image while the interiors are mostly bright. Enger has chosen to highlight the horror rather than hiding it in the shadows.

Bunn’s story has Adrian trying to cope with these visions which eventually leads him to a hypnotist who wants to explore past lives with him. Are these visions from a previous life, or is it something more that Adrian has yet to uncover. Bunn does a wonderful job of combining elements of horror and mystery in this first issue, giving you everything you need to know to set this series up right! If you’re not a fan of horror comics, I think there’s enough here as a mystery book to enjoy as Bunn hints at what’s come before, and even possible futures. Regression really stood out for me this week. 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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Secret Warriors #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 – A New Series Closely Tied to Inhumans and Secret Empire.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’m a big fan of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Secret Warriors. That book had a sprawling story that put Hickman on the map and started his successful journey with Marvel. Now, spinning out of Secret Empire, a new series takes the same name focusing on a similar theme of S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Hydra with a completely different team and so far, mixed results.

Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Javi Garron’s first issue of Secret Warriors is another “getting the team together” book that requires you to read Secret Empire in order to get the complete picture.  That may turn some readers off who are looking for another Secret Warriors series and are not invested in Marvel’s current event. This Warriors team is led by previous Secret Warrior Daisy Johnson, an Inhuman with the power to create earthquakes. The story jumps between the present and most recent past where Daisy sees Captain America’s turn to Hydra. As Daisy is chased down by Hydra agents, she needs to put a team together to fight back. It’s a solid story, but for me didn’t do anything really special to make it memorable.  The art by Javi Garron is really strong. He has a subtle animated feel to his work and it reminds me a bit of Stefano Caselli. At times the colors ran together, especially towards the second half of the book where there’s lots of reds from the sky, costumes and more. This is a minor complaint though as this is a pretty book! It just may not be enough for me to stick with this series.

That team consists of other Inhumans Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl and Karnak. Not that it’s a bad thing, but this so far feels like another Inhuman book with a touch of S.H.I.E.L.D. thrown in because of Daisy’s leadership (not surprising given how prominently the Inhumans are in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show). The team works together well, and if you’re loving the current Inhumans books and Secret Empire, this should appeal to you. On the other hand, if you’re not reading any of the Inhumans books or Ms. Marvel, and adding in the fact that you do need to have an understanding of Secret Empire, there’s quite a large potential barrier to entry for new readers who are not “all in” on the books tied to this one. The bottom line is this is not really a good standalone read, but may be more enjoyable if you’re reading the other titles in the family.

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

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SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies 2017 (United Plankton)

Spongebob-FCBD2017-cvr

CREDIT: United Plankton Pictures

Rating: 5/5 – Hilarious Dig at Diamond Followed by a Fun Story
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

This year’s SpongeBob offering for Free Comic Book Day 2017 is the full length story “The Great Funnybook Giveaway”.  The 1st page made a bit of internet buzz, particularly for this panel:

Spongebob-FCBD2017

CREDIT: United Plankton Pictures

After this zinger targeted at Diamond’s virtual monopoly on comic book distribution and the overall declining sales of super-hero comics for many years, the story, by Jay Lender, settles into a standard SpongeBob tale where Mr. Krabs decides he wants to get his hands on some of those free comics so he can resell them later: “That’s an infinite percent markup!” he laughs.  Of course, standard merriment ensues as the close comic shop and they need to go on a trek to the next shop which happens to be across the Mesopelagic Zone, an intermediate depth of the ocean from 650 to 3000 feet where little light penetrates, also known as the “twilight zone” of the ocean, though not for the supernatural qualities of the TV show.  Jacob Chabot’s art was on model with what I remember of the cartoon show, and packed to the gills with sight gags (pun intended).

The quest for free comics brings a large cast of favorites together: SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs, Patrick, Squidward, Sandy Cheeks, and Larry the Lobster for a fun romp filled with song, danger, and adventure before finally reaching the comic shop where the comics on display spoofing real titles with oceanic themes are great fun.  This issue grabbed ahold of a 5/5 rating from me on the basis of the single panel shown above which had me laughing out loud, but it held onto that rating by delivering a solid 21 page story that I thoroughly enjoyed, even though I’m not particularly a SpongeBob fan.  The entire package is wrapped up with an additional 7 pages of backup material.  I would recommend this comic if it was something I had to buy at normal price, that it was free makes it an exceptional entertainment value for the people who were able to pick it up at their local shop.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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SwordQuest #0 (Dynamite)

CREDIT: Dynamite

Rating: 5/5 – There’s So Much More than Just Video Games!
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

SwordQuest is one of those comics that come out of nowhere and surprised me in both delivering a story that I just didn’t expect, and exceeding my expectations in almost every single way. To be honest, I don’t read too many Dynamite comics and when I saw the price of this book being just twenty-five cents, I decided to try it and I’m so happy I did. In looking at the cover, it has the Atari logo gracing the upper left hand corner with a sword that along with the title, lets you know this is clearly in the realm of fantasy. I expected a story that picked up where some old video game tale left off, or a re-imagining of some game that intends to invoke some nostalgia. It’s actually the exact opposite!

The story of SwordQuest is tied to video games, but the story outside of the actual games is what writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims have introduced to us so far in this zero issue. In the 1980s, Atari planned to release a series of games called SwordQuest, and each of those releases would have an accompanying comic book where fans could decipher clues that were hidden within the games and pages of the comics. If deciphered, fans could win some really elaborate prizes. And when I say elaborate, we’re talking about an 18kt solid gold talisman, a jewel covered crown, and finally, a sword that had a silver blade with a hilt encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, and more valued at over fifty-thousand dollars! Times were obviously pretty good at Atari in the early 1980s, but those good times didn’t last and ultimately that sword and the final games never saw the light of day. There’s more to this story, but it’s that old contest that Bowers and Sims are exploring in this series.

We meet main character Peter Case, who as a kid played the SwordQuest games and wanted to win that bejeweled sword and now as an adult has decided to pursue the quest again. It’s a brilliant setup that I cannot wait to read more of. The art by Ghostwriter K seems to be a perfect fit for the material and the afterword made me jump on the internet to read more of this true story, before deciding to stop and see how this plays out in the pages of this comic. As a side note, I also searched for the back issues online and found that my go-to source MyComicShop.com didn’t have them and I’d have to pay a premium on eBay, but I may eventually break down and pay eBay prices since I’m so interested in this story within the story. I can’t recommend this issue enough. It’s the first true “surprise” hit for me in 2017!   At 25 cents a copy, don’t pass it up…this is a must buy.

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

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FCBD 2017 Secret Empire #1 (Marvel)

FCBD-Secret

Rating: 3/5 – Not New Reader Friendly (But a Great Spider-Man Story in Back)
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The Secret Empire part of this FCBD issue was not good.  NOT for the reason a lot of knee-jerk idiots on the internet are whining about: “Wah!  Captain America is a Nazi!  I’m going to burn the comic, that’ll show Marvel!”  Yeah, right.  Protest Nazis by burning reading material.  Make the Nazis proud.  NO.  The reason this was not a good issue was because a Free Comic Book Day should, by definition, be “new reader” friendly.  It’s being put into the hands of 1000s of new readers who have not read a Marvel comic (or ANY comic) in years.

What do new readers get here?  A fairly impenetrable story by Nick Spencer that pops around with snippets of dialogue and LOTS of characters who are not introduced to the readers.  On top of that, Andrea Sorrentino’s art, while something I love from a purely artistic standpoint, was not well suited to this comic because he draws just just enough off-model to make some of the characters not easily recognizable by casual fans, especially when combined with the extremely muted red/gray heavy color palette that makes it almost impossible even to use standard costume colors to recognize characters that many readers may have only seen on some merchandising items or in the movies.

Hopefully Spencer read the backup story featuring Spider-Man and the Vulture (who is going to be the villain in the Spider-Man Homecoming movie) by Chip Zdarsky.  Maybe if he did he will see how to write a story that is new reader friendly. This takes characters that readers are familiar with drawn in a very recognizable fashion by Paulo Siqueira, even if the Vulture isn’t the Michael Keaton version seen in the movie trailers, he is still easily recognizable.  Zdarsky uses trademark Spidey humor and action in a nice fast-paced story that introduces a cool new version of the Trapster.  THIS story makes me want to read Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, coming in June.  Hopefully this story will reach out to new readers after the confusing mess that was the 1st half of this issue, if the new reader didn’t just toss the book aside before they ever made it to this story.

As a long-time Marvel reader and someone who is actually enjoying the Secret Empire event (a rarity among most outspoken people on the internet) I thought Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire story was pretty decent, especially since I’ve been reading Captain America Steve Rogers and I had already read Secret Empire #0.  As an intro issue to new readers who wandered into a comic shop on Free Comic Boom Day and picked this up I think it is an epic failure ans a huge wasted opportunity.  It didn’t have to be.  It could have easily explained what was going on in a very clear and concise manner, stressing for new readers that the whole “Cap as Hydra” is the result of cosmic cube manipulation on the part of the bad guys and giving a primer on the current Marvel status quo that could lead a new reader through the confusing stuff that is not 100% easy to comprehend even for veteran readers.  What a terrible waste of a comic that could have been so much more inviting to new comics readers.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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