Marvel Comic Reviews: All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #2, Venom #150, X-Men: Blue #4 and more…



All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #2

Writer: Gerry Duggan

Artist:  Aaron Kuder

AllNew Guardians of the Galaxy has a lot working against it immediately. For one the ‘All New’ tagline has greatly been overused by Marvel and for that matter so have the Guardians of the Galaxy. While it is understandable they would want to cash in one on of the biggest blockbusters of all time they milked that cow a little too much with so many crossovers and solo series. Brian Michael Bendis’s run left a lot to be desire so many are automatically overlooking this series just out of spite. If you are a fan of the Guardians I implore you to pick this up because this book is better than it’s been in years.

Writer Gerry Duggan made a smart choice of breaking the narrative down to its simplest form. These two issues so far have basically been heist stories that take place in some of the most insane locals in the Marvel universe. This issue does not reach the level the first did with its spaceship shaped like Galactus, but there is still a lot of fun to be had a few key character moments.

In the issue the Guardians are attempting to steal a magic egg from The Collector’s collection. Artist Aaron Kuder continues to standout with this book as he created this vault to look like an M.C. Esher painting with stairs going in every which way. This leads to some creative uses of scale and location including a great revel of The Collector himself. Also there is an  impressive spread where the Guardians are forced  to face some of the inner fears.

The one big problem with this issue was the pacing of the final pages. Our main stories ends rather abruptly.  What comes off as a lead in to the actual cliff hanger ends up being final page of the main arc. Instead the book shifts across the universe to an intriguing epilogue that is certainly setting up a future story. A  better edit there could have lessened the confusion and allowed both sequences to feel more like cliffhangers. Instead you are left wondering if there is a page missing.

Ben Reily – Scarlet Spider #2

Writer: Peter David

Artist: Mark Bagley

Dan Slott has stated that every time he has a major event storyline he tries to use the event to propel a character to their own individual series. This process has led to mixed results as a character like Silk has found an audience, but a book like Prowler was dead on arrival. Ben Reily – Scarlet Spider has some major talent behind it. Peter David has had some great success with Marvel, and Mark Bagley is putting in some quality work in this book, but there is this enormous albatross that hangs over this book hindering it from being successful. Unfortunately I do not see them being able to overcome that albatross as it is the titular character Ben Reily. He is simply not that compelling of a character.

Now I will be the first to say that a great writer can make any character work, but it does not happen overnight. Not helping is how many different types of Spider-Man characters have filled the pages of Marvel over the last few years including right now. We have Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, Silk, and the upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man just to name a few. This series is only in issue two and it is already  collecting from a well the long lay barren.

Peter David does give this series some key moments that show some potential. Specifically a sequence where Ben shows he is willing to go places where his clone Peter is not. Threatening to possibly torture someone for information is not something you would expect for a Spider-Man linked hero. I get that they want to make Ben into a darker more anti-hero version of Peter Parker, but is that something the world needs? What makes Peter Parker such a remarkable character is his wiliness to stay moral despite the immense challenges and failures he faces. When you take that away you just have a character that is like everyone else.

Captain America:

Steve Rogers #17

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Andres Guinaldo

There has been a lot of things said regarding the current state of Marvel and one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed is the inconsistency of art in some of their biggest books. While having multiple artist is not ideal, that issue is only compounded when that art is simply not very good. Considering this is tied into the biggest Marvel event going it is down right shocking to find some panels that are amateur level. Nick Spencer is writing a quality script and it simply deserves better.

In the issue Steve Rogers decides to sit down for an on camera interview in order to boast about the success the country is now facing under Hydra rule, however the reporter he faces off with quickly shows she is willing to ask the tough questions despite the consequences. With this framework we actually get a lot of background regarding this current world including what has happened to both the  Inhumans and the X-Men.

Spencer’s script is strong here as the tension in the interview slowly builds to a boiling point. Sure this was basically an excuse to layout a bunch of exposition, but at least it was handled well. The issue comes from the aforementioned art. When your comic is built on conversation you need to have panels filled with quality acting. That was by no means the case. Whether it is the strict deadlines these artist have to meet or the sheer amount of content they have to keep up with, something is amiss when the biggest comic book company in the world is putting out substandard content.

I Am Groot #1

Writer: Christopher Hastings

Artist: Flaviano

When your main character’s vocabulary can be fully summed up with the book’s title can you series actual work? Well so far with I Am Groot #1 Christopher Hastings and Flaviano have shown they can at least craft a perfectly entertaining first issue that does as much as you could with a baby sized version of the Groot character.

Some may do a hard eye roll over the concept of a Baby Groot series and that is understandable. By no means is this a book we need, but it is at least an enjoyable read. Hastings has the voice of these characters down well and even makes time for an almost touching seen of Rocket trying to come to terms with his new role as Groot’s caregiver. Flaviano’s art though is the main reason to pick up this book. It has a lot of unique character traits to it that makes me hope he will be put on bigger books in the future. It is best when he is drawing creatures as his human faces have very little detail.

I Am Groot #1 is like a side quest in a better video game. If you are bored of the main title and want something slightly different it offers elements to enjoy. If you completely ignore it you are not missing much either.

Infamous Iron Man #8

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Alex Maleev

They say you never know what you have until it gone. Well as someone who did not care much about The Fantastic Four I do have to say I miss them a great deal. The Marvel universe just does not feel right with them not in it. Infamous Iron Man #8 gives us a little taste of what has been missing and my hope is it leads to something event  grander in time to come.

In this issue Riri Williams is tracking down Victor Von Doom in an attempt to convince him from to stop being Iron Man, while at the same time a person who could possibly be Reed Richards has confronted Ben Grimm in hopes of convincing him he is the real deal. Who is what, and what is who is still yet to be figured out at this point.

With this you have an issue that is mostly full of two conversations, which is not surprising for a Bendis book. Yes those conversations do run a little too long, but they are still rather compelling. That is especially true for the dialogue between Reed and Grim. In it Reed tells a rather compelling story that shows a side of his character we rarely see. It is a side where he is venerable and not fully sure of his place in the world. It may be out of character, but that aspect ties into the concern that this Reed is not the person he claims.

The Riri Williams and Doom conversation had its moments. Doom finding a lost pen in the midst of a fight was a classic Bendis tidbit. Where it suffers is the fact that Riri Williams is struggling to form her own identity. Bendis struggles to characterize her in a way to fits the fact she is a fifteen year old girl genius.

Alex Maleev’s art continues to be criminally underappreciated. What he lacks in flash he makes up for in subtle character work and phenomenal acting. When the heart of your issue is made up of two back to back nine panel grids solely focused on one person’s face you are asking a lot from an artist. Maleev nails that scene with ease.

I know Brian Michael Bendis has long ago over stayed his welcome with a lot of comic book readers. Looking at some of his recent output I understand that. Still I implore you to give this series a chance because it is working on a level that is equal to some of Bendis most

Jean Grey #2

Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Artist: Victor Ibanez

Two issues into this series and I must say this is much better than I ever expected. Growing up Jean Grey was always my least favorite X-Men character, but this series shows just how crucial piece she has been to the success of this franchise.

Due to her concern that the Phoenix is coming she seeks the help of others who have held the power of the Phoenix. With this being comics this eventually leads into a random scuffle with some pretty forgettable bad guys, but within that action are some strong character moments. Jean is struggling living in a world where she will always be connected to a life she never lived. Making it worse is knowing she is destined to bring about major destruction to the world and her own life.

What is show is that Jean is not alone in this struggle. Yes her problem is not run of the mill but there are those who can relate and provide an assist. The X-Men have long been a metaphoric exploration into major social and culture issues, and in a small part this is continuing that theme on a more personal scale. Those who have faced major life struggles of their own could surely learn from Jean and the importance of having support. All this is done in a way that is never overt or obvious.

Marvel has had a lot of problems recently but you do have it hand it to them regarding the current state of the X-Men. With this series and X-Men: Blue and Gold what we loved about these characters is back in a big way. They may not be all the same people who have become fans of, but if this book is any indication it is that factor that is allowing them to approach familiar ground in a refreshing way.

Secret Warriors #2

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg

Artist: Javi Garron

Marvel simply cannot quite the Inhumans. Although the title may say otherwise this book has quickly become another attempt to make these Inhuman characters work. This time though two characters in Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel that have found success and placing them in this team in hopes this will succeed where others failed.

So far there are pieces that work well, but I cannot shake the fact the majority of the characters feel like generic copies of better characters. Inferno, for example, is set as the heart of this book but lacks any redeeming qualities. He is just one of many Inhuman characters that has failed to get over with readers.

This issue does help build the world of Secret Empire as it gives us a ground level view of the way of the world. That along with Matthew Rosenberg’s strong wit and Javier Garron’s quality art make it worth reading, but I cannot help but feel worry this series will get bogged down by this tiresome Inhumans agenda.

Venom #150

Writer: Mike Costa, David Michelinie, Robbie Thompson

Artist: Ron Lim, Tradd Moore, Gerardo Sandoval

Sure reverting Venom back to the legacy numbering is a cheap marketing ploy, and yes much of this main story has elements that are very familiar w iththe character of Venom. However, when the familiar has become unfamiliar something like Venom #150 is as welcome chance of pace. If you are a long time Venom fan this issue works well as a celebration of the character and a possible lead into more great stories yet to come.

Venom has been through a lot these last few years. He’s been a secret agent, a Space Knight, and now he is back with his original host Eddie Brock. Brock is attempting to live the straight life again but finding the symbiote may not want to comply. It still has a yearning to kill that is eating away at Brock to the point he makes him seek advice from a priest.

It may be cliché but considering these moments link to the origin of Venom it is a cliché that works.  Mike Costa also scripts a strong scene and makes Brock into the most compelling he has been in years. There are some other big moments including an appearance from a key character tied to the Venom’s past. This one night in the life of Venom approach kept the pace moving allow the issue to cover a lot of ground without becoming overly muddled. This does everything an anniversary issue should. First and foremost it is compelling story built on the dramatic weight of the character. With that we get the purest form of celebration, a reminder of what has made this character work all these years while so many others have been quickly forgotten.


X-Men: Blue #4

Writer: Cullen Bunn

Artist: Julian Lopez

When this books was first announced I was disappointed that the past X-Men team was staying in the present. What started as a fun idea wore out its welcome and had no other place to go. Now four issues in this has become the best X-Men book on the shelves in quite some time. Cullen Bunn has ahold of these characters like a true master craftsmen should. He knows what has made them work for so many years and we are now seeing that on the page.

This issue is your classic lead in issue to the next big arc. Nothing truly major occurs as the pieces are getting put in place for the next big conflict.  A new Wolverine shows up to add to the ever growing list. No this is not X23 nor Old Man but rather Logan’s son from the Ultimate universe. How and why he is here is still unknown, but if the final page is any indicator this is only the beginning of strange extra dimensional characters making an appearance.

With Jorge Molina taking a break from this series I was worried this book would lack a big piece of what has made it work. Unlike many artist Molina draws these characters as actual teenagers. Julian Lopez keeps that trend, even if it’s still a little odd seeing Jean Grey with such distinct freckles.

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Dan Clark

A fan of all things comics, movies, books, and whatever else I can find that pass the time. Twitter: @DXO_Dan Instagram: Comic_concierge

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