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Review: Red Skull #1

rs001There are likely those that think that the well of ideas for Secret Wars might already be exhausted, between the new material and the inspiration from previous crossovers or other inspirations.  If thinking only inside of Marvel, then they might be right, but Red Skull #1 proves that there is still some more distance to go in this massive crossover.  Although it draws upon characters from across Battleworld, this series is one which is at home in the heart of the Deadlands, the realm of the crossover title of Marvel Zombies vs. Age of Ultron.  The setup is not like anything from Marvel though, as it is essentially a Secret Wars version of the Suicide Squad.  This group of supervillains only has one job, to travel to the Deadlands and to prove that the Red Skull died after being exiled there.

The team is made up of an unlikely grouping of villains, similar once again to the Suicide Squad comparison – Electro, Moonstone, Magneto, Lady Deathstrike, Jack O’Lantern, and Bucky Barnes, seemingly acting in the Rick Flag role.  They are recruited by Crossbones, a one-time loyal follower of the Red Skull who has given him up for a blind allegiance to Doom.  He leads the team to the brink of danger before stopping to stand guard over the portal from which he expects them all to try to instantly escape.  The remainder of the story comes across as a bit of a juvenile wish list, with zombies, robots and dinosaurs, but the action never lets up in this exciting issue as the team get pretty close to discovering the source of their mission.

This issue proves that there are still some fresh ideas floating around in the somewhat constrained world of Secret Wars.  This has proven to be a winning formula elsewhere, and works well here too.  The combination of characters is broad, but it seems like they fit well together, even if they don’t have much of a chance yet at this point.  With so many other Secret Wars inspired series being born after this crossover, it would be nice to see one inspired by the same concept as presented here.  Many people will look at the title for this series and likely not give it a chance, but for those that do, they will find something pretty fun and probably what will become one of the highlights of the entire crossover.

Story:  Joshua Williamson Art: Luca Pizzari 
Story:  8.9 Art: 8.9  Overall: 8.9  Recommendation: Buy

Review: A-Force #2

af002bThe Secret Wars universe has been a strange playground for the creative minds behind Marvel Comics.  While some series are tied to the comic book crossovers which inspired them, some are free from such restraints and get to become essentially whatever they want and thus to establish some interesting scenarios that we have never seen before.  One series that has thus not really suffered has been A-Force, the assembly of Marvel’s best superheroines into one place on one team.  Although this is not really the first time that this has been attempted, it is a fairly big application of the concept to the overall story of Secret Wars.

Thus far the story has to deal mostly with the characters trying to deal with portals and what comes from them and what is not allowed to go beyond.  After the loss of America in the last issue another heroine was found, this one with no name, but evidently one which Nico could make a fast friend with.  This issue, which is relatively heavy on action, deals with what this stranger brings, both the good and the bad, and the team’s reaction to her.  This series has been one which has focused more than the others on the politics of Doom’s Battleworld, and while this might not have worked so well in the first issue, its place here is a bit more substantive, which gives overall better weight to the entire series thus far.

The idea of an all-female superhero team, essentially a female Avengers, is one which appealing to many, enough to make this series one which will be revamped beyond the end of the crossover.  In the meantime this second issue salvages and reuses what seemed a bit stunted in the first issue and gives it a new direction.  It is maybe not as imaginative as the creative team could have gotten with these characters, but this is still a necessary series for the wider story arc, one which explains the inner workings of the system which will presumably be quickly torn down.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson  Art: Jorge Molina
Story:  8.4 Art: 8.4  Overall: 8.4  Recommendation: Buy

Review: Years of Future Past #2

years002The Secret Wars crossover has perhaps been the unkindest to the X-Men.  Part of the underlying concept behind the huge crossover is to take story arcs and other crossovers from the past and to rework them into the Secret Wars framework.  While this has worked well for some series, for others it has not, and the X-Men versions are perhaps among the most distorted.  This is because the mutants often serve as analogies for what is wrong in society, and with that as a theme, it tends to make a lot of the best X-Men stories into the best of the genre.  In this case Secret Wars hgas grabbed what is one of the best comic book story arcs ever written, so popular in fact that it was chosen as the story line to revive the movie franchise.

This story follows along some basic plot elements from the original series while leaving other important parts behind.  This has been the case with other X-Men tie-ins to Secret Wars where a lot of the characters remain, if not for the baseline being altered in minor, though fundamental ways.  The changes here are thus similar and different as a similar group of characters struggle against the sentinels of the future who have eliminated most mutants already and the few remaining mutants who struggle to maintain their lives and their kind against this threat.  One of the highlights of this issue is a monologue by Colossus which evokes the famous quote by Martin Niemöller about the Holocaust.

That is the case with this issue though.  Although it works well enough as a story, it also is a story which has a few defining moments with other material in between which almost feels like filler.  It is an unconventional format for a story as it moves between moments which are either strong for character development or artistically impressive, but such is the lot of the X-Men tie-ins to Secret Wars.  It is good, but not much else, and more than anything makes the reader want to re-read the original as opposed to continuing with this.

Story: Marguerite Bennett Art: Mike Norton
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Read

Review: Infinity Gauntlet #2

ig-covThe Secret Wars landscape features a number of different settings and inspirations for the various characters.  Some of those settings try to stay close to the source material and other diverge somewhat from it.  In both cases there have been examples where staying close or diverging has been the source for a pretty good story, but in the case of Infinity Gauntlet the diversion is quite a bit more.  As previously shown, this section of Battleworld is one which is overridden by giant bugs with the few survivors striving to stay alive.  If not for the timely intervention of the Nova Corps in the previous issue the lone family in the spotlight might not have made it, but they were saved and for a reason.  The Nova Corps member is the mother of the small family.

This follows upon that development, as Eve meets back with the family and after protecting them gives them unlikely upgrades, as each of them becomes a Nova Corps member themselves, including a cute moment where the dog also figures out how to become a Nova Corps member.  As the family departs by sky they are attacked once again by the bugs, although this time they manage to fight back and are successful despite the odds.  Their success is due to the use of the mind stone which has fallen into Eve’s hands.  After the attack they return to the Nova Corps base, where things get kind of weird with the arrival of both Star Lord and Thanos.  From this point onward the issue becomes a bit more confusing as the two vie for control of the stones in a non-sequential end to the story.

The initial setup of this story might be conventional but it manages to work.  It takes the common plot from many pop culture properties to survive against a world ending calamity and gives it an interesting twist with the entire family becoming Nova Corps members.   At the same time the inclusion of cosmic heroes confuses the second half of this issue as it is not clear how one can be stuck on Battleworld but also be based in outer space.  Combined with the odd approach to telling the story in the second half takes what was a pleasant story and confuses it.  That is not to say that this was a bad issue, only that it is confusing, and that answers are needed soon in the next issue so that the reader can figure out what is going on, but the issue being divided into rough halves in terms of both pacing and quality makes this one a bit of a misfire.

Story: Dustin Weaver and Gerry Duggan Art: Dustin Weaver
Story: 7.6 Art: 7.6 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read

Review: Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies #1

Age of Ultron vsTo say that this is a story about killer robots and superpowered zombies is only partially true.  Granted that there a lot of both of those categories running around in this book, but there is also a bit more going on as an alternate version of Ham Pym is introduced and might be another part of the clue as to what will happen to Battleworld.  This series is born from the same inspiration as most other Secret Wars tie-ins.  Without a multiverse anymore, all worlds and all realities are thrown together on Battlworld, and in this case it includes the Age of Ultron timeline as well as the Marvel Zombies timeline.  They are both harder timelines to incorporate so their inclusion here together might raise even more eyebrows.

The implementation of this idea is simple but also effective.  Battleworld is built off a number of locales, all of them somehow held together by Victor Von Doom.  To violate the borders of the locales means that Doom will not be happy and that someone must be punished for it (including as has been seen to thrown someone out of the locale.)  What happens in the outside area has not really been covered yet, except to know that it is patrolled by various others.  In this case though it is revealed that in addition to any other threats, that the Ultrons and the zombies roam the wilds looking to prey upon those unfortunate souls that have found themselves there.  With this as the setting this story is broken into two side arcs.  The first features Tigra as she explains the nature of the zone as she tries to escape from the zombies.  The second features an alternate reality Hank Pym who must choose where his exile will be to, either to the zombie area or the robot area.  Although seemingly unrelated, it seems like the two will join each other soon enough as Hank Pym might hold some information to make Battleworld go away.

This would seem to be an unlikely pairing of different sources, but it works pretty effectively here.  While the setting might be a bit bland on the surface or a giant robot vs/ zombies battle (which sounds fun in its own way) it is amplified here by the inclusion of two other characters that make this work well.  It seems unlikely, but two characters were chosen to focus around to make this series work, and the right two were chosen as they give something that zombies and robots lack, a soul to build around.

Story: James Robinson Art: Steve Pugh
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Inhumans Attilan Rising #1

inhuman001aWhat has been interesting about Secret Wars thus far is the context in which the creative teams behind the individual series seem to be let loose to tell their stories.  Although the overall concept of a world controlled by Dr. Doom is a fairly stringent limitation, the stories themselves are being told in vastly different ways.  Some choose to focus on the concept, whereas others seem to want to ignore it completely.  The Inhuman addition to Secret Wars ends up mostly on the ignoring side, and it is likely to its benefit.

There are the same aspects of Battleworld which show up here.  The Secret Wars location which Dr. Doom has kept safe with his shield is comprised of different zones each which must remain separate from the other.  This aspect of the series is rolled into that of the Inhumans, though it is done in such a way to use the benefits of what made the Inhumans such a standout in recent months at Marvel.  As the new “mutants” at Marvel what is most important to the Inhumans is not accepting the new conditions blindly but rather to question them and challenge them, in this case in an insurrection.  As Marvel has been seemingly tying to establish the Inhumans as the alternate to the X-Men this fits well within that overall tactic.  There is a decent amount of action in this first issue, but it doesn’t underlie the fact that the creative team has gotten right in Secret Wars what has made them so engaging elsewhere (which is not surprising as it is the same writer for both.)

As is the case with the remainder of their stories, many will probably choose to ignore the Inhumans when choosing which titles to follow, but once again the creative team has proven that this superhero team is here to stay on the new Marvel landscape.  For those that have not been following the main series, this is as good a place to start as any, and for those that have, they will be happy to see some of the familiar faces here.  Overall, it is that the creative team has managed to keep the characters intact within Battleworld.  In other cases it is how the heroes react to being in Battleworld, but in this rare case it seems that it is how Battleworld will react to these characters.

Story: Charles Soule Art: John Timms
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Read

 

Review: Inferno #1

inferno001In the history of the comic book medium, and especially the part that focuses on superheroes, there has certainly never been a period with as much hero vs. hero action as the past three months at DC and Marvel.  DC got things started with Convergence and Marvel followed with Secret Wars.  The concept between the two companies has been strikingly similar almost as though the two companies are trying to compete with each other directly for the same exact market with the exact same concept.  The Convergence world At DC created by Brainiac has obvious parallels to the Battleworld at Marvel created by Doctor Doom.

Inferno finds itself in the middle of this mess, but as opposed to so many others of the past few months, this one at least makes an effort to weave a more inspired story into the hero vs. hero concept.  This one involves many of the X-Men trapped inside a hellish version of New York City.  Overrun by demons, the X-Men have established themselves as something closer to police, save for one specific instance.  Once per year Colossus is allowed to lead a strike team to try to rescue his sister Illyana (also known as Magik) from the clutches of the demons, although his actions have not come without a heavy price.  This issue focuses on two subsequent missions and what they meant to the fabric of the team, and the price that one man will pay to rescue a loved one.

The issue is not as gripping as might be hoped for, but there is nonetheless still something here which is better than what has been seen elsewhere in the past few months.  The X-Men generally rely on science for their stories in one way or another, so the supernatural element feels a little bit out of place, but equally so too does the entire Battleworld, so this still comes off feeling logical enough of a story.  It does so by mostly avoiding the focus on the specific aspects of the Battleworld setting, which incidentally serve the story better overall.

Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Javier Garron
Story: 8.1 Art: 8.1 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Reveals New Domains for Secret Wars’ Battleworld

marvel secret warsThe Marvel Universe is no more. There is now only Battleworld! Marvel has revealed new domains in their Battleworld, and some should excite long time Marvel fans.

Today’s update includes the following new dominions of Battleworld:

Egyptia – Forever Yesterday! – The new Sphinx uses the power of the Ka stone to alter reality to his own choosing, and the New Warriors find themselves in a world where Egypt has ruled for thousands of years. The Avengers are led by Captain Assyria, and their main foe is the Mutant Liberation Alliance, a group of freedom fighters led by Magneto, Juggernaut and Sebastian Shaw.

The Regency – One More Day! – In his darkest hours, Peter has always had one person who’d remind him of who he is…now, he’s about to lose that person. What would he do, what would you do, if you only had “One More Day”?

New Quack City – Howard the Duck! – Cry fowl! Trapped in a world he never made, the quirky, downright filthy Howard the Duck is set to take a stand and quack at anyone who gets in his way.

2099 – Marvel 2099! – In the year 2099, the Marvel Universe proves that there will always be a need for heroes. In this dystopian future, society is ruled by corporate entities and it is harder than ever to rise above the status quo. But there is hope in a new age of Marvels. Jump through time to the year 2099, and see what lies on the horizon for your favorite heroes.

Hala Field – Captain Marvel! – Hero! Pilot! Avenger! Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Hero with death-defying powers and an attitude to match, is back and launching headfirst into a new role – Squadron leader of the interstellar defense team, the Carol Corp!

The Wastelands – Old Man Logan! – In the future, Logan lives a quiet life. That is until an old friend shows up to ask a favor of him. On a journey across America, the mutant Wolverine will become a hero once again…

Perfection – Age of Ultron! – Ultron has taken over. Armies of his all-powerful drones patrol the wreckage that once was New York City, destroying every living thing in sight. Together, Wolverine and the Invisible Woman will make a last ditch effort to save all of existence, but will their time-travel mission end up tearing the timestream apart?

New Xander – The Infinity Gauntlet! – For Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet was the ultimate prize to be coveted above all else. With it came omnipotence. Now, it’s up to Earth’s super heroes to make a desperate attempt at thwarting this mad god’s insane plunge into galactic self-destruction.

 

Stay tuned as the new Marvel Universe continues to be forged.

Secret Wars’ Battleworld Unleashes Master of Kung-Fu #1

Can one man defeat an entire empire? Find out this May, as fists fly on the surface of Battleworld and a victor will be crowned in Master of Kung-Fu #1, a new 4-issue limited series launching during Secret Wars! Fan-favorite creators Haden Blackman and Dalibor Talajic team to take you inside the mystical land of K’un Lun for a series of brutal trials by combat!

Welcome to K’un Lun, a land where the study of martial arts reigns supreme. In a world where everyone is a master of their craft, what becomes of the drunken, drop-out failure? Shang-Chi was the most prized student at the most prestigious of K’un Lun’s many martial arts schools. Now he’s a washed up has-been living on the streets.

Cast out and forsaken by society, Shang-Chi will join other outcasts like him in a bid to dethrone the harsh and evil Emperor Zu. One problem – Zu is Shang-Chi’s father! Things are going to get messy.

In an interview with Marvel.com, Blackman said:

I’m really looking forward to portraying Shang-Chi in ways that we haven’t seen before. He begins the story very down and out, an exile and an outcast himself, which was very fun to write. I’m also hopeful that the interactions with some of the supporting cast will show us different sides of Shang-Chi, who finds himself a reluctant mentor.

This May, can one beaten-down man become a MASTER? As Secret Wars begins, step in to the arena and prepare to find out in Master of Kung-Fu #1!

MASTER OF KUNG-FU #1
Written by HADEN BLACKMAN
Art by DALIBOR TALAJIC
Cover by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA
Coming May 2015!

Secret_Wars_MASTER_OF_KUNG_FU

Battleworld Ignites in Inhumans: Attilan Rising #1

There’s a rebellion brewing on Battleworld. Stretching far and wide into every dominion across the strange, patchwork realm, underground revolutionaries prepare for the uprising. Marvel has announced Inhumans: Attilan Rising #1, a new Secret Wars series from New York Times Bestselling writer Charles Soule and artist John Timms!

Medusa, ruler of Attilan and Queen of the Inhumans, has been tasked with rooting out the rebels, and crushing their resistance beneath her steely tendrils of hair. Yet a chance encounter with the head of the insurgency will change everything. A man named – BLACK BOLT! And things are about to get complicated.

In an interview with Marvel.com, Charles Soule said:

One of the ideas behind Inhumans: Attilan Rising from the start was to put Medusa, Black Bolt, Reader, Iso and other characters from Inhuman into a new context. That’s part of the fun of an event like Secret Wars. Things don’t have to be the way we’re used to seeing them.

My initial concept was ‘life during wartime’. The relationships we’re used to seeing will be different in this story. Huge drama, spies, glamour, action, betrayal, sabotage. My hope is that it won’t feel like anything else out there.

The drums of war beat for the Inhuman nation. But when the dust clears, who will rise?

INHUMANS: ATTILAN RISING #1
Written by CHARLES SOULE
Art by JOHN TIMMS
Cover by DAVE JOHNSON
Variant Cover by W. SCOTT FORBES
Coming in May!

Inhumans_Attilan_Rising_1_Cover Inhumans_Attilan_Rising_1_Forbes_Variant

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