All-New Wolverine Annual #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Marcio Takara
Who does not love a classic body swap story, especially when it involves superheroes? Well, if you do enjoy such tales All-New Wolverine Annual #1 has some Freaky Friday like goodness just for you.
In the issue we see Spider-Gwen and Wolverine switch bodies and crazy hijinks ensue. You may be wondering if you skipped an issue as the story picks up right as the body switch takes place with absolutely no explanation. Answers come eventually in the meantime we see Gwen and Laura try to figure out how to return to their own body while getting use to their new found power set.
Easily the best part of this book is the humor. This is not a thematically rich story full of a lot of emotion. Nearly everything is played for laughs with pretty successful effect. The running joke of Laura underestimating her strength works quite well, and easily the biggest laugh of the book comes when Gwen learns the hard way that you need to be careful when you are popping Wolverine’s claws.
When the reason behind this switch is revealed it is somewhat unsatisfying. Clearly it was an afterthought when coming up with this concept. It was as if writer Tom Taylor loved this idea but forget he also needed to figure out a reason why it happened.
Seeing artist Marcia Takara art return to this series was another highlight. He and colorist Matt Lopes work as well together as Gwen and Laura world collide. He was able to mesh both styles with pretty stunning effect. Annuals can often get the B team in both Art and Story but that does not happen here.
All-New Wolverine Annual #1 is the type of comic tale we do not get often enough. One that is willing to take an out of the box concept without having it over stay its welcome.
Amazing Spider-Man #17
The Amazing Spider-Man series is currently undergoing a transition as ‘Power Play’ has finally ended and the next major arc “Dead No More” is set to begin. For months now people have been speculating on what exactly ‘Dead No More’ actually means and it appears we have been given our answer. How satisfying that answer is has yet to be determined.
This issue almost works more as a backdoor pilot for the upcoming Prowler series as the bulk of the focus on him. Perhaps Dan Slott has been working with Peter Parker too long because he writes Prowler with the same type of sardonic wit we have come to expect from Spider-Man. I am no Prowler expert but he did seem out of character in this issue compared to other writer’s interceptions of him.
Part of the reason could be due to the way the book opens on Spider-Man, however we come to find out Peter Parker is not the one in the suit. Parker has selected Prowler both to try to turn off the scent to those wondering if Peter is in fact Spider-Man and use him to infiltrate New U. He hopes to find more about their miracle cure.
As a transition story this was serviceable. There is a great deal of Slott’s trademark humor including a rather force reference to Pokemon Go, which felt much more topical a month ago. We learn more about the new Electro who seems as exciting as a 60 watt bulb, but does at least show her greenness as a villain does not make her any less of a threat.
Slott is taking the time to put the pieces in place to make ‘Dead No More’ into the impactful arc this series has been missing since its relaunch. That method gives us books like this issue that has its moments but is clearly more interested in what’s coming next. Hopefully the follow through will be better than the buildup.
Astonishing Ant-Man #11
One of the most underrated relationships in comics is that between Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie. Sure this series has the type of wackiness you get from a Nick Spencer book and that too has been fantastic. However, what has been the heart of this series is that through all the jokes was a well told story of a father trying to build a relationship with his daughter despite all the astronomical obstacles. Spencer’s greatest feat with this book has been finding ways to keep that relationship evolving so it never feels stale. Including this issue that has one of my favorite moments of the series thus far.
Last issue we saw how Scott Lang wound up back in jail and this time we are seeing the aftermath. That moment I mentioned was the way Lang uses his trademark ants to communicate with Cassie over how he was taking full on responsibility for what occurred. What brought it to the next level was her retort as she own insect shaped note. It’s the type of moment that could only work in comics. Yes, its ridiculously silly yet it still is ultimately sweet.
The rest of the issue was Scott following through with the promise he made to his daughter. Again meshing a great deal of comedy like Scott trying to convince his partners not to break him out, but with a touch of melancholy as Scott’s life fall apart in front of him. This is the way to do a transition story. Plot wise not a great deal happens, however character wise it was full of great content.
What this book started off as and what it is now is hard to believe. At first it seem this story would be a cop drama that involved the attempted apprehension of the psychotic Carnage. Now through eleven issues it has become this supernatural horror thriller that has become so ridiculous it is harder and harder to take seriously.
The story has taken us to a mysterious island full of dangerous savages that have captured Carnage. Where the issue suffers the most is how forgettable nearly all the characters are that are not Carnage. As this story moves to its conclusion I find myself carrying less and less especially when we have an issue like this that is void of the titular character. I applaud Gerry Conway for attempting to take Carnage into a new direction. The issue is that new direction simply is not working like it should.
HOWARD THE DUCK #10
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Joe Quinones
With characters like Deadpool being meta has become the new norm. It is not nearly as shocking to read a comic book recognize the fact it is actually a comic book. Then you have a book like Howard the Duck #10 that brings the actual writer of the comic book into the actual story along with a host of industry and company jokes and pokes.
This issue reveals that aliens Chipp and Jho have been the ones responsible for all of Howard’s trouble as of late. I could imagine how cathartic creating this issue was as it sounds off much of the trouble and challenges of creating comics in today’s landscape. Despite the fact Howard the Duck has been one of Marvel’s most consistent comics since its return it has yet to capture the audience it deserves. There may not be another writer out here that could craft apt industry commentary inside a story involving purple aliens and talking duck. For Chip Zdarsky that’s just a normal day.
Zdarsky is sneaky with his zany humor. Somehow through all the crazy plot lines and out of this world characters he gets you to really care about the character of Howard the Duck. You forget the character you are reacted to is a talking Duck. That is hammered home in the final moments of this story With one issue remaining one wonders what will be Howard’s fate. No matter what the ending I hope a bigger audience finds this book once it this trades.
Writer: Chuck Wendig Artist: Nicole Virella
There is a lot to like about the six issue of the Hyperion mini-series. As a character Hyperion has a tendency to be big, bland, and boring. He is an obvious Superman homage that has never gone much beyond that tribute. This series look to try to round him out as a character by putting the focus on him as a person. Those results are mixed but here it did come to somewhat of a fresh conclusion by embracing his astronomical power levels. He is a god in human form so trying to place the restraints of humanity’s justice on him is a moot point. Seeing the result of that relization led to one of the most impactful moments of the series.
What does not work for this issue is the inclusion of Iron Man. Beyond being a forceful attempt at a possible Civil War II tie in the battle between Iron Man and Hyperion does nothing but get in the way. Also bringing up the fact that he is seeking justice for Namor only reminds audiences of how awful the death of Namor was treated. One of Marvel’s most legendary characters was killed little attention and/or effort. I honestly thought they were going to act like that simply did not happen moving forward.
Even with a problematic conclusion this series ends much stronger than it began. This won’t spawn a new creation of Hyperion fans but does work as a solid read for an underutilized character.
Ms. Marvel #10
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Takeshi Miyagawa
They always say never meet your heroes because you will only be disappointed with the results. Ms. Marvel is finding out how true that statement is as she majorly questions the intentions of the person she literally modeled her superhero persona after.
Ms. Marvel #10 should be added to the slightly increasing pile of Civil War II tie ins that have made the event seem even more important. This issue opens well before the Civil War II conflict with a flashback of when Kamala first met Bruno in early Elementary school. As a relatively new reader to this series this flashback was helpful in building an importance to their relationship, and to demonstrate just how rough life has been for Bruno.
Civil War II has had a great deal of tragedy so far including deaths to some of comics most iconic heroes, yet oddly none of those deaths have the emotional weight of what happened to Bruno. Perhaps its due to the fact that Bruno has to live with his wounds, or perhaps it is the unjust nature of what occurred. Not only did he build himself up despite the odds only to see it taken from him. What happened to him was also a result of trial before jury. Making Kamala question what exactly are they preventing. Obviously the crux of this entire event is that exact issue, but this enhances it because it puts a face on the collateral damage.
In addition we see how impacts Ms. Marvel. This was the one person she could not save and was a victim of a creation she helped make. Seeing her face that dilemma ha already made for a great deal of compelling drama.
Ms. Marvel #10 has nearly everything a good comic should. Character building, high stakes, creative action set pieces, and high caliber art by Takeshi Miyagawa. Easily one of the best Civil War II tie ins thus far.
Silver Surfer #6
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Mike Allred
This month’s release of Silver Surfer marks the 200th issue for the series. Often when it comes to anniversary issue we get an issue full to the brim with reprinting of classic stories or a ‘This is Your Life’ type of plot that puts the focus solely on what came before. Writer Dan Slott and artist Mike Allred where able to craft an issue that celebrates the history of Silver Surfer without stepping on the progression of the story they are telling.
Slott has used Silver Surfer quite effectively as a vice to examine the function of family in the human world. Here we see Surfer take Dawn Greenwood to see her estranged mother. Slott approaches this interaction with a delicate touch, first with some slight humor before getting to the emotional core. Surfer works well as a reflection of human nature not just because of his shiny skin but with his basic emotional state he will challenge those cultural norms without ever realizing what he is doing.
Within this complex family drama was a side story that involves sea creatures that morph into a person’s worst fears. Perhaps a cheap way to force images of Silver Surfer’s most notorious villains, but still it work on both an action and humor standpoint. In large part due to the special guest appearance of Spider-Man. Silver Surfer and Spider-Man are one of those duos that seemingly always work when they get together. It does not happen often but when it does it is magical.
Silver Surfer’s tone is so specific that a run of the mill art style would not work. Luckly Mike Allred’s art is the exact opposite of run of the mill. It has this unique look that somehow looks both classic and modern at the same time. This Silver Surfer series has an atmosphere unlike any other Marvel book right now and Allred’s art is a huge reason why.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Nico Leon
At this point it is cliché to comment on how much Bendis loves to fill comics with Superheroes sitting around and talking. Heck, currently he has an entire summer event series focused on just that one thing. At times that style does work for me. I am all for a comic that places character over action, and is willing to slow down and let people just talk to one another. The key is what is being discussed has to have a meaning or weight.
Spider-Man #7 gives us two main discussions one of which works while the other does not. Surprisingly the one conversation that is actually effective does not involve Spider-Man. Perhaps it is the old man in me that makes me more interested in what Miles’s parents are going through. Having one parent know Miles secret and the other unaware leads to a intriguing dynamic. Here things are more complex as they try to deal with the aftermath of Jessica Jones investigating their son.
Where this issue does not work is the conversation between Spider-Man and Boom Boom. Miles is attempting to determine his place in this Civil War conflict. A reasonable question to ponder for sure. The issue is his place in this conflict has yet to feel important. It is not like where he lands will shift the balance of power, nor does he have any personal stakes in the matter as of yet. If you are going to spend as much time as this issue did on one issue you have to give me more of a reason to care.
Nico Leon does his best to make up for Bendis’s lacking script. His work here is some of the best of the series so far. For an issue that mainly involves Spider-Man moping in his costume he makes it work quite well.
STAR WARS: HAN SOLO #3
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mark Brooks
I am somewhat surprised it took Marvel this long to have a Han Solo series. I mean C-3PO had his own special before Han got his book. Part of that may be trying to find a writer who knows how to work with the character. Han is harder character to write then one might think. For one he is many people’s favorite Star Wars character so if the voice is off just a tad people will notice. You have to find that balance between his bravado and bravery.
Despite some horrid inner monologue Marjorie Liu writes a solid Han Solo. She has crafted a story that places him in a situation where all his charm and charisma are needed. Here to start the issue we see him face to face with The Empire. Right away he is in a situation where he needs to find a way to save himself while keeping the mission going. A sterotypical Han Solo moment done well. His intentions are a lot deeper than his actions make them appear.
The concept of this story is kind of ridiculous. It’s basically a Fast and the Furious plotline placed into the Star Wars world. For some reason there just happens to be race that allows the Rebellion to gain intelligence from their spies. Like Fast and the Furious it is full of some straightforward fun despite the lack of believability.
Mark Brooks has been consistently good with this book, but there was one sequence that was not as effective as it could have been. Han Solo makes a choice to run through some impossible obstacles for a very extended period of time. Basically its like combining a marathon and an obstacle course into one, and to make things more fun you do it allswhile flying a spaceship. It was a feat of both pilot knowhow and impeccable endurance. The issue is the trial this should have put on him is not shown. He looked as spry in the last panel as he did in the first. For this sequence to have its greatest impact we should see the physical toll it is having on him.
Han Solo #3 is a mid-level summer blockbuster. As a piece of storytelling it leaves a lot to be desired, but as a piece of high energy entertainment it undoubtedly succeeds.