Batman #40 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – A Defining Issue for the Batman/Joker Relationship.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Batman number forty concludes the Endgame storyline in grand fashion. From the cover alone we get the reference that the struggle between Batman and the Joker is more than just the caped crusader against the clown prince of crime. The image hints at an eternal conflict that seems almost religious and mythical. Those themes carry over into this issue as we see Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s take on the final battle between these two enduring characters. It’s an issue that whether you’re a fan of or not, will go down as one of the most memorable fights between Batman and the Joker, and in a sense can truly serve as an Endgame to their historic relationship.

It’s tough to go into details of this issue without spoiling it, but Batman continues to look for a cure to save the people of Gotham that have been “Jokerized”. That leads Batman to not only enlist the help of the Bat-Family, but also his villains as the consequences of Joker’s actions are just that dire. It felt a bit weird seeing Batman teaming up with Bane, Poison Ivy and more, but it did allow some wonderful action scenes including a Batman/Bane version of the “fastball special”. It all leads to a ten-page battle between Batman and the Joker that has so many memorable moments that it’s tough to choose a favorite. It’s brutal, tragic and to a certain degree poetic. It addresses the question of the Joker’s immortality that arose in previous issues and created controversy amongst Batman fans, and in doing so gets to the essence of just how Batman fits into a world filled with gods.

What more can you say about Capullo’s art that hasn’t been said already? The Joker is downright terrifying throughout this issue. Capullo is able to perfectly convey the Joker’s madness, so much so because of the look in his eyes. It’s not so much the clown face and green hair although that has a lot to do with it, but Capullo is able to convey so much in the the way his eyes look from panel to panel that you can’t help but notice the wide range of emotion, feeling and terror. The battle scene mentioned above is choreographed to perfection and where Capullo chooses to put the viewer makes for a unique perspective each and every time.

Batman number forty delivers an ending that will be talked about for years to come as it truly defines the relationship not only between these two mythical characters, but also the relationship of Snyder and Capullo and their work on this series. While this issue sets the stage for an all new Batman that’s been spoiled for months now, the impact and weight of this issue will bring you back to this storyline for multiple re-reads. This is a defining issue in what’s been a defining take on the character. It should not be missed.

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

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Jupiter’s Legacy #1 (Image)

JCircle1

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Read Jupiter’s Legacy Before You Dive Into the Circle.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Amy Okamoto.

Jupiter’s Circle is the prequel series to Millar’s previous superhero series Jupiter’s Legacy. This book takes us back to 1959 when the elder superpowers were young. With only a brief introduction to the Jupiter universe, new readers may find this book difficult to decipher as it is targeted towards readers of the original series.

Millar takes an interesting approach to the young superheroes. Rather than have them identified by their costumed secret identities, the storyline revolves around them in their everyday personas. In fact, only one character is ever referred to by his superhero name. The rest of the cast are known only by their given first names. The assumption here is that readers already know who these characters are, but this device lets Millar put the focus on their human traits and shortcomings rather than their super abilities. Other than a brief fight with an alien, much of the book’s drama revolves around daily life.

The 50s atmosphere is well done, conveying the attitudes of hope and conservatism associated with the era, including the paranoia and condemnation of anything that can be seen as being outside the “norm” of a tidy American life. A period of both glamor and secrets, the politics of the 50s forced many people to live a double life or else risk a scandal that could ruin them. Millar explores one character’s struggle to fit in to these high ideal standards.  His choices lead up to a potential crisis beyond a personal nature. Katherine Hepburn and J. Edgar Hoover make appearances in the book, cementing the feel of the 50s era and in the case of Hoover, making the fear of persecution and scandal tangible.

Wilfredo Torres does a fine job of depicting the stylized 50s. He illustrates attractive characters, but at times it was difficult to distinguish between some of the male characters.  Beyond that, he did good work of bringing them to the forefront of our attention while not losing the atmosphere of the background.

Jupiter’s Circle #1 is less of a superhero story and more of a humanistic tale. It examines the humanity behind the masks, showing that these seemingly super beings are just as fragile as the rest of us.  Fans of Jupiter’s Legacy will undoubtedly enjoy seeing the characters in their prime and the foreshadowing of what will come to be.

Reviewed by: Amy Okamoto
(amy@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Fantastic Four #645 (Marvel)

Fantastic Four #645

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Bidding Farewell to the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo

My first experience with the Fantastic Four was my first experience with comics. As an adolescent perusing the book section at the local Costco, I came across a multi-pack of comics and although I didn’t know much about superheroes or funny books, I decided to pick it up. There was just something about the orange “thing” being smashed in the face with a crowbar that piqued my interest. To this day, I don’t remember any of the other comics that were part of this pack, but I’ll always remember Fantastic Four #355. Almost a quarter of a century after my fateful trip to Costco, “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” comes to an end (yet again) with issue #645, but the wonder and love of comics the Fantastic Four sparked in me so long ago will “fourever” remain.

Since my return to comics a couple years ago, I’ve sampled various runs of the Fantastic Four to try and recapture the feeling the book gave me back in my youth, but they just couldn’t compare. I’d all but given up on these cosmic-powered superheroes until I picked up the first five issues of the latest incarnation for a dollar each. Written by James Robinson, I thought it captured the essence of the Fantastic Four in a brilliant first story arc that brought the reader up to date on a half century worth of history while seemingly fracturing the family. Through various trials and tribulations, the rest of Robinson’s run set out to explore who the Fantastic Four are at their core and why they’ve managed to stick around for so long. Most importantly, Robinson made the book fun again! His story culminates in this final issue with a no-holds barred fight between the Fantastic Four and forces set on enslaving the world. All in a day’s work for this team. Since this is the final issue, I expected gloom and doom as a result, but Robinson surprised me by staying true to the very thing I’ve come to love about his run – that ultimately, this isn’t a book about gloom and doom, but one about a family that can accomplish anything as long as they stick together. I also expected a big change in the status quo or some kind of revelation, otherwise why would Marvel end one of its flagship books? We didn’t really get any of that, but the ending was satisfying and in many ways felt like a new beginning for Marvel’s first family.

Fantastic Four #355

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

In addition to the main story, there are four short stories in this oversized final issue written by several Fantastic Four alums, including Tom DeFalco and Karl Kesel. Each story focuses on one of the four members of the team and expertly captures who they are as individuals. Both touching and humorous, I thought these were a perfect addition to the issue and a great tribute to these timeless heroes. Other Fantastic Four alums chimed in with their favorite Fantastic Four covers. As mentioned in my introduction, mine will forever be Fantastic Four #355. It’s a cover etched in my memory and one of the first books I sought out when my passion for comics was rekindled.

This oversized issue was illustrated by a throng of talented artists that provided a range of fantastic styles. Duties were shared on the main story between the penciler, Leonard Kirk, and various inkers and colorists. They all worked extremely well together to provide art that was bold, bright, and consistent throughout. As with the writing, the art masterfully captured the essence of the Fantastic Four. The backup stories all had their own styles that I thought worked with the tone of each. It was great to see each artist’s take on the characters and it made think how neat it would be to have a monthly Fantastic Four anthology book to showcase various talent and keep these characters alive. Is anyone at Marvel reading this? Make it happen.

Is this really the end of the Fantastic Four gracing the racks of our local comic shops? I have my doubts. The Fantastic Four were the first heroes to usher in the Marvel Age of comics, soon to be followed by many other heroes still published today. The story certainly didn’t indicate a finality and if anything, the future seems brighter than ever for this fantastic foursome. But for now it’s pretty clear that we won’t be hearing from them any time soon and this final issue packed plenty of stories to tide us over until they eventually return.  When they return, I hope the new series takes a cue from this final run and  remains about wonder, fantasy, fun, and family.

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

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Convergence: Swamp Thing #1 (DC)

STK668473

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Len Wein Returns to his Original Creation with Kelley Jones!
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

With Convergence moving on into its fourth week, the main Convergence event for me continues to disappoint while the tie-ins and all the related two issue mini-series are starting to get better and better. Case in point being this first issue of Convergence: Swamp Thing. Written by Len Wein with art by Kelley Jones, this is a must read for both the story and the art. Kelley Jones of course bring his moody pencils and heavy shadows to a character that seems made for his style, while Len Wein takes perfect advantage of the Convergence event to tell a captivating tale about the plant who thinks he’s a man.

Convergence has left all the super powered characters without their powers as they’re cut off from the rest of the world and hopelessly trapped beneath a dome by the new villain Tellos. This dome is also providing only an artificial light which has left the Swap Thing without a major source of energy. Wein makes you feel for the character as he takes readers on a journey through the Swamp Thing’s past that includes his own origin he gave the character as well as taking the elements that Alan Moore added to him which changed him for the better. We also get to see Abigail Arcane’s love for the character despite their obvious differences that gives the book an emotional feel that’s been somewhat missing from the character in the New 52 and such an important part of the character’s overall appeal.

Kelly Jones is such a perfect artist for a character like this. Although he’s always been great on his extensive work on Batman, it’s wonderful to see him on a character like Swamp Thing as he uses the shadows and blacks to perfection, while colorist Michelle Madsen uses eerie hues of greens and browns to give the character and “the green” such life. Not only is this one of the best written stories in all of the Convergence tie-ins, it’s for sure the best looking with the Lee Weeks issue of Superman not too far behind. This is a two issue series that can be enjoyed all on its own with just a minimal understanding of what’s happened in Convergence so far so the entry point for a new reader is simple. I’d encourage you to pick this issue up to see a creator head back to his original creation as he partners with an artist in Kelley Jones who like Bernie Wrightson before him, seems as though he was born to draw the original “thing” from the Swamp!

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

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Nutmeg #1 (Action Lab)

NUTMEG1-CVR-23c11

CREDIT: Action Lab

Rating: 4.5/5 – Teenage Angst and Weaponized Spice!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Nutmeg is a great entry in the “all ages” category that is really all ages; entertaining for whomever reads it without talking down to younger readers.  The creative team of James F. Wright on words and Jackie Crofts on art quickly set the stage with the essential elements of any teen drama.  We’re introduced to our heroines Cassie Caraway and Poppy Pepper, students at Mason Montgomery Middle School.  The “bad guys” are embodied in the Lady Rangers club, led by a standard mean rich girl named Saffron.  The beauty of this comic is taking all the standard teen tropes and giving them a flair so that I didn’t mind seeing them trotted out again.

My favorite part of the story was what was hinted at and that caused me to look something up on Wikipedia and learn something new about nutmeg poisoning.  I’m fairly sure this will play out as the series progresses and am really looking forward in how Wright & Crofts tell the story.  This could range anywhere from horribly dark to very comedic and will likely (and hopefully) land somewhere in the middle:

In low doses, nutmeg produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response, but in large doses, raw nutmeg has psychoactive effects. In its freshly ground form (from whole nutmegs), nutmeg contains myristicin, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor and psychoactive substance. Myristicin poisoning can induce convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain.

This is the kind of comic we need more of; intelligent accessible and creative that is perfect for getting young adults into reading comics.  If you know someone who is into reading the various YA novel series that are out there and want to get them into comics, get a copy of Nutmeg for them.  Get a copy for yourself!  I’m absolutely not the target demographic for this, but I loved it.  Perfect for the young at heart and spirit as much as it’s suited for the young in years.  I look forward to seeing how the “nutmeg initiative” plays out as the story unfolds.

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

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Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Omega (Marvel)

Black Vortex Omega

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – A Satisfying Ending for a Weak Event.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo

In the past couple months, I reviewed the initial volley into the Black Vortex crossover event and the Cyclops tie-in. I was not particularly impressed with either chapter, nor with the event as a whole. With the exception of the Captain Marvel issue, which I thought was a great character piece, I’ve found the story less than stellar and missing any of the real gravitas that a 13-part event should have. However, I continued to follow the event to its “Omega” chapter and despite how lackluster I found the whole experience, I thought it was one of its stronger parts and a pretty satisfying ending.

With this last chapter, we finally stop the galactic game of hot potato and the interstellar high speed chase to get down to business on what to do with an artifact that can grant cosmic power. I can’t say we learn too much more about it, which has been a real issue with me throughout the series, but at least it plays a more prominent role with this final issue other than that of a MacGuffin. Once all that is squared away, we begin to see the fallout of the event on each of our heroes and villains. Many head off on new trajectories and others must deal with new and unpredictable powers. We get a lot of the humorous banter that hasn’t been seen since the Alpha issue and an ending that is quite touching. I think this last issue is much more a character piece than being plot driven and that’s fine with me. Like the Alpha issue, we have Ed McGuinness taking the lead on pencils, this time supported by Javier Garron. I think these two work good together and the change in styles was not very perceptible. The number of inkers was also minimized, which always helps keep the art more consistent. The art on the Omega issue was definitely superior to that of the Alpha issue.

Overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Black Vortex event, although I thought it had a lot of potential. Perhaps this is a case of my expectations being one thing, but the story being another. However, I found the ending satisfying and I was happy to see the shake-up in the status quo. Many events promise big change, but never deliver. This one ultimately did with changes that have already made their way into our heroes’ own titles. Despite any reservations I had about this event, I’m left almost feeling sad that the Guardians and X-Men have to part ways. Nevertheless, I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before they’re all together again.

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

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Birthright #6 (Image)

Birthright6

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Fabulous Fun for Fantasy Fans!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I must admit I was channeling the alliteration of my “inner Stan Lee” when I wrote the tag line for this review, but I’m having so much fun reading this series!  This issue in particular reminds me that comics can be fun, while still possessing a dark undertone. There are certainly some grim images/scenes in this issue, courtesy of artist and co-creator Andrei Bressan, but writer and co-creator Joshua Williamson does a great job of pacing the story and providing some really entertaining scenes that made this my favorite issue of the series so far.

At its core, this is a story of a young boy, Mikey,  from a world much like our own who ended up in a fantasy dimension and grew to adulthood there, growing into a mighty warrior.  He returns to Earth only to find that time in the other realm moves much faster than it does here.  He’s a adult and only about a year passed for his family.  Without giving away too much of the story, Mikey reunites with his older brother Brennan (still a kid and we get some great age-reversal as the younger brother is now an adult) and this episode has some really great scenes of Mikey & Brennan together.  Some may find the issue slow, but I reveled in Williamson building the story, including a really surprising panel on the third page from the end that really illustrates the man Mikey has become.  A great use of a reveal on the page-turn by Williamson and Bressan!

Fantasy fans like me who enjoy these kinds of “fish out of water” stories where a character is pulled out of one world and thrust into another should check this series out.  Birthright layers this theme in a number of ways so far and it appears we’ll be getting even more layers in upcoming issues. Creators Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan have created a cast of characters I really like, put them into a situation that I’m really curious how they’re going to work their way out of, and made me care about that happening.  Essential ingredients for me loving a series.  I’m guessing that some of the plot points revealed so far are misdirection while others are seeding some serious conflict points to come.  I’m looking forward to seeing where Williamson takes us in the upcoming story arcs.

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

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