Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Carlos Pacheco
So when is an introduction not actually needed? When it comes to launching a solo comic book series its actually an important question to answer when starting your book. Do you need to spend time getting the reader familiar with the character or can you simply launch right into the heart of the story? Considering the vast amount of past Cable series and the fact the character has been prevalent since the 90’s it makes sense to get off the ground running. That is exactly what James Robinson does by bringing us into this time hopping story involving everyone’s favorite X-Men from the future who was actually born in the present.
Personally Cable is one of my favorite X-Men characters. A big reason why is because he, specifically his action figure, got me into the X-Men. Growing up I was a massive G.I. Joe fan and Cable was gateway into the world of comics. He basically looked like a cross between a G.I. Joe and the Terminator so it was a meshing of two things I loved. Since that moment I have read nearly every Cable comic I could. Some were obviously much better than others.
Looking at this specific series there is a lot to like right off the bat. For one it is Cable on his own adventure not getting caught up in the drama of saving the mutant race or whatever major crossover event is currently underway. Outside of that it is oddly refreshing to see Cable in a story that involves a lot of time travel. Based on his history you would assume that would be the norm, but the fact is rarely do we see him jumping into the past like this. After this issue I want more of Cable in the Old West. Sadly we did not get enough of it.
That was due in large part to the pace of this book that never stopped moving. Robinson choose to leave a lot unsaid allowing the reader to connect the major dots. Clearly Cable is chasing someone throughout time but at this time we do not know who or why. It’s a smart approach for a series that is looking to continue the revitalization of the X-Men. Instead of explaining everything in fine detail we see some of the possibilities where this story can go.
My concern though would be for those brand new readers or anyone who is not a fan of the character. Here Cable is a man on a mission and not much else. His dialog is severely limited and with that so is his personality. He has some notable quips, especially standout self-aware moment about the size of guns, but overall this will not convert any non-Cable fans.
Carlos Pacheco artwork has a very clean line which gives the book quite the polish. He gives Cable much more personality than the script does. His opening shot made Cable look like a modern day, or perhaps better worded futuristic, stoic version of John Wayne. There was some issues especially the final sequence that included some pixelated futuristic weapons. It is a situation where I understand the idea they were going for but the execution did not work. Instead of looking futuristic it looked out of place and unfinished. My hope is they move away from the idea in the future or at least find a better coloring procedure.
Comics are better when the world of the X-Men is healthy. Over the last few years that has not been the case. They might not be all the way back but with this series, Jean Grey, and X-Men: Blue there is a lot to enjoy in the world of the X-Men. Now all Marvel needs to do is keep it going and not just reboot again in a couple months.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #22
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Sean Izaakse
When reading Captain America: Sam Wilson #22 I realized what has been missing in the grander Secret Empire storyline so far. In this issue we see Sam Wilson is the heart and soul of this story. Not only was he just wearing the stars and stripes his closest friend is now betraying everyone he once stood for. Spencer has been chipping away at the life of Wilson and now with Secret Empire he executed his final blow.
Here we see how Wilson has been surviving in a country ruled by Hydra. One of the more intriguing aspects is how in a way Wilson has found the place in the world he has long be searching for. Now out of the public eye he can disregard the need to worry about his public persona and just do what he feels is right.
Sean Izaakse’s is heaps better than what is currently going on in the other Captain America book, but his style does seem inconsistent. At time character’s facial expression do not fully match up with the words they are speaking or the overall tone of the book. Part of that is also due to the coloring of Nolan Woodard. A better choice of color pallet could have evened out the emotional impact of the issue.
Doctor Strange #21
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Niko Henrichon
It was a sad day when Dennis Hopeless’s run on Spider-Woman ended. It was one of the best and most consistent books Marvel was putting out. Adding to that sadness is the fact that Jason Aaron is leaving this book, but if anyone could do this book justice it is Hopeless. Although Marvel is not doing him any favors by causing him to begin his run in the middle of someone else’s story.
That is true in more ways than one as for some odd reason issue #21 is actually coming out before issue #20. So Jason Aaron has one more issue to complete his run, but Marvel wanted to get this issue out most likely due to its tie in with Secret Empire. Considering the constraints Hopeless and his team were put under they put in some quality work.
Hopeless does not toss away what Aaron has done so far as Doctor Strange is still living in a world without magic. Now with New York in the Darkforce dome he is more desperate than ever. Now it takes days to scrap together magical scraps to fight against the dark forces. Aaron also gave Strange more of a snarky side he never had before. Hopless also kept that part of the character while even making him even saltier.
Hopeless also brings along a few recognizable friends like Spider-Woman who was a welcome addition as a fan of his past work. It was odd that Strange was a side character for much of his own book, but again it is the side effect when you need to tie you series into whatever current event is happening. One positive side effect is that I am now interested seeing Hopeless take on a Daredevil series.
Chris Bachalo is hard artist to follow. It’s abstract style fits perfectly for the insane world of Doctor Strange. When the change of team was announced my biggest concern was who would replace him. Niko Henrichon is not a name I was aware of prior to this issue but major credit for him for crafting a book that keeps the world of Doctor Strange consistent while putting his own stamp on it. Marvel has been hurting for quality artists recently so when get a positive surprise like Henrichon it is something to celebrate.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Way back when Steve Rogers was killed at the end of Civil War (Spoiler!) Marvel used that moment to showcase just how important of a character he was to the universe. They took the time to show just how many characters were greatly impacted by his death and why his downfall was so shocking. Now with Secret Empire they are taking that same idea but expanded upon it in some interesting ways.
With Deadpool #31 we see two different ways idolization impacts characters. On one side we have Deadpool who has long admired Steve Rogers and Captain America specifically. He has long been searching for his acceptance and now that he has it he is finding he is unable to let it go no matter where Rogers’s loyalty lies. On the other side of the spectrum is Phil Coulson who grew up with Cap being his childhood hero, however he sees this new turn of events as a betrayal to the man he once respected.
Duggan shows us the difference between the admiration of a person and the admiration for ideals of what someone stands for. That for me is one of the reasons the concept for Secret Empire interested me. The exploration of what happens when a person the world universally places on a pedestal betrays his values has a lot of potential. In a way I wish we got more stories like this one that dealt with the dichotomy of that situation on a more personal scale.
If you are not at all a Deadpool fan this is actually a great issue to pick up. For one the Merc with a Mouth is as quiet as he has ever been. That tells you everything you need to know about the complexity of what Deadpool is going through. In one of the final panels of the issue there is specific poignant moment where he is contemplating his own actions and what he is doing. No words are spoken but the way Matteo Lolli displays his body language gives a lot of dimension to a character most see as nothing but a joke.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Nico Leon
I give writer Mariko Tamaki a lot of credit because it could not have been easy to pitch a Hulk story that did not have Hulk into it until the six issue. I cannot think of another situation quite like this since Brian Michael Bendis launched Ultimate Spider-man. Now Hulk is in no way on the same level quality wise but Tamaki’s approach does gives the character of She-Hulk or Hulk new life.
When you wait six issues to show your titular character you do build up a lot of hype. Since the series debuted it has been hinting that this was going to be a different type of Hulk that we have ever seen as a result of the stress and trauma Jennifer endured. Nico Leon does gives us a much more savage Hulk that very much resembles a demonic beast. It is the type of character you would expect someone like Doctor Strange to do battle with.
Outside of the look of the Hulk there is not much different in the way the character acts or behaves. Tamaki has done a superb job building to this moment. We have seen the extreme struggles Jennifer has gone through and the fear she has over turning back into this monster. Typically with a Hulk book you are just waiting for Hulk to show up, but here there is concern for Hulk to appear. Buildup is great but when the payoff is not there you run the risk of derailing all the momentum that has been established.
Here the ending is rather underwhelming. Hulk deals with the monster in the normal way you would expect, and on a character standpoint neither Jenn or Maise have compelling resolutions. It was as if Tamaki was concerned about giving Maise too tragic of an ending no matter if it fit the story that was being told or not.
Anytime you are able to approach such a classic character in a new way I am all for it. Civil War II was quite the disappointment but in that some good did come. Hulk’s first arc may not have had the thrilling or satisfying conclusion it was capable of achieving, but it was no means a total loss. Much of the dramatic dilemmas that were forged in the beginning are still there and clearly have much better fruit to bear.
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Greg Smallwood
Looking at Marvel for the last few years its odd that Moonknight has had a larger assortment of quality runs than some of the biggest characters. Perhaps editors give writers more freedom with a character like Moonknight, or maybe its the lack of pressure fans put on teams that are on bigger legacy characters like the X-Men or Spider-Man. Whatever the reason Jeff Lemire’s most recent run may go down as one of the best for the character.
For those that have been following along Lemire has gone head first into the broken psyche of Marc Spector. Giving us a story that demonstrates both the insanity and legacy of the character. I would be lying if I said I fully understood everything that was happening in each issue, but the lack of complete comprehension did not diminish my enjoyment at all.
This final issue gives some answers although indirectly. Do not worry it is not that he was dead the entire time. This is not Lost. Lemire leaves enough room open for interpretation which is the right choice. To try to tie everything up in a nice little bow would be a disservice to what this series has been about.
Greg Smallwood’s art is as gorgeous as always. Sometimes his panels are so breathtaking I find myself getting lost in them and overlooking much of the actual dialogue. Lemire puts a lot on his shoulders and he has no trouble coming through.
It is sad to see this book come to an end. Moonknight will go down as one of those great series that I will only recommend to certain people. With a more abstract storytelling approach some may not be able to get invested. For myself I found this to be a deeply emotional tale full of tragedy and triumph. Using multiple personalities can easily become a gimmick and in a way Lemire doubled down on that gimmick to create something undeniable original. We may never see Marvel put out a book like this ever again.
Old Man Logan #24
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Eric Nguyen
When you take a character like Old Man Logan and bring him into the normal Marvel universe the question is what is the purpose—outside of just selling more books. Jeff Lemire took this book and made it more than just the Wolverine replacement. Many of the themes Mark Millar established in his original series where developed to a finer detail.
This final story arc Past Lives had its ups and downs. Pacing wise it moved so quickly many of the story elements did not have much of an impact. It felt like a cheap excuse to pick and choose some of the more iconic moments in the history of Wolverine. By the third issue the initial point of the journey was seemingly lost.
All that changed when Wolverine finally made it back to the Wastelands. The moments of Logan being with his family again were touching and hopeful. That hope was replaced with an emotional gut punch when Logan discovered just how little he could change, and with that realization the devastating horror the lay waiting for him. Death has for the most part become meaningless in the world of superhero comics so when a writer can make the killing of a character matter again that is something to take note.
Who knows where this series will go with Lemire leaving, and with the proposed Marvel Legacy series coming out one wonders how much longer this character will be staying in this universe. Lemire left this series as a solid ending point so if Old Man Logan were to fade into the distance it would actually make sense. At this point I simply wonder what stories can still be told. I do not envy those who have to follow this act.
Generation X #2
Writer: Christina Strain
Artist: Amilcar Pinna
When looking at recent relaunch of all the X-Men titles there is no question what the weakest link is so far and that is Generation X. So far it is a series that is severely lacking its own identity. Yes there are similar characters that once appeared in past Generation X stories but so far the characterizations have been poor and uninteresting. There are some ideas here that could work. Having to approach the teaching of teenage mutants differently based on their gifted powers could yield a good story if it ever gets to that point.
With some better editing this could have been a much shaprer book. Looking at these two issues there is no reason the story so far should be taking as long as it has been. That may sound hyperbolic for a book that is only in its second issue, but so far the hook every book needs to compel the reader to come back is missing.
The thing is the formula is there to make a title like this work. Books like The Young X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, and the aforementioned Generation X were all books about school aged X-Men and all were great. What they did and this has failed to do is build great characters and a layered dynamic between them. The only dynamic so far is these characters are nearly all crazy and dislike one another, which does not make for a very enjoyable read.
Amilcar Pinna art is also not doing the book any favors. Character faces look distorted at times and widely inconsistent. Being only two issues in this series can still right the ship by figuring out exactly what it wants to be. It is fine to follow a formula as long as you execute it properly. So far this is not much more than a poorer version of a better comic.
Secret Empire #3
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino, Rod Reis
When Secret Empire #0 debuted I was amazed by how much was packed into the first issue. Typically zero issues are nothing more than recaps, but Secret Empire did not follow that trend and moved at a break neck spread with a tremendous amount of standout moments. Nick Spencer built a foundation to tell a great story, and when time jumped even further in issue one it appeared this series would not get as bogged down as other event titles. Since that time jump however the majority of narrative has been spent playing catchup. Once gain we have another event where there is a lot going on but nothing really is happening.
Part of the problem is how rapidly the scope has expanded in these last two issues. Now we have Black Widow and The Champions training to take down Steve Rogers, Hawkeye and his crew and their McGuffin journey to capture the pieces of the Cosmic Cube, New York stuck in a hell like dimension, Captain Marvel and her team fighting an endless space battle, and everything going on with Steve Rogers and Hydra. That’s not counting the continuation of last issues shocking ending. When you have so many juggling pieces like this you have less of a story and more of a grouping of highlights that move each piece forward ever so slightly.
Isolated each piece has something intriguing and Secret Empire is by no means without its merits. Black Widow debating with The Champions over the morality of killing is captivating sequence. Spencer injects a lot of his trademark humor and as fan of his past Ant-Man series I was excited to see him write Scott Lang again. Once again we also get a number of shocking reveals including the return of a character I thought Marvel simply forgot about, and another classic Marvel hero showing loyalty to Hydra that will surely ruffle some feathers.
We also get a break from the rotating artists as Andrea Sorrentino returns. He is as solid as always but we do not get any standout two page spreads like he has last issue. When you have one of today’s best artists put on Marvel’s biggest book of the year you expect to see some remarkable artwork. So when you get something that is only good it is hard not to be disappointed.
Looking at last issue many are speculating that Spencer is finding a cheap way to explain the current mindset of Steve Rogers. Personally I do not feel this additional Steve Rogers is at all what he seems, nor do I see this series ending with Hydra Cap turning out to be a clone, Skrull, or the Ultimate version of Steve Rogers. I think it is very clear this bearded Rogers we are seeing is not even a physical person but rather a manifestation of morality that still exists inside Rogers. Perhaps I am wrong, but for those who were ready to write off this book I say there are many possible answers that may not end up being awful.
Secret Empire so far has had its problems but not to the level the internet would lead you to believe. Spencer has taken the freedom of an else world story and added some actual stakes. More attention needs to be placed on moving this story forward and less on shocking revels, but overall Secret Empire is a big event worth your time.