We got another Marvel Black Widow series today, a book that apparently was ready to go back in March but got messed with in the COVID-19 quarantine. Written by Kelly Thompson, this book is unexpected and filled with some great mysterious events.
I really enjoyed this first issue. This seems to be the week for spy comics and this is another wonderful one.
The art is so very beautiful and the colors set the mood throughout the entire book. The story was shocking and entirely unexpected. I loved the twist about half of the way into the book and the final page was exceptional and extremely welcome.
I also enjoyed the specific cameos of other Marvel heroes appearing in the book who normally circulate in the Black Widow orbit.
Kelly Thompson has had some great stories over the last few years and this feels as if it could be really special leading up to the Black Widow MCU movie in November.
Al Ewing has been on a roll for awhile now. His work on The Immortal Hulk has been some of the best comic book work for years. His name alone has drawn me to this book.
I was at my comic book shop months ago and I had them add this comic to my pull list. I remember them surprised at the length and strangeness of the title. No one knew about it. Neither did I. The only reason I added this title from Boom! Studios was because of Al Ewing.
As I walked in today to my comic shop, the owner was raving about this book and said how lucky I was being one of the few people at the shop that had a copy of this book pulled for them. He said that he had not read anything this brilliant, had a feeling reading like this since he read Someone is Killing the Children. That is high praise indeed.
He is right. This was an amazing book.
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead is really hot and you can see why. There are few books more beautifully drawn and designed. The brightness and the color are stunning. And it features some themes that are unique in the world of comic books.
The sci-fi thriller feels like a massive epic, but also is able to feel like a smaller story. A story of a group of “Autopsy Ships” that are salvaging parts of the deceased bodies of celestial gods that float in space after they die. Meanwhile, there are interaction between characters in the book that are engaging and fascinating.
There are some unbelievable concepts here and I am very excited to see where Al Ewing takes this book from here.
I put this comic on my pull list awhile back. Seeing it today with the rest of the issues, I was not sure why. I mean, it had an amazing cover, but I was uncertain why it attracted me. I am more of a Marvel guy than anything else and, even though I have read more independent comics over the last year and a half, it is not like I have a large number. I had a fleeting memory of liking the synopsis that I had read in the Previews, but it still did not compute.
Then I saw it.
Chelsea Cain was the writer and was the co-creator.
That is why I wanted it.
Chelsea Cain wrote one of my favorite runs of any comic book ever. Mockingbird #1-8 (which we inducted into this year’s EYG Hall of Fame) was some of my favorite comic books ever written. I absolutely loved that. Seeing her return to comics with a spy story set in the Bermuda Triangle… well, to say the least, I’m in!
Cain was treated horribly by the internet during her run, with some of the anti-women rhetoric spewers becoming butt-hurt with the strength and feminism of Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird. I never understand what is wrong with people. Why couldn’t they just enjoy the brilliantly comedic and amazingly plotted Mockingbird series.
Honestly, I was downright angry when it ended. I still have negative feelings surrounding that cancellation.
Maybe I can get over it now, because Spy Island #1 has that same tone, feel and humor of those wondrous Mockingbird issues and I really loved it. This was so entertaining and it scratched that itch I had been missing.
Nora Freud is the main character in this issue and she is on an island on the cusp of the Bermuda Triangle. She is a spy, but there seems to be plenty of others here as well. She is meant to keep an eye on the place, but how do you keep an eye open on so many possible problems?
I totally trust Chelsea Cain to entertain me and, if this issue is any indication, I have not misplaced that trust. I thoroughly enjoyed this debut issue and the worst part is that it is only a four-issue limited series.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the beautiful artwork in the book by Elise McCall and the absolutely stunning cover by co-creator, Lia Miternique.
One of the collateral damages coming from the pandemic has been how several of the Marvel titles have been mucked up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing the horrors of COVID-19 and the loss of so many lives to the cancellation of a comic book. But facts are fact. Ghost Spider #10 is the final book of the current series run and you can tell that the creative team behind it had not intended to wrap their story up so quickly.
Truly, Ghost Spider’s story arc was scheduled for 12 issues, not ten. And this issue showed that because it felt crammed with story and it felt rushed in the reveals. The confrontation between Gwen and the Storm siblings came out of nowhere and it felt that way. Heck, even Gwen Stacy was feeling that confusion.
Having said that, the story was really great and was taking the character in a fantastic (pardon that pun, it was unintentional) direction. I would have loved to have seen this over two more issues.
Unfortunately, Ghost Spider fell victim to a series of cancellations that ended several very solid books. I am going to miss Ghost Spider as I had been enjoying the story being told by Seanan McGuire. Ghost Spider is one of the most original creations of the last few years and the new use of Johnny and Susan Storm in Gwen’s dimension was very creative. Heroes more concerned with their social media accounts and their image, which brought them into conflict with Gwen is a solid story. I wish it had time to develop more than what we got.
I am sure that Ghost Spider will return in the Marvel Universe and I hope she will continue to grow as a character.
One of my all-time favorite mini-series was Future Imperfect with the Hulk. It was an alternate future story of a world without the heroes and ruled by a monstrous villain known as Maestro. It turned out that Maestro was actually Dr. Bruce Banner himself and the Hulk from the past had to face off with the Hulk of the future.
It was a great two-issue series. You always wondered what lead to Bruce Banner becoming this villain.
Finally, the original writer of Future Imperfect has returned to give us the origin story of Maestro, and if issue #1 is any example, we have a wild ride ahead of us.
Peter David is one of the great writers in comic books and he has had an epic run with the Incredible Hulk. He kicks off this book with some misdirection and immediately hooks you into the hero of the book, Bruce Banner. You can already see some of the cracks forming in the character of the Hulk and I anticipate the fallout to be glorious.
This is the second part of a huge Spider-Man story that sees the return of the Sin-Eater!
The Sin-Eater was the murderous villain years ago in one of the greatest Spidey arcs, “The Death of Jean DeWolff?”by Peter David and Rich Buckler. This story included Daredevil and pushed Spidey to the precipice of his emotional brink.
We have already seen Sin-Eater return from the dead in Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Rising Prelude #1, which dove deep into the character of Stan Carter, the disgraced cop who became Sin-Eater, but showed us that there was more to him than what we remembered.
This new storyline has been fire so far as we look closely at one of the darkest periods in the life of the Web-Head. The Sin-Eater is a moment where Spidey almost lost himself to his anger and thirst for vengeance and this continues exploring that.
However, there is a mystery to this story as well as Sin-Eater’s victims are not necessarily being killed. Here, the Lethal Legion are used to show what happens after they are “cleansed” by the Sin-Eater.
Also, the comic is looking at the idea of mob mentality and the worship of someone who may not deserve your praise. Sin-Eater is not being seen as a murderous vigilante by the public at large, with Spencer going as far as having bystanders applaud the apparent murders being committed by Sin-Eater. There feels to be something deeper under the surface going down here as well. The ending sequence brings some major doubt into the motives of Sin-Eater.
So far this has been a tremendous story with emotion and a true uncertainty about what is happening. The art from Marcelo Ferreira creates a great darkness, a specific tone that works well with the tale being weaved.
As a huge Spider-Man fan, I am excited to see where this goes.
An Empyre tie in sees the story of Franklin and Valeria Richards continuing on Yancy Street with Spider-Man and Wolverine. Franklin and Valeria are meant to protect the two children, one Skrull, one Kree, that the team had rescued last issue.
Unfortunately, Wolverine got a little stabby last issue, and N’Kalla the Skrull was injured. Spidey’s spider-sense is going off, but he is more interested in meeting Sky, Johnny Storm’s soulmate.
It seems great that Dan Slott has a chance to write Spider-Man once again. You can tell he slips right back into a regular feel with the Wall-Crawler.
I enjoyed this issue very much and I am looking forward to the advancement of this storyline. Spidey and Wolvie are a fun pair to play off and we get to see how Franklin and Valeria continue to progress.
I have not been a huge fan of the rebooted X-Men series. I have only continued buying the main X-Men title since coming out of Powers of X/House of X series by Hickman. So I did not have a lot of hope when I found X-Factor #1 in my pull box today.
Yet, I really enjoyed this book.
Northstar senses that his twin sister Aurora has died and he goes to demand that the resurrection process in Krakoa get started. However, Hope demands proof of death before they start on the process.
Northstar and Polaris team up and recruit a group to help investigate what happened to her.
Joining Northstar and Polaris is Daken, Prodigy, Eye-Boy, and Rachel and they called themselves X-Factor.
I enjoyed the character interactions in the book. I must say that the story of Aurora’s death was really underplayed. I would not have minded if that had been spread out and made a little more substantial than what we got. It felt like it was tossed in just to justify the creation of X-Factor.
However, the characterization was so good that I can excuse the lack of the plot with the hope that the story improves as the book continues. The idea that X-Factor will be an investigative team looking for missing mutants and determining if a mutant has died is a solid hook for this comic.
I wonder if this book is just going to blend in with the other X-books and lose its identity. That is one of the current strengths of this book so far.
It is an interesting and hopeful start at this point.
Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Middlewest, Outpost Zero (Image)
Matt Hollingsworth, Batman: Curse of the White Knight, Batman White Knight Presents Von Freeze (DC); Little Bird, November (Image)
Molly Mendoza, Skip (Nobrow)
Dave Stewart, Black Hammer,B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know, Hellboy and the BPRD(Dark Horse); Gideon Falls (Image); Silver Surfer Black, Spider-Man (Marvel)
Deron Bennett, Batgirl, Green Arrow, Justice League, Martian Manhunter (DC); Canto (IDW); Assassin Nation, Excellence (Skybound/Image); To Drink and To Eat, vol. 1 (Lion Forge); Resonant (Vault)
Jim Campbell, Black Badge, Coda (BOOM Studios); Giant Days, Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship (BOOM Box!); Rocko’s Modern Afterlife (KaBOOM!); At the End of Your Tether (Lion Forge); Blade Runner 2019 (Titan); Mall, The Plot, Wasted Space (Vault)
Clayton Cowles, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and the Outsiders, Heroes in Crisis, Superman: Up in the Sky, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (DC);Bitter Root,Pretty Deadly,Moonstruck, Redlands, The Wicked + The Divine (Image); Reaver (Skybound/Image); Daredevil, Ghost-Spider, Silver Surfer Black, Superior Spider-Man, Venom (Marvel)
Emilie Plateau, Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin (Europe Comics)
Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo (IDW)
Tillie Walden, Are You Listening? (First Second/Macmillan)
Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
Comic Riffs blog, by Michael Cavna
The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, RJ Casey, and Kristy Valenti(Fantagraphics)
Hogan’s Alley, edited by Tom Heintjes (Hogan’s Alley)
Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, edited by Qiana Whitted(Ohio State University Press)
LAAB Magazine, vol. 4: This Was Your Life, edited by Ronald Wimberly and Josh O’Neill (Beehive Books)
Women Write About Comics, edited by Nola Pfau and Wendy Browne
Best Comics-Related Book
The Art of Nothing: 25 Years of Mutts and the Art of Patrick McDonnell(Abrams)
The Book of Weirdo, by Jon B. Cooke (Last Gasp)
Grunt: The Art and Unpublished Comics of James Stokoe (Dark Horse)
Logo a Gogo: Branding Pop Culture, by Rian Hughes (Korero Press)
Making Comics, by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)
Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny, by Paul Tumey (Library of American Comics/IDW)
Best Academic/Scholarly Work
The Art of Pere Joan: Space, Landscape, and Comics Form, by Benjamin Fraser (University of Texas Press)
The Comics of Rutu Modan: War, Love, and Secrets, by Kevin Haworth (University Press of Mississippi)
EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest, by Qiana Whitted (Rutgers University Press)
The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life, edited by Andrew Blauner (Library of America)
Producing Mass Entertainment: The Serial Life of the Yellow Kid, by Christina Meyer (Ohio State University Press)
Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities, edited by Fusami Ogi et al. (Palgrave Macmillan)
Best Publication Design
Grunt: The Art and Unpublished Comics of James Stokoe, designed by Ethan Kimberling (Dark Horse)
Krazy Kat: The Complete Color Sundays, by George Herriman, designed by Anna-Tina Kessler (TASCHEN)
Logo a Gogo, designed by Rian Hughes (Korero Press)
Madness in Crowds: The Teeming Mind of Harrison Cady, designed by Paul Kopple and Alex Bruce (Beehive Books)
Making Comics, designed by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)
Rusty Brown, designed by Chris Ware (Pantheon)
Best Digital Comic
Afterlift, by Chip Zdarsky and Jason Loo (comiXology Originals)
Black Water Lilies, by Michel Bussi, adapted by Frédéric Duval and Didier Cassegrain, translated by Edward Gauvin (Europe Comics)
Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin, by Tania de Montaigne, adapted by Emilie Plateau, translated by Montana Kane (Europe Comics)
Elma, A Bear’s Life, vol. 1: The Great Journey, by Ingrid Chabbert and Léa Mazé, translated by Jenny Aufiery (Europe Comics)
Mare Internum, by Der-shing Helmer (comiXology; gumroad.com/l/MIPDF)
Tales from Behind the Window, by Edanur Kuntman, translated by Cem Ulgen (Europe Comics)
Marvel Comics newest gigantic crossover event is Empyre and, as most of these type of events, there are a ton of secondary issues outside of the actual Empyre limited series. Exactly how many issues are unknown because I have heard some of them may have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The fact that some of the issues can be cancelled in this story and not have them affect the overall event tells you something about a lot of these tie-in issues. They are not necessarily important to the story.
However, there are positives to Empyre: Avengers that, while may not be vital to the story, make for a nice side tale worth reading.
This takes place within the continuity of the Empyre saga and I very much liked the group of characters that are involved. By doing this, we get a more detailed look at these characters.
There are two prongs to the story. My favorite part was seeing Brother Voodoo, Ka-Zar, Scarlet Witch, Black Knight and Zabu return to the Savage Land to face off with the the Cotati. In the Savage Land, we get a couple of cool cameos that could lead to some excitement next issue. The other prong of the story was less interesting which included Quicksilver, Mockingbird and Wonder Man who wind up stuck in the middle between the forces of the Kree/Skull alliance and the Cotati. There is a short third part involving Vision, Luke Cage and Doctor Nemesis too, but this was a very little piece of the book.
The deep roster of characters allow this book to focus in on other Avengers besides just Cap and Iron Man.
While the book may not be relevant for the overall story of Empyre, I did like the pieces that they are telling us of the outlier of the tale.
“Welcome to the New World: The Might of Latveria has been Unleashed”
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Terry Dodson
Cover Art: Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
This is one of the many mini series/regular series that have suffered because of COVID-19. It has been such a long time since we saw the first three issues of this series that it really made this climactic chapter in this mini series feel like an after thought, and that is too bad since I had really been enjoying this series up to this point.
Everybody is trying to get their hands on Franklin Richards for their own reasons. The series does a good job of presenting the different sides to the argument over Franklin whether it is the plans of Dr. Doom or the X-Men or Franklin’s parents.
I have to say that the art of this book has not been my favorite so far (in particular the faces of the characters), but I really think this issue stepped it up. Some of the art here is so wonderful, especially with the images of Franklin and his power, so it helps the issue.
However, the ending scene (which I will not spoil) with Professor X and Magneto doing something that made me reconsider those two characters and their motivation.
The series also seemed to wrap up pretty easily. Made me think about those sitcoms that introduce the story and it gets wrapped up in the half hour. The characters’ changed their minds quickly.
The series was a decent overall read, and , if you did not have the months in between, I think it would have been all the better. The minor quips I have are nothing major, but the final issue was not as great as my memory told me about the previous issues.
The Daredevil series has been such high quality during this recent run by writer Chip Zdarsky and this week’s Daredevil #21 is a good example of why. If you are being honest, nothing actually happened in this book. And yet, it was thoroughly compelling and engaging. I found myself turning the pages with a renewed vigor.
The battle of Hell’s Kitchen is over and now the fall out happens. Daredevil decides that he must turn himself into the police to face the consequences of his actions. This issue is going from the end of the battle to DD turning himself in. While there was not much plot-wise involved here, there was a bunch of remarkable character beats for Daredevil and the others involved.
There is a tense scene between Daredevil and Spider-man (with a great throwback to the previous cameo with the Wall-Crawler). There are some amazing scenes with DD and Foggy. Detective Cole North has become a top notch character in this arc and he continues as a fantastic piece. DA Hochberg and Daredevil have an amazing interaction too.
Then the comic begins a new arc that is perhaps going to be one of the most intriguing and potentially influential plot in a superhero comic. I am very excited about where this comic is headed.
Marco Checcetto’s art in this book is fabulous. There are so many panels that jump off of each page. His work truly sets up the tone of this book and helps with the enjoyment of the book.
Daredevil #21 felt like a transition, but it was a transition at the highest level you can get.
The recent issues of Captain Marvel have not been my favorite among the books I buy. It has been awhile since I have truly enjoyed the issues of Captain Marvel. The Star stuff was fine. The Captain Marvel kills the Avengers left me wanting. It is a title that has been low on my list for a time now.
Then, they come up with issue #18.
Yes, it feels like a filler. It will not be setting up any long term story arcs. However, some times you need these types of issues to keep your comic fresh.
And how fresh was it? Who could have anticipated Carol inviting Kamala Khan over for “game night” which was poker with Logan, Monica Rambeau, Jessica Drew, and Hazmat? Whereas the others wanted to play poker (a longtime standby for Marvel heroes), the innocence of Ms. Marvel brought a different idea.
Is the set up coincidental? Sure. Of course the escape room they go to is run by a wannabe super villain. But the plot contrivances aside, I loved this book.
The main part of the story that I loved was the interactions with the six main heroes in the story. Wolverine’s reaction to the idea and attempt to get out of going. Carol trying to make Kamala happy. The running joke with Jessica Drew and her sweatpants (in fact, Jessica Drew is becoming one of my favorite Marvel characters because of her wit and humor).
The characterizations here are spot on and the escape room concept brought fun with just enough menace to keep you guessing.
The world of Marvel Comics has been too many wide spread crossovers with massive universal stakes. Some quieter, lighter, more fun books keeps the balance nicely.
The COVID-19 quarantine affected comics books dramatically. One of the biggest things is that we did not see issues of continuing stories and when we finally came back to it, it was hard to get back into some of them. The Iron Man 2020 crossover is one of those.
Honestly, the Iron Man 2020 story has not been one that I have loved as is and then I had a several month break. The momentum of this story stopped significantly.
iWolverine does not reclaim that momentum that had been lost.
It is a robot Logan in Madripoor. That is about it. Oh, there is a little girl robot too that has a stupid speech impediment. She started off as a head (which I already saw in The Runaways). Boring.
Not sure if this was meant to be a joke. There is a #2 on this coming later, but I won’t be buying it.