Secret Weapons #2 (Valiant)

CREDIT: Valiant

Rating: 5/5 – A Low-Power Team Makes for a Unique Reading Experience.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I really enjoyed the movie Arrival. I thought it was a smart science fiction movie that had a fantastic ending which made you think long after seeing the movie. So I was extremely excited to see Oscar nominated ‘Arrival’ writer Eric Heisserer writing for Valiant with an all new series titled Secret Weapons. Valiant continues to impress me with their line of titles which is small, but loosely connected so each title stands mostly apart while still tying into the overall line.

Secret Weapons does this really well by using main Valiant character Livewire, and introducing an all new cast of psiot characters. Heisserer doesn’t try and make each character all powerful and able to go toe-to-toe with Valiant’s most powerful heroes and villains, instead he chooses to make each character unique with powers that, so far, are undervalued at best and seemingly useless at worse.

Livewire has rescued a group of psiots from a Harada facility where those with powers not deemed worthy enough are housed. For example, one character has the ability to speak with birds which on certain occasions can be useful.  Another has the ability to conjure random items out of thin air, at random times without any control. Another can turn to stone, but while in stone form can not move (reminiscent of DC’s Legion of Substitute Heroes also-ran ‘Stone Boy’). The art by Raul Allen is gorgeous and is a wonderful compliment to the story. His panels are full of energy and he packs the page with detail, including lush backgrounds. Allen is so creative when it comes to drawing a character who can turn to stone, that although lifeless, can still make you feel as though he’s alive.

Overall, Secret Weapons is a fantastic series that’s just getting started. It has a really interesting group of characters and ups the danger level with its low-power team being hunted by a “psiot-eating” monster named Rex-O.  The creative team has proven talent and is doing a great job telling this story about a team that is very different from what we’re used to seeing in super-hero comics.  You should join me in reading this wonderful series!

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

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Generation X #4 (Marvel)

GenerationX 4

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 5/5 – A Continuation of ‘Wolverine & the X-Men’ with Jubilee Added
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Being an old fan of the Generation X title from the 90’s really got me excited for the new Generation X title. Just from the first issues cover it was clear that Generation X alumni Jubilee would be present and accounted for, and all other characters shown were the younger generation of X-Men that most X-Men readers are familiar with. Four issues into the series I can honestly say it’s been a fun ride, but something seems familiar.

Writer Christina Strain and Artist Amilcar Pinna are the team bringing Generation X fans down memory lane, but also keeping me wanting more of the new Generation. First thing I want to point out is that all the new Generation X students were students from the ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ series. If you didn’t read that series, Wolverine was the Headmaster of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning and he had a band of rebellious students that were constantly getting into trouble.  If you read that series there are a bunch of familiar faces, except one. A new student has enlisted into the school, his name is Nathaniel. Nathaniel is a very close resemblance to a younger Nathan Summers, who also has a form of telepathy that is drawn from making physical contact with someone, kind of like a mix of Rogue and Cable. This fourth issue brings the Generation X students into contact with a former foe and teammate. One of the teammates doesn’t walk away unscathed and it takes Chamber, the former Generation X student, to know where the students emotional and physical pain is coming from after the encounter.

Strain provides a well written story about these teenagers’ lives; how they are coping with being Mutants and how they handle being dropped into this more controlled environment. Jubilee is written to be the mature mother figure of the X-Students, her experience throughout the years serves her well as an instructor and mentor. Though she finds it hard to be angry at her students for pulling the same stunts she used to when she was their age. Pinna provides a well-illustrated take on the Generation X title; everything comes across as playful and given a feel almost like a Reality Show. One thing I notice about the art is Nature Girl; her antlers seem to be constantly changing in weird ways and I’m not sure if she is supposed to have ever-changing physicality or if this is just an artist who is not consistent all the time.

All in all, I thought Generation X #4 was a good book; the art tells the story clearly and directly and the character dialogue is pretty spot on from how the characters have come across from previous writers. It’s interesting that this title is a move forward from the ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ series.  Seeing how I used to read that series I’m glad to say that Strain and Pinna are doing a great job picking up the pieces of a rather emotionally damaged team.  This is a book I enjoy reading each month.

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

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Deadpool vs. The Punisher #5 (Marvel)

DVP

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 –This Dynamic Duo Lacks the Dynamic.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel compelled to finish a 5 issue series when I get a feeling of wanting to jump ship starting at issue 3, but I usually figure I’ll keep going because I’m half way in. I’m a fan of The Punisher and Deadpool, but this series did not do either character much justice. You would think Marvel Comics could come up with something close to how they delivered the Daredevil and Punisher crossover, but things came up short for me.

The idea behind this little series is that The Punisher is aiming to take out the financial institute of all the major criminal organizations. I guess one guy is the banker and broker for all these organizations and his name is Banks, and Frank Castle wants to take him out. The only issue with Frank’s plan is Deadpool, who seems to be not only a hired gun at times for the broker, but a family friend. In the first issue The Punisher’s plan goes south, he’s framed for killing Banks’ wife and only son. You find out in issue 2 that they are alive and well, but The Punisher is now hot on their heels to clear his name and get the information he needs to take down Banks. Writer Fred Van Lente provides some good dialogue for the characters, but the story is all over the place. Panels jump around a lot and I can’t help but look at some of the situations as more slapstick comedy than action packed adventure. Each issue declares a winner between Deadpool and The Punisher based on their method of how one tricks or takes down the other. Typically the winner is The Punisher, because his tactic is to shoot Deadpool in the head continuously because Frank knows it takes several hours for Deadpool’s memory to come back after he takes a bullet to the head. Seeing how The Punisher can die and doesn’t have fast healing like Deadpool, you can see how things become repetitive through these 5 issues pretty early on.  Artist Pere Perez comes out on top with very good art, panels are splashed with great angles, and there is never a dull moment in the art department, but it wasn’t enough to elevate the series above a 3.5 for me.

Punisher vs. Deadpool felt rushed by issue #3 and it felt like the story could have had more to it, but everything felt crammed into the 5 issues by the end of the series.  I love how Fred van Lente gives so much praise to both heroes in this series by providing details for each character, but ultimately it came out more like a bad setup for a sequel to the movie “Shoot ‘Em Up”.  All in all, I feel like I should have just left this series on the shelf at the local comic shop after the first couple of issues and saved myself some money.

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

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Edge of Venomverse #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 – Venomized Characters from Across the Multiverse, Starting with X-23.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The Edge of Venomverse is an all new mini-series by Marvel with a story similar to that of the Edge of Spider-Verse series we saw back in 2014. In that series, multiple Spider-Men from across the multi-verse teamed up together to stop Morlun and his family from wiping out all the different Spider-Men from all different earths. Now Marvel is using a similar approach to storytelling, but this time using Venom, or “Venom-ized” characters in place of Spider-Men.

In this premiere issue we see the Venom symbiote take over X-23, but not the X-23 we know from the main Marvel Universe. This is a Laura from an alternate universe who, much like the original, is being held captive by an evil organization. In her attempt to escape she bonds with with another experiment, that being the symbiote, and the Venom Wolverine is created. After this opening origin which is just four pages in length, the story lost momentum for me.

The remainder of writer Matthew Rosenberg’s story focuses on Laura’s attempt to live with some other teenagers as she’s being hunted down by the organization. There is one unique twist that Rosenberg introduces, but before that idea can be explored, the issue ends. We’ll be heading into the next issue with an all new character and origin, and unfortunately it’s a character who I have zero interest in, Gwenpool.

Unfortunately the first issue of Venomverse missed the mark for me although I did enjoy Roland Boschi’s art. Edge of Venomverse is a five issue series, followed by another five issue series called simply Venomverse that I assume will team all these characters up, with a one-shot thrown in between the two series. That’s quite the investment for an event that so far, hasn’t hooked me. I’m hoping later issues will turn my excitement around.

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

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Weapons of Mutant Destruction: Alpha #1

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 – Not an Event, just a Multi-Title Crossover!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

It’s fun to see a book like Weapons of Mutant Destruction. It feels so silver age in its ideas and premise, while having the approach of modern day storytelling and art. The cover for the book alone stands out as a fanboy’s dream. What would happen if you mix the science that went into creating the Hulk with the experimentation that went into creating Wolverine? You see that on this first issue’s pulp-like cover. It draws you in with its potential and my two younger sons immediately asked what was going on inside when they saw this on my to-read stack. So does the story match the potential of the cover? Not yet…but it’s still a solid first part to this crossover event.

Writer Greg Pak is currently writing both the Weapon X series and the Totally Awesome Hulk (both of which are where this crossover will continue) so the story presented here is an extension of those two series. While I’m reading both of those books and have a solid understanding of the back story, if you’re jumping on board with this issue you should have no problem getting up to speed. The evil Weapon X program is back and they’re creating hybrid cyborgs in order to wipe out mutants. While they’ve done this before, it’s the type of cyborgs they’re now creating that is upping the danger level.

Logan leads a team that was introduced in the Weapon X series, now with the Hulk included to prevent Weapon X from creating any more. Amadeus Cho adds some humor to the mix of killers that make up the Weapon X team of Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth, and more.  But, much like my thoughts on Wolverine teaming up with Sabretooth, Cho’s teaming up with killers seems kind of wrong. This is an oversized first part with a $4.99 price point, but I feel as though I got my money’s worth. My only complaints with this first issue is that at times the art feels inconsistent, and there is a real lack of any compelling single villain figure so far, concentrating instead on the Weapon X organization as almost a bureaucratic entity.  Mahmud Asrar handles the art and while I usually enjoy his work, the coloring by Nolan Woodard is really dark and makes Asrar’s already heavy line feel heavier. Also, there are a few panels in this book that look off in composition and backgrounds.

Much like in Weapon X, this series’ villains are the organizers of the Weapon X program, rather than the creations themselves. Ultimately I hope Greg Pak can create a compelling villain who stands out from the Weapon X organization that can stick around after this crossover event wraps up. I enjoyed this first part and will be back for the rest of this series. I know this will be a tough sell for Marvel if you’re not reading either Totally Awesome Hulk or Weapon X, but this may be the story that can change that.

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

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The Divided States of Hysteria #1 (Image)

TheDividedStatesOfHysteria_01-1

Rating: 4/5 – Chaykin Doing What Chaykin Does…
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

If you’re a fan of Howard Chaykin’s creator-owned work in comics, you’ll probably like this.  For the uninitiated, herein you’ll find: violence, bad language, nudity, sex, and a pre-op transgender prostitute engaged in all of these.  Add in Chaykin’s propensity for putting his left-leaning politics on the page and you have a package that’s great for people who like these sorts of things in a story and an absolute nightmare scenario for the straight-laced.

The story is set in a world where the President and most of his Cabinet were recently assassinated in an aborted coup d’etat.  This issue has a lot of setup.  Chaykin is putting the players on the page, from a CIA Field Officer who talks to his wife on the phone while in a hotel room with his mistress to a variety of colorful characters who all have a propensity for violence and all end up in police custody, their introductory vignettes concluding with their mug shots.  The art is as you would expect from Chaykin, expressive with great visual storytelling.  In my opinion Chaykin is in the top 10 of artists who draw wonderful facial expressions that really sell the story, and this issue is no exception.  There are a lot of great faces here, all the better for looking like real people and not all being beautiful models.

Chaykin is building a dystopian near-future that may be a bit too close to something that could actually happen for comfort.  As a reader, I am assuming this first issue is really following the “introduce the team members” trope, with issue #2 being where they are brought together to complete some mission related to the inciting event on the last page.  While this is definitely not for everyone, if you don’t mind violence with a side order of sex then this is worth checking out.  At its core it is classic Chaykin, as he has evolved for the 21st century.

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

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Champions #9 (Marvel)

rsz_champions

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Viv Vision hits the West Coast.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Issue 9 of the Champions hones in on one character specifically, Viv Vision. Though all the young heroes on the team have a rather interesting backstory, Viv has only been alive for a year now, and within that 1 year she has dealt with some of the most intense life experiences that most people hope they never have to deal with in a lifetime. Though Viv is far from human, she is alive and can unlock the potential of almost being a fully emotional being. This week we see Viv take a trip to the West Coast, and there is no hiding from being a Champion.

Things have gotten out of hand for the Champions team.  A private group called “The Freelancers” has been hired on a routine basis to cause trouble for the Champions. Recently, The Freelancers took the copyright for the logo of the Champions and turned it into a money maker, which caused the Champions to look like a bunch of sellouts. This was quickly resolved last month by Nova and when the dust settled from that, this month there is yet another problem. Viv Vision has taken it upon herself to find The Freelancers. The possible problem with this is that the last time we saw Viv she was grounded for disobeying her father, the Vision. Writer Mark Waid keeps delivering a dynamic with the Champions that stands for something new; they represent the new age of heroes doing things their way, and their way is helping everyone and helping rebuild things. Waid has made this series a well needed breath of fresh air in the Marvel Universe, and he writes a teenage android girl pretty well too.  Artist Humberto Ramos provides captivating panels with a playful character design. A new hero is brought into this issue who also has a very cool costume design. Could this new hero be a new Runaway? It’s almost as if Ramos and Waid gave a teaser for the upcoming return of the Runaways team.

The Champions is a great series for Marvel fans to get into if they want something fresh. At times I find some of the other titles from Marvel a little repetitive, so they fall to the back of my list of comics to read. Champions is one of the few titles I look forward to every month.  The characters aren’t new, but they are written from a different perspective here than in their other series. This series has been written from the beginning to give the heroes of tomorrow a more rational approach to life and being a hero than most senior heroes seem to have. Waid and Ramos keep delivering what makes this title great and I continue to love it.

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

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