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Review: Iron Man #1

Iron Man #1

Tony Stark has been through a lot lately. He died, came back sort of, died again, and is back? Whatever, it’s information that’s not needed to enjoy the brand new Iron Man #1. The newest volume is a flag planted in the ground giving us a clear idea of this latest iteration of the character and what his focus is on.

Written by Christopher Cantwell, Iron Man #1 is the mid-life crisis of a superhero. It’s a fantastic debut that’s new-reader friendly but also should be engaging and interesting for new readers. The issue has Tony Stark going back to basics. He’s divested himself from Stark Unlimited and wants to focus on simpler things. As he states it “machines should be building machines now,” and he wants to remember what it’s like to be “human.”

Tony is trying to find his role and what he should do next. He’s street racing, moved across the country, and attempting to connect with people. I say attempting.

Cantwell does an amazing job at the mid-life crisis of the white male. There’s so many interesting things and small details in this comic. As someone who might be about Tony’s age and in a similar headspace (without the money) I can’t help but connect and relate to where he’s at. There’s a complication in life that has compounded and there’s a want to focus on those things that bring enjoyment and create fulfillment (woe it is to be a while middle-aged man).

Cantwell delivers that very human aspect to the character in a story and direction that’s familiar. Tony has lost his fortune before and gotten “back to basics” multiple times. But, it’s that focus on the individual that makes the issue interesting. This is a very human Tony Stark. Cantwell has been a master of this type of storytelling giving a similar focus on Doctor Doom, one of the best new series to debut recently.

The art by Cafu is fantastic. With color by Frank D’Armata and lettering by Joe Caramagna, the art has a painted style that’s reminiscent of Adi Granov’s work in the modern classic Iron Man: Extremis storyline. Much like Cantwell’s story, there’s a focus on the small details like a look of the eyes and body language. These tell as much as the dialogue being spoken. There’s also an interesting use of social media visually giving us quick hits of information that again layers on the rich worldbuilding of the story. The team does a fantastic job of mixing action and quieter moments. The comic has some great action moments. It also has some very human moments as well.

Iron Man #1 is a Tony Stark that I can connect to. It’s not for everyone but it delivers a man who was on top of the world and is trying to find purpose. It’s a comic that realizes that there’s a man within the suit and Tony Stark has to be more than just his company and fancy toys. There’s a person that looks to be facing a mid-life crisis. It’s something that’s relatable for many. It also reminds us that many of those that are super are also very much like us underneath.

Story: Christopher Cantwell Art: Cafu
Color: Frank D’Armata Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: Art: Overall: Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Empyre #6

Empyre #6

After a condensed number of issues and tie-ins, Empyre #6 wraps up the main story for Marvel’s 2020 comic event. It’s hard to say how it might have read if all of its issues had been released but as is, the comic feels not so much as an event as it’s a way to put focus on the neglected Marvel cosmic universe.

With a story by Al Ewing and Dan Slott with script by Ewing, Empyre #6 isn’t bad in any ways but it also feels a bit rushed. It suffers from Marvel’s propensity to focus more on what comes next when it comes to events before really cementing the end of what’s being read. The issue also feels like it knows things are off the rails a bit with far too much being used to recap and getting new readers up to speed. It’s an odd use of panels and pages as Reed Richards and Tony Stark measure where they’re at and what needs to be resolved in one issue.

The details of everything are condensed again and again as the at times thoughtful event continues to pivot towards splashy images of heroes swooping in to save the day. It’s grand motions and moves that conveniently resolve issues with punching being the general solution. Twists and turns from the series feel a bit too much Soap Opera, not fleshed out, and rather predictable. This is a series that started with thoughtful debates but as it progressed slid to the lowest common denominator of storytelling.

What’s interesting about the comic is the art continues to be condensed. Valerio Schiti keeps the moments that pop to single pages mostly and even at times single panels. Double page spreads feel rare. The art almost reflects the condensed nature of the event. Schiti is joined by Marte Gracia on color and lettering by Joe Caramagna. The images absolutely pop but it’s just an interesting choice where recent events have relied heavily on jaw-dropping images to sell the scale and scope.

Empyre #6 feels like a throwback event in many ways. This is more akin to Avengers events of the 80s and 90s than more recent Marvel stories. It also feels like it’s entire point is to condense shaking up the Marvel Cosmic status quo. There’s numerous references of how things have changed and that it means big things and challenges to come. It expands the playground through which future stories can be told. It’s an event with a goal and the goal isn’t so much the story as to get from point A to point C for future stories.

Empyre #6 wraps things up generally nicely but as far as recent Marvel events, things as a whole feel a bit of a letdown. It’s a story that isn’t exactly memorable and while setting up potentially a lot it also doesn’t feel like an event that’ll have folks talking for years to come. It’s not bad but in evoking a classic feel, it doesn’t become one itself.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1

Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1

The combination of Mark Waid and Neal Adams together on a comic alone is something that catches my interest. While Waid has tackled the Fantastic Four before, Fantastic Four: Antithesis is the first time Adams has taken on Marvel’s first family. Unfortunately, Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 doesn’t quite excite enough to match the build up of these two titans teaming up on a series.

Much of Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is a set up for what and when this take on the Fantastic Four takes place. It’s a “retro” story in that it’s quite some time ago when Franklin and Valeria are young kids. And the fact it takes place some time ago is possibly the most intriguing part of it.

After a battle with Annihilus the team is faced with a threat of an object hurtling to Earth and specifically New York City. The team has to spring to action to save the city and from there, it’s a mystery that gets the series really moving.

There’s nothing terribly bad with Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 but there’s also nothing terribly exciting either. Waid’s writing is reminiscent to his past runs on the series with a “classic” feel to the team. His style for the series has more in common with runs from the 80s and earlier than in recent years.

Adams art, with ink by Mark Farmer and color by Laura Martin, is fine as well. The character features that “Adams” style and he gives some sweeping visuals that bring excitement to Waid’s story. But, like the story itself, the visual again feel a bit like a throwback. The art is a bit better than recent outings from Adams with DC but it’s definitely not the Adams of the past.

Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is just fine. After the first issue, the comic feels like it’d be a much better read as a graphic novel than monthly release. There’s a throwback quality to it that’s fun and having a story that doesn’t feel like it immediately impacts the modern Marvel continuity is nice. It’s that standalone that’s not quite one. It comes off as a shelved script that Waid didn’t work into his run on the series.

While not bad, Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is one for the hardcore Waid and Adams fans.

Story: Mark Waid, Neal Adams Art: Neal Adams
Ink: Mark Farmer Color: Laura Martin Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation:
Read

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Review: Empyre #5

Empyre #5

Empyre as an event has been a bit deeper than your usual summer popcorn. There’s been debates on war and what is an acceptable loss and sacrifice. Both sides have experienced this and the philosophies are pretty bleak and far too similar. Empyre #5 though takes the series into soapy drama as the truth about Hulkling is revealed and it’s exactly as expected.

Al Ewing and Dan Slott deliver the story, with Ewing on script in a chapter that is full of reveals but none of them are really all that surprising. The big one is utterly head scratching in the logistics make little sense. Empyre #5 is that expected battle as the Kree/Skrull empire turn on their human allies putting Earth in the middle with no one to help.

Empyre #5 isn’t a bad chapter to the epic. It’s just rather predictable. There’s an almost trope-ish Bond-like villain aspect to it as the timer begins ticking in multiple ways. It’s the moment and issue where the story walks back some of the smarts and depth shown in previous issues. It shifts to a more expected event focus of battles and action.

And that shift is interesting as artist Valerio Schiti continues to forgo splash pages. Instead the art is more at the page and panel level. We don’t get two page spreads with images leaping from it. There is a more interesting use of panels in some parts of the comic. The layouts are more interesting than they’ve been but again, the art isn’t as splashy as one might expect for a bit event. Schiti’s art is enhanced by Marte Gracia’s colors and Joe Caramagna’s lettering. It all comes together to create visuals that are interesting and engaging but at the same time sort of conservative and muted in a way. It’s not over the top where the art becomes the most interesting aspect of the story.

Empyre #5 is a bit of a letdown in that it brings the event down to the level that was expected. It’s an issue that’s about the over the top action in some ways betraying the more insightful previous issues. It is a lowest common denominator in some ways walking back what was an interesting event. Hopefully, as the event wraps up, we’re treated to more of what was and not just more of this issue.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.85 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


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Review: Empyre #4

Empyre #4

Despite a rough first issue, Empyre has turned into one of the most intriguing events from Marvel in some time. Empyre #4 cements that with a further exploration of horrors of war and some reveals that’ll shock and excite.

Al Ewing and Dan Slott have been crafting the story with Ewing handling scripts and the team has really nailed this event. Despite its rather obscure origins, the series has really just used Marvel’s cosmic side of its universe to explore interesting philosophical topics and shake things up.

Things aren’t going all that great on the battlefront which puts Emperor Hulkling in an awkward decision-making spot. Does he sacrifice Earth and its 8 billion residents to save trillions? The issue hints at an answer and raises questions if this is really the Hulkling we know. The question feels a little groan-inducing with Secret Invasion within memory and the idea of “evil replacements” feeling a bit soap opera for an event that has raised some really interesting questions.

That questioning of Hulkling leads to so much though. It’s Ewing and Slott’s focus on the characters in the main story instead of the overall battle that makes the main series stand out and keep getting better. That focus extends to Tony who is having a crisis of confidence which might feel sudden but makes sense concerning his experiences in the first issue. The confident man has been knocked down quite a few pegs leaving himself questioning his decisions and abilities. This isn’t a series of confident brash characters saving the day but one of tough decisions and moments of doubt.

Slott and Ewing also use the issue for some major revelations that will have readers buzzing. Not only is a marriage revealed but another has been revealed to have died on the moon which immediately sets up a new series spinning out of Empyre when it’s over. Both are the shocking highlights within an issue full of contemplative moments and hard decisions.

Valerio Schiti’s art feels like it has gotten to be consistent from the inconsistent first issue. Characters have gotten their design down and there’s a focus on scenes using panels instead of splash pages delivering a big picture. A battle in Wakanda is depicted in chaotic panels instead of a two-page spread which would have worked. Schiti is joined by Marte Gracia and lettering by Joe Caramagna. The trio realize this is a character driven drama as a opposed to a summer visual blockbuster. It doesn’t mean there’s not moments to shine. The lack of splash pages works as a group of heroes confronts the Cotati leader in hopes of talking sense into him which morphs into a big reveal and action sequence.

Empyre #4 continues to improve the series which has decided to shift the big visuals to other series and instead, so far, focus more on the individual impacts of war and the difficult decisions that have to be made. There’s been twists and turns as things have become more complicated. What began as a stereotypical eye-roll of an event has evolved into something far more deep.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.10 Art: 7.75 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation:
Buy

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Review: Empyre #3

Empyre #3

I was down on the debut issue of Empyre. The second issue was a large improvement on the first. Empyre #3 continues that trajectory with a solid story that focuses on the ongoing battle as well as the weight of wearing a crown and the political machinations that come with an empire.

Writer Al Ewing and Dan Slott deliver an issue with a couple of focuses. It feels like an attempt to take a step back a bit and give the wider picture of what’s going on, delivering details of tactics and glimpses of the various fronts.

The Cotati are waging war on multiple fronts on Earth using the planet against its inhabitants. Those battles though are feints for their true mission which relies on Wakanda. The focus on Wakanda, and Black Panther, continues to prop up the character in the Marvel comic Universe befitting his popularity outside of comics. It also tactically makes sense as far as the story. The downside is there are moments that feel directly ripped from Avengers: Infinity War and it’s hard to not be pulled out and distracted due to that.

Ewing and Slott’s story stands out when it comes to the cost of war. There’s a lot of debate around what individuals are willing to sacrifice. Is killing a billion people to save a trillion a worthy trade off? Are the roles of soldiers to sacrifice themselves if they need to? Or, is the goal to minimize casualties while maximizing victories? It’s an interesting debate and makes the issue, and event, stand out from the usual blockbuster battles that result in god knows how many deaths and how much destruction.

Empyre #3 includes a focus on Tony Stark who’s been shaken since the first issue. The above about acceptable losses is about the cost of war, there’s still a focus on the individuals impacts. Stark is having issues focusing on solutions and his time with Reed Richards shows a man no longer cocky and arrogant but one who’s faith in himself has been rocked. Just a few panels adds so much depth to the character.

Valerio Schiti‘s art has grown on me since the first issue. Along with colorist Marte Gracia and letterer Joe Caramagna the art is much tighter than the debut. Issues with individual characters are gone and instead, it feels like there’s more of a focus on groups but fewer characters allowing some tighter detail. Mr. Fantastic’s look is night and day compared to the first issue. The series continues to lack to truly sweeping visuals you’d expect from an event like that instead focusing things on important panels or characters. This isn’t an event overshadowed by two-page spreads.

Empyre #3 is an issue that adds the much-needed depth to the series. It has gone from just a summer popcorn event to one with some brains behind it. There’s some philosophical debates within and political machinations throughout. It also delivers twists and turns because by the end of the issue, it’s clear there’s a lot more to come.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: X-Factor #1

X-Factor #1

X-Factor is a title that has a lot of nostalgia. The series has evolved over the years from its original team and with each iteration, it’s filled a niche left wide open. With “Dawn of X” roaring, this latest X-Factor team fills a gap in the system making it a brilliant addition to the revamped X-Men line but also a breath of fresh air in some ways. X-Factor #1 knocks it out of the park in concept, characters, and its purpose.

Written by Leah Williams, this latest team consists of Northstar, Polaris, Daken, Prodigy, Prestige, and Eye-Boy. It’s focus remains the detective route taken by the team years ago but it’s investigations that are needed for Krakoa to function. With the ability to resurrect Mutants, issues and flaws have arisen in the process. Currently, there’s no way to ensure a Mutant is really dead. There’s also the question as to how they died. That has created a backlog of requests and slowed down the process. Enter X-Factor, whose role is to answer exactly that.

With “Dawn of X” and the new X-status, each team introduced has had a utility to them. They serve as a function and need of society. This X-Factor is no exception and is brought together after Northstar is convinced his sister is dead.

What stands out about the issue is how clearly every detail has been thought out by Williams. The end of the issue lays out the processes of how X-Factor will find out what to investigate, it’s something on paper that might sound boring but in practice is quite fascinating. It’s an element that you don’t see often and adds to the worldbuilding.

Williams also allows this rather eclectic mix of characters be themselves. This is an interesting mix of personalities and Williams recognizes that. Northstar is a cold, blunt, ass. Daken is an asshole in other ways. Polaris questions her abilities. Rachel feels a bit underutilized. Prodigy is a know it all and wants you to know that. Eye-Boy… he likes sticking things on Crocs. This is a team that wears their queerness on their sleeves and let themselves be themselves. There’s no fronts here and they do what they think is necessary and right to achieve what they need to. The assholes, like Daken, are allowed to be assholes. Each quirky personality shines. It’s a team where every member has moments and every member feels like they’re as much of a star as the next person. This is a series that could potentially make every one of its characters a star.

The art helps deliver the fun tone of Williams’ dialogue and story. David Baldeon‘s style of Israel Silva‘s colors creates a comic whose visuals bleed a positive fun energy. The combination of the two just nails down every scene with a look that has you lingering and feeling more sucked into the story. A bridge and a river with rushing water feels cold while a new headquarters delivers a re-vitalization and rebirth. Joe Caramagna‘s lettering too stands out packing in a hell of a lot of dialogue in panels without hurting the visuals at all. It’s an impressive balance.

X-Factor #1 is a fantastic read. The series plants a flag as to how it fits into the X-Universe and what it’s about. This is a series that has no problem wearing everything on its sleeve for folks to enjoy. It also feels like a truly team book where everyone has their moments and stands out. The creative team has done a fantastic job in every way. The comic is both tragic, humorous, hopeful, and relatable. It’s a damn near perfect start.

Story: Leah Williams Art: David Baldeon
Color: Israel Silva Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Empyre #2

Empyre #2

I wasn’t a big fan of Empyre #1. It felt like a comic that could have been resolved, a conflict avoided, with just a sentence or two. Empyre #2 is a big improvement on that first issue as the damage is done and the Avengers, Kree, and Skrulls must fight back the initial onslaught.

The Cotati have played their hand and in one move they have destroyed the Kree/Skrull fleet and captured some of the Avengers. It’s a hell of a move and this issue the amount of devastation is clear. Al Ewing and Dan Slott use this issue to give the reader a wider scope that makes the Cotati feel like a real threat. They also allow the heroes to do what they do best, be heroes.

The issues of the debut issue are gone in Empyre #2. Instead those groan worthy moments give way to interactions that make sense. The Avengers have messed up and are on a recovery mission. But, why should the Kree and Skrulls trust them? Instead of continuing a needless fight, they allow Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to prove they have realized their mistakes. The issues where a simple sentence would have changed everything is gone. The trope of the “needless fight” is thrown to the side for actions that make much more sense.

The recovery is actually kind of cool. There’s some solid action and moments where you really do feel like it’s a recovery and not just a needless fight. You really do get a sense the Avengers know they’ve messed up. The issue also drops a lot of hints as to how the X-Men will come into play in this event with some not so subtle hints about Krakoa. This continues a bit of the set up and if this were released with the first issue as an oversized start, it’d feel like a much better beginning.

Part of what helps is Valerio Schiti’s art. Gone are the off panels of Mr. Fantastic. Instead we get some muted but cool moments and wide views of the destruction. Marte Gracia’s colors are key mixing the coldness of technology and space with a warmth of the organic. But, the color is important as that organic also has a sense of foreboding evil about it. Joe Caramagna’s lettering also helps emphasize some point adding to the art. What’s interesting is the lack of use of splash pages to deliver awe inducing visuals. Instead, there is a greater emphasis on interesting perspectives and panels on the page.

Empyre #2 is much improved over the first. It features intelligent aftermath from the attack and also a good explanation of the Cotati’s planning of it all. The issue is still a lot of set up and organizing as the forces of good come together but it feels like it’s a more focused narrative that avoids moments we’ve seen over and over.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.05 Art: 8.15 Overall: Recommendation: Buy


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