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