It’s the first Wednesday of the month and there are a lot of new books on the stands, especially on the Marvel side of things. 3-2-1 Comics!
3 – Marvel Comics
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5
I have definitely not been a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man for the past five years or so. The book always poorly imitates Stan Lee’s style of the 1960s, and it’s cringe-worthy. So in that fashion, the latest story has the old comic book brain swap between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus, leaving Peter trapped in a dying old man’s body on life support. While last issue’s setup was heavy-handed and melodramatic, I found #699 to be a better reading experience overall. Sure Peter is still whining about how things are all his fault, but Dan Slott downplays that and focuses on Parker’s fear of dying alone without his family knowing. His desperation gives way to some ingenuity that makes him more interesting than the boring old white bread that he’s been written as. Humberto Ramos has always done an excellent job drawing the web-head, and presents one ugly dying Doc Ock this time around. The super-sized 700th issue of The Amazing Spider-Man approaches very soon, promising big changes. Hopefully for the better.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5
I never respected nor cared for The Punisher. Jason Aaron’s Punisher MAX and Greg Rucka’s Punisher run have certainly changed my views on the character however. Punisher War Zone is a step down in terms of quality, both in story and artwork. In this issue we get a brief scene involving Rucka’s anti-heroine Sergeant Cole-Alves, while the rest of the issue involves Black Widow’s manhunt for Frank Castle. The Punisher himself is largely absent from most of the book, and Black Widow refers too him as “Captain Castle,” which annoys me for some reason. Marco Checchetto’s beautifully moody pencils that adorned Rucka’s Punisher are once again missing. While Checchetto does the cover, Carmine Di Giandomenico seems to be the artist of choice for this series, whose erratically weak style doesn’t do the sub-par story any favors. For better or worse, Punisher War Zone seems to be a bland Punisher vs. Avengers book, and next up is Thor. Woot woot?
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5
2– DC Comics
Monthly comic books usually take a page or two to remind you of where you left off last issue, but Action Comics #15 forgoes most of that and launches us straight into another classic Grant Morrison mind f*$#. The issue does a bit of time jumping among scenes featuring Clark Kent’s Senior Prom, Superman on the run from his enemies and a bit of backstory in the form of Mrs. Nyxly, Clark’s landlord from the 5th Dimension. This issue was a game changer, placing the series-long villain of “the little man” in the grander context of the Superman mythos. The styles of Rags Morales and Brad Walker blend a lot better than they have in the past, providing for a very enjoyable Christopher Reeve-like Superman reminiscent of Gary Frank’s. The backup by Sholly Fisch is probably his best to date, expanding upon elements of the main plot and making for a unique short story on its own. This was an amazing issue with Morrison once again emphasizing the zany sci-fi aspects of The Man of Steel. Read it and then read it again. You’ll need the second time, trust me.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5
There are a couple of reasons why Before Watchmen: Minutemen is the best Before Watchmen book. One of those reasons is that beyond the flashbacks and excerpts of Hollis Mason’s Under The Hood the stories of The Minutemen are left largely unexplored in the original Watchmen. The second reason being the awesome all-in-one package that is Darwyn Cooke. Cooke has made a career of pencilling classy characters that transport the reader to another era, which has made The Minutemen the perfect group to put those skills to work. The fifth issue of the mini-series continues Hollis’ recollection of the rise and fall of his masked colleagues, as well as the child abduction “cold case” that the deceased Silhouette opened. Prequels are always tricky because we know where everyone ends up. Cooke wisely focuses not on the whys or the hows of the past, but the who. He has given a new life to characters that were merely footnotes in their first appearance. One more issue to go.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5
1 – Image Comics
After several lackluster issues it is good to see the titular character of Invincible back in action. Mark Grayson’s super powers are finally restored and he dons his blue costume to stop some cataclysmic events set in motion by his frenemy Dinosaurus. As he often does, Kirkman bands his world of superhero creations together to prevent as much collateral damage as they can. Like I said before, Mark Grayson’s return as Invincible was a welcome one. The stories are always more compelling when they are focused on him rather than members of his supporting cast. His emotional responses to any given situation have definitely been the driving force of this book. Ryan Ottley delivers his consistently solid pencils and action scenes and I expect him to go all out for next issue and of course Invincible #100. Kirkman and Co. are setting a lot of pieces in place for the 100th issue, and it will be interesting to see what the new status quo will be. The Death of Everyone? Perhaps. This wasn’t an outstanding issue, but it was a return to the quality of the early Invincible stories.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5