Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man [2015] #15 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 15, September 2016
There can be little doubt that the main reason Issue Fifteen of “The Amazing Spider-Man” saw a circulation rise of over twenty-two thousand copies during July 2016 was due to both Alex Ross’s wonderful cover illustration of fan-favourite Mary Jane Watson as “The New Iron Spider” and the picture’s insinuation that Tony Stark’s latest employee donning the armour was actually “a sign of things to come”. But whilst Dan Slott’s narrative for “Suit Yourself” does deliver upon its promise to depict Stan Lee’s co-creation as Spider-Woman, it is done in such an incredulous manner that it turns what could have been a genuinely tense, thrilling transformation, into little more than a frivolous, gimmicky trick; and one which defies any semblance of logic whatsoever.

Indeed, having repeatedly demonstrated the daunting, apparently unbeatable, might of Regent during his “Power Play” story-arc, the Berkeley-born writer’s decision to have Augustus Roman’s energy-siphoning alter ego bested by someone who “wore an early version of the Iron Man armour once” really must have tested his audience’s patience; especially when her opponent has previously conquered such formidable super-heroes as Thor, Captain America, Hyperion, Iron Man and Daredevil. It certainly seems safe to assume that many readers probably sided with an aghast Jarvis when he exclaims “Madam, with respect, it seems Regent has defeated all the Avengers. This strikes me as suicidal!”

Equally as frustrating as the script’s questionable lucidity however, is the Eisner Award-winner’s decision to relegate this comic’s titular character to simply infiltrating Regent’s state-of-the-art prison, whilst M.J. and Iron Man tackle the main ‘villain of the piece’ in an incredibly well-drawn fast-paced fist-fight. Surely it would have made far more sense to have had the amateur adventuress rescuing Harry Osborn and Miles Morales from the Cellar rather than the book’s main antagonist, who subsequently doesn’t even get to wallop the brains behind Roman’s brawn, Doctor Stillwell; “Guess they don’t like it as much when they get sucker punched.”

Fortunately, what this twenty-page periodical is good at doing is providing a treat for the eyes, courtesy of some terrific artwork by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Capable of pencilling ‘Spider-Woman’ sending Augustus reeling with a surprise sock to the jaw one moment, and then able to heavily populate a panel with less dynamic, yet still engaging, sedentary figures the next, the Italian illustrator arguably imbues even the comic’s less interesting scenes with plenty of life.
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 15 by Alex Ross

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Conan The Slayer #3 - Dark Horse Comics

CONAN THE SLAYER No. 3, September 2016
Predominantly focusing upon the Cimmerian’s captivity within the lair of “a monstrous Sea Troll”, such is Cullen Bunn’s marvellously atmospheric writing for Issue Three of “Conan The Slayer” that it is hard to imagine the vast majority of this twenty-two page periodical’s 8,879 followers actually not smelling “something rotten that had been cast up by the sea” whilst reading the comic book. Indeed, one can almost taste the stinking salty aura of the reeking clam-festooned she-hag who holds the barbarian prisoner before “the croaking, guttural voice” of “Mother” has even been heard, or her ‘terrible countenance’ seen; “What manner of nightmare hellspawn are you?”

Disappointingly however, this pungently disconcerting confrontation, made all the more unnerving by the warty woman’s desire to “breed” with her heavily-muscled prize repeatedly until he lives “long enough to see the sons you sire born”, is frustratingly ruined by the North Carolina-born novelist’s decision to abruptly switch the narrative’s attention away from the squirming warrior’s predicament and instead momentarily centre upon the fate of Conan’s comrades tied up outside. This temporary respite from the skin-crawling machinations of the protagonist’s ‘less than pleasing’ captor is admittedly just as tensely scripted as its predecessor set within ‘ a sea vessel which hasn’t been seaworthy in many years’, especially when three hungry Sea Trolls tell the bound humans they’re next as the monsters hungrily tear great chunks out of a dead horse’s carcass. But the timing of such a gruesome sequence leaves a lot to be desired and perhaps unkindly could be criticised as lazy penmanship on behalf of the GLAAD Media Award-nominee’s part as it allows him to subsequently avoid explaining just how Conan slipped his heavy shackles and “spurned” the “Hagmother’s advances.”

Fortunately, once Robert E. Howard’s creation does re-appear Bunn’s incredibly wordy, yet thoroughly enthralling narrative, certainly picks up pace, and within moments of the unarmed Cimmerian crash-landing onto the beach’s surf, Sergio Davila is dynamically drawing roaring charges, monstrous weapon swings and plenty of severed limbs. In fact, whilst depicting the Barbarian and his friends gorily dispatching the She-Troll’s three formidable-looking sons, the Spanish artist seems to somehow increase the amount of blood on show per panel just as Cullen diminishes their dialogue.
Script: Cullen Bunn, Artist: Sergio Davila, and Colors: Michael Atiyeh

Monday, 31 October 2016

Moon Knight [2016] #6 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT No. 6, November 2016
It is unmistakably clear from Jeff Lemire’s narrative for Issue Six of “Moon Knight” that the “confident” Canadian cartoonist was indubitably trying to pen a script which whilst full of mystery, erred “on the side of intrigue, rather than alienation.” However, although the Joe Schuster Award-winner’s storyline for “Incarnations” does decidedly draw upon “Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz’s original run”, as well as “Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s recent spin on things”, it is doubtful either of the aforementioned creative teams would have been so “popular” if they’d produced so utterly unfollowable a confusing mess as this twenty-page periodical.

Indeed, for many of this comic’s 41,884 followers, the suggestion that “the mummies, Anubis” and everything that has occurred within the title’s preceding five editions has only actually taken place in Marc Spector’s unhinged mind must have proved tremendously frustratingly, especially when the result, as succinctly verbalised by Crawley, is that the titular character is unnervingly “right back where you started” at the beginning of the series.

Admittedly, Lemire does try and suggest that his audience’s time over the past five months hasn’t been entirely wasted by utilising both places and persons made familiar by the former “harrowing quest designed to wear away the last of Marc’s mind”; a technique which allows the Ontario-born writer to even incorporate Mercy Mental Hospital’s sour-humoured goons Bobby and Billy as waiters. But such nods to the five-part long “Welcome To New Egypt” simply makes matters even more befuddling as both Steve Grant and reader alike struggle to work out what is real and more importantly what on Earth is happening. Has the god Khonshu really betrayed his loyal servant? Is the ‘fist’ of the Moon God still trapped within the walls of a mental institution despite previously being portrayed as having “escaped through the subways”? Or are such images merely the schizophrenic delusions of a Manhattan-based movie producer, a taxi-driver called Jake Lockley, and the pilot of a futuristic space-fighter entitled Moon Knight One?

Sadly adding to the incomprehensible insanity of such “Moon Knight madness” is the bravely bizarre decision to utilise Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla and James Stokoe as the book’s illustrators. This innovative approach to the visualisation of Jeff’s tale certainly provides each of the titular character’s personas with their own unique individual look and style. Yet such inconsistent and contrasting artwork repeatedly breaks up the flow of the story, and eventually reaches the point where it becomes disastrously detrimental to the publication’s enjoyment.
The variant cover art of "MOON KNIGHT" No. 6 by Christian Ward

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man [2015] #14 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 14, August 2016
Despite featuring some seriously impressive fist-fights between Regent and a plethora of ‘A-List’ superheroes, such as Captain America, Nova, the Vision and Thor, it’s hard not to feel that Dan Slott’s script for Issue Fourteen of “The Amazing Spider-Man” is an absurdly rushed affair, which deprived many of the book’s 65,646 strong audience with an opportunity to showcase just how truly powerful Augustus Roman’s “seemingly-heroic alter ego” can be. Indeed, in many ways the driving force behind the events explored within this twenty-page periodical could easily have been expanded upon for several more publications, if not as a “Marvel Worldwide” multi-title crossover comic book event, such are the lengths to which the “tech mogul from New York” slowly contains all the “superhuman threats” he encounters and incarcerates them deep inside "The Cellar”.

Unfortunately however, rather than slowly unravelling the supposedly well-meaning machinations of Empire Unlimited’s CEO, the Berkeley-born writer’s narrative for “Avengers Assembled” flies through Regent’s battles so quickly that by the magazine’s end, the defeats of titular characters like Daredevil, or notable X-Men such as Iceman and Quicksilver, aren’t even given any actual ‘screen time’ at all and are simply mentioned as already being held captive inside the “maximum security prison for super criminals.” Such frustrating pacing really does increasingly grate upon the senses, especially when the Diamond Gem Award-winner insists on additionally cramming in scenes depicting Tony Stark visiting the parents of Miles Morales, Aunt May disconcertingly coughing up blood at Jay Jameson’s Penthouse, and Harry Osborn’s overly long meeting with Roman to discuss a business proposition.

As a result, the long-anticipated confrontation between Spider-Man and his power-mimicking opponent woefully lasts just three disappointing pages in length, and even then Web-head has to partially share the ‘limelight’ with the (not so) invincible Iron Man. Little wonder that at the comic’s conclusion a victorious Regent boastfully declares that “I am power incarnate! I am the only saviour Humanity needs!” After all, in the space of just a single book he has apparently bested the strongest superheroes the Marvel Universe has to offer…

Happily, not everything to do with Slott’s third instalment of his “Power Play” storyline is quite so rushed as the writing, with Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils proving to be both delightfully clean-looking and dynamically-drawn. In fact, the Italian artist’s renderings of Nova, Thor, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man, along with his ability to increasingly add menace to the figure of an aggressive Augustus, are worth the cover price alone, even if his sketches of a bare-headed Iron Man leave a lot to be desired.
Writers: Dan Slott & Christos Gage, Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Inker: Cam Smith

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man [2015] #13 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 13, August 2016
Undoubtedly tapping into Dan Slott’s pre-publication promise that the American author was penning a “massive, seismic shift in Spidey’s world”, the plot for Issue Thirteen of “The Amazing Spider-Man” still takes an incredibly long time to ‘warm up’ and arguably doesn’t actually start ‘delivering the goods’ until Regent challenges Miles Morales, “the all-new and equally amazing Spider-Man”, two-thirds of the way through the comic. In fact, for the best part of this twenty-page periodical, the Berkeley-born writer’s narrative undoubtedly had its 65,519 strong audience experiencing déjà vu of the worst kind, by simply regurgitating the tediously juvenile ‘Wall-crawler verses Golden Avenger' quips and antics of the previous edition; “…I’m just saying, when Parker Industries crashes, I’m here for you Web-head. Yeah. You could work for me.” Little wonder perhaps that the title plummeted from tenth position to thirty-ninth in the “Diamond Comic Distributors” comic book sales chart for June 2016…

Fortunately however, the tone to the Eisner Award-winners’ storyline matures beyond recognition once “the enigmatic Regent” finally takes centre stage and launches a ‘sneak attack’ upon Peter Parker’s “very own protégée” at a “secluded spot.” Billed by Slott as “it’s Spider-Man verses Darkseid, it’s Spider-Man verses Thanos”, Augustus Roman’s formidable power is actually firmly established straight from this magazine’s opening, when the so-called self-proclaimed “saviour of Humanity” effortlessly ‘takes out’ the gigantic Homo Mermanus, Orka, an Atlantean soldier who has previously faced the Avengers, within the space of a single page.

Such an impressive display of the “unusual” villain’s indomitable strength definitely helps achieve Dan’s goal of depicting a foe well outside of Spider-Man’s “weight class”, and it is hard not to believe that the majority of this title’s readers didn’t feel that Morales’ confrontation with the super-powered CEO of Empire Unlimited was disconcertingly reminiscent of David and Goliath. It’s certainly not surprising that such a “mismatch” results in Regent dispatching the spider–powered “child” even faster than he did Prince Namor’s long-time nemesis.

All of this “Civil War Re-enactment” action, be it Parker and Iron Man’s verbal/physical sparring, Betty Brant’s realisation that Roman is “totally Regent”, or Augustus’ bone-crunching blows, is crisply illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Indeed, the Italian artist’s depiction of the comic’s oversized antagonist is so impressive that it is hard not to hear the impacts of the character’s thunderous punches or feel the actual vibration of his heavy ponderous footfalls.
Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Inker: Cam Smith

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Amazing X-Men #10 - Marvel Comics

AMAZING X-MEN No. 10, October 2014
Containing plenty of action-packed dramatics, such as a seemingly one-sided battle between Rockslide and a Wendigo-infected Wolverine, in addition to some extensive cameos by the Avengers and Doctor Strange, it’s probably hard to imagine that the majority of this comic’s 36,405 readers weren’t satisfied with Craig Kyle and Chris Yost’s co-writing for Issue Ten of “Amazing X-Men”. Indeed, this furiously-paced third instalment to their “World War Wendigo!” narrative even goes so far as to feature a much-anticipated appearance by the (original) Alpha Flight members Guardian, Snowbird, Aurora and Sasquatch. Yet, for all the penning pair’s plans to make the much beloved characters within this twenty-page periodical “shine”, the disconcertingly haphazard nature of the collaborative creative team’s choppy storytelling arguably leads to a good deal of confusion as to just when within the plot’s timeline the depicted events actually take place and dispels much of the magic “the great hook” of a Wendigo plague creates.

So confusingly cluttered a chronology proves particularly painful on account of the comic’s promisingly explosive beginning, which depicts an exhausted and badly-beaten Northstar impotently staring up from the bottom of a crater at “some foul-smelling monster[s]” waiting to be eaten alive along with an unconscious young girl he was apparently trying to rescue. This thoroughly-enthralling splash illustration would arguably instantly draw any perusing bibliophile into the book, but it is then disconcertingly followed by an entirely different battle sequence involving a much-more formidable-looking Jean-Paul Beaubier “twenty minutes earlier…”

Admittedly these subsequent panels at least provide some explanation as to how the super-fast mutant came to be flying with a child in his arms, but disappointingly they are almost immediately replaced by a mass exodus of citizens across the U.S./Canada Border and then just as fleetingly abrupt, a trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Stephen Strange in Green Village, New York; “This is distasteful… It feels like retreat.” In fact, events don’t seem to really catch-up to the present day until halfway through the magazine, and then James MacDonald Hudson confuses the continuum once more by ‘flashbacking’ to a time when Shaman was able to trace the outbreak to “a meat packing plant [that] distributed tainted meat across the region.”

Such peaks and troughs within the comic’s plotting is, sorrowfully, mirrored by the inconsistent breakdowns of Carlo Barberi and Iban Coello, which prove wonderfully dynamic one moment and then amateurishly poor the next. It’s certainly hard to become enthralled in so irregular a tale when popular super-heroes like Sasquatch and Captain America are noticeably different in physical appearance dependent upon which artist has drawn them…
Writers: Craig Kyle & Chris Yost, and Pencilers: Carlo Barberi & Iban Coello

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

James Bond #10 - Dynamite Entertainment

JAMES BOND No. 10, September 2016
Hand-picked by the Fleming Estate to be the writer for this “ongoing spy thriller comic book series” it is clear from the British operative's ruthless killing of his foes deep inside an underground steam locomotive station that Warren Ellis’ incarnation of the titular character for Issue Ten of “James Bond” is arguably the “purest crystallization” of the fictional secret agent “since the original novels”. However even the franchise’s most ardent followers must surely have felt that the Eagle Award-winner’s depiction of 007 seemingly enjoying skinning a captive Gareth Cullen with a Stanley knife in order to “make nice chamois leather rags to polish our cars with” was taking the cold-blooded intelligence officer’s callousness a little too far. Certainly the torturous scene, graphically illustrated by Jason Masters and laden with (gallows) humour as Tanner complains about getting “all the blood out from my nails”, would seem more appropriate behaviour for one of the Secret Serviceman’s sadistic arch-villains rather than the title’s heroic lead?

Sadly, such a disconcertingly memorable sequence is also this magazine’s only real glimpse of “Jimmy” in action, not counting his ‘head shot’ of Hawkwood’s last remaining goon at the start of the comic, as the Essex-born author’s storyline interesting shifts its focus away from the Royal Naval Reserve Commander and instead settles upon the exploits of Bond’s mysterious superior M at “designated Safehouse India Uniform Lima.” Admittedly this surprising change of direction in the book’s writing does provide the audience with an opportunity to see just how formidable a gun-mistress the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service’s personal assistant Miss Moneypenny really is. But it also slows down the plot’s pacing with some quite disinteresting conversational pieces between the Intelligence Services Commissioner and Sir Stephen Mackmain; the majority of which strangely seem to make this twenty-two page periodical’s final third reminiscent of General Georgi Koskov’s somewhat lack-lustre post-defection debriefing in the 1987 motion picture “The Living Daylights”.

Jason Masters artwork for this particular instalment of “Eidolon” is equally as inconsistent as its script, on account of the South African pencilling a fantastically dynamic shoot-out between Bond and Cullen during the magazine’s opening, and then seemingly struggling to reliably illustrate the bearded Head of MI5 throughout the rest of the publication. Indeed, considering the poor quality of some of his panels, especially those involving the facially-disfigured Hawkwood, it is hard to imagine just why Ellis personally “requested” him to be “the artist” on the title…
Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Jason Masters, and Colors: Guy Major