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
)
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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
)
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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
)
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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
)
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Mighty Mouse #1 (Dynamite)

CREDIT: Dynamite Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Here He Comes to Save the Day!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I love Mighty Mouse. Although he really doesn’t have a presence within pop culture any more, Mighty Mouse is still an iconic character. He’s definitely inspired by Superman and first appeared just three years after big blue was introduced.  When Mighty Mouse first appeared he even wore red and blue, which eventually changed to the yellow and red we’re so familiar with now. To me, Mighty Mouse is kind of that perfect combination of super heroes and cartoons so I was excited to see Dynamite bringing the character back in comics!

It’s been almost twenty years since Mighty Mouse has had a comic, last appearing in a ten-issue Marvel run, which I haven’t read but am now interested to go back and find. Especially issue number four that has an homage to DC’s Crisis. I’m glad Dynamite is publishing Mighty Mouse again and this first issue was a fun read with some really strong art. Artist Igor Lima gives us just a brief glimpse into Mighty Mouse’s cartoon world before transitioning into “our” world for the majority of the issue. Both art styles are a joy to look at and the colors by Pete Pantazis reflect each particular setting. Mighty Mouse’s world is bright, using primary colors that pop on the page while the real world gets a richer, yet slightly darker palette so when the two styles are side-by-side, you can definitely see the difference. I love Lima’s art as he portrays a bullied young boy named Joey who happens to be the biggest fan of Mighty Mouse and uses the character’s adventures to escape from some of his current issues.  Writer Sholly Fisch does a great job with Joey’s portrayal and he’s just beginning to reveal what this series will be about.

I was more than pleasantly surprised with this first issue and can’t wait to see what Fisch and Lima have in story for this series. I think the Alex Ross cover nails the story that’s inside of this book which is an added bonus to a really great premiere. Well done Dynamite…you’ve “Saved the Day” for me with Might Mouse number one!

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

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Secret Empire #3 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – I’m Lost Within Secret Empire’s Secrets.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Secret Empire is losing me fast. With each issue, I’m feeling more and more confused with just how certain aspects of this story story work, and just how Marvel has altered their own history. In the Secret Empire storyline, Captain America has always been a Hydra Agent because a sentient cosmic cube (Kobik) recently altered history at the end of the Pleasant Hill storyline, while also de-aging Steve Rogers, who had been made old in a previous storyline where the super-soldier serum was expunged from his system.

Hydra is claiming that the US actually lost World War II, but the Allies used a cosmic cube to alter the course of history.  This seems to be Hydra’s way of justifying bringing things back to the way they were “meant to be”, but seems to just be a story on their part, Cap was a “sleeper” agent in the altered reality until recently activated.   None of these conflicting story elements help reader comprehension.  Messing with time and altering reality can lead to confusion in the best of circumstances, but all of that is just one confusing piece in a series that just keeps getting more confusing. As revealed in issue two, there’s another Steve Rogers running around (in a forest?), but we’re still not sure if that’s a real character, or a figment of his imagination struggling against the cosmic cube altered reality.  More of this alternate Steve is explored here in issue three and while it adds to the mystery, to me he feels less like a character and more like a plot device that’s going to help provide the “out” for this story.   It’s not a good thing when these kinds of plot devices are telegraphed so early in the story, but maybe it’s just some other tangential story device, which isn’t much better as the end result is still a confusing story.

Andrea Sorrentino’s art which I usually enjoy, lacks clarity and adds to the confusion. There were certain parts of the story where I wasn’t sure what was happening from one panel to the next since the art can get really dark at times with a very muddy color palette. I’m not sure if Sorrentino is the best choice of artists for this book with it’s large cast of characters and changing locales. His art is somewhat abstract and when combined with the lack of bold colors and fine facial details, it’s very challenging to tell who is who when not everyone is even in their normal costumes.  As art for art’s sake it is nice to look at, but it fails for me in clearly telling the story.

If you’re a new Marvel reader, I can’t imagine how it must feel to read this event. It can be entertaining at times like a certain scene with Star Lord in this issue, but there’s just so much to wrap your head around that to me, feels like one big mess that got too complicated for it’s own good.  There are lots of characters and it’s hard to tell them apart, I even forgot at first that the Tony Stark in this issue was the AI Tony Stark, signified by the red text in his word balloons, how would a new reader pick up on this?  The bottom line is that this does not feel new reader friendly and it’s hard for even this veteran Marvel reader to wrap my head around the story.

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

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