New Comic Reviews! (6-19-14)

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Amazing Spider-Man #1.2

“Learning to Crawl pt. 2”

Dan Slott (writer), Ramón Pérez (artist). Covers by Alex Ross, Pasqual Ferry and J.G. Jones.

 Right, first things first, let’s get the obvious out of the way – what’s with the numbering on this issue? Well, for those who haven’t been following along, Marvel relaunched Amazing Spider-Man back in April, with a new #1 issue. That oversized book included both a story set in the present day, and a back-up set at the time Peter Parker first gained his superpowers. Both of those stories are ongoing, with the present day story being regularly numbered (#2 hit last month, #3 hits in a week or two), while the old school story will be in issues numbered 1.whatever. You get all that?

 “Learning to Crawl” shows the story-behind-the-story for Spider-Man’s earliest adventures, as seen back in the original Amazing Spider-Man issues from the 1960s. And while Peter begins to grow into his new costumed identity, it turns out he’s inspired another teenager to become a superhero. Clayton Cole – Clash to his enemies and anyone within earshot – is absolutely brilliant and absurdly rich, but doesn’t quite possess the same driving sense of morality and responsibility as Spider-Man does. In this issue, the two heroes cross paths for the first time, when Clash outright hires Spider-Man to go a few rounds with him.

 Like man big-name superheroes, Spider-Man has had his origin told and retold a great many times, to various degrees of success (Ultimate Spider-Man probably being the best, and Chapter One being one of the worst). Though these “reimaginings” often feel tedious and unnecessary, this is one of the best approaches I’ve seen. Because the older stories are mainly relegated to quick snippets that bridge scenes in the new story, “Learning to Crawl” feels fresh and exciting, while also staying true to the spirit of the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko stories. And despite the considerable continuity that the story draws from, it’s also incredibly accessible to new readers, something I always appreciate seeing.

 If you’re willing to brave the idiotic book numbering for this story, pick it up – otherwise, wait a few months and grab the eventual trade paperback. Either way, if you’re a Spider-Man fan, new or old, this one’s worth checking out.

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Original Sins #1

“Terminus”

Nathan Edmondson, Ryan North and Stuart Moore (writers), Mike Perkins, Ramon Villalobos and Rick Geary (artists). Cover by Mark Brooks.

 Note the second S in “Sins” – this five issue miniseries is a companion to the current blockbuster Original Sin (singular) miniseries/event. (I haven’t decided whether or not to review an Original Sins single issue or review it as a whole once it’s complete, but the short version is it’s awesome, and you should be reading it).

 Anywho, Original Sins features short stories and serials that show how various denizens of the Marvel Universe deal with the fallout of the Truth Bomb that aired out everyone’s dirty laundry for all to see. That’s the pitch, anyway, as the first story here is only peripherally related to Original Sin, instead serving as a prologue to the upcoming Deathlok series. The tie-in is that because of the Truth Bomb, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent learns the identity of the new Deathlok, and idiotically decides to track him down to say hello. That’s a ludicrously weak premise for what basically amounts to a ten page “coming soon” trailer, and it the fact that it serves as the lead off story is ridiculous.

 The second strip is a major improvement, the first part of a serial starring the Young Avengers. Hulkling, Prodigy and Marvel Boy become embroiled with the events of Original Sin, based on the involvement of Exterminatrix, a femme fatale with whom Marvel Boy has some serious unresolved issues. The story is witty and moves at a brisk pace, and Ramon Villalobos’ artwork has a groovy indy feel about it. One minor complaint – no matter how long and hard I stare at that last panel, I have no earthly idea what I’m looking at.

 We wrap up with a two page Lockjaw comedy strip – it’s cute for what it is, though you’ll see the punch line coming a mile away. Overall, despite the good Young Avengers section, this book isn’t really worth purchasing on its own… if you’re absolutely starved for Original Sin content between issues of that series, this may briefly satisfy you, but you’re probably better off buying another one of the event’s myriad of tie-ins.

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Wolverine #8

“Three Months to Die pt. 1 – Games of Deceit and Death”

Paul Cornell (writer), Kris Anka (artist). Covers by Steve McNiven and Ryan Stegman.

 “Three Months to Die” sees Wolverine struggling with his newfound fear of death. To come to terms with his newfound mortality, he joins Iron Fist and Shang Chi for a mystical pilgrimage to confront the physical manifestation of Death herself. Meanwhile, Sabretooth and crime lord The Offer negotiate over control of mysterious spherical MacGuffin.

 I like that Paul Cornell is delving into the samurai / martial artist elements of Wolverine’s character, which I’ve always thought were relatively untapped. But that’s burying the lead – While removing Wolverine’s healing factor was a clear attempt to strip away some of his plot armour, Marvel has now gone so far as to outright announce that they’re killing him off with the imminent Death of Wolverine miniseries. Naturally, some readers are sceptical that Marvel will actually pull the trigger, and absolutely no one buys that his death would be a lasting change, but I do appreciate the attempt to show a vulnerable side of a character that’s often a bit too emotionally disconnected. Besides, it’s not that he “dies” for a few months that matters, so much as how the story unfolds. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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Tales of Honor #3

“On Basilisk Station pt. 3”

Matt Hawkins (writer), Sang-Il Jeong with Linda Sejic (artists). Covers by Jeong and Sejic.

 Tales of Honor is a science fiction military procedural based on David Weber’s Honor Harrington book series (which I have not read). Like many book adaptations, it’s heavy on unnecessary monologues, having made a rocky transition into a visual medium. That wouldn’t be a deal-breaker if the book still told a compelling story, but good lord is this one ever boring. The action scenes (such as they are) are bogged down with dialogue, and the intentionally talky bits are almost insufferable. It’s like watching the version of the film Blade Runner with Harrison Ford’s narration, but at half-speed.

 The artwork is fine, though not to my taste. Sang-Il Jeong’s style is just too plastic and artificial to me – the book looks like a fumetti comic made from Mass Effect screen shots. There is one double-page spread of an alien seaport that is absolutely breathtaking (based on concept art by Matt Codd)…

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 …Which shows that if nothing else, Jeong can draw the hell out of a panorama. Not that it’s worth picking up this soporific issue for, but credit where it’s due.

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Avengers Undercover #5

“Descent pt. 5”

Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (artist). Cover by Francesco Mattina.

 This is a stupid, stupid comic, based on ugly, nihilistic garbage. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was reading a DC event book.

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The Sixth Gun #41

“The Grey Witch”

Cullen Bunn (writer), Tyler Crook (artist). Cover by Crook and Brian Hurtt.

 As much as I hate to admit it, this is the first issue of The Sixth Gun that I’ve read – and given that the series is winding towards its planned finale in issue fifty, I’m a bit late to the party on this one. Still, better late than never, especially with a comic as cool as this one – think Hellboy by way of Jonah Hex, if you have to boil it down to the bare essentials. This particular issue is an intermezzo of sorts, telling the story of the evil Grey Witch, and her monstrous rise to power. It’s a fun story, though while I enjoyed guest artist Tyler Crook’s style a whole lot, I would have liked to have seen what regular penciller Brian Hurtt brings to the table. I suppose that just means I have to go out and hunt down some earlier issues, doesn’t it?

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