The best Marvel comics to read if you’re enjoying Marvel’s movies.

It’s becoming harder to find a place to jump in and start reading the comics that inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. A new movie arrives almost every three months.

However, there is one solution:

Listen to comic book experts for their advice on what’s worth reading.

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane hosted a panel discussion on comics in the real world last Sunday, May 28. The panel is part of the Marvel exhibition in Brisbane. The guests shared their expertise on comics  and the Marvel Universe – in print, and on screen.

The GOMA website summarised the career of each guest:

  • Professor Jason Bainbridge, Head of the School of Communication, University of South Australia
  • Ryan Griffen, Creator of sci-fi television series Cleverman
  • Dr Naja Later, Sessional Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. And Sessional Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Dr Paul Mason, Lecturer in Art Direction, Griffith Film School, and comic book illustrator on Kid Phantom (Frew Publications)

I was excited to see Ryan Griffen, the creator behind the new Cleverman series, share his thoughts and expertise. The season one story arc and plot were excellent.

Dr. Paul Mason is the skilled artist behind the new Kid Phantom comic from Frew Publications based in Sydney, Australia. It is always worth listening to Paul’s insights.

And for the first time, I thought it was exciting and interesting to listen to Dr. Naja Later, Prof. Jason Bainbridge, and the panel MC Scott Stephens.

Goma Panel Guests shared which comics are excellent “jumping in” points for new readers. Here’s their recommendations:

Ryan Griffen – Black Panther And The Crew (2017)

Paul Mason – Fantastic Four 1960’s collected editions or omnibuses

Naja Later – Bucky Barnes as Captain America (2004 – 2010)

Jason Bainbridge – The original Secret Wars (1984)

Four excellent recommendations for any Marvel fans who are enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can find more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

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Secret Wars #3 – Comic Review

Victor Von Doom, the dictator known as Doctor Doom, reassembled the Marvel Universe into Battleworld, saving millions of lives from destruction as the Marvel Universe ended. Now king and god of this new world, Doctor Doom may slowly lose control. Secret Wars #3 continues this story, and offers:

  • Shocking and confronting artwork.
  • The return of survivors from the Marvel Universe, and key character moments for Doctor Strange and Reed Richards.
  • Questions and ideas on gods and humans.

The opening scenes of the comic show a tranquil and calm space that gives an insight into Doctor Doom’s character, while a later scene delivers another shocking moment for the god and ruler of Battle World, where the reader sees things from Susan Storm’s (The Invisible Woman ) point of view

A truly shocking moment in the artwork for this issue of Secret Wars is Doctor Doom revealing his face to Susan Storm. The pane depicts Doctor Doom staring directly out at the reader. We see the scene from Susan Storm’s point of view for the moment he unmasks. It makes the reveal feel disturbingly close. Without comment on what exactly is show to avoid spoilers, the way this scene plays out does shock.

Backtracking to earlier in the comic, Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom wander through a tranquil, walled garden inside Dooms kingdom at the centre of the Battle World patchwork of worlds. The scene gives an insight into Doctor Doom – he keeps a calm place at the centre of his world, but there is an unusual and unsettling statue that stands out, and is the focal point of these opening scenes.

The survivors of the Marvel Universe return, and listen to Doctor Strange’s explanation about Battleword. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is distraught, but Doctor Strange confirms that Doom is an able leader at the end of everything.

Significant plot changes are not brought on by action in Secret Wars #3. The plot pace slows, and beings to muddle along. The information Doctor Strange gives readers about the state of the Marvel Universe, delivered through a question and answer session with other Marvel Universe survivors, enlightens and clarifies what happened. Action is missing. Instead, there are scenes explaining what happened to start Secret Wars, and why Battleworld exists.

Listening to his explanation are several heroes from the Marvel Universe missing since the multiverse finally collapsed. Captain Marvel, Miles Morales and Peter Parker, and Scott Summers are surprised at the changes brought on by Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange. They saved the lives of millions of people, and Doctor Strange points out that Doom is an effective leader.

At the same time, Doctor Doom speaks with The Invisible Woman Susan Storm, saying how he feels he is an uninspiring leader. They talk at length about Doom’s ascent to becoming a god. Is Doctor Doom worthy?

Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards, is distraught to hear that Doctor Doom governs over a patchwork version of all reality. Even more shocking – the two Doctors assembled this world over the course of 8 years. In that time, they found the multiverse survivors, but kept them hidden and in suspended animation for 3 out of those 8 years.

The comic delves into questions about humans versus gods: are gods that different from humans in terms of motivations, thoughts, and wants?

A question appears: is Doctor Doom worthy of leading this Battle World? Doom remarks at one point “the troubles of gods are infinite and beyond man’s understanding…but it wouldn’t take a god to divine that.” He also says “I am a poor god. I think now that once having made the world, I should have removed myself. Perhaps the gods of old had it right.” Dooms comments on becoming a god delve into ideas on omnipotence. What it means to create and control all things in the world.

Doom wonders if he should withdraw from the world. Susan Storm urges him to keep in contact with the people he governs. The ideas that play out here: gods should interact with the people they govern. Gods are both beyond human understanding, but humans can still figure out their motivations, which are not that different from human wants and needs. The large question that Secret Wars points to, in regards to Doctor Doom here, is are gods that different from humans in terms of motivation, thoughts, and wants?

Despite this, the reaction of the Marvel Universe survivors – Spider-man, Thor, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Reed Richards, for example – indicates that a man like Doctor Doom, omnipotent, and in control and being a god won’t be sustainable for long.

Secret Wars #3 is published by Marvel Comics ($3.99USD) Jonathan Hickman (w.) Esad Ribic (a.) Ive Svorcina (c.) Chris Eliopoulos (l.). Cover artwork by Alex Ross.

Thor #3 – Comics Review

A new Thor faces old enemies, and one new one (he’s hiding from Thor though), but is separated from the hammer Mjolnir. There’s a fight approaching, and Thor #3 Offers:

  • Strong fantasy artwork, with good use of whitespace and gutters
  • An solid cast of characters
  • A discussion about power and influence: how it is gained and maintained

The artwork makes use of two key settings – the Frost Giant Castle Utgard, and the Roxxon Corporate stronghold. Fantasy elements are brought into the art with reference to The Lord of the Rings, and clever use of gutters separates Thor from Mjolnir

On the opening pages, the artwork shows the castle of the Frost Giants – Utgard – against a backdrop of the dark, unending winter-night skies of Jotunheim. Layered on top of the sky is a map of the main Jotenheim continents. The map is drawn in the style of a Middle Earth map from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Skrymir, guardian of the citadel, tells Malekith a dark winter’s tale. These scenes show the blue ice sculpted halls of Utgard. Malekith stands out in his black, fluffy coat.

When the scene shifts to the Roxxon Corporations base, there is a clever design choice in the separation of scenes using gutters, which is the white space between panels on the page. Thor stands on one side of a secure bunker door. Frost Giants are ready to do battle with her, but Mjolnir is stuck on the other side of the door. Dario Egger, the shapeshifting CEO of the Roxxon corporation, hides inside that bunker. Trapped inside the bunker, is the hammer Mjolnir. The page gutter is used to separate Thor from her hammer. The bunker door is depicted as the solid white space separating the panels.

Thor contends with Frost Giants, Malekith, and Dario Egger, the ruthless Roxxon CEO. Each character has an interesting set of motivations. Malekith manipulates expertly, and appears to have a long plan in place

The main source of danger in this comic comes from separating Thor from her hammer. By doing so, Thor has to deal with the questions of how she can maintain her power and influence as the Thunder god of the Marvel Universe without Mjolnir. Frost Giants and the Dark Elf mage Malekith – The villains of Thor and Thor: The Dark World respectively – add to mounting pressure on the new Thor. Despite losing the hammer, she changes tactics, and relies on confident rhetoric, and her massive strength.

The Frost Giant Skrymir tells a story of how Frost Giants treat their children. Frost Giant children are cast out into a powerful ice storm. The survivors are celebrated, and the others forgotten. This use of story telling sets atmosphere, and builds up the cruel character of the Frost Giants.

Dario Egger hides in a bunker, and makes a point of how things he finds are his property. His moral range extends to the limited capacity of “Finders Keepers”. Malekith is a manipulator here. He instigates the entire conflict in the story, and appears to be working on his own plan, playing the Frost Giants like chess pieces. He successfully goads Egger into revealing his true form – a Minotaur.

A question is asked by this comic: how is power and influence found and held? Each character has power, and through the storytelling, uses various means to restore or gain more power and influence. Thor’s decisions cement the comic’s values: gain power (and responsibility) by overcoming difficult odds

The comic seems to ask a question about how power and influence found and held. Like the Frost Giants treatment of their children, is it gained by overcoming cruelty, and surviving? Or like Dario Egger, is power found through bargaining and theft? Like Malekith, is power and influence found through manipulation? The new Thor, in this issue, gains power by fighting even when the odds of victory are completely against her.

The comic is placing value in overcoming difficult odds. This becomes clear through Thor’s struggle with gaining power and influence, and the responsibilities that come with it. The ability to use positive self-talk under pressure helps Thor fight off the challenges thrown at her. This is another strong point put forward by Thor #3.

Thor #3 is published by Marvel Comics ($3.99 USD). Jason Aaron (W.) Russel Dauterman (A.), Matthew Wilson (C.) VC’s Joe Sabino (L.) Cover artwork by Dauterman and Wilson.

Avengers and X-men: Axis #1 – Comic Review

In an new Marvel event, a powerful new villain created from violence, and the frankenstein-like combination of Professor X and the Red Skull, begins a dark plan. This is chapter one of Axis. The comic book offers:

  • The opening of a large scale event, with many Marvel Universe characters.
  • Artwork of an immensely powerful villain, against a grim background.
  • Insight into Tony Stark’s character.
  • Hatred themes – how the emotion is used, and reactions to it.

The Marvel Universe unites in a grim setting against a giant, red colossus: Red Onslaught

Large scale events bring the disparate fragments, individuals, and teams from the Marvel universe. Medusa, Invisible Woman, the X-men, Two teams of Avengers, the Vision, Captain America. There are a vast selection of bright colours from the many costumes worn by Marvel’s Super heroes.

They charge into battle – a thunderstorm rages over the rustic wood huts constructed to hold mutant prisoners. A grim scene. Even during brighter scnenes, a gloomy haze seems to cover sources of light.

These Avengers, X-men, and individual heroes unite against a giant, red, horned colossus calling itself “The Red Onslaught”. Imperial purple and scarlet armor plates; black keratinous horns curved inward; black octopus tentacles sprouting from its back.

With telepathy, the creature unleashes hateful thoughts, and forces them upon Marvel’s heroes. Iron Man is its first target

This entity is more creature than human. It’s a giant, at least the height of small office building, and was created when the Red Skull attempted to fight Magneto, and was killed by the magnetic villain.

Red Onslaught tortures and torments. With telepathy, it forces everyone around the globe to think hateful and violent thoughts. Not simply unleashing repressed anger, envy, or other vicious thoughts bubbling below the surface, Red Onslaught has telepathic power enough to inserting hate into those without any. Conflict is manufactured: a real nightmare.

The first target: Tony Stark. Iron man once had the weaknesses of all the Avengers, X-men, and other Marvel Universe individuals saved in a register of super heroes – his initiative files. These were thought lost – his memories deleted like data on a corrupt hard drive.

No malicious thoughts are buried too deep for Red Onslaught. Stark’s anguish is clear when he comes to understand that he has been subtly influenced by the Red Skull for some time now.

Through the powers of Wanda Maximoff, and the setting, the comic references the historical use of hatred and propaganda in World War Two. Onslaught argues Iron Man’s anxiety comes from a hateful place.

Hatred is the theme of this comic book – while it is the first in a large scale event, the opening issue makes a strong impression with this theme. What people do with hatred, and what hatred causes play out in this issue.

Historically, hatred’s role in World War two is highlighted:  a concentration camp setting appears, referencing the Nazi party, and the propaganda that created hate. The Red Skull is a historical villain, and the roots of the character in World War two are clear in the concentration camp setting. Further, scenes where Scarlet Witch is coerced into manipulating reality into a “nazi nightmare” show more historical references. It’s nothing close to the House of M story line, but stands out as a significant moment nonetheless.

Red Onslaughts breaks down Iron Man’s fears and anxiety, mocking Stark. Iron Man’s catalog of weaknesses was compiled from Stark’s hatred of his friends, not fear or anxiety, according to the creature.

Avengers and X-men: Axis #1 is published by Marvel Comics. Rick Remender (W.) Adam Kubert (A.) Laura Martin and Matt Milla (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover artwork by Cheung and Ponsor.

All New X-Men #32, The Wicked and the Devine #4, The Multiversity: Society of Super Heroes #1.1 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

All New X-Men #32

The young, time-travelling X-men are scattered across the planet after almost rescuing a new mutant with the ability to create portals between parallel worlds.

A grand tour of various locations in the Marvel Universe, the artwork in this issue captures vibrancy, colour, and danger. Latveria, The Savage Land, and New York appear. Also appearing is the gloomy domain of the Mole Man’s underground kingdom.

Jean Grey and Miles Morales share a deep conversation – dialog where two super-powered characters catch up on the defining moments in their careers so far is expertly written.

There’s more than one cliffhanger here – it may take several issues to resolve this plotline.

The Wicked and the Devine #4

Every 90 years, 12 gods from across the world’s pantheon’s reincarnate as 12 teens. Not everyone believes this story, however. One of them – claiming to be Lucifer – is arrested and imprisoned for murder. And Laura – a god-fan and amateur detective – investigates.

Introducing the home of several gods, Laura marches through wide, blue marble corridors alongside a powerful sky god called Baal – his character design favors gold chains and burnt orange suits with two buttons, which show the gods make interesting fashion choices.

Large powerful images of fire and water appear later in the comic, establishing an elemental theme. Lightening is also referenced.

Through body language and dialog, the god’s power is clearly underlined.

A final conversation between Laura and Lucifer effectively shows moments of deception and power, revealing that this is a mature, and complex comic book.

The Multiversity – Society of Super Heroes #1.1

Doc Fate, The Atom, Abin Sur, The Black Hawks, and a refined and still immortal Vandal Savage form a new team of super heroes on one of the fifty two parallel universes that exist in DC comics.

This golden age planet Earth, numbered Earth 40 – with technology, fashion, and popular culture references from the 1940’s and 1950’s – is under attack from invaders. A less refined and dangerous Vandal Savage is travelling across the multiverse, invading different Earths as he sees fit.

The comic book delves into themes about the costs of war and violence. The Atom reflects about the costs of using his Iron Monroe technique, the “Atomic Fist”, to kill the monster Blockbuster – he has crossed his principals at great cost. Artwork choices show clear and strong character design. Monsters in particular look fearsome. A skeletal Parallax torments the Atom and fights Abin Sur.

This comic book is one part in a segment of a larger story arc, which when fitted together, would show off characters and super heroes from across the previous seven decades.