The Unstoppable Wasp #1 (Marvel)

wasp

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Life Lessons and Empowerment From a New Wasp.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Recently, the daughter of Hank Pym was introduced into the Marvel Universe, and her name is Nadia. The story goes, Hank Pym was married to Maria Trovaya, and they were captured and divided by enemies. During captivity, Hank did not know Maria was pregnant, and presumed her dead. Maria died after giving birth to their daughter; Nadia was then taken and raised in the Red Room. For those that may not be familiar with it, the Red Room is the organization that trained, manipulated, tortured and altered Black Widow into the merciless spy she once was. Nadia is pretty upbeat for being in the Red Room for most of her life, and in the first issue released we get to know a lot more about her.

I’m going to start out by saying, that grabbing this comic was not something I initially wanted to do. That personal choice was nothing in regards to writer Jeremy Whitley or artist Elsa Charretier, both have amazing work, but I didn’t feel it would be something I would find interesting.  A solo series for a new character that has a shared superhero name with a rather flaky back story, just sounded like a bad idea to me, but I grabbed it anyway to give it a shot. The regular cover done by Charretier is playful and well done, it gives a very happy party feel to the comic and possibly the character. Once I got inside the comic, the art was bright and colorful, something I thought I would see in something targeted at preteens or little kids. But once I started reading, everything just meshed. Whitley and Charretier are a well-rounded duo for the debut of the new Wasp, the writing style is eccentric and creative, and it matches the art style so well that I was captivated. The story isn’t just about Nadia and her new life as a hero, but anyone she encounters. Her positive outlook on life and everyone she meets gives a much needed perspective for all readers. Nadia is just as intelligent as her father, possibly more intelligent. The top smartest people in the Marvel Universe have always been structured with more men than women at the top of the list, until recently when Moon Girl took a test left behind by Bruce Banner that ranked her to the top of the list. Nadia doesn’t feel a list designed with structured questions should justify just how intelligent someone is. Nadia is an inventor, an artist, and believes that being able to pass a test doesn’t make you the smartest person in the world. This issue includes guest appearances by Ms. Marvel and Mockingbird; the characters bring up some good old fashioned life lessons and some well-deserved history of characters in the Marvel Universe. At the end of the comic there is a question and answers page dedicated to women in the real world that are doing something amazing like Nadia. It’s great that this comic isn’t gives recognition to women in both the Marvel Universe and in the world who  are just as amazing as the characters in the comic.

Though I wasn’t originally going to try this comic, I’m glad I did. The dialogue for Nadia’s character is a breath of fresh air when it comes to personality and perspective. The character analyses like a wondering mind, and this is brought to life on the pages of the comic. During the battle scene the reader is presented with Nadia’s mechanical knowledge of how things function and work. A scene with a robot provides details into how the parts of the robot functions, which I found highly interesting. I had mentioned life lessons, and this comes into play when Wasp crosses the road without looking first, which brings up a safety tip from Ms. Marvel. As a kid from the 80’s and 90’, I miss this type of knowledge and lessons being provided during Saturday morning cartoons or comics. What started as a comic I didn’t want to read turned into one of my favorite recent reads and is now on my pull list at my local comic shop.

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

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Supergirl: Being Super #1 (DC)

supergirl-bs1

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – What if Supergirl Had Clark Kent’s Origin?
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Supergirl: Being Super is definitely not in DC’s standard super-hero continuity, and I think that’s a good thing.  Writer Mariko Tamaki is weaving a standalone tale here that tells of a Supergirl who is not much different from various versions of the Clark Kent/Superboy origin.  Her Kryptonian ship crash landed on Earth, she was adopted by a kindly couple (in this case the Danvers family in Midvale instead of the Kents in Smallville). She has powers but has been schooled by her parents in hiding them.  She is attending the local High School where she has good friends she hangs around with.  The basic template of the Superboy legend, but tweaked, gender-swapped, and fast-forwarded 60 years from the 1950s into 2017.

Tamaki’s story is a good one, if a bit slow.  It’s long on setting the scene with characterization and interpersonal relationships between Kara and her friends Dolly and Jen, but very short on action.  This is not a comic to hand to someone who needs to have heavy action in their super-hero stories lest they cry “boring!”  For me, it was just fine because I’m less interested in people in tight pummeling one another these days and far more interested in the kinds of dialogue and character  interaction that come across so wonderfully here.  What really sells the story for me is the art by Joelle Jones and Sandu Florea.  The lines are clean, the panel-to-panel storytelling captivating, and the characters wonderfully expressive.  This double-sized squarebound issue flew by, I was captivated by the art from beginning to end.

Supergirl: Being Super is the perfect comic to hand to a young girl to get her interested in comics as an art form (as long as she is from a tolerant/progressive family, since there is a diversity of characters that certain conservatives may not approve of).  This first issue is mostly teen drama and story setup, but there is the promise of some action (and maybe even a costume) coming up in part two.  I suspect this will be collected into a single volume, that may be the preferable way of getting this into the hands of young readers.  For people who have been around comics for a while, especially if you like series like Giant Days or Jonesy, don’t let this one pass you by.

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

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Superman #14 (DC)

superman14

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – I Love a Good DC Multiverse Story.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I am not a regular reader of the Superman series, but the cover of this issue drew me in at the local shop.  Making the “Red Son” Superman easily recognizable was a smart move.  I’ve always been a fan of the parallel universes that make up DC’s Multiverse.  There’s going to be some version of the characters I like on one of those multiple Earths, when things are simplified down to one (or a few) dimensions and I don’t like the character “takes” presented, I have no choice but to take a break from DC.

In this tale, called Multiplicity, writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have ‘our’ Clark/Superman run across an injured Red Son Superman while driving on a deserted road (it always seemed weird that Superman would drive around in a car as Clark, it seems like a real waste of his time).  Red Son Superman (from Earth 30) is being pursued by a bunch of creatures with big teeth talking about ‘the Lyst’ (apparently from a dimension for the spelling impaired). The art – layouts by Ivan Reis, finishes by Joe Pado – was superb.  But they’ll be switching out the art team for every chapter of this story because of the bi-weekly shipping, and it’s that lack of consistency on art across stories that is is my main gripe about DC’s bi-weekly books (with the exception of Wonder Woman).  Looking at my Previews catalogs, I see that issue #15 has art by Doug Mahnke & Jaime Mendoza; #16 is by Doug Mahnke, Jorge Jimenez and “others”; #17 has art by Sebastian Fiumara (NOTE: it has been pointed out that Multiversity is only 3 parts and #17 is a standalone issue.  That is has yet another artist does support my point of the revolving door art teams on the tilte in general, though).  In my opinion, this entire story would be elevated by having the art team from this issue do all 3 parts.  Is it that much to ask that a single team do the art for a short 3-issue story arc??  A lot of people are loving the various bi-weekly DC Rebirth series, so I must be in the minority with my aversion to art teams changing multiple times across each story arc.

Writers Tomasi and Gleason kick off the Multiplicity storyline strong in issue #14. I don’t want to give away specifics about where the story gets really interesting, but it involves quite a few alternate takes of super-heroes from other Earths (5, 11, 18, 20, 23, 30 and 36) .  In particular, I won’t reveal what happens on the last 3 pages, except to say they’re what really sold me on this storyline.  Despite my reservations about the continually rotating art team, the writing was strong enough to ensure that I’ll be back for next issue.

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

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Aliens: Defiance #8 (Dark Horse)

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CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Weaker Chapter in a Great Series.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Aliens: Defiance is a series that keeps getting better as the series goes on. While Dark Horse continues to publish the larger and intertwined saga that combines the Aliens, Predator and Prometheus properties that started in 2014 with “Fire and Stone” and continued with last year’s “Life and Death”, Defiance is completely stand alone. If you’re a fan of any of the Aliens movies, then Defiance is a wonderful series that can be enjoyed all on it’s own with the most limited knowledge of the science fiction franchise. Although the eighth issue of Aliens: Defiance may be one of the weaker issues in the series, it’s still entertaining and moves the overall story forward.

This issue opens up with a dream sequence that although frightening, goes on a bit too long since it’s not “real” and takes away from the main storyline. While it provides a great action scene, it slows down the breakneck pace the book has been on since issue number one. Writer Brian Wood also continues to show how the characters are dealing with the baby xenomorph that was captured and frozen in this series’ previous and arguably best issues. It’s this part of the story that’s most interesting for me and once again shows just how tense Wood can make this story feel with just three main characters all alone, against overwhelming odds as they’re isolated in space.  Tony Brescini handles the art in this issue and while I definitely missed the stunning pencils of main artist Tristan Jones, Brescini does a nice job filling in and is especially strong in main character Zula’s flashback sequence.

Despite my not loving this particular issue it’s still a solid installment in what has been a great series, and one that I hope will run for quite some time. If you like the Aliens franchise haven’t read this series yet, I’d encourage you to do so as you can now find the first collected trade. Although this may not be the best single issue, this series has become one of my favorite Aliens stories and that’s saying a lot.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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Thunderbolts #8 (Marvel)

thunder

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 5/5 – Toe-to-Toe with Captain America!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

The Thunderbolts are a band of renegades, misunderstood for the bad deeds they have done in the past. The team has been jumping around to different S.H.I.E.L.D installations throughout the globe to stop any kind of top secret projects that could possibly lead to similar events that had happened at Pleasant Hill.

Writer Jim Zub and Artist Jon Malin have been keeping me a devoted reader since the first issue of 2016’s Thunderbolt series. Zub brings drama, comedy and action to the Thunderbolts team. Each member has their own personal demons to face, and it seems that Kobik has been working behind the scenes to make this team more of a family. Last month the team asked for the assistance of a longtime confidant, and former S.H.I.E.L.D agent, to break Bucky out of his holding cell. The only issue with the plan is that Captain America is on site to visit Bucky and question him on his motives. With Captain America in the way of their leader’s freedom, there is only one way to break Bucky out, and that’s through Captain America. By the end of this comic, the team gains a new teammate and Bucky loses something most dear to him.

With a powerful cosmic child on their team, you would think they are invincible, but that’s not the case. The safety of Kobik is the most important thing, and allowing her to use her powers in plain sight has been the biggest concern. With S.H.I.E.L.D looking for Kobik, they find the Thunderbolts to be on the top of their most wanted list. The team is more than resourceful in staying hidden, unless they make a beer run, like they did in issue 6. After going toe-to-toe with Captain America, things may be looking far more dire for the Thunderbolts team, and Bucky’s relationship with Cap may never be the same.

Reviewed by: Adam Brunell
(adamb@comicspectrum.com
)
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Artful #1 (Action Lab)

artful1

CREDIT: Action Lab

Rating: 2/5 – Skip the Comic, Read the Novel
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Artful is a story set in the world of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, focusing on the characters of the Artful Dodger and Fagin…but with vampires added in!  Peter David’s novel is a treat, it can be bought on Amazon for the cost of about 2 issues of the comic adaptation.  In my opinion, going direct to the novel if this is a story you’ve not read before is a much better bet.  If you have read the novel (like I had) and are looking for added nuance in a comic book visualization, you may be as disappointed as I was in this series.

The main problem I had with this issue was the art by Laura Neubert.  Neubert does not have a distinct style that I could immerse myself in (think of Jeffrey Brown or Noelle Stevenson) that would let me ignore the rough around the edges nature of the art.  What this looked most like was a journeyman artist trying their best to do a good book, but just falling a bit short due to a lack of experience.  I have often seen artists say that there are a lot of pages of art they needed to get out of the way before they settle in and really start producing art they are happy with.  Neubert needs to keep working at it and will hopefully get to that level eventually.  This book will be a sample from that early phase of her career that she will hopefully one day look back on and say “Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot better since then”.  An area that could make a difference sooner rather than later for Neubert would be trying to learn how to jazz up her page designs.  The book relies too heavily on the standard rectangular grid and it pretty visually uninteresting.  Throwing in some interesting panel layouts and more off-kilter perspectives may help.  I’m not sure how much of this is from the script and how much is artist’s choice.  I do know that they issue abruptly ends on panel 6 of page 21 and I turned the page expecting the story to continue.  It was an abrupt end that was definitely not a good choice for the ending panel of the issue.

Peter David’s Artful is a story that I enjoyed quite a lot in its prose form.  This adaptation did not rise to the occasion of providing me any extra “wow factor” for seeing this in a visual form.  The art was visually uninteresting and the pacing of the issue felt off.  It seemed like the whole adaptation had been laid out with no regard for it being serialized in 21 page chunks and when this issue just got to page 21, I got a “let’s stop here” feeling, with no sense of closure for the 1st installment.  Very poorly executed on the part of I’m not sure who: editorial or the writer Nicole D’Andria (who is adapting Peter David’s prose novel).  This is definitely not a series I’ll be coming back to in comics form, I’d rather let the completed story live on in my memory as something I enjoyed as a novel.

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

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Hulk #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – She-Hulk is Now “The” Hulk.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Marvel has continued their releases of either all new series or all new storylines coming out of the second Civil War event. This week we saw the release of an all new Hulk series, this time with Jennifer Walters as the green hero. If you haven’t been staying up to date with the events of Civil War then beware of spoilers (but it’s been a few months since this happened and these events are recapped on this issue’s opening credits page).  She Hulk was seriously injured during a fight with Thanos at the beginning of Civil War II and Bruce Banner was killed by Hawkeye during the event.

All of this has caused a change, Jennifer Walters to not be the same She-Hulk she was and who readers of the character have previously known. She’s now less in control of the monster than she’s ever been and where before she was able to control her changes, or be permanently in She-Hulk form, she’s now similar to Bruce Banner in that the anger and stress now painfully transforms her into the green monster. In this premiere issue we see her watching cooking shows to calm herself down in order to keep the monster at bay, while at the same time starting a new job at a law firm taking on a bunch of new and strange clients.

Writer Mariko Tamaki does a nice job of balancing two different story tones in this first issue, one being the dark struggle of Jennifer controlling the monster, and the other with Jennifer balancing a new job and workload. I’m not sure which tone will win out in the long run over the course of this series, but so far I’m really enjoying the two sides of this story. As far as the art goes by Nico Leon, it definitely works, but his drawing of Jennifer differs from some panels to others so there is a bit of a lack of consistency. Overall I was pleased with the art and felt as though it was a good choice for the story. I’m intrigued with this new Hulk series and although I do miss Banner as Hulk, just like Amadeus Cho before this, I’m willing to give this new Hulk series a chance.

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

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