New Avengers #29 – Comic Review

With a close watch on Reed Richards, themes of loss and emptiness appear in a comic that builds toward Secret Wars. New Avengers #29 offers:

  • Large foreshadowing toward future Marvel events
  • Panel choices that show depth. References to Blankness throughout the artwork.
  • Themes of loss and emptiness built from Reed Richards actions and emotions combined with artwork choices.

This Review Contains Spoilers for New Avengers #29

White Gravestones, an empty, cube shaped prison cell, and an abandoned empty universe appear. Panel choices for the scenes where Doctor Doom explores the empty universe are effective.

It’s only a short panel, but Reed Richards and T’Challa standing in front of white gravestones, a field that expands far away in front of them with rows of perfect white blocks, strikes a bleak moment for the characters. Placing this panel at the start of the page sets the tone: sterile, pared down to colourless emptiness.

Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four appears often throughout this comic. In several long scenes, he answers the question: what chance have the heroes of Earth have against the multiverse collapsing from Incursions?.

Doctor Doom also makes a key appearance. Bleak and white images introduced into the artwork early in the comic, associated with Reed Richards, appear again, but associated with Doctor Doom.

The two men are rivals, and this artwork choice links them together.

Panel choices for the scenes containing Doctor Doom capture a sense of depth. Doom and the Molecule Man descend into the depths of an abandoned, blank, and empty universe In this scene. They search for the source of the Incursions.

Reed Richards is the main character of this comic. The most affecting scene flashes back to his last attempt to save the Marvel Universe, and the memory of almost losing his son Franklin Richards.

In front of the gravestones, Richards says “There’s not much else left” when he and the Black Panther count their remaining friends, and remember the fallen. Last issue advanced Black Panther’s story. This issue sheds light on what Mr. Fantastic has been planning, and what he has been with and planned for confronting the incursions.

Incursions are two parallel universes colliding. The point of the collision is Earth. Richards has tried many stratagems against this universal catastrophe. The price he paid to stop the universe tearing itself down through collisions plays out in New Avengers #30.

The most affecting scene depicts a recent event, where Richards and his son – Franklin Richards – attempt to create a new earth to escape to. The attempt did not work, and Franklin’s life was threatened in the process.

It’s possible that Franklin attempted to recruit his latent, reality changing powers, and create a new planet to safeguard everyone from the Incursions.

Franklin was gravely injured, possible almost killed, by the attempt. Richards shuts his eyes at the memory of almost losing his son. These four panels show Reeds’ descent into the blank, emotionally blank state he remains in during New Avengers #30.

Blank spaces culminate into themes of loss and emptiness. The blankness foreshadows the future of the Marvel Universe, and points toward Reed Richards emotional state. He is a super hero character at his lowest point, having faced the most untenable circumstances. What happens beyond this state is approaching in Secret Wars

There’s a culmination of the blankness shown in two instances throughout the comic on these final pages. By focusing on Reed Richards near loss of part of his family, and Doctor Doom descending into a blank, quiet universe, the themes of loss and emptiness become clear.

Early in the comic, a literal loss happens, when Tony Stark is gone from his cell. The blank, white square shape is empty of it’s contents.

Images like this in the artwork, combined with the gravestones, and the empty universe that Doctor Doom visits – where the white panels on the page create more empty squares – all add to the theme.

Adding this theme to the comic foreshadows approaching events in the Marvel Universe. Specifically, the Secret Wars, and what might follow afterwards.

Apart from this large foreshadowing of an approaching blank state for the Marvel Universe, associating the images with Reed Richards comment on what results from a character losing what he cares about: the Earth, his friends in the Illuminati and SHIELD, and his family. The Avengers and New Avengers comics have focused on what happens to heroes when the circumstances become untenable, and their values are pushed aside. Richards is facing the brink – the lowest point – now. What happens beyond that is approaching, but in Marvel comics being published in 2015.

New Avengers #29 is published by Marvel comics ($3.99 USD). Jonathan Hickman (W.) Kev Walker (P.) Kev Walker and Scott Hanna (I.) Frank Martin (C.) VC’s Joe Caramagna (L.) Cover artwork by G. Dell’Otto.

The Amazing Spider-Man #1 – Comic Review

In a comic book filled with several stories, Peter Parker makes a bright and brash return to the Marvel Universe.

What The Amazing Spider-Man #1 offers:

  • Artwork that makes use of perspective – close and long distance artwork – and builds tension across panels.
  • Humor and Banter between characters makes the comic entertaining.
  • Rated T for teen readers, some of the content is not suitable for younger readers, with Spider-man‘s costume dissolved and medium violence.
  • A short, three page comic called “How My Stuff Works” included that is pitched at younger readers
  • Themes of renewed  life.

This Review covers the story “Lucky to be Alive”, which is the first, and longest, of the Spider-man stories within the comic book.

Early pages use gold light effectively. The artwork eases transitions between scenes, captures movement, and guides readers past the consequences of Superior Spider-Man

Art found on the first page recaptures the art of the 1960’s Spider-man comics. Scenes are recreated in detail and cast in a warm, gold light. It’s a tone that implies good memories of times gone by.

Later, as the artwork shifts to the present day, where plot threads are picked up: Scenes that move rapidly from close up perspectives to long range capture the debris leftover from Superior Spider-Man’s conclusion. It’s a bit bewildering early on. Close ups build tension and capture movement across panels, however. Clear artwork with great use of full page work make these transitions flow with ease.

Peter’s body shape seems to be rendered in a different size and shape compared to earlier stories. There’s something older about his face also. The war of minds between Parker and Otto Octavius has taxed Spider-Man’s health. The pencil work, and inking depict an older and slightly thinner man.

Characters banter and the sense of humor in this comic are first class. Peter returns to new responsibilities, and a new thread is woven into the Spider-man mythos

Readers looking for answers (how did Peter return? What about the Avengers?) might find the large scale text difficult to read through. The comic opens with a calm tone, however. Answers unfold slowly. Marvel comics deftly weaves a new thread into the Spider-man myth: another person received a radioactive spider bite from the same spider that bit Parker. She wears an ankle bracelet with a tiny, green crescent moon attached.

One Page in this comic is devoted to J. Jonah Jameson. It’s like a miniature, one page version of J. Jonah Jameson’s own comic. The character is large and loud enough that this page feels like a miniature comic of its own.

The humor and smart remarks between characters in this issue is first class. Banter between villains White Rabbit and the villain formerly know as Gypsy Moth – now called “Skein” – is excellent. They argue over the need for a ‘motif’: an animal theme in this case.

One hard fact remains. After Otto Octavius finished being a Superior Spider-man, his reputation as a friendly hero was warped into a dictatorial commander complete with thugs and giant stomping robots.

A large theme of returning to life – resurrection – appears. Spider-man’s costume damage is a plot point, and represents his tarnished reputation.

There’s a theme of returning to life – Peter’s return is somewhat of a resurrection. White Rabbit’s appearance prompts one character to make an Easter reference. Since Easter is a festival that celebrates renewed life, it makes sense to add this theme to Peter Parker’s return.

Spider-man’s loss of costume raises several points:  The damaged suit, unraveled, makes a point of Peter’s damaged reputation and identity. No costume emphasises Spider-Man’s vulnerability. He’s emerged into a dangerous new world.

His disrobing also plays into the plot effectively. Spider Woman sees footage of “Skein” attacking Peter on a live television feed. She believes that Spider-man has run into such bad luck for this to happen, that there is no way he is a dictator or commander any longer.

The plot point also reveals a closer relationship with Anna Maria Marconi – a science student Otto Octavius dated while in control of Spider-man’s body. Marconi recognises Peter is Spider-man when she spots freckles on his stomach normally concealed by the red and blue costume.

A popular culture reference: A passerby on the street references Miley Cyrus when Spider-Man’s costume is destroyed by the “Skein”. She compares Spider-Man to Miley Cyrus from her “Wrecking Ball” music video.

The Amazing Spider-man #1 is published by Marvel Comics ($5.99 USD). Dan Slott (W.) Humberto Ramos (P.) Victor Olazaba (I.) Edgar Delgado (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover Artwork by Humberto Ramos.

Superior Spider-Man #30 – Comic Review

Superior Spider-man #30 reaches the summit of a long running story arc. Peter Parker’s character is depicted from a new point of view.

I’ve written before about Superior Spider-Man. First in a review of issue #18, and later again on issue #26. If you are not up to date on the current plot, the opening paragraph of the second review has a summary of the current problems facing Spider-man.

What Superior Spider-man #30 offers:

  • Artwork depicting milestones in Spider-man history.
  • Consistent use of broken bonds builds themes of breaking out, and escape.
  • A major turning point in the Superior Spider-man story arc.

A large splash page shows off a turning point – Parker reclaims all his lost memories – in addition to artwork milestones from decades past.

A great moment for the comic book art occurs at the halfway point. I mentioned previously that Peter Parker forced his way out of a trap set by Otto Octavius (The villain Doctor Octopus – think mechanical arms and goggles).

A two page splash page shows off Peter in his blue and red costume. He remembers who he is. All his lost and scattered memories back in order. Pencils, inks, and colours mesh together. A web patter fills the background. The web creates a grid. within each cell of the grid, is a reprint of past artwork. Artwork that has defined Spider-man comic books spanning past decades receives acknowledgement.

In a place called “The Mindscape” Parker overcomes the last fragments of a trap. Otto Octavius expresses some startling and new insights. The Avengers also appear briefly.

Despite his arrogance and bluster, Otto Octavius takes a huge step in an unexpected direction. What’s unusual, I thought, was an arch villain in popular culture admitting that they have failed to achieve their plans, without moving blame to a meddlesome hero.

The comic book investigates Peter Parker’s character. I mentioned that Peter Parker struggles to regain control of his body. These struggles of the mind take place inside “The Mindscape”.

A quiet, green coloured place that represents the mind currently shared by Peter Parker and Otto Octavius. Here, Parker relieves the brutal and violent memories of Doctor Octopus. A trap where the memories replay in loops, with Parker in the starring role.

When Parker finally frees himself from the last bonds of this trap, the deeper investigation into his character begins.

Otto makes more admissions. He is arrogant because he knows about his flaws. Low self esteem leads to over compensation.

Now two minds share one body. When faced with each other, Octavius implores Parker:

“You’re guilt-ridden because, deep down, you know you are smarter than than others. Better. But it comes at a painful  price. You sabotage yourself…you must accept that you are superior.”

Parker’s talents, his intelligence and skills, combined with his bravery, receives some attention. This is a step in a new direction: traditionally, Spider-man comics focus on what  Parker fails to achieve, rather than his potential, and his strengths.

Marvels’s Avengers return for a few pages. The harsh judgment on Captain America’s face speaks about the approaching consequences the Superior Spider-man will face when this fight is over. That is, if he can defeat the Green Goblin. And the army of Goblin soldiers and anarchists.

A theme supported by consistent references is the breaking of bonds and ties. Breaking out is a large, overarching theme for this comic

Breaking ties, or things unraveling appear repeatedly throughout this comic. Ropes and webs fray. Wires, machines, and even aggreements made between people are torn up and thrown out. This unraveling repeatedly lays down a larger theme: Breaking bonds and broken ties.

Unfortunately, New York itself slides toward chaos. Fires burn, and goblins storm the city.  Rules of law and order that kept the streets relatively free of violence and danger are broken and burned away.

Alongside the city breaking down, characters within the city express comments about breaking or destroying things consistently throughout the issue. The Spider-man of 2099 breaks down a fleet of robots by targeting their weak points. Liz Allen severs all ties with New York Mayor, J. Jonah Jameson. A young girl named Amy Chen is freed from ropes that bind her.

Breaking out of bonds consistently reappears. And for good reason.

Superior Spider-man #30 offers readers a big, Spider-man event. Without plot spoilers, themes building for several issues pay-off here.

A popular culture reference appears early in the comic when the Green Goblin imitates the scene from The Wizard of OZ where The Witch of the West taunts Dorothy with an image of Auntie Em in her crystal globe.

Superior Spider-man #30 is published by Marvel Comics ($3.99 USD). Dan Slott & Christos Gage(W.) Giuseppe Camuncoli (P.) john Dell & Terry Pallot (I.) Antonio Fabela (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover Artwork by Giuseppe Camuncoli.

Hawkeye #17 – Comic Review

There is sense of humor that, alongside the art, shapes Hawkeye #17 into something special. Unusual art choices merge with a winter-time story about one super heroic archer’s inner fears, thoughts, and desires.

After the Hawkeye story is over, editor Sana Amanat talks about the reasons behind such an abstract and ironic story. Hawkeye has tied itself to real-life disasters before. After taking a shot at Hurricane Sandy, This issue sets its sights on another wild weather disaster: Snowstorms.

That’s why Winter, snow, and ice all feature prominently. This comic takes a moment to reflect on how Hawkeye himself is affected by snowstorms based on the weather plaguing the United States.

The short answer is, it affects his dreams.

Amanat states at the end of the editorial: “I’d love to hear you guys interpretations of what this comic was about”

Here’s mine: The story is Clint Barton’s inner turmoil – everything his character has anxieties about – blitzed together with the content of a Christmas and/or winter-time cartoon.

What appears simple on the surface is far more complex. The comic book gives readers another glimpse into this super heroes thoughts, memory, pain, and worries.

What Hawkeye #17 offers:

  • Entertaining, ironic, and deeply enjoyable humor
  • Themes of isolation
  • A look into a one super-heroes dreams and fears
  • Ideas and insight into winter festivals and holidays other than Christmas

A Bright colour palette and straight forward pencils and ink build lifelike and expressive characters. The art brings the reader into Clint Barton’s dreams.

A fun, winter festival of ice skating and snowball fights are quickly placed in jeopardy. Mister Sun – the King of Summer – arrives to put an abrupt end to Winter and fun. The art for this scene, and the vast majority of the comic, displays a bright colour palette and uncomplicated lines.

Though stright forward, the lines pencil and ink lines that make up these characters are lifelike and expressive. Mostly, animals are depicted. Few humans appear. The twist that adds layers to the art and story is the animals are inspired by real people.

Clint Barton dreams. During these dreams, family, friends, and avengers merge together with cute, cartoon animals. It’s interesting to see that way Clint’s imagination and subconscious renders those close to him.

And how he sees his enemies. And how he sees himself.

Strong Humor comes from Steve the dog – Hawkeye’s heroic cartoon persona. Mister Sun points out Hawkeye’s key anxiety.

There are some great quotes from Hawkeye #17. Clint takes on the role of Steve the dog – a hero in this animated adventure – and interacts with other characters such as Lily the little dog, and Mister Sun.

For example:

“Oh! Hey Steve! Aren’t you going to join us at our festival to celebrate all multi-denomenational pantheistic all-inclusive seasonal festivals…?”

Lilly the dog, to Steve the dog.

And in addition:

“Hey Mister Sun, the jerk store faxed, and they don’t like you at all!”

-Steve the dog, to Mister Sun, the King of Summer.

At no point is the word “Christmas” used. Instead, the comic book makes a point of acknowledging half a dozen other religious festivals that take place close to the date of Decmeber 25thm which is why the long phrase “multi-denomenational pantheistic all-inclusive seasonal festival” appears.

The quotes above illustrate the great sense of humor. The second also leads into a key character moment: Hawkeye – as Steve the dog – faces off against Mister Sun. This is where his self-belief receives a challenge. The question he is asking himself in this dream: If you don’t have any powers or abilities, why do you hang out with the Avengers?

Hawkeye struggles with the fear that having friends and family represents a liability villains could use against him. Themes of isolation appear.

Mister Sun spouts harsh criticism at Clint: “You have no powers” “nobody really likes you”. The sun embodies all the critical voices in Clint’s life. it represents possibly harsh truths he dose not want to face, and his fears of the villains attacking as soon as the snow clears.

Summer brings the end of winter. But what happens after winter is bad news for Hawkeye.

The end of winter brings with it the coming of the Mafia – villains called the “Tracksuit Vampires”. The end of winter brings further battles that risk the lives of everyone Hawkeye wants to protect: not just Kate Bishop, Spider Woman, Mocking Bird, his brother Barney, and Black Widow.

In Hawkeye’s dream, Steve the dog repeatedly says he can save winter all by himself. He craves isolation. Through Steve, Clint Barton’s fear that villains will use his friends to attack him, and his desire to protect his family and community, becomes clear.

Hawkeye #17 is published by Marvel Comics ($3.99 USD). Matt Fraction (W.) David Aja & Chris Eliopoulos (A.) Joride Bellaire (C.) Cover Artwork by David Aja

Cover artwork from the blog of David Aja: http://blog.davidaja.com/

Easter update – Uncanny Avengers.

Easter preparations – namely making chocolate eggs –  has taken time away from my regular comic reading. I thought I would make at least a few Easter eggs inspired by characters from comics. I chose Marvel’s Uncanny Avengers.

Tomorrow, as another Easter Special, I have an a special review planned – Saga Volume 1, which collects Saga #1-6, and I have been looking forward to reading Saga for a while now.

Uncanny Avengers Easter Eggs

To be honest, I had considered dropping Uncanny Avengers  from my weekly list of comics. I plan to go into more detail in a future post, however, I decided to pick up Uncanny Avengers #5 this week. I was happy to see the return of The Wasp. Like many superheroes, the Wasp was presumed deceased fighting off a villain, but later turned out to have survived.

I’m a fan of her character’s approach to being a super hero:  Wasp changes her costume design often, and does not shy away from meeting people while she does regular super hero work of saving lives and preventing disasters.

I made three different flavoured eggs for my three favorite Uncanny Avengers members: Scarlet Witch and Rogue, and The Wasp.

Wasp‘s egg is honeycomb flavoured. Scarlet Witch‘s egg has red, Cherry Ripe centre. Rogue‘s egg has a green and white peppermint fondant filling.

Uncanny Avengers Easter Eggs

The Honeycomb Eggs is inspired by the Wasp, while the Cherry Ripe egg and green and white peppermint egg are inspired by the Scarlet Witch and Rogue respectively.

Marvel Comic’s website has more information and full character profiles on the Uncanny Avengers, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, and The Wasp.

Comics Review – Earth 2 #10.

If not for some solid art, and the scenes of Alan Scott picking through awkward social hoops – meeting Mr. Zhao, the father of his deceased and sadly missed boyfriend Sam Zhao – and waging an emotion fueled assault on what resembles a Yakuza casino, James Robinson’s and Nicola Scott’s Earth 2 would have been a dialog-heavy let down and a drudge to read. This comic is thankfully bringing the world of Earth #2 back to a high standard of storytelling.

Earth 2 #10

Wotan is a new villain, who establishes a sense of villainy by threatening the mother of super fast super hero The FlashJay Garrick. Jay does not ordinarily fight crime with his mother. Mrs. Garrick was abducted by Wotan. She is a hostage. Wotan’s goal is to coerce Jay and occult researcher, Khalid Ben-Hussin, into retrieving a powerful magic artefact called the Helmet of Nabu from the eldritch Tower of Fate.

Wotan has an interesting appearance: a villain seemingly created through the amalgamation of The Avengers villain Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), and the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. Wotan talks far too much. Panels are cluttered with Wotan’s monologue , and no character may interrupt Wotan for long.

The most frustrating part of this comic is that the heroes are either too emotional to deal with Wotan, or too inexperienced: this means that there is no one capable of making Wotan stop talking, and that’s the real problem.

I mentioned an artefact called the Helmet of Nabu. This is a gold helmet worn by golden age hero Doctor Fate. It seems Khalid has been selected to become the new Doctor Fate.

I thought that having access to this power, Khalid would choose to stop Wotan from pushing around young super heroes and their mothers. Unfortunately, the character drags his feet as he fears his immense powers, and the pace of the first half of the comic suffers as a result.

Khalid’s anxiety and fear has dropped him into a depression. Considering he is an expert in occult studies and ancient Lore, the question to ask is why would he shirk the power of a wizard? He is thrown into the tower of fate with Jay, eventually, and the art in the following pages makes up for the excessive emotions.

Panel arrangement rules change as Nicola Scott plays with time and space across the page. Scott has captured the meaninglessness of time and space inside the tower, as it spirals and tricks the eye like the M.C. Esher painting Relativity. Playing with unusual spaces and warped time works well, and is wonderful art.

The Green Lantern returns, and makes ammends with a character he wronged in the past – he admits he was wrong and apologies, showing key character development. Finally, we are shown that Khalid has some personal demons to overcome. Earth 2 #10 is a step back in the right direction.

Earth 2 #10 is published by DC Comics