Guest Review: FCBD Secret Empire–Spider Man

This is a guest review done by my wonderful boyfriend and the mind behind The Figure in Question! He went with me to Free Comic Book Day and he’ll be reviewing the books he picked up.

Synopsis:

The Marvel Universe is under siege from the greatest threat it has ever known! Everything has been leading to this as Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino bring the entire Marvel Universe together for the highly-anticipated SECRET EMPIRE series! UNITED THEY STAND against a common foe, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Defenders, the Champions, the Inhumans, Spider-Man and more must hold together as an unwavering front! Yet even their combined might may not be enough to withstand the awesome power of Hydra! Then, after his globetrotting adventures Spider-Man has returned to his friendly neighborhood as Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira present a sneak peek at PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER MAN! A new companion series to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker is back in the Big Apple he’s brought the Ol’ Parker Luck with him! Don’t miss your first taste of this back-to-basics and high-flying ongoing series!

What I first Thought:

This was the only FCBD pick-up that I knew about prior to arriving at our local store.  I’ve been following the events of Nick Spencer’s Steve Rogers: Captain America series, which is a direct lead-in to this.  Since it’s a continuation of a story I’m already reading, I obviously wasn’t planning to just skip it.  The general public’s not too hot on the whole Hydra Cap thing, but I’ve been enjoying seeing where it’s been going, even the Steve Rogers presented here isn’t “my Steve Rogers.”  I had no real opinions one way or another on the second feature, which is a Spider-Man story, unrelated to the main story.  I like Chip Zdarsky’s work as a writer, though, so I’m intrigued.

Ratings:

Since there are two unrelated stories here, I’ll be examining them separately.  I’ll note Secret Empire with an “SE” and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man with an “SM.”

Art: 3/5 (SE), 5/5 (SM)

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Andrea Sorrentino’s work, if I’m totally honest.  I mean, he’s got an interesting style, and he can layout a page well enough, but his work is always kind of murky and washed out.  Not my ideal choice for anything having to do with super heroes.  I personally would have preferred the interiors had been more consistent with Mark Brooks’s cover, which I feel is more on par with Marvel’s usual style.  With Sorrentino’s interiors, at times, it’s a little difficult to figure out what’s going on in any given panel, and I had some real trouble making out which characters were which.  On the plus side, as I noted before, the layouts are pretty strong and he’s clearly having fun working the Cap and Hydra iconography into the shapes of the panels.  He seems to get a bit more comfortable as the story progresses, and the final splash page is a good deal stronger than the first few pages.

On the flip side, Paulo Siqueira’s work on the Spider-Man story really appeals to me.  The work is really clean and easy to follow.  The characters are all very lively, and sport some of the best expression work I’ve see from any artist that’s not Kevin McGuire.  The line work is bold and easy to follow, and the panel layouts do a really nice job of conveying movement as Spider-Man and Vulture sweep through the skies of New York.  Siqueira delivers a very iconic take on Spider-Man, in the vein of John Romita, Sr. and Gil Kane, who are two of my favorite Spidey artists.

Story: 4/5 (SE), 5/5 (SM)

The SE story is pretty decent for what it is, but there’s a big caveat on “what it is.”  It’s not a whole story, nor is it a beginning or an end.  It’s right smack dab in the middle of everything; it’s the rising conflict that’s leading to the main climax that will be the Secret Empire mini-series.  There’s a quick, broad strokes recap of Civil War II and a little of Steve Rogers: Captain America, before kicking things off with Hawkeye being ambushed by some Hydra goons.  He’s rescued by Black Widow, who informs his “gonna miss the war.”  The rest of the story depicts the major Marvel heroes battling Hydra’s forces, climaxing with the arrival of the Hydra corrupted Steve Rogers.  The final splash page shows our heroes defeated, Cap standing over them, wielding a certain thunder god’s magical hammer, while the narration proclaims of Hydra “They were stronger.  They were more powerful.  In that moment—They were worthy.”  This final shot has been the cause of some contention amongst fans, who say it preaches an uncomfortable message of “might makes right.”  I personally see that uncomfortable message as an indicator that something’s off here.  Cap’s turn to Hydra was the result of the Cosmic Cube rewriting reality.  Recent story developments have amended that it was actually setting reality back on the correct path.  However, if Mjolnir is allowing Steve to wield it, perhaps this shows that Steve is supposed to be worthy enough to wield it, deep down, perhaps indicating that his true nature really is what we’ve been seeing all along.

Zdarsky’s Spider-Man story is a more complete tale.  There’s still a bit of a cliff-hanger (leading in to June’s Issue #1 of the series), but we get a fairly standalone little battle between Spidey and Vulture, as well as a quick lead-in conversation between Peter and MJ to help catch readers up to speed on where those two are.  The choice of Vulture as the primary antagonist is no doubt inspired by his presence in the upcoming movie, but it was still nice to see him sort of return to his routes, while still not completely backtracking.  We also see the introduction of the new Trapster, who I assume will be getting a larger role in the series proper.  Above all, I found Zdarsky’s dialogue to be very strong.  He’s got a good handle on Spidey’s quips and I even found myself laughing out loud once or twice.  I’ll definitely be grabbing the first issue of the main series when it hits.

Overall: 3.5 (SE), 5 (SM)

Details:

Title:  Secret Empire / Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man

Issue:  Free Comic Book Day

Publisher:  Marvel

Writer:  Nick Spencer (SE), Chip Zdarsky (SM)

Pencils:  Andrea Sorrentino (SE), Paulo Siqueira (SM)

Inks:  Andrea Sorrentino (SE), Walden Wong, Cam Smith, Jay Leisten, & Paulo Siqueira (SM)

Colors:  Andrea Sorrentino (SE),

Letters:  VC’s Travis Lanham

Release Date:  May 6, 2017

Pages:  28

Genre:  Super Hero, Action-Adventure, Marvel

Comic Book Review: FCBD Lady Mechanika

Synopsis:

Introduce new readers to this steampunk bestseller, which has been remarkably successful with female readers as well as fans of the popular steampunk genre, with this FCBD special that includes the original 14-page one-shot introducing Lady Mechanika, a young woman in Victorian England with mechanical limbs and no memory of how she got them, searching desperately for the secrets to her past, plus excerpts from the Lady Mechanika trades and comics!

What I First Thought:

I got this comic from the local store during Free Comic Book Day 2017. I’ve seen Lady Mechanika floating around at the various comic book stores that I’ve been into and I’ve been interested in reading about her for a while. So when I saw this edition I decided to finally take the plunge and see if this dark, steampunk lady would suit my fancy!

Ratings:

Art: 4/5

I really liked the art. Everything was well drawn and detailed. You could see the detailing in her outfit real well, specifically on her vest. The patterns on the vest were faint so that it didn’t distract from the overall scene, but you could see it well enough to give her clothing a distinctive and authentic feel. The action scenes weren’t too congested with unnecessary lines, sounds, etc. that would draw you away from what was happening. Some of the facial expressions were a bit too dramatic but overall the people looked decently designed. My one complaint it that Lady Mechanika looks to have Barbie’s proportions. I understand how corsets work, they make the wait look thinner and the boobs stand out more, but her body just doesn’t look right. Overall the designs, detailing, and the colors are fantastic.

Story: 4/5

I really enjoyed the intro to the character, it was enough to a good glimpse at her personality and what drives but still leaves you wanting more. And boy do I want to read more about this dark, mysterious heroine! The other two previews to the later volumes were interesting, they were shorter than the excerpt from the prologue. I think I would have enjoyed the other two more if I knew more about the story and they were just too short. I’m really curious as to what happens in those volumes now, but I wish there was a little more to let me know what to expect. Either way, I’m interested in reading more from this series!

Overall: 4/5

Details:

Title: Lady Mechanika

Issue: Free Comic Book Day edition

Publisher: Benitez Productions

Writer: Joe Benitez

Art: Joe Benitez

Colors: Peter Steigerwald

Lettering: Josh Reed

Released Date: May 5th, 2016

Pages: 28

Genre: Mystery, Science-fiction, Teen, Action, Steampunk

Comic Book Review: FCBD Colorful Monsters

Synopsis:

D+Q presents a giant sampler loaded with 64 pages of our most beloved comics for kids – delightful misadventures with Moomin and his family, strange and spectacular tales of Kitaro, and more hilarious antics from Anna & Froga. Enjoy a sneak peek into the rollicking sketchbook of cartoonist Elise Gravel, with colorful monsters, imaginary friends, and activity pages where readers can draw right alongside her!

What I First Thought:

I got this comic from the local store during Free Comic Book Day 2017. I was interested in picking up some kid friendly comics and this one caught my eye!

Ratings:

Since there are four completely different stories I’m going to rate them separately. Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War will be represented by (K), If Found…Please Return to Elise Gravel will be (EG), Anna & Frogga (A&F), and Moomin and the Brigands (M).

Art: 4/5 (M), 4/5 (EG), 4/5 (A&F), 5/5 (K)

(M): The artwork kind of reminded me of the Saturday comic stripes. It was simple but creative drawings with contrasting colors. The artwork wasn’t always consistent, but I enjoyed it well enough.

(EG): I really enjoyed the artwork for this. It reminded me of the things I used to doodle in notebooks or no the edges of notes/homework during school. The line work is simple and funny, and the colors are very bright. It was very nostalgic, like someone took pictures of a kid’s school doodles and decided to share them with the world.

(A&F): The art was very simple and colorful. Again something that reminded me of Saturday comics, especially with short stories! I actually don’t have much to say about the art. It was nice and well done, but nothing to write home about.

(K): The art in this story is the best. The characters are simply done with enough detailing to make them unique. The background is really well done, close up and far away. The trees, grass, even the structures look so real without distracting from the characters in the panels.

Story: 3/5 (M), 5/5 (EG), 4/5 (A&F), 5/5 (K)

(M): I know this is just an excerpt from the story, but the beginning didn’t make much sense to me, and the following scenes didn’t seem to fit together even though they’re from the same story. I found the story to be cute and funny but the actions of the characters and the progression of the story didn’t make much sense to me. I really enjoyed the ending of this one though, I think it was my favorite of this story.

(EG): This one doesn’t really have a story. It reads like someone’s journal and the doodles match the entry you read. I think this one would do very well for kids, or any adult needing to escape real life.

(A&F): This segment was made up of 3 different short stories, each cute and funny. The short stories didn’t have any correlation with each other, which was fine. The characters were odd but amusing, each different and well portrayed within their few pages.

(K): The story is simple with a good moral, don’t always trust those who ask for help. It’s normal for humans to try to help others, especially those who appear to be of poorer status. But looks can be deceiving, those who appear to be in need can make lots of money from those with big hearts, and this story serves as a lesson. I think this was my favorite!

Overall: 4/5

This was a pretty good sampler for the stories these excerpts came from.  Believe both kids and adults alike would appreciate these stories! Hopefully I’ll find more of these stories in the future.

Details:

Title: Colorful Monsters

Issue: Free Comic Book Day edition

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Writer: Anouk Ricard (A&F), Tove Jansson (M), Shigeru Mizuki (K), Elise Gravel (EG)

Art: Elise Gravel (EG), Tove Jansson (M), Shigeru Mizuki (K), Anouk Ricard (A&F)

Released Date: May 5th, 2016

Pages: 62

Genre: Comedy, Humor, Children’s

Comic Book Review: Steven Universe (2017-) #3

Synopsis:

When the local business owners in Beach City start to feel the economic pinch during the tourist off-season, Mayor Dewey and Buck come up with a solution: food trucks!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

Story: 5/5

Overall: 5

This issue was centered more on Mayor Dewey and his son, Buck, rather than Steven and the Gems. I really liked that the story was more on the town itself; don’t get me wrong, I love Steven and the Gems, but I also like the towns folk and I want to see more of them too!

In this story the town is trying to solve a problem of many beach towns during the off-season, drawing in customers. Buck comes up with the idea of bringing in food trucks on the weekends to help bring in more people for the local businesses. Things go off without a hitch…except the local businesses suffer. However, together Mayor Dewey and Buck find a way to both draw in people and help their local businesses, also highlighting the importance of local shops and how just bringing in new people won’t always help.

The story was really simple and you see some sweet moments between Mayor Dewey and his son. While they’re not main or major characters, I thought it was still nice to see more of their relationship together. It was also nice to see that while yes, Dewey is a politician, but he also really cares about the city he watches over.

I think that the artwork has improved a lot since the first issue. The first issue of this run had great art, don’t get me wrong, but it still didn’t feel quite like Steven Universe. However, I feel like the artist has really captured that in this volume while still having their own style. I also loved some of the sight gags in this issue, one that I was not expecting but won’t ruin for anyone else!

Why do I have to wait so long between releases?!? Until next time!

Details:

Title: Steven Universe (2017- )

Issue: 3

Publisher: kaboom!

Creator: Rebecca Sugar

Writer: Melanie Gillman

Illustrator: Katy Farina

Colors: Whitney Cogar

Letters: Mike Fiorentino

Released Date: April 24, 2017

Pages: 26

Genre: Science Fiction, Slice of Life

Comic Book Review: Empress #1

Synopsis:

Imagine you’re married to the worst bad guy from your favorite sci-fi movie. An alien dictator feared throughout the universe, who will kill you if you leave — but you need to escape for the sake of your three children. All you have are your wits, your bodyguard, and three guns.

What I First Thought:

I found this comic one day when I went with my boyfriend and his family to their local comic book store. They had the first four issues and it looked interesting enough, so I grabbed it. I’m still new to comic books, I still haven’t quite figured out how to judge whether or not I’ll like it before buying it. This time I went with my gut, so hopefully that was enough!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I loved Stuart Immonen’s art! Not going to lie, but at first I was a little leery about the heroine’s character design because from the cover it looked like she would be an unrealistic “space babe”. After seeing the artwork, time and again Emporia was portrayed with realistic body proportions that weren’t too over the top. I think what I liked most about the artwork is that it already appears pretty smooth, some of the past comics I’ve read were a little rough in the beginning. Every line has a purpose, the scenes aren’t cluttered with too much detail, there’s just enough to give the readers all the information they need. The action sequences weren’t overcrowded or overpowered, just enough explosions when needed.

Story: 4/5

This was a pretty good beginning to the series. I’m really intrigued with the setting of this story. The story is set 65 million years ago with dinosaurs, aliens, and space travel; to date I don’t think I’ve ever read a story (outside of watching those few episodes of Doctor Who) in which those three are combined. I’m excited to see where Millar will do with this setting. Already I’ve seen a T-Rex fighting in an arena and a ship having to avoid a flock (?) of pterodactyls, but will there be more to it and will the dinosaurs actually play some sort of role in the story.

This story had just enough information to keep me from getting lost, but still left me with questions. I would’ve liked for a little more background, but I think that’s more my speed. I’m still curious to see what happens next!

Overall: 4.5

Details:

Title: Empress

Issue: 1

Publisher: Icon

Writer: Mark Millar

Illustrator: Stuart Immonen

Colors: Ive Svorcina

Letters: Peter Doherty

Released Date: April 6, 2016

Pages: 32

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Graphic Novel Review: Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection (book 1)

Synopsis:

Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo take the reins of Fantastic Four and deliver some of the most daring and humorous adventures these heroes have ever seen! Giant bugs! Living equations! Johnny Storm, CEO! Exploding unstable molecules! The secret behind the Yancy Street Gang! And witness the antics between the Thing and the Human Torch heat up like never before! Prepare to laugh and cheer at once!

First Thought:

Recently, my boyfriend and I were playing Lego Marvel Super Hero ©. While playing, I told him that I didn’t really care for the Fantastic Four characters because I was unimpressed by them in their movies. He agreed that their movie were terrible representations of them and decided to lend me a couple of his favorite storylines for the characters. Opening myself to change, I decided to give this book a read to see what this family was really about!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

My original impressions of the characters were wrong, at least within this storyline by Mark Waid. I haven’t read very much of Marvel, but I was really impressed with this story. It was all about family, focusing on the group as a whole and the relationships between various characters.

I enjoyed seeing Reed and Sue as parents. They aren’t the perfect parents, they mess up from time to time it was great to see that, it was real and heartfelt. I smiled seeing Reed interacting with his new daughter, it reminded me of my relationship with my own father. It was nice to see how the young boy of super heroes messes up, royally so, and learns from the experience.

I enjoyed the relationship between Sue and Johnny. She did everything she could to help him, to raise him, to make him into a better man, and Johnny was able to realize that. I loved seeing the arc of their relationship, and I can’t wait to see more from them!

Lastly, I really enjoyed seeing the interactions between each of the before mentioned characters and The Thing. He played a different role for each of his team members and it was nice. Before reading this, the thing (eh, get it? Okay, I’ll stop…) I remembered the most about his character was the childish relationship between him and Johnny and not much else. After reading this novel, I see him as a dear friend to each of the other members and that they actually care for him too.

Ratings:

Art: 4

The art changed for the last two issues in this novel. Both art styles were nice to look at and didn’t make me cringe, but I really enjoyed the first art style more. Overall, I appreciated that the artists made the characters a bit cartoonier to fit the overall mood of the story. I also loved the colors in this story; everything was so bright and colorful!

Story: 4

I found the stories to be fun and light, but serious when need be and I believe Waid did a wonderful job balancing the moods. I enjoyed seeing the Fantastic Four not as super heroes first, but friends, family, adventures, and pioneers before anything else. I believe the first issue did a wonderful job of setting up Waid’s vision for this story and I can’t wait to read more!

Overall: 4

Details:

Title: Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection

Book: 1

Issue(s): 60-66

Publisher: Marvel

Creator(s): Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Writer(s): Mark Waid

Illustrator: Mike Wieringo & Mark Buckingham

Colors: Paul Mounts, Avalon Studios’ Mark Milla & John Kalisz with Malibu

Letters: Bill Oakley and Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne

Released Date: June 29th 2011

Pages: 208

Comic Book Review: Steven Universe (2017-) #1

steven-universe-1Details:

Title: Steven Universe (2017- )

Issue: 1

Publisher: kaboom!

Creator: Rebecca Sugar

Writer: Melanie Gillman

Illustrator: Katy Farina

Colors: Whitney Cogar

Letters: Mike Fiorentino

Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Slice of Life

Released Date: February 8, 2016

kaboom_stevenuniverse2017_001_b_subscriptionSynopsis:

(As read on Goodreads)

Writer Melanie Gillman (As the Crow Flies) and artist Katy Farina (The Amazing World of Gumball) are teaming up for the start of a new series of adventures for the entire gang. Based on Cartoon Network’s Emmy Award-nominated animated series created by Rebecca Sugar about a boy with magical powers who goes on adventures with The Crystal Gems, a team of beings who safeguard the universe. The show is approaching its fourth season and has earned millions of fans of all ages worldwide. In this kickoff issue, Steven, Lapis, and Peridot rescue a baby songbird on the ground outside the barn and work together to reunite it with its mother.

First Thought:

I was brought onto the Steven Universe ban wagon by my best friend our freshman year of college. While our roommates were out partying we watched Steven Universe while indulging ourselves on campus pizzas and smoothies. Since then, I have also dragged my boyfriend into the fray and he was the one to tell me about the new comic coming out, saying that it looked pretty good. I was a little cautious because I have seen the other comics and they just didn’t grab me, and their art bothered me. However, when we went to the local comic book store to find this issue I was instantly attracted to the beautiful covers and I knew I wanted to read this series! I ended up buying both of the covers that the store had on hand because I honestly couldn’t just pick one…

Ratings:

Art: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Overall: 5

I really liked the art in this issue. I believe that Katy Farina did a fantastic job with the characters and the world around them. The art wasn’t 100% like the show, which is totally fine with me, but it felt enough like the Steven Universe I got used to to not distract me from the story. This issue just felt like another episode of Steven Universe with a cute little story and message to go with. Melanie Gillman did a wonderful job with writing such a short story, like many of the episodes within the show, and creating a simple one issue plot. There’s nothing bigger, nothing grand, just Steven spending time with Lapis and Peridot building their characters and their friendship.

This first issue really is just a cute little read, one that will help cheer you up when you’re down and a nice little fix for the pauses between new episodes. If you like Steven Universe, want to try out comics (or new comics), or need some cheering up, then go to your local comic bookstore and pick up this issue. Do it, I promise you won’t regret it when you get wrapped up in the cuteness of Steven and the baby songbird!