Graphic Novel Review: Black Squadron (Star Wars: Poe Dameron vol.1)

Synopsis:

Poe Dameron, former Republic flyer turned Resistance fighter, is the best pilot in the galaxy. Hand-picked for the resistance by General Leia Organa to lead a squadron on a top-secret and vital mission, Poe sets off to investigate sites of historical importance to the Force — revealing backstory leading directly into The Force Awakens! Follow Poe and his X-Wing squadron on covert missions against the First Order, brought to you by writer Charles Soule (STAR WARS: LANDO, DAREDEVIL) and artist Phil Noto (STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA, BLACK WIDOW)!

Collecting issues 1–6 from the ongoing series

First Thought:

In the last two movies I have absolutely loved Poe Dameron! I have found his character to be quite charming and hilarious—I wanted to learn more about this rough, roguish flyboy. But, I was a little afraid to jump into his comic series when it first came out. At the time I was just getting into comics and I was 100% sold on the character, not enough to warrant buying into the series. However, after The Last Jedi and the whole General Hugs scene I decided it was about time to get into the comic series, and thank goodness my partner has been keeping up with the series because I just borrowed his!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I haven’t read very many Star Wars stories yet, and I certainly haven’t read any of the work done by either the artist or the writer, but I felt like this story was pretty entertaining. I start off by saying this because I read a handful of the reviews for the first part of this series and they’re not that stellar. Most of them are rather unexplained bouts of “Soule can’t write to save his life” and “this was boring”, while a few were long diatribes that pretty much said the same thing. In this case I’d have to disagree. I’ve read enough comics, in general, now to understand for myself what is and isn’t good writing. I’m not saying that Soule is the greatest of all time, but I noticed that his writing style for this series is a bit soft-spoken. When I read Doctor Aphra the story telling was very flashy and exciting, always going for the big BOOM! But Poe Dameron seems to be taking a different approach, some of the key plot points in this story were revealed in off-handed remarks that some readers might miss. Not everything is on display for the whole world to pick up in one glance, some things are hidden in plain sight and can be found through thorough reading.

I actually found this story to be quite interesting and entertaining. Since seeing The Force Awakens, I was curious about the old man in the village on Jakku that I now know as Lor San Tekka. Now I may be able to learn more about the old explorer, how he came upon the location of Luke, and how Poe and BB8 got involved. By the looks of this first trade, the journey to finding Tekka is going to be a long bumpy ride full of encounters with the First Order. I’m not sure how I feel about the villain, Agent Terex, he seems to be a surviving soul of the Empire who made himself useful to the First Order, but isn’t completely sold on the First Order agenda. But, the story doesn’t revolve around the villain. Instead, Terex is just the necessary evil that Poe needs to create urgency for his quest to find Tekka, I just hope the agent gets more depth than that as the story continues!

I really enjoyed reading about Poe’s Black Squadron. So far they seem like an interesting group of individuals that are really loyal to Poe, and it’s neat to see some familiar faces from the movies, like Jessika and Snap. I’m also a huge fan of meeting the astromechs behind the piolets, because it makes BB8 less of an oddity and more normal. The astromechs were also an interesting way to add humor to otherwise hair-raising situations, and I rather enjoyed how the writer was able to communicate what they were saying without using actual words. It was a nice team-up between writer and artist to make those characters easy to understand.

Ratings:

Art: 4

The art isn’t the greatest that I’ve ever seen, but I still appreciated it. Noto did a fantastic job of sticking to what we knew of the movies in terms of various character, alien, and ship designs. I enjoyed spotting the aliens that I recognized from the previous movies and the ones that I’d never seen before, like an interesting game of Where’s Waldo. My one complaint was that at first it appeared that Noto was putting too much emphases on the faces, giving them details that while accurate didn’t really seem to translate well for me on the page. It seemed like he withdrew some from that in the later chapters, but for a little while there seemed to be an imbalance of detail in the characters’ faces—some hade more than others. But I actually really enjoyed most of his design work, especially when it was used subtly to throw in some symbolism. The coloring was also very pleasing, a nice mix between light and dark tones matching the moods and the action of the sequences. The shading work was also fantastic, I have a problem with most hard shadows because they just look off-putting, but the shadows in this are very gradual and match the lighting quite beautifully. They also do a wonderful job using the shadows to add depth to the characters’ designs.

Story: 3

Soule’s writing style appears to me to be very subtle, maybe a little too subtle for some people. Read carefully when you read Poe Dameron, because some important information is either mentioned briefly or as a forethought. Their writing isn’t very flashy, so the action scenes may come off a bit dull for some people, but honestly I found them to be quite enjoyable. I really only have two major complaints about his writing so far. One, in the first chapter they make reference to another Poe Dameron story from one of the media-tie in novels, which is fine but I feel like a great writer can loosely relay the important information to the reader without forcing them to go elsewhere for the information. Two, I felt like Poe’s personality from the movies is a bit watered down in this story so far.  I understand that this is a prequel story to The Force Awakens and that there is plenty of time to see that Poe develop. However, I had to laugh when Jessika made mention that Poe could charm the pants off a Hutt because I had yet to really see that charming Poe yet, but there’s still hope!

Overall: 3.5

It’s a nice read that I would recommend to anyone who is a big Poe fan and needs something to tie themselves over until Episode IX. It also provides some good development for his team, the members of which don’t get a whole lot of dialogue let alone screen time! And overall, it looks like a fun action/adventure race against time sort of space quest that should provide some entertainment. I know it made my morning rather fun!

Details:

Title: Black Squadron (Star Wars: Poe Dameron)

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-6

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Charles Soule

Illustrator: Phil Noto

Colors: Phil Noto

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramgna

Released Date: December 13, 2016

Pages: 144

Genre(s): Space Opera, Science-Fiction, Young Adult, Action/Adventure

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Graphic Novel Review: Star Wars Doctor Aphra vol.1

Synopsis:

Following her time in the clutches of Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra has barely escaped with her life. If he ever learns of her survival, he’ll hunt her to the ends of the galaxy. But for now, it’s time for a return to what she does best. With the droids 0-0-0 and BT-1 in tow, she’s off in search of rare artifacts from the galactic center to the Outer Rim and everywhere in between. Aphra’s got debts to pay after all. Just as long as she can stay one step ahead of the Empire, some Bounty Hunters and just about everyone else in the galaxy!

First Thought:

After watching the last three Star Wars movies my love for the franchise has reawakened, so of course one of the first things I did was hit the shelves. While I like the idea of the force and the whole Jedi/Sith dynamic, I actually really wanted to read stories that were centered around non-force users. It may seem strange, but I find that non-force using main characters have cooler stories than Jedi and Sith. Anyways, so I found this trade a while back when the comic book store was doing a big sale, so I decided to grab it because who doesn’t like morally grey characters with questionable allies?

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I don’t know what it is about killer droids that make them so interesting to me. I think it started back when I was younger and playing Knights of the Old Republic, one of your companions in an assassin droid called HK-47 and he was one of my favorite characters in that game. In Aphra I thought her droid companions were going to be like R2-D2 and C3PO, and I thought they were going to be a little campy. Oh I was wrong—I fell in love with them the moment they started talking about torture. Weird, right? In reality, if a robot started talking torture to me I would flip table, but for some reason when Star Wars droids talk about it I think they’re super adorable. I think my favorite scene with the droids has to be when 0-0-0, a rather dark protocol droid, gets permission to torture someone and he has some sort of torture device in every figure that’s different from the last that he whips out of nowhere!

Anyways, while I already hoped this story would turn out fantastically it did more than just that! The art was alright, there were some minor discrepancies that I’ll discuss later. But the story was fantastic! Set sometime after A New Hope, the story makes references to the events of Rogue One and Episode 4 that quickly allows readers to orient themselves in the timeline. We also get to see new aliens and some that have made brief appearances in Rogue One.

The story is not your typical father-daughter adventure. Instead, they’re forced to ork together to chase after ghosts and legends—something that all archeologists should love to do, right? Wrong! Because of her debts, Aphra has to take on the emotionally charged adventure with her father and killer companions in toe. While I haven’t read her introduction in the Darth Vader Marvel comic, I felt like it wasn’t necessary. Maybe, if I have the money, I’ll buy the trades that she’s featured in and learn how she acquired her killer droids and her companionship with a Wookie Gladiator. But for now, I’m content with what I have because the author did a fantastic job writing the story so that you could pick it up without any prior knowledge to the characters. You could even read this comic without ever watching Rogue One or A New Hope, because the author doesn’t rely on you knowing that information, instead they give it to you in necessary pieces that don’t clutter up the main story with backstory.

Ratings:

Art: 4

My biggest problem with the art was some of the detailing—it was too much at times. I love it when artists can make characters come to live with detailing, but sometimes there’s a thing called too much. Like I don’t need to see every hair on a stubbly chin, with the right use of shadows and a few lines you can accomplish a similar look that’s less cluttered. I also so like a lot of unnecessary lines on people’s faces, especially if the picture looks almost the same without the lines there. It’s too distracting for me when there are weird lines on the face that aren’t part of the actual design, I know it’s a styling choice but it’s one I don’t care for. Other than those, the art was pretty good! I liked the mix of colors and that it wasn’t all one tone. The character designs were pretty cool, in fact it looks like the artist had a lot of fun drawing some of the concepts!

Story: 4

Overall the story was fantastic! The author did well to introduce Aphra and her companions, along with their relationships, in a timely manner that didn’t leave me feeling confused. Obviously, if people want to know more about her work with Vader they can easily find the trades she is in, but they don’t have to be read to understand this story—which is nice. My one complaint about the storytelling is that in some of the action sequences it jumped from one event to the next so quickly that I had to go back and read what had happened again. But the action sequences were pretty cool, I liked how they handled and didn’t take up to much of the storytelling like in other comics I’ve read.

Overall: 4

I definitely can’t wait for the next trade in this series to come out! I’m curious as to where Dr. Aphra’s character is going and what adventures will come her way. And as weird as it is, I’m excited to read more about a pair of psychotic astromech and protocol droids.

Details:

Title: Aphra (Star Wars: Doctor Aphra)

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-6l

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Kieron Gillen

Illustrator: Kev Walker & Marc Deering

Colors: Antonio Fabela

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramgna

Released Date: July 3rd, 2017

Pages: 144

Genre(s): Space Opera, Science-Fiction, Young Adult, Action/Adventure

Comic Review: Runaways (2017-) #1

Synopsis:

From Goodreads:

GET READY TO RUN! The “IT” book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back – Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be? GERT?! The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won’t believe how she returns! Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart!

What I First Thought:

I’ve never read a single Runaways comic before, mostly because I haven’t found any trades in the comic book stores that I’ve visited. I have a basic understanding about the group from my boyfriend’s impressive knowledge of the Marvel Universe. I’ve always been interested in reading about them myself, especially after I picked up a Nico figure last year, so when I saw the new series I decided to pick up the first few issues to give it a go.

Ratings:

Art: 4/5

So far, I really like the art. The shadows aren’t too harsh, there is actual degrees of shading going on that really fits the lighting in the scenes without making things appear too dark. The character designs are really interesting, though I haven’t met all the characters yet. The detailing is great, there’s enough there to get a general idea of texture, pattern, and other minor details without cluttering the overall picture. I’d have to say my favorite part of the art for this issue is the coloring of Nico’s hair, I love how smoothly the colors blend together creating a nice gradient between each of the different colors!

Story: 4/5

I’m no stranger to Rainbow Rowell, though I’m not a huge raging fan of hers I wanted to give this series a try. This fist issue really started off with a BANG! Right off the bat everything is tense and things are moving quickly. They do a good enough job trying to get new readers up to speed on what happened in the previous story, which I now have to track down, that there aren’t too many questions by the end of this issue. The only questions that remain are the ones that are making me want to continue! I think Rowell also did a good job in how she caught up the new readers while still keeping up the excitement, it was a nice diligent balance between important information and action.

Overall: 4

Obviously, I’m going to continue as soon as I find the other issues. I’m curious to see how this all plays out and I can’t wait to meet everyone else in the Runaways. I’m also curious to see how Rainbow Rowell does writing for comics, especially since I wasn’t overly impressed by her Fangirl novel.

Details:

Title: Runaways (2017-)

Issue: 1

Publisher: Marvel

Writer: Rainbow Rowell

Illustrator: Kris Anka

Colors: Matthew Wilson

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Released Date: September 13th, 2017

Pages: 32

Genre: Superheroes, Action/Adventure, Young Adult

Graphic Novel Review: Thor vol.2 Who Holds the Hammer?

Synopsis:

The Odinson pops the question: Who is the new Thor?

The Odinson wants Mjolnir back−and that means uncovering the identity of the new heroine holding the hammer! As he narrows down the list of suspects, tensions continue to flare between the All-Mother and All-Father. As Malekith the Dark Elf forges his most dangerous pact yet, the new Thor prepares to face her greatest challenge: the unstoppable machine of death and destruction that is…the Destroyer! While the battle for Mjolnir rages on an unexpected character makes a shocking return−and the new Thor’s identity is revealed at last! Plus: Young Thor enters a drinking competition! The new Thor takes on a surprising foe! In the future, King Thor’s granddaughters quest to find him the perfect birthday gift! And more!

First Thought:

After reading the last volume in this series I immediately rushed to purchase this one. I really wanted to find out who the new Thor is and if my suspicions are true! And after the fantastic job that was the previous volume, I’m more than excited to continue reading.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

This one wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The main story is just three action packed issues, while the rest appear to be three short stories and a release of an issue from the 70s. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to rate this one so bear with me on this review!

I really enjoyed the main story; there was a lot of action, plot advancements, and character development. In just three issues you get a really cool action-packed fight scene with the Destroyer. Normally I hate it when an action sequence is spread out too long, it reminds me of Dragon Ball Z and similar works with impossibly long battles that drag on forever. However, this one didn’t bug me because it was a really interesting battle. You get to see more of Thor’s personality as she fights the Destroyer, you see her get her lights knocked out and dragged through the dirt. You get to see what drives her to be Thor, why she won’t just give up. And in this fight you get to see other characters come into play as they help her defeat the Destroyer. It’s not because she’s a woman that they help her, but they want to see just what this new Thor is made of and to figure out just what kind of hero she’ll be. Aside from the main fight, we also get to see more of what the future story will hold as Malekith continues with his deadly plan!

The short stories from Thor Annual #1 were mostly interesting. The King Thor story was a bit depressing for me because it’s set in a really grim time in the future and there seems to be very little hope. The story is also a bit strange because it doesn’t give any hints as to what happened to make the future thus and the characters are rather lack lustered. The art for that story is really dark and a bit bland, fitting the mood of the tale, I guess. I really enjoyed the short story of the new Thor and the Warriors Three. It’s a quick read full of shenanigans, bonding, and discovery. The last in the Annual is just a simple comedic story of Thor’s legendary drinking skill. It’s set before Thor is a great, mighty hero and he has to prove his worth to Mjolnir, so he does various tasks to prove he is worthy. This short story involved a drinking contest with the devil and high-jinx ensues. It’s a cute little story, though the art while comedic was a little off putting. Overall, the King Thor story was my least favorite of the three while new Thor had the best story and art.

The last story in this volume is a What If from 1977, where the Watcher shows readers what the world would be like if {blank} happened. In issue 10, it’s what if Jane Foster found the hammer and became Thordis. It’s a weird story and I was a bit lost at times because I’m not very familiar with the early history of Thor. I also found some of the dialogue to be boring or just plain repetitive as the characters sometimes spoke a loud what they were doing as it happened. The art was fine, and I really enjoyed the coloring. Overall, it was alright and I understand why they included it in this volume but you can totally skip it if you don’t have a strong interest to read a ‘what if ’story.

Ratings:

Note: Since this volume includes work outside of the actually series I’m only rating issues 6-8, while making mentions of the extra content. This time the extra content will hold no sway over the ratings.

Art: 5

Nothing has really changed, I really love the art work in this story! Those an attention to detail that doesn’t draw you away from the story and is affected by the practicality of it in each scene. For instance, like in real life the further you are from the subject the less detailed it is. Another example is the added details that lend to the magical quality of a particular scene over another. Though I wish there was a little less detail in some of the gorier scenes. There were times when I shock in disgust and had to skim over the panel because it was too much. The coloring was also really nice and well balanced. The brightness of the colors really lent to the mood of the scenes, or helped in contrast to bring attention to certain details. It’s nice to see foreshadowing being displayed through shadow and color. I think my favorite part of the art in this volume are the facial expressions. They were so expressive and conveyed so much detail that didn’t need dialogue, and that’s fantastic in my books! Also, some Odinson’s expressions were just priceless.

Story: 5

I feel like the story in this volume is much improved than the last. Normally I don’t like battles that last more than one issue, but I feel like this one was done quite well. There’s a lot of character development in the fight scene and it opens up possible side adventures with other characters. The battle really does a lot to flesh out Thor and it also helps draw a line with some of the other characters in this story, especially where they stand on larger issues. There are a few places in the story that needed a bit more background and some of them note previous Thor issues (that I don’t have access to), but most don’t. So if you’re up to date with everything then you’ll be fine, if you’re just starting to read Thor after the switch you might get a little lost. Finally, the big question is answered as Thor’s identity is revealed at the end, but it may not be who you think it is. I’m actually quite happy with the choice and it’s extremely plausible, giving more depth and humility to the character of Thor.

Overall: 4.5

This volume really helps to set up the tone for the rest of the story, when or wherever they decide to continue it. The artwork is fantastic, the character development is wonderful, and for once I really enjoyed a stretched out fight scene. The one weakness to this volume are the extra stories. While some of them are really good, they may throw a lot of people off or confuse some readers. Honestly, I only enjoyed two of the four and only one of them I loved all around. I still high recommend this volume of Thor, but maybe skim the Annual and the What if.

Details:

Title: Thor: Who Holds the Hammer?

Volume: 2

Issue(s): 6-8, Thor Annual #1, What if? (1977) #10

Publisher: Marvel

Creator(s): Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby

Writer(s): Jason Aaron

Illustrator: Russell Dauterman

Colors: Matthew Wilson

Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino

Released Date: July 21st, 2015

Pages: 136

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action

 

Graphic Novel Review: Ms. Marvel vol 1

Synopsis:

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

It’s history in the making from acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) and beloved artist Adrian Alphona (RUNAWAYS)! Collecting MS. MARVEL (2014) #1-5 and material from ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE #1.

First Thought:

My boyfriend has been reading this comic series for a while now and really enjoys it. At the time he started reading I had no interest in comics, but when he bought an action figure of the Kamala it peaked my interest. It wasn’t until after Marvel got thrown under the bus that I decided to read more of them, especially after I enjoyed reading the new Thor run!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I really enjoyed this start to a new hero! I connected instantly with Kamala, more so than I have with a character in a long while. I related to her because of her relationship with her parents and how they treat her. In high school, my parents set hard expectations for me. They wanted me to get straight A’s and be better than what my brother had become, and at the same time they wanted me to be my own person and come up with my own ideas. However, whenever my ideas and thoughts didn’t agree with theirs that’s when they became disappointed in me and claimed I had changed or I wasn’t thinking clearly. So when I read the same thing happening to Kamala I instantly connected with her, especially when it was her mother who was giving her most of the grief and her father still showed her at least some support. And that’s what I like about Ms. Marvel and Kamala, there’s literally something for everyone to connect to the character with.

I really enjoyed seeing the steps that Kamala took to becoming Ms. Marvel. At first she tried emulating an established superhero because she didn’t feel like she could be a hero on her own. Then she starts to figure out that she could be a hero and you watch her try to figure out her new abilities and to control them. I loved the trial and error, and how Kamala actively works at improving herself.

Ratings:

Art: 4

I liked what Alphona did with the art. The characters weren’t super realistic, but they for the most part were well drawn and not overly sexual. In fact, all of the characters look either conservative or like normal high schoolers. Some of the bystanders and background characters look a little wonky, and by that I mean by that is they look a little too caricature-ish for me but not in a demeaning way. So occasionally I would be drawn out of the story but a background character because they stood out too much for no real reason. Herring did a wonderful job with the coloring though, I loved the bright softness to every page with no real hard shadows.

Story: 4

The story was pretty fun and entertaining. While there was some need for urgency at the end, overall the story was still pretty well balanced between comedy and action. The flow of the story was pretty smooth too, with a nice rising and falling action. I want to know how Kamala got her powers and what her strange encounter was in the first issue, but that reveal won’t be until later. Actually, with all that was going on with the story I didn’t spend much time wondering how it happened, I just wanted to see what was next.

Overall: 4

The story is pretty solid with an interesting mix of characters, relationships, and action. I can’t wait to see what the story holds and how the art will evolve!

Details:

Title: Ms. Marvel: No Normal

Book: 1

Issue(s): 1-5

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Willow G. Wilson

Illustrator: Adrian Alphona

Colors: Ian Herring

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Released Date: October 30, 2014

Pages: 120

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action

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

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