A-Force #1 – Comic Review

Arcadia is one city under the power of Doctor Doom’s Battleworld. She Hulk’s team, The A-force, face power questions and mysteries that clash with their convictions. A-Force #1 offers:

  • Artwork that builds a great setting, and shows off flight scenes.
  • A diverse cast that handles power – changing power, and real versus imagined power
  • Themes of friendship, and questions of who holds power in Battleworld

A flight scene opens the comic. A-Force fly over the idealistic city of Arcadia. An attack from a giant Shark escalates into a fight scene. The final scenes slow down the pace at night, with a lighthouse over a dark sea.

Architecture choices cause Arcadia to feel like an idealistic city. Red roofs and domes invoke Italian cities like Florence and Venice. Alongside this centre, motifs of 1960’s American towns, and Farmers Markets held under tree lined lane ways complete the backdrop that the A-Force flies over in the opening pages. The superheroes are suspended, flying across a large scale image of Arcadia. Captain Marvel in red, gold, and blue looks up at the sky. Miss America and Nico fly alongside Pixie, and the sparkling Dazzler.

Later, a shark the size of truck launches itself from the ocean. A megalodon. The prehistoric shark aggressively attacks Arcadia.

The epilogue of the first issue of A-Force winds down the action with a slower pace. On a cape by the sea is a lighthouse. It’s called Bishop Lighthouse. Nico (Sister Grimm), waits here for America. The panels move from moment to moment as Nico steadies herself, and then happens to glance up at the sky.

Dazzler and Miss America show contrasting views in the battle against the Megalodon. Against the laws put in place by Doctor Doom, She Hulk has power, but not enough.

Dazzler is concerned that the Megalodon might be the last of it’s kind. She considers biodiveristy while rescuing citizens from harm. In contrast, Miss America calls the creature “Sharknado” and uses her super strength to throw the Megalodon away from Arcadia. She whispers “Nobody tell P.E.T.A”. That was rash. Impulsive use of super-human strength does not end well.

Stephen Strange resides inside an interesting, new power structure. At the head of the structure sits Doctor Doom. Battleworld has laws created by Doom, and enforced by Strange – the Sheriff. Inside this vast, planet sized kingdom, Arcadia is just one of several cities. Miss America tossed the Shark out of Arcadia. It grazes Doctor Doom’s wall. He calls it the Shield Wall. Without it, monsters and villains from the Marvel Universe would invade Battleworld.

For this crime, Miss America is banished to work on the Shield Wall.

She Hulk tries to make a case against Strange’s ruling, but his law is absolute. She Hulk carries the rank of Baroness, and protects Arcadia. Despite her convictions, and belief that America deserves another chance, Strange tells her to follow the law to the letter.

Friendship and Power stand out as large themes here. The question that emerges – if all authority flows back to Doctor Doom, then the power each Baron and Baroness has is not real. More mysteries emerge when Nico waits under the lighthouse.

Friendship between the A-force team remains a core and defining part of their identity. Without America, Loki and Nico stand inconsolable. Nico’s rage at She-Hulk vibrates off the page. Later, she waits under a lighthouse. America might spot the light in the darkness, and fly home. This is how strong the connection between these heroes remains.

Power, particular what is inside and outside a person’s power plays out close to the end of the comic book. Despite her rank and position as leader of A-Force, She Hulk is powerless against the Sheriff’s decision. This asks the question – what is real power in Battleworld? If all those in charge must take orders from the Doom, then there is no real authority.

Medusa comments that balancing what’s best for Arcadia, and the will of Doctor Doom is a tightrope. Really, it looks more like a one-way street. She Hulk resolves to start solving the mystery of where the Megalodon came from. More mysteries emerge when Nico glances at the sky. A new character to the Marvel universe lands in Arcadia.

A-Force #1 is published by Marvel Comics (USD $3.99) Marguerite Bennet & G. Willow Wilson (W.) Jorge Molina (A.) Jorge Molina Craig Yueng (I.) Laura Martin Matt Milla (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover artwork by Cheung and Martin.

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Avengers #40 – Comic Review

Black Panther has a long running legacy as King of Wakanda. In the Illuminati, he found both allies and enemies. This comic brings together a key set of plotlines running through Marvels’ Avengers comics.

This review contains spoilers for issue #40 of Avengers: key character interactions. Avengers #40 offers:

  • Thoughtful art choices and panel arrangements
  • Key character deveopments for the long running Avengers comics under the Marvel Now tag
  • Value placed in keeping principals despite circumstances becoming near-untennable

The blue lights of the Incursions events appear, and villains are appear with strong lettering and detail. Panels toward the end of the issue are thoughtful, and push the story forward to its conclusion.

Expansive blue light fills most of this issue. Blue colour has a special significance. It marks a type of incursion. Rapid atrophy of the multiverse brought on by two identical Earths colliding with each other are either red or blue coloured. Villains such as Proxima Midnight, Black Swan, and Thanos appear in this comic. Lettering and penciling artwork depicts these formidable characters in detail.

Strong artwork appears in the final sections of the comic.

Blackbolt speaks loudly. The force of his voice sends Namor flying off a platform. The art in the following scenes are emotional. Panels of equal size, dividing the page into a grid, break up the page. Each panel flashes between Namor and Black Panther, pushing everything forward to the final two pages.

Black Panther receives key character development. The endgame in chess from the beginning of the comic plays out toward the end.

There’s a legacy played out in this comic. A knife – Wakandan weaponry – is handed down from Black Panther, to Black Panther. The blade moves in and out of T’Challa’s (Black Panther himself) possession. Eventually, the knife gains a purpose more than legacy. T’Challa’s character grows in this issue. A plan he has put into place for a long time – a fragile plan that might fall down if variable do not work – comes together.

A quote from Doctor Doom on the endgame in chess placed in the opening pages plays out as T’Challa’s plan reaches its end. The final two pages fullfills the premise put into place by quoting Doom.

Other interesting character moments are Beast finding a new lesson to teach Cannonball and Sunspot – both former students, and Captain America growning weary with the Illuminati making plans around him and his team of SHIELD/Avengers heroes.

It’s not a spoiler to state the Three Kings (Namor, Black Bolt, and Black Panther) all play a key role in the comic’s finale. A comment is made: Characters who keep values in place, and those that don’t are contrasted.

Doctor Doom says “Once you know what your opponent is capable of, you can manipulate the board to engineer a successful endgame. A successful endgame is two strategies rolled into one. First, you show them what they guessed might have been coming. And then…you show them what they didn’t”.

T’challa showed Namor what was coming – a blade directed at him in revenge for the war Atlantis unleashed on Wakanda. What he did not know was coming, was a third king arriving. Black Bolt’s support of Black Panther against Namor tips the scales.

The plan Black Panther used, which Namor expected, was to trap the Cabal in a doomed universe, which was about to collide with the mainstream, Marvel Universe Earth (an incursion event). Through a contrast between Captain America and the Illuminati, the comic values perseverance, and keeping principals in place despite circumstances changing. Namor abandoned any code or ethics in an effort to save the Earth from repeated incursions. That plot line is brought down, to it’s eventual end.

Avengers #40 is published by Marvel comics ($4.99 USD). Jonathan Hickman (W.) Stefano Caselli (P.) Frank Martin (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover artwork by D. Keown and J. Keith.

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.

Avengers #34.1 – Comic Review

A short story about the hero Hyperion has the character questioning his purpose, and finding the beginnings of answers. Avengers #34.1 offers:

  • Artwork that ranges from microscopic worlds, to a view of the Earth from orbit
  • A super hero – Hyperion – who questions his purpose, and shows several values within the scope of the short story.
  • Values such as responsibility, resilience, truth, and care for small actions appear.

Views of drifting white clouds and continents appear as the powerful hero Hyperion stares down at the Earth. His magnification vision plays a key role in the comic book artwork.

The comic artwork ranges from close settings inside a pickup truck interior, and a family living room, all the way to the outer atmosphere of the earth. Views of drifting white clouds and continents in green and sandy yellow appear as the powerful hero Hyperion looks down.

Magnification appears as another artistic point. Hyperion uses his telescopic vision to greatly magnify flecks of dust and skin cells to analyse DNA.

In contrast, a ruthless villain called the Mauler unleashes a series of energy attacks – a sonic cannon and a ground-to-air missile. Energy beams of white and orange fire flood the panels where Mauler attempts to slow down Hyperion. The immense and unstoppable powerhouse is undeterred by Mauler’s attacks. It’s fitting the all artwork for Hyperion in this issue show him standing upright, with strong poster, and a set, determined facial expression – resilient.

Hyperion might appear to be a copy of a Super hero template planted in Popular Culture decades ago, but the character tells a story with large and strong themes like responsibility, guardianship, and the ordinary vs. the extraordinary.

If Superman can be placed at the centre of a large map, with all other different super heroes branching out from his first appearance, Hyperion would be found close to the centre, nearby the Man of Steel.

Readers might classify Hyperion as a Superman copy: another invulnerable, flying costumed man with a bright colour scheme. The comic does not address the questions of Hyperion’s inspirations – although it does distinctly ask: what is his purpose? Is he just a power fantasy or a revenge fantasy without any use?

The fact remains, that Hyperion is a character with a broad set of abilities – with such power and invulnerability, his character can explore large themes like parenthood, guardianship, responsibility, and the ordinary vs. extraordinary.

There is a great discussion about the value of a super hero in the face of environmental problems and climate change. Hyperion asks himself if he really can make a difference saving small lives in the face of such a complex ecosystem as an entire planet.

The bigger question the comic asks of super heroes like Hyperion – Are you actually a teacher? And what lessons do you have?

Hyperion is still trying to find an answer to why he is here on Earth – Through his actions, resilience, truth, and an ability to see value in small actions are valued.

It’s not entirely clear if what lessons Hyperion has to teach; it’s more clear that Hyperion might still be trying to answer those questions himself.

What he can provide is assistance and help. And there is a great discussion of how valuable truth and accuracy are. Resilience in the face of problems that everyday life throws out is also clear from the story – Hyperion does not back down in the face of an all out assault from Mauler – he could attack Mauler instead, but chooses not too. Hyperion solves problems not with force, but by getting to the truth that lies at the core of problems, and things that go wrong.

The story also comes with a reminder to see the value in small actions, which might seem insignificant if approached with the wrong perspective.

Avengers #34.1 is published by Marvel comics ($4.99 USD). Al Ewing (W.) Dale Keown (P.) Norman Lee (I.) Jason Keith (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover artwork by Keown and Keith.